Saturday, March 18, 2017

Aesthetic confusion in Denver

"Bad" architecture in Denver, according to Denver FUGLY. Via CityLab.

The FUGLY Movement

Citylab airs a complaint about new high-density housing in Denver. The city is booming but some hate the design of new construction.

Most of the examples put up for the horror show don't actually look all that bad to me. For one thing, they are overtly "modern". Oops! The self-styled "Center for Advanced Research in Traditional Architecture" (CARTA) at Denver's school of architecture isn't happy about that. Some of the multi-family housing is even, believe it or not, nominally "Deconstructivist", imitating gimmicks from Peter Eisenman's IBA housing in Berlin. Wow! But yes, a mistake.

Left: "Decon" redux in Denver. Funky, yes, no? Denver FUGLY. Via CityLab.

In architecture, if not in economics, everything, and I mean everything, does indeed eventually trickle down.

Perhaps many of these projects do give modernism a bad name. But I think it's because they are so quickly thrown together. The problem is American development, not the particular architectural style employed. It's all about cheating the suckers with cheap lures and making a buck. Theme park glitz.

The accusers in Denver:
 'Every building going up is tan, brown, red or burnt red,' says Brad Evans, moderator of the Denver FUGLY Facebook page. 'That’s every color.' 
The developers' supposed defense, as critiqued by Christine Franck, Director of CARTA:
'Developers would say "this is what we have to do, this is what’s selling, this is what people want.' 
But look at what Evans likes:
 'My favorite building is probably the Michael Graves library, it feels like this institutional building but then it’s totally whimsical about it,' Evans says. 'And everybody hated that, when they first built it, everyone thought it was fugly.' ”
Yes, everyone hated it when it went up. Makes you think, maybe, yes, no?

Evans should just flash-forward himself 30 years, catch up with what's going on in architecture, and everything getting built now will look fine to him. Or almost.

Michael Graves, Denver Public Library (1995). Source: Archidaily, Estate of Michael Graves.

"Good" architecture in Denver as per CARTA (yawn). Swallow Hill Residences (2003) by Tryba Architects.

 I think a big part of the problem, as is pointed out in the article, is density. These are multi-unit buildings going up in neighborhoods formerly of single-family houses. I imagine that new developer single-family houses in the US are still in "traditional" styles. Do these "modern" apartment buildings respond to the new demographic of young urban dwellers across the country?

Amanda Pampuro 

CityLab (The Atlantic) 
March 14, 2017

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