Response Crafting

Architecture on a Pedestal

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I originally posted this on my first blog in 2007:

I have loved architecture probably as long as I could pronouce the word. The field strikes me not because I’ve fallen in love with particular buildings or styles, but because I am fascinated with the sociological and philosophical foundations – the conceptual theories of creating spaces in which we reside and are reflected. My first dream job was an architect, but after several years I relinquished that vision because, just as I had never fallen for the stylized, superficial buildings around me, I had no desire to spend a life recreating them.

So, onward to the point; this is yet another critique. It’s sparked by my outing yesterday afternoon, when I was downtown and spontaneously stopped by a real estate office to check out the properties available. (I’m not interested in buying. I was just curious about the market.) Anyway, here I am in the lobby of this real estate office, purusing the loft property fliers; everything is going all fine and well… until I started looking more closely at the photos on some of the ads.

Here are these beautiful contemporary lofts with raw architectural details – the type of details that residents pay an extra several hundred thousand dollars to showcase – and as I scrutinize the photos, I’m beginning to notice not the spaces, but the decor. I’m beginning to note sheer sabotage of architecture, commited by slipshod interior design elements. I see rooms with vaulted, exposed piping ceilings completely humiliated by an invasive presence of a Chippendale mirror hung unintelligibly in the middle of the wall. Or another property that boasts a sprawling, minimalist bedroom floorplan; an architectural dynamic utterly desecrated by an uncouth, four-poster Colonial-style bed (complete with throw pillows.)

I’m left standing in the lobby of this real estate office utterly aghast at the wounds inflicted by the hasty and insensitive owners who choose to reside in spaces that so clearly do not suit their style. I mean, I can certainly appreciate Eclectic decor – mismatched collections of art and furniture – but only if it’s done with some level of finesse, with an underlying conceptual style! If, on the other hand, the integrity of the architecture is compromised because you have to show off Great Aunt Dorothy’s ancient armoir, then it isn’t styleby any means of the word. The furniture must reflect the dynamic of the space – never should the space be forced to negotiate its measured ambiance in order to accomodate fickle tastes.

Shouldn’t there be some sort of screening process to protect the perfectly-understated spaces that we’re trusted to inhabit? An architecture firm slaves over a blueprint, to create a room that seems to say, “hello, I am a minimalist space; I am superior in the most modest way. Dress my details to make them more vibrant”… And then some happy young couple moves in with their floral-patterned couch, and it’s all shot to hell.

Shouldn’t there be a bylaw insuring the preservation of architectural integrity?! Just as you would never shove an art-nouveau dining table into a country-style kitchen, you cannot possibly justify trying to disguise minimalist architecture with the cheap thrills of Victorian, Georgian, or Baroque furniture. For the sake of every semi-conscious guest who enters your home, please leave the oriental rug, quilt wall-hanging and oak crown moulding in the suburbs where they belong. If you must succomb to haphazard decor, that certainly is your perogative… All I ask is that you put it in a space that does not already have deliberate style. Move into a space with no voice, and drape it in a collage of your own; where neighbors will embrace architectural incompetence and call it: “homey”.

I just wish architecture did not have to suffer the fate of dispassionate residents with unseemly decor collections. Purely for the sake of the minimalist lofts’ integrity, I hope that these happy young couples soon have their first child, so that they can invest in the neutral canvas of a cookie-cutter home, where their Pottery Barn clutter and sentimentally-significant “heirlooms” can roam free. And they will leave the exposed piping to those who love it for what it is.

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