The Perception of Doors

Today I was reading The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov — Russian novelists and superb social critics of the early 20th century. The novel, which was made into a Mel Brooks movie, is comic and disturbing and provides a chockful of insight into human behavior. I came across the following lines about the limitations of the Great Socialist Experiment.

. . . traffic problems are being solved; enormous power stations are being built and very great scientific discoveries are being made, but there is no one to devote his life to studying the problem of the closed door.

Ilf and Petrov go on to describe movie theaters, stadiums, and circuses and how multiple entrances were created to accomodate people but for some reason “the doors, the cherished doors, closed as far back as Peter the Great, remain shut.”

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, capitalism has yet to solve the problem of the closed door. Or at least in Pittsburgh we haven’t. How many doors do you know that have signs that say “Please use other door.”? From the corner store to august institutions of learning and commerce, the doors are there but they’re only for looks.

Do architects design extra doors knowing that these doors will never be used? Some are gleaming steel or brushed aluminum; some have shimmering glass and precision-machined handles; and some have handsome bas reliefs of classical athletic or pastoral scenes. All are sure to include a folded piece of 8 1/2 x 11 hand-marked with a Sharpie instructing patrons to try another entrance.

I promise you this is something I’ll investigate in the coming weeks. If you see a “Please Use Other Door” sign please send them to the Please Use Other Door flickr group, or to me at mail [at] markstroup [dot] com.

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