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Pastiche Architecture

Is it Victorian, Gothic, Colonial, Baroque — or just bad design?

Is there a unifying design principle at work here? No. These homes are a mixed-up jumble of flawed approaches to design.
Image Credit: All photos: Greg Labbe

Drive out to any of the bedroom communities outside the greater Toronto area and you’re likely to stumble on huge, clunky homes that are so complex in shape that their energy performance is degraded. These homes include uncomfortable rooms, are often challenged by ice dams, and require higher expenditures for maintenance.

Having no more usable space than much smaller (but better designed) houses, these large homes squander conditioned floor space with ostentatious frills. Buying more is really less.

Pastiche “architecture”

When we look at these designs, they’re reminiscent of days of yore… but from what era exactly? Victorian? Maybe a hint of Colonial, Baroque, or Renaissance?

We’re not sure, but what we can say is that the various fused elements appeal to buyers in municipalities with new land to squander. In old cities where land is at a premium, designs tend to be constrained by small lot sizes. But not in the outskirts of the greater Toronto area.

Don’t get us wrong: we understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But why are so many homes built in this strange pastiche of styles?

Missing: a competent architect

Who’s responsible for the ugliness? That’s a chicken-and-egg question, we suspect.

Are developers pushing pastiche because they know it sells? Or are buyers just interested in the type of eye-candy that they see in glossy magazines, even though these homes likely won’t serve them well?

It’s true that many of these homes are snapped up by new immigrants, who thankfully tend fill the house with large extended families. But really, the design doesn’t reflect who they are, and the thermal enclosure on these large homes isn’t optimized for efficiency or their lifestyle. So what gives?

Is it part of a gold rush to own a piece of the glamorized North American dream?

Whatever the underlying cause of these design problems, we think that a good architect is the cure.

When it comes to efficiency, not all buildings are created equal. A good architect knows how to proportion and optimize any space for functional daily use. A good architect can help you make good decisions on how to build an optimized house on a smaller scale — one that reflects your values and aesthetic sensibilities.

Smaller homes are easier and less costly to build, maintain, and operate. A good architect can help make your building timelessly beautiful so that you’re motivated to maintain it, and so that the building holds its value.

With numerous gables and dormers, this roof cost a lot to build. Could the money have been better spent on optimizing energy efficiency and usable floor space?

Even townhomes are designed with the same “flair.” With these complex cascading roofs, it’s just a matter of time before ice dams settle in.

With more peaks and valleys than the NASDAQ index, this model house is representative of the many mini-chateaux going up around Toronto.

I can’t get over the cost that went into building this faux chimney — and all for naught. See the gas fireplace vent at head-height in the yard? That’s the vent. There’s no need for the masonry chimney, since there is no wood-burning appliance in the house.

The chimney isn’t just faux; it’s stuffed. Santa can’t even get in! The flues are plugged with concrete at the top — the kids will be disappointed this Christmas.

Adding insult to injury, the faux lightning rod along with the ornamental railing will be an obstacle to a good sleigh landing. Looks like some designer won’t be getting that new drafting table for Christmas.

If you’re going to go this far, have the decency to put the window in; the guys who have to fix the ice dam will appreciate the natural light.

Yup, those are two staircases side by side going to the same place. It’s a his-and-hers thing, I guess.

This could have been a wickedly large master bedroom. Now, who’s going to change the bulbs in the recessed cans when they burn out?

The video below gives a glimpse of the huge master bedroom, a huge skylight, and two fenced-off areas on the second floor.

Greg Labbé is co-owner of BlueGreen Consulting Group, a high-performance home consulting firm that works with architects, builders, and homeowners to optimize the energy performance of new and existing homes through detailed energy modeling and site testing.

36 Comments

  1. Jin Kazama | | #1

    i like this blog !
    Exact same situation here in Quebec, in most of Montreal's suburbs.

