The Writer Who Totally Nails the Horribleness of Sprawl and Big Box 'Architecture'
Have you ever been on the hunt for a writer who can approximate the horror and atrocities of all the sprawl and crappy buildings and freeways out there? I don't believe there's a better spot than James Howard Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month feature on his personal website. People send over photographic contestants, and Kunstler picks the winner each month with a caption.
Here's March, 2013, with Kunstler's caption below -- it's in the Paris suburbs, but since we're living in globalized times, the problems are the same (you can keep clicking back--the archive goes back by the year)
Get a load of this beauty. Social housing on the outskirts of Paris by the architectural firm Maison Edouard François. The awkward galumphing colossus manages to employ every schlock gimmick from the PoMo and DeCon playbooks: the homage to industrial banality, the confusion of building typologies, the arbitrary change of cladding materials, the ironic "squashing" of the "row houses" along the base (to make the point that gravity is a joke), the iconic horizontal window bands and flat roof, and the cartoon treatment of the bungalows perched playfully askew on top. The objective of this stunt-obsessed architecture is to confound our expectations about the urban habitat and the things in it, under the theory that life is not suffficiently anxiety-provoking -- so architects must supply more of it. Absent are the elements really needed in the urban setting: decorum, legibility, scale that will afford adaptive re-use over time, and a ground floor that shows some generosity to public life.
Thanks to reader James Mullen, who remarked of this: "I figure the only way the architect could make the building more outwardly annoying is to install speakers all around that amplify the recorded sound of fingernails on a chalkboard 24/7."