Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Drive-by Critics

Somewhere in the Meridian-Kesseler neighborhood there is a house I've always liked. It started out as a fairly ordinary, squarish, mildly Colonial Revival/Arts & Crafts home (slight nods either way, depending on which you're inclined to see), with a wide front porch under which twin French doors flank a chimney, giving on, no doubt, a resolutely hearth-centric living room.

But sometime in the past -- the recent past -- the owners have added a flat-roofed, full-width dormer that continues right down to foundation level as a pair of bump-outs. The triangular upper portions of the dormer are faced in what looks like decorative patterned tile and the whole thing suggests that a whacking huge slab of modern architecture has dropped out of the sky and bisected the house. It works for me because it makes absolutely no pretense of being original.

The folks over at Historical Indianapolis aren't so sure. (Their photos undersell the tile -- on a sunny day, the patterns fairly leap out. To my eye, it's an interesting syncopation in a row of very staid homes.)



Beauty as evil is in the eye of the

its a old house but is it historic?

by what criteria ? who slept there? who invented what widget therein ?

Historic Indiana? who elected them as the ultimate arbiter of history ascetic design or good taste?

"chasson ah son goot"

aczarnowski said...

Screw the busy bodies of the world. I fear ticky tacky houses looking all the same far more than I fear loosing something "historical." It's their house. More power to'em.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I can't stand architects. They have no sense of design past what they can themselves conceive. But here's the kicker:

[The writer] "is a free range landscape architect and practicing organist. He earned his Masters of Landscape Architecture at Ball State University. His past projects include residential landscape design, stream necromancy/restoration in downtown Indianapolis, guerrilla artworks, and the use of voodoo in Caribbean development schemes."

A degree in landscape design does not give him instant credibility with regard to structure design. As for the rest, sounds like a nutbag radical to me.

In my unprofessional, non-architect engineer's opinion, advised however by a lot of practical experience in house building, that's a very cool addition to that house. And the HI critic can go pound sand.

Which, come to think of it, is probably closer to his actual skill set.

Bubblehead Les. said...

My Wife tells me that there was a Big To-Do a while back up here on the North Coast. It seems the National Park Service was about to do a Restoration on James Garfield's Mentor, Ohio Home. All the local "Garden Club/White Colonial-Black Trim/Mrs. Grundy" types nearly had a Stroke when they got down to the outside Paint Layer and discovered that the color that was on the house during his Famous "Front Porch " Presidential Campaign was Dark Grey. They even tried to get a Petition going to force the NPS to Ignore History and paint it White.

And they LOST, so they had to live with the Facts, not their Wishes.

Which would be Nice if the rest of our Nation could do so.

Anonymous said...

As someone who works in the field of historic preservation, this is the sort of issue that makes me think.

Ideally, historic preservation should be about ensuring that older buildings can continue to be used. Sometimes, because of their historic/cultural/architectural value they should be 'preserved'. These are very rare, I routinely have to explain that just because a house dates from pre-WWII doesn't make it either unique or important. It does mean that you probably have a more solid structure with which to work and possibly ornamental elements that you couldn't afford to buy. We cannot afford to simply encase buildings in metaphorical amber simply because they are old. We should be looking at them as a valuable resource to use. Many of them, especially public/industrial buildings could not be built today: the materials, the skills, and the money do not exist. By encouraging re-use more ofthose elements are more likely to be kept, but compromise is required. Demand complete 'preservation' and you guarantee willful neglect and/or 'accidental' destruction by the owner to get rid of a white elephant.

The thing is that the house in the article is nothing special, either in terms of history or architecture. Why not play with it? As an historian, I'd hope they documented the building before and during the modification and I'd hope they understood the valuable pieces of the old building. But if not, not. The addition, which is emphatically not trying to be like the rest of the house, prevents the house from being torn down. In fifty years time it will historic...

As for 'free-range' historic the rest of us a bad name.

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Free-range landscape architect. Got to keep that in focus. His qualifications are limited to playing in the dirt.

Old NFO said...

LOL, one can only wonder if they did that 'just' to screw with the preservationists??? Or created one hellva master bedroom?

Chas S. Clifton said...

I think that this is one time when the term "mash-up" is appropriate.

Roberta X said...

...And I appreciate the expert opinion -- of course, the experts are always appreciated when their opinion is the same as one's own! :)

Drang said...

The effect is somewhat startling, but not hideous. Ditto comments re: If it ain't historically significant, you're entitled to your opinion, but don't expect to be taken seriously.

NotClauswitz said...

So THAT'S where the Tardis landed!

Anonymous said...

First description that came to mind was "abomination", but they didn't ask my design advice. IANAA or a preservationist but I would fully agree with acairfearann