Timeless Design

Making Things Work

tumblr_inline_pmdfyqeTWl1sppt0x_1280 Timeless? Image from the laugh-out-loud-funny website McMansion Hell.

Like so many other words (curate, custom, master, local, artisan, and sustainable, to cite a few), “timeless” has been reduced to little more than a marketing term. OK, so the object being described isn’t readily associated with any particular style or period. That doesn’t make it “timeless.” What it usually means is that it hasn’t occurred to the person who wrote the marketing copy that everything, including most cutting-edge work of today (whenever “today” happens to be), will one day be associated with products that were considered desirable for a particular span of years–in other words, expressive of some period or other.

In the early 1990s, housing developers thought they could achieve “timeless design” by patching together bits of different styles into single houses: a clinker-brick façade with fake stone everywhere else, a Storybook Tudor roofline for the entryway with other rooflines…

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6 Responses to Timeless Design

  1. johncashman73 says:

    If you want to charge extra, throw in a fake Palladian arch. If you have a broad expanse of roof, toss in an eyebrow window that isn’t really an eyebrow window. It’s unlikely they’ll know the difference.

  2. hbm-la says:

    The first experience with one of these “clients” can yield empathy some bit south of mental disdain. But, only if you are a sub-consultant. A design phase entry onto the “team” right at transition from “concept” will often catch the lead architect throwing furtive glances to the engineers–hoping for salvation. However, we all knew the architect held a juicy plum, if only they could successfully ride the bull to the ever-moving end-goal. Goodness be damned. Spin the money game!

  3. Ken says:

    The McMansion Hell website might be funny if they didn’t have such a large SJW axe to grind.

    • David Albert says:

      I checked it out. You can relax, it’s funny.

      • Mike says:

        I guess the definition of “SJW” is “people who offend me by caring about things that I don’t think are important.” I spent about 30 mins on the site and the whole thing seems fairly middle of the road to me.

  4. Dave says:

    I agree ‘timeless’ is a much-abused term. Because I try to be thoughtful about all my consumption, I’ve read a lot about men’s style, where the word has also been thoroughly worn through.

    Timelessness is a myth, in my opinion; it’s just a sneakier word for permanence. As we grow as people, we learn that permanence (and perfection for that matter) are horizons – in the sense that they indicate more about the constraints of our perception rather than anything necessarily real about the world. Timelessness seems to be too intoxicating, and too part of Platonic Western thought to be looked at critically. I’m not saying that there isn’t an innate aesthetic sense that’s part of the packaged bundle that comes with being human, but rather that our aesthetics should acknowledge the limited useful life of the things we make (call it wabi sabi if you must).

    At best, I believe what we make can appear ‘enduring.’ In the face of constant change, including our capricious tastes, to be enduring seems more admirable to me anyway.

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