    This is the reflection of the " look " society we live in.
    All flash no cash my father used to say. ( probably the only english words he's ever used with me :p )

    I've got more roof angles than you, n00b!

  2. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #2

    Jin Kazama
    Merci!

  3. Malcolm Taylor | | #3

    Greg
    A very interesting blog - and the accompanying photos would make any counter-arguements pretty hard!
    Whatever the cause of these pastiches, I do think that it would be a mistake to dismiss these house as representing nothing at all. They are the bastardized result of a genuine impulse - that our houses represent in some way the qualities we associate with home. Among the social pretensions, the absurd false chimneys, dormers and gables there also lurks an acknowledgement that houses have a symbolic function. They aren't just machines to optimize performance. Too many energy efficient houses ignore this and end up unable to command the affection of anyone but their occupants who are enamoured by their envelope's design.
    Good architecture exists in the middle. It deals with everything without neglecting one aspect of the design at the expense of another. It's really tricky to do and it's always tempting to just focus on what you are good at or know a lot about, but if everything doesn't get its due then it really isn't fulfilling its full potential.

  4. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #4

    Response to Malcolm Taylor
    Malcolm,
    You wrote, "They are the bastardized result of a genuine impulse - that our houses represent in some way the qualities we associate with home."

    I agree with just one word of that sentence ("bastardized"). Otherwise, I disagree.

    The vast majority of home buyers in Toronto or Atlanta didn't grow up in a French chateau or the mansion of an ante-bellum plantation. (Anyone who did could probably spot the fakery shown in these photos a mile away -- but that's not my point.) For most home buyers, the images we associate with "home" are things like a front porch with a rocking chair, or a brick fireplace. These associations have nothing to do with these 20-foot-high foyer ceilings, or ridiculous turrets.

    What we're seeing is aspiration for a higher life, but a higher life as filtered through Hollywood and Disney. The associations evoked by these absurd designs are not "home"; they are Cinderella's Castle at Disney World, or the mansion depicted in Gone With the Wind. The fake houses are evocations of fake originals, and all of the process serves a yearning for display -- so that we can show our friends that we have arrived somewhere new. The place where we have arrived is definitely not "home."

  5. Shane Claflin | | #5

    oo la laa
    More flare ... less care!

  6. Nick T - 6A (MN) | | #6

    Well some of the photos are
    Well some of the photos are yes , a bit ridiculous, but in the end people want a nice house. 9' ceilings are nice, so are 10' in spots... oh but 11' is just uncalled for?... so are grand entrances with high ceilings. how high is to high?

    Fake chimneys..... that is a new one! But MANY new homes have fake chimneys inside... and people expect it!

    And plenty of new homes have faux stone fronts...which is meant to be reminiscent of the photos you have here. These are just taking it all the way....

    I guess I see a lot of opinion on how JohnQ Public is supposed to not build a home to look... but I see all the photos here of homes on galleries... i would say "its not selling" no houses going up around here look like them.

  7. Malcolm Taylor | | #7

    Martin
    Martin, I agree completely that there is nothing genuine about any of it, but what the developers are preying on is a real impulse to, as you say, things that speak to people. Somehow along the way they have been subverted to the things Greg has posted. In much the way Disney's sentimental animal cartoons have no relationship with the creatures they represent, the housing forms have no link to our very real desires - but that doesn't mean the desires are false, just that they have been subverted.
    A very real question facing architects is how, in a culture that doesn't share many values beyond consumption, you come up with forms that speak to something beyond mere functionalism. If you ignore the question you end up ceding the field to those who would use it to their own ends.

  8. W D | | #8

    In Search of what is Worthy, Honorable
    "Pastiche???" OK, it's "hodgepodge". A mess. I get it. It fits.

