Wednesday, February 08, 2006

One Hero Sandwich, Hold The Mayo

The rebuilding of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans is offering the opportunity for those of us in the design community to debate the pros and cons of Modernism and New Urbanism.

Modernists look down upon the New Urbanists as wanting an unispired Disneyification of American cities. New Urbanists see Modernists as a bunch of ego maniacs determined to strip away all that familiar to residents to build their perceived utopian societies. Both may be correct and both may be wrong. I think both sides have something to offer and it is up to us to decide learn what each side has to offer and what will work best for us.

corbusier at Architecture and Morality writes about the "...abandon(ment of) the modernist style for a historicist one." as developers and architects seek to recreate foreign environments seemingly out of place from their locale. This may be fine for resorts as they are just that, resorts. People go their to escape the familiar. And if it has to be make-believe, make it so.

That differs from where people live and work. They mostly want the familiar. When architect Marianne Cusato designed the "Katrina Cottage", many people wanted to know where could they get one. One the other hand, acedemics like Prof. Peronnet scoffed, saying it is "a decorated shed on wheels" and that we as architects should promote "responsibility to truth and technology or better yet the promotion of architects as professionals, trained to truly solve life threatening problems and not color schemes and rafter tails."

What we need to remember is that we have a responsibility to our clients, that is if we want to be considered professionals. If our clients want the familiar, it is our duty to provide it for them. If our client wants outlandish, it is our duty to provide it, as best we can. We should not be in the habit of turning up our noses at the choices of our clients, although sometimes they deserve it.

So why the upturned noses at the "Katrina Cottage"?

If (one)looked inside the Katrina cottage and saw how the space was used maximizing each square inch, he would see inventive.
These designs have been proven to stand up to the wind, rain and heat, that all Southerns must deal with through out the year. I can tell you with out a doubt that here in the south we love our beautiful small buildings with porches so we can sit and enjoy summer afternoons, we like overhaning roofs, they sheds rain quickly and keep our windows dry in downpours, we like big windows for viewing tranquill gardens shaded by magnificent oaks.
We as architects need to get off our high-horse and show a little respect for the wishes of the people because they are the ones who suffer most when designs go wrong. So yes, I love the "Katrina Cottage" and continually kick myself for not coming up with it first.

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