Published in Purple Prose magazine #10, summer 1995, Paris.
TV's used to come in every color: red, green, beige, wood paneling or in inside cupboards (so you wouldn't have to worry about them). After the matte-black 80's it seems the only way to go is black. The same stands for sound systems even though if its portable it can be yellow and it means you have to run with it. Computers on the other hand are strictly beige. Again if they are portable they are suddenly gun metal gray. In any case color theory is boring and its OK for computers to be beige. In fact beige is the ultimate Corporate color and until now computers had to match their bosses' beige power-suits so that we all understand they mean business.
Buildings it seems have to convey what they do, whether its sell, provide a home or a pitsa. That is of course when a building is designed for a specific purpose. When they are not, and they acquire their purpose in life after the first stages of construction, they have to adapt to it. This has to do with economics of course: Most of these buildings contain family owned bussinesses and its cheaper to build one structure and then assign functions to it than to plan your corporate headquarters from scratch.
When they have more than one fuction they have to decide which comes first and act on it. Or they can sort of remain in a state of negotiation (part home- part corporate) and hope nobody will notice.
So we have, for example a normal apartment building that all of a sudden has to learn how to sell Alfa Romeo's and Kitchens. Just hide the thing behind a beige facade and prop the logos on it and the previously insignificant little building becomes a hybrid corporate building, introducing the typology of the Corporate Shack.
The beige facade that accomplices this , is usually made of plastic tubes, put next to each other so that they create a grating, through which the building is able to breath. When you have a whole street of these buildings, the city looks like its made up of oversized computers. In fact these buildings look exactly like computers, since they are both beige, plastic and they need air.
Using computers in architecture has not really turned out to be as fascinating as everybody thought it would, just a flashy drawing pen that sometimes makes little movies as well. In order to use the computers' ever increasing computational capabilities one has to write specific software for it, which apart from being very difficult and very boring, has also failed in the past, as with the "Space Syntax" experiments of Hillier and co. Drawing parallels between computers and buildings is more fun and could possibly llead to interesting results. One could transcribe software "commands" such as quit, restart, format, insert, exit, rebuild into structural or programmatic actions. In a broader sense what this suggests is to use computers not so much as tools- which is unavoidable anyway- but to use them as paradigms and study the possibility of buildings that store information or configure their data structure much in the way that computers do. Which means to use computers as conceptual input rather than visual output.
In fact the buildings in question , heavily modified to adapt to their bottom-of-the-line aspirations, are a direct result of these actions, thus creating Beige Architecture.
Whats' it like living inside a macintosh?