    I don't get too worked up over stuff like the Pastiche Houses. I must admit it's getting pretty bizarre. When I see stuff like that I just wonder what values the person has that makes such a house desirable. Apparently there's a market for it. I like the references to the fantasy world of Hollywood. The houses are a fantasy. It must be somehow feeding the ego. That's their problem. I let it go. Besides, my own house has more of Pastiche than I ever needed.

    I lived in the Toronto area for a while. I even tried to learn a little French. It hurt but I did it, sort of. I worked with a group that included both French and English speaking people. Our secretary was from Montreal. She visited her son/daughter (I don't recall) who lived in the Dallas area. When she came back I asked her how she liked the visit. She said the visit was terrific. I asked how she liked Dallas. I asked because Dallas seemed so remote from her early life in Quebec. She thought a while but said nothing. Finally, in a low voice that came from the heart she said: "The thing is, Dallas has no soul". It was profound. It took my breath away. I carry her words with me. It isn't that I don't like Dallas. I just admire her as a person and her values. I think we all search for something Worthy, something Honorable, something with Meaning. I suspect it won't take too long for owners of the Pastiche to realize that isn't it. There's no soul. Keep searching.

  9. User avater
    Armando Cobo | | #9

    Style police?
    In New England I see beautiful homes with vinyl siding resembling wood, as well as the south with their fiber cement siding, and the Northwest with their imitation shakes. In the Southwest we built houses with fake adobe walls and acrylic stuccos. Does everyone agrees that solar panels in the front of a house are awesome to look at?
    Does anyone buy into the “Mediterranean” style houses being built today? Is it Mediterranean from Spain, France, Italy, Egypt, Libya or Morocco? Oh, do we mean Tuscany? I challenge anyone to find some of these “Tuscan” houses in Tuscany!
    In the inside of the homes, we install fake foam beams, direct vent fireplaces, cabinets and trim made out of MDF. Let’s not forget the fake stone fireplace or the man-made plasters. Some floors are plywood planks, and others are ceramic tiles resembling stone.
    I would not like to live in a boring cube for a house, as I see in other parts of the country, nor I particularly care for some of the modern homes, made of glass, or the high pitch roofs we design in the “big” cities, including my designs.
    Has home design and architecture changed over time? Will it continue to evolve as we rely more on man-made materials? So who is to say who is right? Who decides which design or material application is right or wrong? Who decides whether homes in Canada are better looking, or not, than homes in Las Vegas or SoCal?
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as long as the building science and techniques are done correctly, why not. If people are willing to pay for the “style” they want, are we better than them to say what is right or wrong? Beautiful or ugly?

  10. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    Response to Armando Cobo
    Armando,
    You asked, "Beautiful or ugly?"

    Well, as long as you asked: ugly.

    Clearly, "de gustibus non est disputandum," as the ancients said. Someone is buying these houses.

    But it's OK to discuss design and style. We don't have to agree, but we all have opinions. Sometimes a discussion of style can be enlightening, and allows all of us to see our surroundings with fresh eyes.

  11. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #11

    Malcolm Taylor
    Your point on how to reconcile efficiency without sacrificing aesthetics is so important, we love and nurture beauty. It is something visceral and what I do know is that my skill set is better on the envelope testing side than the design side!

  12. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #12

    Armando Cobo
    You're right I'm coming down as the style police - its a dirty job, but someone has to draw attention to it. The style is anti-community, anti-neighbourhood and unsustainable both from an energy consumption view point and land use.

    The homes described are self-contained units that don’t foster “community” with tall fences. Often they don't have walkways and generally have no amenities within walkable distance. As I grow older, I need exercise and I can either pay a gym to work out, or I can just walk and bike everywhere daily – use it or lose it. Walking on the street gives you connection to the ‘hood,’ you can say hi to people when you walk by.

    I'm fortunate to live in a 100 year-old neighbourhood, we all have covered porches (Martin, I feel like my rocking chair is cliché now!) that are within earshot of the side walk. Not everyone uses their porch, but I'm trying to revive "porch culture" by drinking with neighbours on it. My kids and their neighbourhood friends spend a lot of time playing and hanging out on the porches and something about alleyways gives kids with imagination a sense of adventure.

