Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

The Accident of Design

impromptu light fixtures attached to the ceilingSo for the past few weeks, when I’ve been able to fight the crowds to get to my usual spot in my coffee shop (as I type this, one of my postgrad students has walked past and casually asked, “Oh! So is this your office?” I’m getting emails from people I don’t even know, asking whether I’m in my “office”, where the emailer clearly means this place… The regular use of this term for this place has to come from students talking to one another, since I don’t advertise it – er… other than writing about it to the entire net, of course… But no one gets their information from the internet, do they?), my view as I look upward is something like this.

I’m taking these photos on the webcam built in to my laptop, which is not what one would normally call a high resolution device… So, in case it’s impossible to tell what this is a picture of, the photo is meant to show the padded tiles along the walls (yes, folks, I voluntarily place myself in a padded room on a regular basis), looking up toward the purple ceiling. You can see the previously-blogged ceiling power point – the white cord dangling down is the extension I’ve donated to the place, so I can plug in my laptop without scaling the furniture. For some weeks, my extension cord was the only thing regularly suspended from that power point. But recently there have been a couple of additions – the two light fixtures (presently turned off) that have been plugged into the power point, and then clipped with random office supplies to the beam that runs across the ceiling.

garden of eden muralThis gives my regular table a veritable wealth of light sources (all the others have one at most) – the fruits, I suppose, of sitting under a power point. But who am I to argue. I’m used to the interior of this place changing quite often, as the owner stumbles across new objects from which he creates found art. There are some fixtures, such as the Garden of Eden mural next to where I normally sit, which are constants.

But most of these bits and pieces on the ceiling, for example, are new. I’ll just walk in one morning and find – as shown in this photo – that someone has strung a flag, or hung up lots of clear plastic streamers with glistening foil fish taped to them, or found a convenient spot to prop a pair of stray blue legs…

objects dangling from the ceiling

In context, the fact that my table suddenly sprouted two new light fixtures in addition to the one it’s always had… not really that strange…

So I didn’t ask.

This morning, though, the owner wandered over personally with my coffee. His eyes followed the line from my laptop, to the extension board, up the way to the ceiling power point, and then, leaping back – “WTF?! Where did those lights come from?!”

“I thought you put them up,” I said, startled.

“No – no – not mine,” he stepped back to appraise them from different angles. “I like though… I like… They’re very nice…”

And off he wandered, looking pleased.

Now I’m finding myself reappraising the interior: how much of this place, exactly, has he deliberately created? I’ve seen him do some of it – I had assumed it was all his… Now I’m wondering… How much of the regular, ongoing transformation of this place comes from people like me – people who decide to make… just a little change… add just that little bit… to feel more at home… A cord… a light fixture… a pair of blue legs tucked in the corner just so… Maybe even a mural of mutual temptation… Found objects… donated ones… deliberate designs… detritus… How much of this place did the owner discover one morning, to his surprise, and then accept with a pleased “I like… They’re very nice…”

2 responses to “The Accident of Design

  1. Praxis August 21, 2008 at 12:37 am

    After your many posts describing the coffee shop, it seemed impossible for it to live up to expectations. But: OMG. This is the best coffee shop ever. The cast of Friends should have been so lucky…

  2. N Pepperell August 21, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Now surely you didn’t think I have been exaggerating the maximal wonderfulness that is my coffee shop?

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