Threading the Eye of the Needle

In his must-read piece, “11 Lessons Learned” in the April issue of MR, Tony Koester writes “One huge lesson gleaned from even a cursory review of the V&O was to model the ordinary.  It’s all too easy to compile a list of eye-catching prototypes to model, and the inevitable result is that everything competes to be the star of the show”.  In that one phrase he’s summed up the essence of composing an effective model.   Easier said than done, however.  If we select our elements solely by individual interest then we do run into something that isn’t plausible and the visual competition Tony cautions about.  Swing the pendulum too far the other way and we end up with something that has no visual traction whatsoever.

Vermeer’s “Milkmaid”

If you struggle with this issue, don’t feel bad, Johannes Vermeer and Edward Hopper made their living painting “the ordinary” and have gone down in history to be what many consider to be the greatest painters of all time.  Having read the biographies of both, I was struck by how obsessed each was in their quest for subjects to paint, often spending weeks or even months in their search. A written description of one of their works gives no hint of the total mastery that is apparent when you view them.


On my desk now is the last structure for the LAJ layout, one that will be relatively large and located front and center. Given the prominent location and size, selecting the best subject truly was a case of threading the eye of the needle.  Shown in the image above are three candidates, all within a block of District Blvd. I took a long, hard, look at K&V Metals (structure A).  Such an interesting candidate…but too interesting.  Structure C is certainly representative but would leave anybody un-moved.  Ultimately, I selected structure B, in the center.  Its art deco architecture and curved glass blocks at the entrance are interesting and yet the subdued colors and low height keep it from coming across like a neon sign for South of the Border.  Time will tell but this is how I go about striking that delicate balance between interest and over saturation.