    One has to put effort into building community, but since our back yards are so small it forces us to not linger in the backyard, but live more in the front of the house where the neighbourhood is.

    We're all crammed in semi-detached homes and the diminutive garage is tucked in the alleyway. Though tough for a farm boy like me to accept, my house is too close to the corner to have a garage and I’m forced to change my oil on the street – which is good for building community because people drop by and talk to me while I work. With small houses, it forces people to share resources (wheelbarrows, ladders, tomato juicers etc) because storage is at a premium.

    We’re within a 1.5km radius walk to the subway or buses, 3 fruit and veg stands, 2 local micro breweries, restaurants, shops, 3 full on grocery stores, 3 big box hardware stores, 3 high schools, 4 primary schools, barbers...missing a good bakery though! If I didn't have a car, I could live here easily. I’m not sure the same could be said of the homes built in the photos above.

  13. User avater
    Armando Cobo | | #13

    Ahhh... I love progress
    I thought the main idea of this article was about pastiche architecture, not about community (more on that later). Architectural styles have changed and morph throughout thousands of years by changes in taste, climate and natural resources, among others. Some styles have stayed and some have gone away, but the bottom line is that as long as folks like a particular style, and the Builders build these homes with durable and efficient products and techniques, who are we to decide?
    The homes described above have been around for a few years, and maybe in 50 or 100 years we still designing and building them, because people like them and buy them. I for one, do not want to design homes like they were designed many years ago, unless that’s what the client wants. Nowadays, we are designing old style architecture reflecting today’s flare and tastes. Today’s Tudors, Prairies, Old Worlds (whatever that means) or even Mediterranean style houses are being designed with the interpretation of the times; and whether we like it or not, Architects and Designers have been doing so for thousands of years; it’s nothing new. Maybe a quick review of the history of Architecture is in order.
    When it comes to “community”, no, I do not want to live in a neighborhood where I smell what everyone is having for dinner, or hear my neighbor’s fights and everyone knows your business. I don’t want to live where smog and CO2 is the norm. I do not want to live in crammed, semi-detached homes with diminutive garages tucked in the alleyway, it’s not for me; but I respect others likes and choices. I also don’t want to lend my wheelbarrow or ladder to my neighbor, because he never returns it (just kidding).
    The point is, many people live where they want to live, how they want to live, and in houses they bought because they like the style and they could afford it. Tastes and likes are different for all humanity, and thankfully we all get to exercise that right. There is a difference from discussing a topic and being judgmental of someone else’s work.

  14. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #14

    Response to Armando Cobo
    Armando,
    You wrote, "There is a difference from discussing a topic and being judgmental of someone else’s work."

    Well, Armando, when it comes to design, there are lots of reasons we might want to be judgmental about designs -- which I suppose can also be called "being judgmental of someone else's work."

    Greg has pointed out problems with these designs: roofs that are likely to have ice dams; poorly thought-out stairways that waste space; ridiculous bump-outs that are very difficult to air seal.

    We discuss these design errors because we can all learn from other people's mistakes, and can do better next time.

    Yes, I suppose this type of analysis is judgmental. But the point of the exercise is to learn to do better.

  15. Peter Hastings | | #15

    Pastiche
    The examples shown fall into two categories, irrespective of the look of the houses. In one the complexities of the design make the maintenance and integrity of the structure a real nightmare. In others all the various folderols do is make the house an energy hog or difficult to decorate or impractical to live in. The first can rightly be condemned as bad building practice. The second is a matter of taste and, possibly, resale value which is simply a folly and we're all still allowed to be fools, right ? We are still allowed to waste our own money the last time I checked.

