MORE WAYS TO SPOT BAD ARCHITECTURE

AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

Last week, we talked about designing only the front of things.

 

We called this full-frontal exposure "Facadomy" and suggested architects avoid the act thereof at all costs. It's easy to spot Facadomy. It's everywhere. It's when a building presents its best side forward and the rest of the architecture sucks.

 

Drive around your town. You'll discover a long horizon of perfectly despicable examples.

 

The only thing worse than Facadomy, is when the architect performs the act all over the building and then tries to make up for it by suggesting there's some kind of deeper meaning behind it. This is over intellectualization; heady stuff, but no heart.

 

Over intellectualized architecture herds up "White Elephantecture".

White Elephantecture is a "nobody-wants-it-wannabe-building" screaming for attention, when it would do much better by subtly whispering in spatial delight.

 

White Elephantecture comes in all colors, shapes and sizes, and crosses all cultural (or lack thereof) lines.

Golf anyone? In Scandinavia, award winning architects attempted a hole-in-one by putting people, one by one, into holes. Thank goodness only one prototype village got into play before they sliced the balls out of the program.

 

The grinding ego-gears of mental-masturbation strip the joy out of experiencing design as an organic and living thing. Overly intellectualized design is painting by numbers in formula that nobody needs or wants to understand.

 

Take this building example in China. This thing is trying way too hard to be too many things to too many people, and it is trying to say totally way too much about everything that wants something said about it, and is, well, just way too much, just like these words.

This is a bank, no it's an office building, no a retail store, no a hotel, no, it's a restaurant and night club and bar and casino and no, it is a cliche to ancient Chinese ways; way too brainy and no heart.

 

There are many ways to spot bad architecture. We've talked about only a few. And what are the ways to spot good architecture?

 

All one has to do to understand good architecture is to feel it. Feel it more than think it.

This little blue whisper of a building is one of five free standing "bungalitos" at Living Waters Retreat in Spicewood, Texas. Only 12' wide by 24' feet long, this partial-glass-roofed, made mostly-of-recycled-stuff-trailerable-homette houses a full kitchen, dinette, living room with fireplace, pantry, laundry and a secret bathroom and sleeping loft."

 

Feel it more than think it.

 

Ask yourself, "What does a wedding chapel want to feel like?"

A chapel wants to feel sheltering. A chapel wants to feel new every day it grows older. A chapel wants to feel at one with itself and the place it's married to.

A chapel feels like a hug, like a kiss on the cheek. A chapel feels sacred and uplifting and other worldly and kind and inspiring and solid and not solid at all.

 

Chapel Dulcinea at the Wizard Academy outside Austin, Texas isn't pretentious. It is small. It is intimate. Dulcinea is not intellectually superior to the limestone cliffs it hangs from. Dulcinea is experienced from the inside. You feel it and it feels you.

 

This little girl competes in beauty pageants.

She is not like Chapel Dulcinea.

 

I don't know.

 

Maybe seven year old girls should try to look like they're old enough to know better. Maybe seven year old girls should get shot up with Botox and put on lipstick and fake eyelashes and sexy dresses that make their mommies remember the time mommy could wear them.

 

Maybe all we really want to see is the front of things, because that's all we offer to other people experiencing us.

 

I don't know

I long for a world that's more real.

 

How about you?

 

Please, look around you while you look inside you. Ask what's being presented to you. Is it honest? Is it polite? Is it architecture and art and literature and movies so lofty in intellectual pursuits that it ignores the humanity that tries to ignore it? Is it just the front of another ghost town in the making?

 

Speak up, damn it.

 

And understand that sometimes it is very appropriate to swear.

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