I got the complete box set of “A Bit Of Fry & Laurie” on DVD the other day, and this sketch, ‘Architect’, stands out for me as a rather good analysis of how some designers just can’t seem to follow a brief…
Stephen is sitting behind, yes, a desk. On the desk there is what appears to be an architect's model of a fairly pleasing housing estate. Nicely done, trees, a stream, model people walking dogs and so on. Hugh is explaining it.
Hugh And basically I think ... or what I hope I'vemanaged to achieve with this design is a new direction. The emphasis is very much on the quality of people's day to day lives. I know it doesn't correspond exactly to the initial brief, but I hope you'll agree it has qualities that really set it apart from any other contemporary design. Hah.
That's it really. I'm very excited about it.
Hugh So what do you think?
Stephen Ahem. Mr Braganza ...
Hugh Please be honest.
Stephen I will. I will. But first of all can I ask you why you chose to depart from the ... er ... shall we say traditional ... ?
Hugh You mean the old shoe box approach.
Stephen That's it.
Hugh The strict, rectangular lines ...
Stephen That's right. Shoe box.
Hugh Well to be honest, Mr Catchpole, that style is out, it's dead. Brutalism, modernism, post-modernism, all those isms are finished with. We've got to look at people's lives.
Stephen Yes, quite. The thing is, when we asked for a shoe box, we did actually mean a box for putting shoes in. We are a shoe manufacturer, you see. And we really do need to put our shoes in a box.
Hugh Oh I know that. I know that. But by carrying on with the same old rectangular prisons, you're only stifling the human spirit. I'm trying to free the human spirit.
Stephen Well that's ... that's fine. But you see, I'm left with the problem of where to put our shoes. I need a box to put our shoes in, you see? I need a shoe box.
Hugh Need? Who are we to say what's needed, in the sense of some fancy design idea that's going to blight the lives of generations to come?
Stephen I don't think our shoe boxes have blighted any generations.
Hugh Well I wouuldn't be too sure about that.
Stephen Nick. Let me put it this way. To me, a shoe box is just a machine for keeping shoes in.
Hugh Oh yes? And to hell with human spirit, that's what you're saying.
Stephen Not really.
Hugh I know what it is. It's the cost, isn't it? You're frightened of how much it's going to cost.
Stephen No, I'm frightened of where I'm going to put our shoes.
Hugh Well forget money. Because there are some things that can't be calculated to the last penny. I'm talking about human lives.
Stephen Yes, you see, I'm talking about shoes.
Hugh Oh shoes, shoes. Is that all you think about?
Stephen When I'm at work, yes.
Hugh Well then I feel sorry for you. In fact, I pity you.
Stephen Well ...
Hugh But I'll do you a shoebox, if that's what you want. I don't know how I'll live with myself, but if that's what you want, I'll do you a nice, safe, ordinary, rectangular shoebox.
Stephen Thank you.
Hugh picks up the model.
Hugh I'll take this away, then.
Stephen No no. Leave it here. I think we can find a use for it.
Stephen Some of our workers might want to live in it.