  16. Josh Wimpey | | #16

    Posted this in another blog last week or so.
    A somewhat hilarious blog has defined the architecture as being from the "Hubristic Period" http://landofexcess.com/

    Ugly or not, they are wasteful, guaranteed to have comfort and roof issues. AND,, they are UGLY

  17. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #17

    Response to Peter Hastings
    Peter,
    If I understand you correctly, you believe that "folderols ... that make the house an energy hog" should be tolerated, because "we're all still allowed to be fools."

    Fair enough, I suppose. But remember -- the average home buyer isn't as sophisticated on energy issues as you are, and probably has no idea that these folderols are associated with energy hoggery.

    How can these consumers be protected from these energy mistakes?

  18. User avater
    Stephen Sheehy | | #18

    response to Armondo, Peter and Martin
    On Nantucket, every house must be white, and comply with certain design criteria thought to typify 1830 architecture. Not that I could afford to, but I wouldn't want to live where every time I wanted to do maintenance or repairs, I needed permission from the local taste police.

    On the other hand, I sure wouldn't want to be forced to look at these monstrosities, let alone live in one. Such ugly, energy sucking, soul sucking houses will be making people miserable for decades, maybe centuries.

    As Martin points out, the average home buyer is not well-informed about energy issues. He or she is equally clueless about future maintenance that will be necessitated by bad design.

    No one is suggesting we amend the Constitution to prohibit ugly house. But we certainly can try to educate people about why good design is important for them and the rest of us. One way to do that is to ridicule people who install fake chimneys.

  19. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #19

    How can these consumers be protected from these energy mistakes?
    Building codes in Sweden have energy use performance requirementst hat gets verified AFTER the unit is occupied, and both the architects & builders are on the hook for hitting the numbers, and must rectify the problem (no matter what the cost) when it falls short.

    How they hit that performance is up to the designers & builders too- there are no prescriptive R-values or assembly details analogous to IRC or Canadian building codes. Most of western Europe has annual energy use limits fore new construction specified by code now, but it's usually only estimated using simulation tools rather than verified in actual use.

    http://www.aceee.org/files/proceedings/2010/data/papers/1931.pdf

    Taking that sort approach would fix a LOT of truly crappy, impossible-to-implement-well architectural flights of fancy, eh?

  20. Nick Welch | | #20

    Subjectivity
    While I instinctually agree with all of the criticism here, my inner devil's advocate tells me that most of the criticism doesn't pass logical muster.

    When does faux become fake? In my neighborhood we have 50s tract-style houses, some of which mimic much older Cape Cod designs, and some of which mimic English Tudor style. Are these fake and worthy of condemnation? Most people nowadays consider them quaint, cute, and classic (at least when they haven't been re-packaged in plastic siding). And they're a mixture of styles just like these newer McMansions; just less extreme. When does a mixture become a hodge podge? Why can't a hodge podge simply become its own new style?

    And I think the modesty being trumpeted here (which I share) often comes from privilege... you have nothing to prove, because you're secure and comfortable. It's then easy to mock others who seem to go to great lengths to impress. But is this productive? Or defensible in any way, really? Is aggressive modesty still modesty?

    Or maybe, it's just a sign that you're an old man, and can't resist complaining about what the kids are doing these days.

    It's all a very grey area. I find these homes silly and ostentatious, but maybe that's my baggage, not theirs.

    Now, I'm not talking about the energy aspects at all... those are easily argued with math, and I hope that building codes will continue to improve so that the most egregious thermal failings are no longer built. But style is really hard to criticize without making a fool out of yourself.

  21. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #21

    Response to Nick Welch
    Nick,
    You are taking the "de gustibus non est disputandum" dictum to an extreme conclusion. Of course it's true that there is no disputing my neighbor's taste. He can build whatever folly he likes, as far as I'm concerned.

    But if we aren't allowed to discuss design issues, because (in your words) "style is really hard to criticize without making a fool out of yourself," then I guess I'm willing to present myself as a voluntary fool. Your advice undermines the essential precepts that justify architecture schools.

