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Scream Machines and Big Design


One of the people I loved most in the world could not recognize his own mother in photos. He invented a system of hacks to disguise his inability to read social cues. His understanding of spatial relationships was so nuanced that he broke every test he took. He re-imagined architecture from the ground up.

I have friends whose genius astounds me. They create luminous art and planet-changing inventions. Their insights could end war, reverse climate change and propel humankind to the stars. Their wit can give you the kind of belly laughs that are as good as a two-hour massage.

Lots of these people find dealing with an electric dryer to be the equivalent of assault with flame thrower.

We live in an era of big cheap design. Our public spaces might have been built by a team of drunk bikers. ‘Just throw it over there. No need for a muffler. A little noise won’t hurt.’

But for my beautiful brilliant friends, a little noise does hurt. A lot of noise hurts worse. Glaring lights, visual chaos, intrusive smells, flickering screens, unmanaged crowds, a glut of bad news from all around the globe, render them nearly catatonic.

A catatonic genius can’t tie her own shoes, let alone end war and build space cathedrals.

Big bad design has an incalculable opportunity cost. When we cripple our most sensitive souls with thoughtlessly placed engines, we turn our brightest lights into liabilities.

Let’s change that.

Casa Batilo, Antonin Gaudi, Barcelona, Spain