One of the new Ten Commandments: Amending Rapson. / by Scott Newland

I have them written down somewhere but I'm in the process of packing before a move and can't find them, but my former Dean and mentor Ralph Rapson once proposed 10 rules for architecture and called them his "Ten Commandments".  They were, like Le Corbusier's "Five Points of a New Architecture", qualities that he felt good architecture should have.  As I practice, I keep coming up against contemporary sins and I am thinking of adding to these, and/or qualifying a few.  Today, as we witness the inauguration of the country's 45th president (who seems to have his own particular rules), I offer one of the New Ten:

For some reason, I seem to think that authenticity is important.  But: What is "authenticity"?  I define it as having honesty and integrity, free of pretense.  I'll hold off on the argument about what makes architecture authentic, but it's easy to ask what makes a building material authentic.  For one thing, a material is authentic when it's true to itself.  It presents itself as it is.  It has honest tactility and doesn't fool the senses.  The way I see it, when one material is used to simulate another material, it's inauthentic.  It's an architectural sin.  When a sin becomes so common that no one really questions it anymore, that points to some greater cultural weakness, and such things need to be eliminated.  The architectural sin that is so pervasive that I am regularly asked to allow it is when non-wood products try to look like wood.  At their worst, they take the form of wood planks but are in fact porcelain tile.  Or they look like tropical wood deck boards but are some plastic-fiber composite.  More commonly, you see wood grain vinyl siding, aluminum siding, steel siding, PVC trim, fiber cement siding and trim, steel roofing, and fiberglass doors.  The simulacrums are everywhere!  On this house, I've been doing my best to avoid fake wood, but I've failed twice now.  The composite deck boards have a wood grain texture that I detest, but the recycled content (LEED and GreenStar points!) and the recommendation by the supplier swayed me.  Today, despite specifying a smooth face steel panel garage door, this was installed:

I recognize that the texture improves paint adherence, but WHY WOODGRAIN?  Why not some micro-textured abstraction of a car tire tread?  Or why not a non-repeating geometry like any number of computer programs can provide?  Why fake something that it's not?  If you're going to do some custom roller to press a texture into a smooth material, why not have it be something original?

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