    My neighbor's taste is his own business, but anyone who makes a living as a designer or a builder needs to have a sense of design, and to be able to defend his or her opinions. It's perfectly appropriate to discuss these issues.

  22. User avater
    Armando Cobo | | #22

    To a point, Martin...
    I do agree that one can say those bump outs, dormers or whatever, need more attention with the building science, moisture management and QC than not having them, and one can explain how installing those architectural features could create X, Y or Z problems, but to say they are ugly, that's for the client to decide.
    Anyone of us can take someone else's design and make changes or suggestions, as we all think differently and may have different ways to solve our clients wishes, however, to openly criticize someone else's work because one thinks is ugly, in my opinion, shows a lack of professional respect!

  23. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #23

    Response to Armando Cobo
    Armando,
    The only reason I used the word "ugly" is because you brought the subject up with your direct question, "Beautiful or ugly?" Before you asked that question, I hadn't used the word.

    But now you raise a new question: Just how ugly does a building have to get before you are willing to use the U word?

    .

  24. User avater
    Armando Cobo | | #24

    Fair enogh...
    Fair enough... my bad, I should not have said ugly. Would esthetically and architecturally style challenged work?

  25. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #25

    Josh Wimpey
    Josh, Thanks for he link, the pics are right on! I loved Thomas Frank when he was editor of Harpers magazine and I have read "What's the Mater with Kansas" is was totally enlightening as to why poor farmers vote for the blokes who screw their way of life. So sad and frustrating!

  26. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #26

    Dana Dorsett
    Dana, you hit it on the head: prescriptive vs performance. So simple. Using prescriptive tables are great for determining rafter depth, but we know better for total energy performance. Energy modeling and testing can raise performance so easily.

  27. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #27

    Nick Welch
    So right, I hear my Dad's voice in mine "those kids..." and your point is taken. Its a free world, but the fact remains that if these houses were built to a performance standard maybe they'd be a lot smaller and simpler. I believe the mandate of Green Building Advisor is to act as an accelerator for advancing better than code energy performance and my goal here is to challenge people especially those who are sitting on the fence.

  28. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #28

    The U word
    I didn't think we were allowed to use that word in public.

  29. User avater
    Dana Dorsett | | #29

    I wish I could take credit for it...
    ... but some sober wise bureaucrats in Scandinavia came up with it first.

    It only make sense: If you're going to put something in codes intended to put an upper bound on energy use, there's no better way to deal with it than simply MEASURING it, and making those responsible for designing and building the thing responsible for meeting the specified energy goals. There is 1001 ways to make something that meets prescriptive R codes perform miserably or wonderfully, only some of which are design issues, the others implementation.

  30. Diane Blitzer | | #30

    pastiche architecture
    I was pleased to read comment by someone as cranky as I am. I am a retired architect - retired in part because the huge emphasis placed on creativity and innovation in design school was not at all what the workplace valued. Though talent must be recognized, the exceptional work seen in design publications has more to do with exceptional CLIENTS than with exceptional architects. This article asks, 'Where do these designs come from?' I answer, they come from builders and from buyers who do not ask their architects to be sensitive to the site or environmental context, to the long-term integrity of the structure, to the stated and examined needs of the residents. They come from builders and buyers who say, "I want what that guy has, only bigger and cheaper;" and who, when the architect attempts to offer alternatives, seek revenge.

  31. Malcolm Taylor | | #31

    Judgements
    If we aren't allowed to make judgements in any area of human endeavour that isn't measurable by scientific experiment then the whole of our history and culture collapses in to relativism. It isn't just a matter of taste that Da Vinci was a better painter than his peers, that Shakespeare is demonstrably a better writer than Clive Custler or that Palladio's villas are great architecture in the way the houses on this blog are not. We can argue about style - some like modernism some historicism - but within the framework of each there is an obvious hierarchy of talent and achievement.
    The whole field of architectural criticism is based on educating your taste by learning what informs design decisions and being able to see which building have best achieved their goals. Looking at and being able to critically appraise them is what makes us better at what we do and drives our culture forward.
    Why should we be afraid to call out poor design for fear of being disrespectful? Do we apply the same criteria to an poorly cooked meal we are served at a restaurant, or a new car that debuts at a car show?
    The stuff Greg posted is prima-facie awful. Why not say so?

