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Thread: A contrast between two buildings

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    A contrast between two buildings

    The area behind my office building, which comprised part of Spitalfields Market, was redeveloped in the past few years. Much ahs been written about the pros and cons. Among other things, a local preservationist campaign meant that instead of disappearing, the market remains as do some unlisted components (not protected by law).

    A rather ugly, stepped glass box is softened in it street approach by having retained some small retail units which used to part of the perimeter of the portion of the market which went down. At the end of this 'row' of four small buildings, a new has been added. Its scale fits in, as does its purpose. So far, so good. It’s the (lack of) style, I object to. Having done the 'right'; thing urbanistically, the architects could just not bring themselves to relinquish their sad little attempt at individuality (forgetting that this type of building is much less recognizable and individualistic than they’d like to think).

    The modern building (you can see one of the old buildings on its right)



    The old building – no comparison



    Detail of the old building

    Life and death of great pattern languages

  2. #2
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    The new building probably would have been better if the red grill had been left off. At least it would have been more non-descript and blended away, letting the old building "shine" more. Instead, it just tries to compete (unsuccessfully, imo) and therefore reduces the effect of the assemblage, as a whole.
    Last edited by mendelman; 02 Feb 2006 at 10:35 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

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    There are certainly a number of other techniques the architect could have used to make the building stand out that wouldn't detract so much from the buildings next door. I'm a huge fan of really creative and eye catching signage (not huge with fancy lights, but smaller pedestrian oriented signage that just makes you stop and look at it). Even if the designer wanted to do something eye-catching, smaller details would have been much better than that ugly and non-conforming red grill. I agree with mendelman conerning the grill.

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    double post

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mallen's avatar
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    I actually do not object to it.

    As you note, the form and massing are correct. For me, form and massing are paramount. Everything else is second (even architectural detailing).

    Not all architectural buildings need to be classically or historically detailed. If you get the form and massing right you are 90% the way there.

    I love historic buildings, but I also find eclectic environments interesting too.

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    Quote Originally posted by mallen
    I actually do not object to it.

    I love historic buildings, but I also find eclectic environments interesting too.
    I'm with you and I agree that there is something to take away from most building styles. Its just when they are in such close proximity to eachother that I have a problem with it. There is time and place for eclectic red grille siding: this instance wasn't one of the IMHO.

  7. #7

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    I don't find it all that bad. I would not have made the red grill so uniformly horizontal and monolithic. If it was somehow broken up into "panels" it might fit in better.

    Unfortunately, I still don't think going the other route, poorly-exectuted traditionalism, would work either, as we would see this "traditionalism" executed in EFIS foam, poor, bastardized, cartoonish detailing, and bad proportions. Now, like you've pointed out, there are a handful of good traditonalist architects (although Greenberg's (sp?) houses to me are only a slighty better version of the standard neo-Georgian McMansion...so), but commercial property developers are interested in the "practical," just enough to get planning approvals.

    Luca, the one thing I don't understand is your support of a "free" market with few government restrictions, yet your other posts call for us to "require good architecture." I'm not sure a government can "require" good architecture. This culture does not value good everyday architecture-it values expediency, depreciation schedules, and speed of execution. Why should Walmart provide good architecture? It's image and business plan DEMANDS the banal, the monolithic hulking box. A few changes in wall plane and variations in fake cladding materials doesn't overcome the very genetics, the DNA of their design concept and business model.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I have no strong objection to the red grille, except that I would have preferred to see a real second story there. Another option might have been seating for a cafe. Is it screening mechanical equipment? What is its purpose besides adding mass? The small new building is better than the large one by a long sight. That thing has almost no character at all.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mallen
    I actually do not object to it.

    As you note, the form and massing are correct. For me, form and massing are paramount. Everything else is second (even architectural detailing).

    Not all architectural buildings need to be classically or historically detailed. If you get the form and massing right you are 90% the way there.

    I love historic buildings, but I also find eclectic environments interesting too.
    You beat me to it. Agreed. I happen to like the old building, but I also like the red-grille. Either way the new has similar pacing with its columns.

    It's the big glass monstrosity at the back that I'd like to wage war on...

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Mallen:
    “As you note, the form and massing are correct….”

