Saturday, September 22, 2012

AFFORDABLE ARCHITECTURE

You ever notice how people talk about architecture – regular people – not architects?

I like this.
I wish I had that.
Wouldn’t it be nice to do that [but it ain’t never gonna happen]?

It’s as if we (because deep down, I’m a people too) all believe that architecture is something only for the wealthy, for courageous gay urbanites; or, something for tourists to admire – and take snapshots of – fleetingly before returning to their bland, flimsy homes of stucco on wood frame with interiors some awful shade of beige for the purposes of a fickle evil called “resale value.”

Can we say the words “affordable” and “architecture” in the same sentence without sounding like deluded early 20th century architects trying to save the world?  


For Example.

The architect called Le Corbusier, one of the most brilliant architects of his generation, a genius with concrete, daylighting and sacred space among many other things... for a visual example, a common favorite of his works is the chapel Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France, built in 1954 (can anything good come out of 1954 you ask?  Yesssss.)  

Notre Dame du Haut exterior. Photo 2007 by gaku.
Notre Dame du Haut interior. Photo 2007 by elyullo  
Notre Dame du Haut interior. Photo 2007 by chiaramar.

But when Le Corbusier attempted to create affordable housing, he did hideous high-rise apartments isolated in acres of lawn. These projects inspired many of the urban redevelopment projects (ghettos) in the U.S. and elsewhere that followed.  Some have even blamed him for the demise of cities in the late 20th century.  

Would you want to live here?


La Cité Radieuse in Marseille, built 1947–1952.
Photo 2008 Vincent DesJardins
La Maison de Radieuse in Reze, built 1955.
Photo 2012 dalbera
I believe largely in reaction to the failures of 20th century architecture to cure societal ills—they actually made them worse—today’s architects typically treat affordability as a non-issue.  But not all of these attempts were failures.


Casa Milà, built 1905-1910 by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona.
Photo 2007 by cosmicautumn
Hundertwasserhaus in Wien by the artist
Friedensriech Hundertwasser 1983.  Photo 2010 by twicepix

Shhhh.  I believe in affordable architecture.  Don’t tell anyone.