Sunday, February 18, 2007

let's get real

or, fantasy is overrated when everyone’s fantasy is exactly the same

the look of luxury

The "Tahiti" cabana won and yet -- or, I would argue because -- it had nothing to do with Tahiti.

It did, however, fit the current design rage for everything fitting into the "luxury spa look."
  • white curtains,
  • bamboo blinds,
  • white linens,
  • teak and bamboo wood furnishings
  • martini glasses and shaker, etc.

In other words, that Tahiti "cabana" was the look of upscale Club-Med-Anywhere design.

This style is about how it doesn't matter where you are because you are always in the lap of luxury. Every place is provided with the modern conveniences of any other place. Even the various beach names are literally interchangeable. They are just theme names given to clubs that basically all look the same:

Above, clockwise from upper left: Nikki Beach St. Tropez in Miami; "Kon Tiki" Tahiti Beach in St. Tropez; Miami's Nikki Beach in St. Tropez with Tahiti-style cabana.

Above: Club Med Anywhere & Luxury Spa Anywhere.

anywhere but here

The important thing about this kind of travel is that you are always in the care of the hotel/spa and remain on their grounds where the environment is controlled: you are chauffeured to and from the airport and aside from special helicopter tours with catered picnics you never leave the confines. That way you never have to encounter anything that is actually indigenous or that won't take Visa.

The local environment is so completely mediated so that it will always be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Thus you avoid the hazard of encountering anything that might be unfamiliar or not up to your standards of taste like local design, culture, food, and, of course, people. The only locals you meet are the ones that work for you.

bright colors are so . . . ethnic

They kicked off the person whom they thought picked colors that were too garish and bright. Nonetheless team Miami was the only group that took a chance and did something that was actually informed by local culture and style. Miami is associated with bright colors –- not just 30s art deco but also 50s mambo; with Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean; with tourist kitsch, 80s pastels, and neon lights: it is a place of exuberance to the point of excess.

For another example of a cabana design that probably would have offended the sensibilities of the judges as well check this out: The WOWhouse Cabana (a backyard playhouse/cabana planned with the input of the two girls who will use it).

a bahamavention intervention

Top Design has an opportunity to challenge the design world by rewarding the designers that take risks and that break away from the most staid and predictable of trends. However, those trends are what make money. The problem is that if something is new then it hasn't proven itself marketable yet. (And if it doesn't make money then, of course, it can't possibly be any good.) Television and magazines make a lot of money from the advertisers for all of these luxury spa goods and vacations. I'm sure they don’t want to reward the designers that don’t reinforce this industry.

Is this too cynical? Well I don’t think it is possible to be too cynical about advertising motivations, and I see little evidence that this show is aiming for anything higher.

Do I think the judges are consciously doing this? Of course not. But the judges live in the world of luxury spas. They aren't going to question the fact that when in Tahiti one expects to have beautiful flowing white curtains, bamboo blinds, white linens, teak furnishings, martini glasses and a shaker.

blots on the otherwise tasteful country club look

Undoubtedly when Margaret saw an item that reminded her of the hamburger shack at her country club she threw up a little bit in her mouth. How she must have suffered at the trauma of such an aesthetically impure association!

If your environment is the country club then I suppose you would be horrified by the idea of something that looks like the hamburger shack. On the other hand, you might want to broaden your environment.

what they don't know will hurt us

They're in Surf City. Southern California. Beach side hamburger shacks – and surf shacks -- are part of the culture. I think it would have been more fun to see them design updated versions of these.

One problem with this assignment was that some of the designers did not know what a cabana was (seriously) or anything about St. Tropez or Tahiti. (I know. I know.) The fact that team Tahiti could not think of anything in between Gilligan’s Island and Generic Luxury Spa is a sad combination of a lack of knowledge and a lack of imagination.

Nonetheless, if the assignment was to do surf shacks at least the designers would have been able to grasp the idea better and therefore perhaps they would have been more creative in their designs. And, more importantly, it would have been more interesting for us.

The question remains whether Margaret could have handled the concept of leisure outside of luxury spas and country clubs!


eric3000 said...

I just want to be able to go to the beach without leaving air-conditioning! Ha ha!

Maybe Margaret had to work at a hamburger shack when she was in college and that's why it brings back such horrible memories!

Ms. Place said...

Is this too cynical? Well I don’t think it is possible to be too cynical about advertising motivations, and I see little evidence that this show is aiming for anything higher.

This is why I stop by your blog and read you insightful, funny, and altogether accurate assessments of this show. Thanks for another great post.

Anonymous said...

I think its just good taste I love there cabana.

Anonymous said...

who needs mediocre reality tv programming when we have insightful YOU to analyze for us.
great job as always

trixie said...

eric3000 said . . .
Maybe Margaret had to work at a hamburger shack when she was in college and that's why it brings back such horrible memories!

Maybe. Maybe she said it like someone who didn't work at hamburger shacks.

And, not surprisingly, I worked at country clubs through college -- as a life guard (which sometimes included cleaning locker rooms and cleaning up the outdoor eating areas for the hamburger shacks. Yuk.