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Vacation Space

vacation space.jpg

We recently returned from our family vacation to Colorado. It was a great opportunity to spend some time with the family in the mountains where temperatures were significantly less than they would have been had we stayed in Texas. My girls came home with fond memories of the hikes we went on and the animals we saw. I came home with fond memories of the architecture we inhabited. 

Maybe I'm biassed because of my profession but I do believe we remember where things occurred just as much as we remember what it was that happened there. Even on vacations that are spent mostly outside, the spaces that accommodated those outdoor adventures provide a framework for those memories. I'll always remember the first time I went to Disneyland with my girls but I'll remember just as much the hotel room where we stayed and the eagerness I saw on their their faces when they woke up in their bed ready to conquer the Happiest Place on Earth.

The cabin where we stayed in Colorado was for the most part unremarkable. It had a couple of bedrooms, a very small bathroom and a single living space with a small kitchenette along one wall. Of course I'll remember the views through the windows out to the mountains but I'll also remember the views inward. I'll remember looking through the open door of my girls' bedroom and seeing Darcy wide awake in the bottom bunk, ready for her next adventure.

Chances are we'll never step foot in that cabin again. Even if we did it wouldn't be the same. My girls would be older. I would be older. But my memory of the week we spent there will live forever in my mind.

They will live in an unremarkable little cabin where the views looking in were just as good as those looking out. 


On Leaving The Happiest Place On Earth

There is not a word in the English language for that emotion you feel at the end of a good vacation; that mixture of happiness over the memories created, the sadness that the creation of those memories has come to and end, and the complete exhaustion that comes from traveling with small children for several days in a row. After a year of saving, research and preparation, we took the girls to Disneyland and it was, in a word, magical.

I did not grow up going to Disneyland. I knew it existed but it wasn't something that interested me much. In architecture school the word "Disneyland" became shorthand for anything unauthentic. And to be fair, Disneyland is a completely synthetic environment. The animals on the Jungle Safari are not real. The rocks of Thunder Mountain are not made of stone. Sleeping Beauty's Castle is not really a castle. And what is more you, have to pay a large sum of money (and go through a metal detector) to experience all of these things that, again, are not real.

No, the environment is completely manufactured at Disneyland, which is to say it is completely designed. That's what struck me about the place more than anything; the thought and care that went into every detail. Whether it was the choreography of the experience of waiting in line (to make waiting entertaining) or the addition of a musical LED nightlight to the headboard of beds at the hotel (to make even bedtime special), throughout our time at Disneyland we have felt like we were in the hands of skilled designers who cared. I feel this even more so as I sit in a overwhelmingly generic La Quinta hotel next to LAX. Here I do not feel as if I am in the hands of a skilled designer who cares - I feel I am in a cheap motel room.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this trip in future posts but what the trip has reinforced for me more than ever is that design matters. Story matters. And more than anything, caring matters - both in Disneyland and in the real world.