Between Banality and Minimalism

11/23/2009 Uncategorized

A ghastly (say with a British accent) affordable housing project was featured in the recent issue of Metropolis Magazine. Designed by Sir Richard Rogers’s newly reconstituted firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners – shaped no doubt by consultants who specialize in the succession plans of famous-name firms – the project looks like it was designed in about 45 minutes. I like to say that there is a fine line between minimalism and banality. Unfortunately (for the inhabitants) this project fell far short of the mark.

Even Rick Poyner, the writer of the fawning article, stumbles over the social and aesthetic incongruities of the Lego-land-like project:

“My only criticism, now that the houses are occupied, is that their futuristic style makes conventional timber fences, gates, and garden sheds look incongruous and unsightly. (Harbour notes that even the cars parked outside seem old-fashioned.) These backyard necessities require a better integrated design language, but that is more restrictive than even the most aesthetically aware owner is likely to accept. A few residents have even put up net curtains. Ultra-modernity is a demanding visual code to live up to.”

Projects like this fuel the Congress for New Urbanism’s authority when it comes to community development.