Monday, July 16, 2007
Dog Bites Man: Architecture Professor Wears Black, Criticizes New Urbanism, Designs Neo-50s Houses.
THE ARCHITECT of the Porchdog House (above) said, "Yes, Architecture for Humanity ... invited 15 architects to propose prototypes for Biloxi, the only Gulf Coast city that rejected the New Urbanist designs on their city--which I would applaud on a certain level."
When do we get over the style cliches? Shouldn't a group called Architecture for Humanity be fighting for good cities, town, neighborhoods and buildings rather than dogmatically Modernist architecture? [Update: The director of Architecture for Humanity has responded. The situation seems different than one might guess from the website. See the comments.]
Marianne Cusato's Katrina Cottage won the People's Choice Design Award. The Katrina Cottage, unlike the Porchdog House, is for temporary housing (replacing the much-more expensive FEMA trailers), but when Marianne is out on the frequently runs into architects who oppose her work, on ideological grounds: it does not express the architectonic concerns of Modernist architects. In other words, it's a style issue.
In contrast to that, Marianne's design is part of a holistic solution, New Urbanism, that addresses issues of community, sustainability and Global Warming. Houses like the Porchdog House are only about the individual house.
New Urbanism proposes mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods that reduce auto-dependency. Architecture for Humanity proposes house designs that don't critique the sprawling, energy wasting patterns of development on the Gulf Coast. [ditto]
The 20th century is over. We don't have to be Modern anymore! It's time that architects get over these style fetishes and join the real world. We need designs that are more socially and environmentally responsive.
The CNU's Gulf Coast charrette produced several Modern designs. Its focus was on the creation of good sustainable places, not the making of ideological architectural statements.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dog Bites Man: Architecture Professor Wears Black, Criticizes New Urbanism, Designs Neo-50s Houses.:
We need designs that are more socially and environmentally responsive.
Amen, Brother! A glass wall facing west or south should NEVER be built in a climate like Mississippi's.
And what happens when the next 28' wave hits? This is mindless architectural masturbation.
Posted by: ben at Jul 16, 2007 9:57:04 AM
I bet the architect thinks he's politically and socially progressive. But it's not socially progressive to impose top-down, ideological solutions. You're right about the ideological part.
Posted by: steve at Jul 16, 2007 10:07:54 AM
As you've pointed out, Modernism was once a social reform movement. Now it's a tiny group of top-down elitists who want to control what we can build.
Reed Kroloff, x-Dean of Tulane, tried to control what could be built in New Orleans. New Orleans rejected him and he left town. Good riddance.
Reed and his crew have a lot of the same aesthetic values of the Modern art crowd, like Damien Hirst. But if you don't like Hirst (and few do) you can avoid his gallery. Buildings on the other hand, are all around us, and they give our cities character. A Libeskind building in my neighborhood would kill it.
Posted by: danny at Jul 16, 2007 11:06:44 AM
Marlons' views are his own. That is the beauty in Architecture - everyone has an opinion. The design and its architect was selected by the homeowner, not by a jury of peers. Whether you like the design or not, we respect the desires of the client.
Of the current round of seven new builds (out of 400+ rehabs), only THREE could be classed as 'modernist'. The other four take a more traditional approach and are more in keeping with the values of the CNU.
As an organization Architecture for Humanity supports any architect or firm interested in getting involved in socially responsible work. Over the last two years we've worked with hundreds of designers and volunteers on long term reconstruction both on the Gulf Coast and after the South East Asia Tsunami. We do not favor one style over another.
For this particular project we invited three new urbanists to work on the project (including Liz) and during our time Biloxi worked with Living Cities in Biloxi. When, and if, we do a second round of housing we will be inviting a number of CNU architects again.
As a side note I would certainly love to see a 1200 sq ft 3 bdrm version Mariannes' structure on 6-12 ft. piers [the flood elevation levels in East Biloxi]. Perhaps we would fund it too.
The bottom line is that rebuilding the gulf coast should not be a pissing match between 'isms. Families desperately need to get back into permanent homes and frankly we welcome any help to make that happen.
If you are up for it, email me.
Co-founder, Architecture for Humanity.
ps. Danny, I hate to tell you but there is a Gehry building 4 blocks from this structure. / Ben, What makes you think this is a curtain wall or even facing west or south.....
Posted by: Cameron Sinclair at Jul 16, 2007 11:57:11 AM
"The Katrina Cottage, unlike the Porchdog House, is for temporary housing (replacing the much-more expensive FEMA trailers)"
ps. Word on MS is that they are actually going to be used for permanent homes. Thus the comment about wanting to see a 1200 sf. ft. version.
Posted by: Cameron Sinclair at Jul 16, 2007 12:11:18 PM
Cameron, I stand corrected, happily.
Posted by: john at Jul 17, 2007 7:56:15 AM
That's interesting. I look forward to seeing where this discussion goes. Looking on your website, I clicked through to the Living Cities site. Fantastic resources! It would be interesting to know why they haven't come up with a better plan for Biloxi, which seems to have been lost to the casinos.
Are you talking about Gehry building in Biloxi? I don't think Gehry and Libeskind are the same at all - I understand why Gehry is so popular. I don't think Libeskind is popular, outside of architectural circles.
That part of Biloxi is nothing like the Marigny. Even before Katrina there were large buildings on open sites around the museum, while the Marigny is small buildings on small lots, uniquely New Orleans.
Of course one of the jokes after a barge hit Gehry's Biloxi building was that you couldn't tell where Gehry's building ended and the hurricane damage began.
Posted by: danny at Jul 17, 2007 11:51:07 AM
I checked out the Architecture for Humanity website and there are about a dozen houses that have been designed by some very edgy architects. A couple of the designs looked like they might actually work as houses for people whereas most of them were abstractions that seemed very concerned about ventilation and nothing else. Ramps galore, although occasionally I was concerned about headroom. Only one presentation (or maybe two at a stretch) showed that other buildings existed in the vicinity. Most seemed obsessed with being isolated objects, though one in particular did seem to be intended as a unit in a row of similar houses. Reading the texts provided by the architects proves that either they are almost all entirely illiterate or wrote the blurbs in a hurry and didn’t ask anyone to proofread them before hitting “send.” I though it all pretty dismal, including all the credentials listed for the designers—grants, exhibitions, publications, etc.
The houses illustrated are going to be built—one of each for a family in the Biloxi area. The text says that the purpose is to show “what can be done.” But what is the point of doing this? To be a designer showcase? Do any of these houses actually appeal to people as a possible solution for rebuilding in large numbers? Do people really want to live in shipping containers on stilts?
Posted by: steve at Aug 3, 2007 10:28:09 AM