Saturday, October 22, 2005

Selfish, conservative & inward looking?

One good thing that's happened in Melbourne in recent years is a move away from modernist styles of housing. There's been a revival in heritage styles in architecture, and the quality of these homes is sometimes very high.

Charm has made a comeback!

But the revival of heritage styles doesn't have everyone's approval. As an article in today's Age puts it,

Architects loathe these developments, just about as much as people like them.

Patrick Kennedy is one such architect who is not amused by the fashion for heritage style homes. He complains that,

These houses now reflect the same view as our political climate -
selfish, conservative and inward looking.

Nor is fellow architect Norman Day impressed by the popularity of heritage styles. He believes that such houses are in fashion because,

people are scared. They no longer see houses as places to live - they are investments, they are commodities.

Unfortunately, it seems as if some architects are so committed to modernism that they fail to understand how most people see things.

A lot of us have a greater emotional response to heritage style homes because they connect us to our history and cultural identity and because such styles are generally less severe than the stripped down geometric styles typical of modernist architecture.

Modernist homes often look like offices. Sometimes they are stylish but cold. At other times they are just plain brutally ugly.

Norman Day is wrong. People do see houses as places to live, which is exactly why they have been choosing houses with some traditional homely charm, rather than the more severe modern styles. This may be, as Patrick Kennedy claims, a symptom of conservatism, but it is not selfish and nor is it inward looking.

It has helped to make the newer outer suburban estates more attractive places to live.

(Here's one example of the newer style of housing. I don't like the protruding garage, but the rest of the house is a nice example of a Melbourne heritage style.)

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