MINNEAPOLIS–In the oft-overlooked field of stoner architecture, new talent often goes unnoticed. But that hasn't been the case for Minneapolis stoner architect Richard "Dick" Donovan, whose groundbreaking design for an all-foyer mansion is earning slack-jawed admiration from some of the most respected members of the Twin Cities stoner-architecture community.
Donovan had won moderate recognition for past work, including his subterranean ranch house and his roofless A-frame. The 27-year-old's latest design, however, has won him unprecedented acclaim, hailed in the August issue of Stoner Architectural Digest as "the most absolutely fucked-up shit to come along in years."
"I was sitting around, bullshitting with [longtime roommate and noted carburetor-parts lamp designer Mike] Mosedale one afternoon, trying to decide if we should hang the 1968 All-American Calendar–the hilarious one with Nixon on it–by the ping-pong table or in the foyer or what," Donovan said. "Then we got to talking about foyers, and how they're kind of weird, 'cause you don't ever actually do anything in them except, you know, use them to walk into the next room. Then, all of a sudden, I was like, 'Whoa. Imagine if, after the foyer, there was just a whole endless series of foyers.' Christ, what a mindfuck that'd be."
According to Rich "Gordo" Gordon, managing editor of Stoner Architectural Digest, Donovan may be the breakout superstar for whom the profession has long waited.
"Sadly, the field of stoner architecture is usually dismissed by conventional architects, who insist on clinging to such tired, ossified notions as functionality, coherence, and basic structural integrity," Gordon said. "Someone like Donovan can go a long way toward dispelling the myth that stoner architecture is all just arrested adolescents scribbling whacked-out bullshit in dimly lit basements while turgid '70s prog-rock plays in the background. I mean, sure, it definitely is that, but it's also so much more."
Gordon then lost his train of thought.
"The work of stoner architects is tragically underfunded, and few, if any, of their designs have ever actually been built outside of the annual Burning Man festival," said Doug "Bong Hit" Cirillo, an Austin, TX, stoner architect. "It's too bad, because a lot of these dudes could use a few extra bucks. Like me, for instance. If I didn't have [girlfriend and Austin-area cosmetologist] Laura [Brodhagen] to crash with, I'd pretty much be screwed. Perhaps Donovan can help the movement gain the respect and widespread acceptance it deserves."
"Then again," continued Cirillo after an extremely long pause, "if he can't, you know, hey."
Like many in his field, Donovan got his start as a draftsman at an early age, carving Van Halen logos into desks in eighth grade. He quickly moved on to more advanced projects, drafting such designs as a "dream pad" with self-replenishing mini beer fridges in every room, a pool shaped like a Frank Frazetta warrior babe, and an "All-Time Ultimate Snack Tray" built out of the chassis of a 1978 Pontiac TransAm.
At age 22, Donovan earned his first taste of notoriety when, inspired by a quarter ounce of Mexicali Gold and a night of listening to the indie noise-rock combo Royal Trux, he spent nine consecutive hours "drawing up a plan for a city filled with 10,000 crooked stairs."
But despite such achievements, most agree that Donovan's latest design is his most significant yet.
"Donovan has a way of, like, expressing his creative-ass energies in this, you know, totally killer style," said roommate and noted stoner-architecture connoisseur "White Jimmy." "Take the time he told us he wanted to build a 'media immersion chamber.' He wanted to make this thing out of some lumber we found, so he could, like, lie down and be totally enclosed in this big couch-like thing, with a TV and PlayStation built right in at eye level overhead."
"I was like, 'How did he think that shit up?'" White Jimmy said. "Who knows, man. Who the fuck knows. Donovan's is truly a mysterious muse."
For his next project, Donovan said he hopes to design an "On-Duty-Pizzaman Neutrality Zone," a structure that would provide a "safe haven" for pizza-delivery drivers who are on the clock but seriously stressed out and in need of a couple minutes to chill without fear of reprisal. Thus far, however, he has been unable to secure the necessary funding.
It remains to be seen whether Donovan can achieve the level of success that has thus far eluded practitioners of his craft. Regardless of fame or fortune, the stoner architect remains deeply committed to his work.
"I'm just into, you know, comin' up with a whole bunch of ridiculous shit and putting it down on paper," Donovan said. "And as far as the money situation goes, I'm not too worried. I mean, rent's cheap in this neighborhood, and I only paid $500 for my car, so right now I only have to work, like, 5 to 11, two nights a week. So it's not like I don't have plenty of down time."