Forget about Louis Sullivan’s notion of form ever follows function. Venturi’s idea of complexity and contradiction. Or even Rossi’s thoughts on urban design. I have found someone new to follow when thinking about how best to approach architecture and design.

Bob Ross.

Yes. That Bob Ross.

In a fit of silly this past Christmas, my husband gifted me a bit of Bob. First – a pair of dress socks, replete with fuzz to mimic his trademark afro. I haven’t found the right moment to wear them yet, although I feel I should be wearing shorts when I do. How else will anyone have the opportunity to appreciate them?

His second gift was a wall calendar for my office. Every day I walk in and there’s Bob, saying hello. Reminding me that art is very subjective. While not ranking up there with Van Gogh’s irises or perhaps a Monet, there’s a simplicity to each month’s landscape that’s somewhat calming.

However, the painting isn’t what has me rethinking my approach. It’s the catchy Bob-phrases at the bottom of each month. Each phrase catchier than “form follows function.” And this month’s quote really stood out to me:

“Anything we don’t like, we’ll turn it into a happy little tree or something, because as you know, we don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents.”

For me, that’s the equivalent of being in the middle of design, having some awkward condition crop up, and thinking to myself – if anyone asks, we’ll just call it an architectural feature. Knowing full well of course that I’m going back and reworking the plan, elevation, or detail to correct that condition.

Except I like that idea of “happy accidents” because as much as architects won’t want to admit it, those do happen. I had a client pull me aside about three-quarters of the way through construction to point out that if you stood in the doorway between the kitchen and stair hall, and you looked down the hall, your line of sight took you through the master bedroom door and out the French door onto the rear deck.

Did you plan that?

I desperately wanted to say yes, but I knew I couldn’t. What she was pointing out to me was something that just happened. A happy accident. No doubt brought about by years of designing around line of sight. But an accident just the same.

Then there’s my other favorite Bob-ism so far:

“Let’s put a few little highlights in here, just to make them little rascals sparkle in the sun…”

Because isn’t that what architectural ornamentation is all about? Making your building sparkle? Walk into a Gothic church and look around you. Rib vaults. Stained glass windows. Gargolyes. You know. Sparkle. And who doesn’t think the brutalism of Paul Rudolph wouldn’t have benefited from just a little bit of sparkle?

Thanks Bob!