    We may mean something different by “form / massing”, then (I don’t have any formal architectural education). I subscribe to the idea that buildings ideally should have:
    Parralelepipedal shape or a shape conforming to site: CHECK
    Relief of mass through grouping and ornamental texture: NOPE
    Axial symmetry and readability: CHECK
    A humanist ratio of proportions: CHECK
    Hey!,3 out of 4 is better than 90% of buildings!!! Not bad!


    BKM:
    “Unfortunately, I still don't think going the other route, poorly-exectuted traditionalism, would work either”

    > A copy or something inspired by the building next door would be easy and fine. It’s a nice building.

    “… Greenberg's (sp?) houses to me are only a slighty better version of the standard neo-Georgian McMansion...so),”

    > I really think you need to look at them again. They are often indistinguishable from top-notch ‘original’ stuff.

    “Luca, the one thing I don't understand is your support of a "free" market with few government restrictions, yet your other posts call for us to "require good architecture."

    > On the whole, I agree with you that there is no practical way to ‘force’ people to have good taste. BUT, much as I respect and draw income from the market, I do not believe that all govt. intervention is bad. I think construction in a city is an activity that, to a not inconsiderable degree, affects others whether they like it or not. The visual and urbanistic impact of a building extends beyond the property line. Thus, there is some limited scope for intervention.
    - I agree with the concept of conservation areas / preservation
    - I think govt.-sponsored/funded buildings should be much better and much less modish
    - I think there should be scope for some guidance in design, as long as there is broad support for it within a community.

    abrowne
    “It's the big glass monstrosity at the back that I'd like to wage war on... “

    > You should have seen the renderings of what was NOT approved….a huge glass block covering the whole space. That’s it. The council made them step it back and leave that ‘wrap’ of retail buildings. Urbanistically, other than the needless interruption of two side roads (don’t even get me started on road closings…) it’s a very good example. Very good.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    > On the whole, I agree with you that there is no practical way to ‘force’ people to have good taste. BUT, much as I respect and draw income from the market, I do not believe that all govt. intervention is bad. I think construction in a city is an activity that, to a not inconsiderable degree, affects others whether they like it or not. The visual and urbanistic impact of a building extends beyond the property line. Thus, there is some limited scope for intervention.
    - I agree with the concept of conservation areas / preservation
    - I think govt.-sponsored/funded buildings should be much better and much less modish
    - I think there should be scope for some guidance in design, as long as there is broad support for it within a community.
    The only problem, Luca, is that the new copy would NOT use quality load brick bearing brick walls or real carved wooden or stone trim. Heck, in California you CAN'T (seismic codes). EFIS and radically simplified/cartoonified foam trim do not look good.

    I can buy these. I don;t mind some modishness in my gov't building, but the idea of "better"...

    Interestingly enough, the local (regional, I guess) rag, the San Francisco Chronicle, has an architectural columnist who doesn't "get it." His last two columns opposing architetcural review parrot the good ol' Ayn Rand "don't interfere with architectural genius" argument. He totally ignores the fact that most buildings are NOT designed by geniuses, are in fact designed by bottom-line-at-all-costs hacks who would build nothing beyond the absolute minimum required to establish some theoretical "brand image" for Megalo-Mart

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Her's a pic of the offending grill, close up



    BKM, you always assume anything traditional is done in foam and vynil chep imitation. It's not necessarily so. Even in the US some buildings are built properly. Though I hear you about brick building in California.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    FANTASTIC pastry shop, by the way. Really top notch.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally posted by Luca

    BKM, you always assume anything traditional is done in foam and vynil chep imitation. It's not necessarily so. Even in the US some buildings are built properly. Though I hear you about brick building in California.
    Done well? Very, very few. I would love to be proven wrong more.

    I honestly thing "modernism" took off beyond just being a cult intellectual exercize because it lent itself so well to the new BUILD IT QUICK! BUILD IT CHEAP! BUILD IT BIG! mentality. Big business and government loved it.

    Plus, the United States has 300 million people now. Virgian timber is very expensive or nonexistant. Labor is expansicve-as are environmental rules. It's harder to "build well" with "traditional" natural materials when there are too many people who have consumed too much. Thus, EFIS and fake veneer panels that look cheesey.

    I know. It's easy to complain. I think your dream village sounds neat.

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