Stone is non-flammable
More on that in a minute…

       We created this blog for furniture industry designers and retailers. The writer is neither a furniture industry designer or retailer, he is me, a random man on the street who plays the part of ignorant buffoon quite naturally. This space is an outsider’s perspective for the insiders.

       I do have a day job however, my product is “buildings”, their design is my profession, my passion, and at times my frustration.

       Monday morning I turned on the news to see the Notre Dame Cathedral perilously wrapped in a blanket of flame. A television news “expert” narrated the unfolding horrors onscreen, “Once the roof is destroyed, the entire structure will be lost.” And I nearly fell over from the gust of ignorance the TV was farting. This was a teaching opportunity for network news, the Notre Dame Cathedral is a non-flammable building, the news chose drama over information.

Easy as 1-2-3
A building is made up of three basic parts. The foundation, the structure, and the roof. Notice the sequence.

  1. Foundation = Bottom.
  2. Structure = Middle.
  3. Roof = Top.

      This 1-2-3 concept should be digestible for anyone that’s ever stacked blocks, owned Legos, or played Jenga. When a house is built they lay the foundation, then build the structure on the foundation, and finally put the roof on top of the structure. The structure depends on the foundation, the roof depends on the structure, but that roof is just a fashion accessory preventing soggy couches. The roof holds nothing up but itself.

     The proclamation made, “Once the roof is destroyed, the entire structure will be lost”, was not greeted with snickers, or even a single raised eyebrow or questioning glance. The assembled news panel just nodded along in grievous unison. This was akin to saying “That man will fall down if you remove his hat”, yet scrutiny never entered the room.

     One of the more notable traits of stone cathedrals is that they are made of stone. Stone is a non-flammable substance. This non-flammable concept should be digestible for anyone that’s ever owned a fireplace, used a pizza oven, or played Jenga. Yet as the day unfolded, and darkness painted the flames in a spectacularly contrasting fashion, the narrative that this stone oven was somehow in imminent peril grew stronger and louder.

     Fear can make liars out of anyone. I don’t mean to cast as ignorant anyone who embodied this fear while watching Notre Dame burn. If we weren’t naturally afraid of fire the human race would have self-extinguished at the first volcano picnic. However a proclaimed “expert” should know better. This building has survived numerous fires. There is a 150 year old grove of trees in Versailles grown specifically for Notre Dame repairs. Wood burns. Stone does not. Look around any town devastated by a fire and what do you see standing in the ash piles? Stone chimneys.

       Notre Dame Cathedral is an 850 year old stone chimney. Its pillars are stone, the walls are stone, the flying buttresses holding up the walls are stone, the vaulted ceilings are stone. This stone took over 100 years to assemble. The stone masons who began this project never lived to see its completion.

      This terrific choice of non-flammable building material went unmentioned Monday. The end result was always going to be an ashpile roof on a still standing stone structure.  That got me thinking…

Everybody’s Ignorant, just on different subjects

      We live in an age where information is a finger swipe away. What’s the capital of New Guinea? Swipe. What’s the tallest building? Swipe. What color is a red firetruck? Oh, c’mon! There is such a dazzling blizzard of information available at our fingertips it’s nearly impossible to focus on any of it. Our handheld phones access enough information they make the Smithsonian look like a bookmobile. I’m not saying we’re over-dependent on this technology, I’m also not admitting I once Googled how to bake a potato. We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge.

      The question I pose to our manufacturers and retailers is this; How much does your customer really know about your products? Your customer can order food, a date, and a driver in three swipes, their kids can probably crash the Belgian Stock Market with a click, but what information do they have about your items? Your product has specific attributes, feature standards you set, qualities you strive to achieve and maintain, but how much of that effort goes unnoticed? How much common sense is in fact uncommon? The fire in this fireplace doesn’t concern you. But call it a church… it might.

       In the tug of war between style and substance the rope is information. We alone are the purveyors of our products, the caretakers of facts and figures, we provide that rope. My industry is buildings. On Monday I learned that many people are unaware that stone buildings are fireproof. We each own a vault of what we believe is common sense. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind, and you don’t assume everybody else’s common sense vault matches your own. People don’t know what they don’t know. If we are to be creators of things, then we must also be educators.
A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.
A thing can last if people think it’s beautiful enough to care for.

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