  32. User avater
    Greg Labbe | | #32

    Diane Blitzer
    From one crank to another, so glad I could oblige! ;-)

  33. Peter Hastings | | #33

    How can these consumers be

    How can these consumers be protected from these energy mistakes?

    Protecting people from themselves is a very slippery slope indeed. By all means answer clearly and factually when they ask,and direct them to websites such as this. But much of the grass-roots (as opposed to big-business) loathing that the environmental movement has engendered has been because of its inability to refrain from telling people what to do. Of course, the only way of making a substantive difference (rather than tiny pockets of righteous loveliness) is through Building Codes and the Swedish example is most encouraging - don't tell people what to do, simply make it an integral part of housebuilding practice.

  34. Aj Builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a | | #34

    Somewhat similar but different trend near me
    Very very boring clay colored vinyl siding duplex townhouses going up by the hundreds being sold as great for retiring into as you pay $200 a month and never mow or shovel again!! Quadplexes for the poor and Apartments with 10 units each for the very poor.

    The other huge trend I think you all would like and I like even. 6 story condos going up in our being rebuilt city centers. Grocery stores and coffee and all on the first floor.... nice units... cluster living which GBA advocates... and to me the places look great. The Architecture is structural and beautiful the to eye. Brick, steel, glass mixed very well and with purpose. It's a two for or more to me... bringing back dead downtowns which serves all of us... and more. I need to post pics after I take some.

    As to the homes posted here... no good comment can come from me.

  35. User avater
    James Morgan | | #35

    Beauty/ugliness
    I think it's fair to call an artifact ugly if it's conspicuously absent in fitness for purpose. If the purpose of a cubist easy chair is to shock the middle class and challenge convention, then you can call it beautiful. If the purpose is to provide human comfort in seating, then it's not. If you see the purpose of these homes as to provide comfort, convenience, elegance (in the mathematical sense perhaps), economy and low maintenance they are a dismal failure. If you see them merely as a place to park a few hundred thou until tastes and the market change, then fine. I guess.

  36. Patricia Gaylor | | #36

    Boy, what a great thread! I'm
    Boy, what a great thread! I'm laughing out loud at some of the responses. I'm an interior designer, not an architect, so I have WAY too many opinions on the subject of what makes a house beautiful and function well. Believe me, if there was such a thing as the Design Police, sign me up! Living in an area where there is very little regulation on building design (ok, none), you can pretty much build anything you want, as long as you comply with local codes. After that, it's anyone's game. The ''2 for one'' theory of building is what irks me, even before we get to the design and materials. Example: a gorgeous old Victorian on the market down the street was sold, demolished, and now has TWO homes on the same lot. Both have 'frontal' garage access, as the lot size is narrow and won't take a side sweep entrance. This is very common in this area. Money trumps design EVERY time. So, ok, if you do indeed have to build 2 homes on smaller lots, please at least make them appealing. Yes, I'm beyond tired of Tudor, Spanish, French, and any other pretentious design. But short of living in a cave, it has to have some intrinsic style. But the photo examples of the Pastiche home is a big huge bowl of WRONG. I've had to design interiors for homes with 20 foot ceilings, and believe me, it's a huge challenge. How do you make a bus terminal into someone's home? The sound issues alone are a nightmare. No one, and I mean NO ONE, can feel at home in an auditorium-sized room. Is it wrong for us in the building community to render opinions on such things? I think not. We need to create standards, and this is the way to do it. BRING IT !

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