When writing posts here I often try to address those questions that arise regularly. I do this in hopes that it will lessen the frequency of a question or give me a complete, pre-composed answer to which I can direct a questioner. Unfortunately, it never seems to work out quite that way. Those asking the questions seem uninformed by content on the blog, and I am seldom content with an answer for long enough to use it as an ongoing resource. However, the process of writing about these questions helps me solidify what may have begun as unsubstantiated opinions or disjointed thoughts. Add the value of the insightful comments we get here and each post becomes a useful means of creating actual, solid ideas.
So, with the above in mind I will talk a little bit about one of the most common questions we get on the 100k House . . . “Why modern?” This might also be heard as “Why is the floor plan so open?” “Why does it look so different from my house?” or “Where’s the brick?” These questions, and others like them, come up fairly often. So, I will try to provide some brief answers and a jumping off point for your comments.
Some people simply don’t like modern architecture. The same goes for modern art, poetry, music and theater. There will always be a section of society that prefers the old to the new, that believes the best art has already been achieved. But, there will also always be a contingent that revels in innovation, that is excited by change. This is a difference of opinion. It is a question of taste.
Personally, I admire older architecture. I find inspiration and pleasure in pieces that represent the period of their creation. I am interested in the way situation, culture and ideas shaped the buildings of various times. However, I am less interested in modern copies of that older work. I find the mimicry of older forms, no matter how successful, to be somewhat boring. For example, I like the poetry of Wordsworth, but I would be completely turned off by a modern poet who writes in that style.
I also think it would be a shame to quiet the creative impulse in favor of the status quo (however brilliant that status quo may be). I mean, I enjoy Mozart, but it would be a sad world in which the music of Miles Davis didn’t exist.
Form often follows function, or is at least effected by it. As the required function of a given object evolves, so does its form. For instance, the sleeker form of modern cars is both an aesthetic and practical transformation from its boxier ancestor. If we wanted cars to move faster while demanding less energy, we had to make them more aerodynamic. Thus form adjusts, in part, to accommodate function.
We may find that houses demand a similar adjustment of form. Demands for the functionality of passive solar strategies and tighter envelopes may be better met through new unexplored forms. More modern designs may better allow for easier automation, day lighting, work-from-home applications and other functionality demands. The experimentation that takes place in modern architecture could make our houses more useful and efficient even as it adjusts the appearance of our homes.
If we view our homes as an area ripe for technological advancement and increased functionality, we must be open to a shift in appearance. Form, if clung to, can be a hindrance to practical advancement.
The necessity to move toward greener homes may have a significant effect on the shape those homes take. This is not to say that a traditional Philly row home (for example) can’t be green, but a more modern interpretation might be able to get there with less cost and complexity (as we have found). New, more sustainable materials may replace the traditional brick facade. More efficient window configurations might bring into question the standard exterior appearance. Even simple ideas of size and shape may adjust to the realities of insulation requirements, solar panel application or interior air circulation.
The need to build smaller and more densely will also likely change the form of our homes. Space and materials might need to be used more efficiently. Excess may need to be trimmed closer to necessity.
Some of our homes seem to have lost their sense of place, a sense that was originally based on practical concerns of climate and weather patterns. Homes in the south have started to look much like homes in the north despite the difference in requirements. And, even those homes that actually arose from a given climate condition arrived in their current form based on old understandings.
Designers, free from traditionalist constraints, can possibly create new ideas for the specific conditions of a given region. Climate and available local materials could play a role in redefining regional aesthetic possibilities. Given the space to do so, we can use our growing understanding of climate to create homes that belong in the place they are built regardless of what they may look like.
Modern architecture also seems to understand and accept a larger variety of lifestyles. The average American home houses less than three people, but you would never guess that from the size and configuration of most of our new houses. Not everyone is planning on getting married and having three kids. Some people have already done that and are ready to kick their kids out. Others plan to do all that in 5 years and don’t want to feel like they are there already. Variety in home design accepts this variety in lifestyle choices and provides people with places more suited to their style.
Fine, I’ll sum up and let you talk.
I went on a bit and I’m sorry if some of it is a bit sloppy or irrelevant. As I said, I see this space as a place for hashing out ideas. Believe it or not, I could have gone on much longer. Basically, I am defending the validity of our choice to build modern homes based on some of the points above. This does not mean I am condemning traditional architecture or those who would choose it, so go easy on me.
So, lets hear what you think of modern architectural design in general, ours in particular or any of the points I made above. Is there a market for modern? Are there ways in which an adherence to traditional appearance might hinder us? Are there specific traditional elements we should hang on to even if we are building modern? Would you like me to write shorter posts?
Questions of taste can be touchy ones, so be nice and respect difference. Now, to the comments.
If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.
There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.