How an Architect Decorates for Halloween

All architects know that design matters—in every situation. As Halloween approaches in a house that celebrates a three-hour onslaught of zombies, princesses, and foam-muscled super heroes, it’s time once again to decorate. Now comes the true challenge in a family divided. On one side of the decorating debate is a spouse full of Halloween energy, as if she has already consumed this year’s assortment of bite-size treats. On the other, an architect looking to balance the creative arrangement to maximize the experience.

Design matters

“Of course it matters!” I often reply as we map out the maze of decorations. From traditional carved pumpkins to electronic levitating skulls, each item is placed with all the considerations engrained from years of architectural education and practice. My wife’s design sense and ability to debate architectural merit is not lacking. She has had the full peripheral architectural experience, as we’ve been together since before my first year of architecture school.

First comes the design parti. Oh yes, there has to be one each year. The concept is born months ahead of time, when the heat of summer still bakes the asphalt drive that will eventually serve as the first step on a trick-or-treater’s journey to our front door. To be fair, I can’t really call this a debate since my wife always wins. But I’m an architect, I can work with anything.

Balancing design and experience

From an NCARB perspective, the aspects of health, safety, and welfare come into play as we plan our Halloween experience. Well, sort of. Some welfare goes to the small, painted faces in the form of extra sweets. We relish in the satisfaction of knowing that trick-or-treaters hone in on our house. The one with the reputation of distributing candy and glow sticks by the handful. Let’s get real, health is not a strong consideration in our treat assortment—you won’t find raisins or pencils at this island of sweet treasure. Candy is the expected reward and we don’t disappoint. We know kids are in it for the treats, and we don’t want to be the recipients of any tricks.

Safety matters as we balance design and experience. The motion-activated specter is placed strategically. Integrated into the rose bushes—never directly across—causing those with startled steps to tread safely into an area of open mulch. The mood is enhanced with the glow of orange lights as the scary music soundtrack reverberates from beneath a cracked open garage door. The entrance and exit sequences are planned as precisely as any architectural project.

In the end, hundreds of children make their way through our suburban front yard to capture a small portion of their night’s reward. Does all of this effort matter for such a short Halloween experience? Of course it matters!

NCARB Director of Examination Jared Zurn and his wife Amanda are longtime fans of Halloween. They hope trick-or-treaters of every age have a safe and Happy Halloween.