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Why is American architecture so bad?
December 24, 2001 11:26 AM   Subscribe

Why is American architecture so bad? "American architecture is, as a rule, conventional, bland, and dull. This is true almost across the board: from public buildings sponsored by federal or state governments to commercial buildings; from privately sponsored civic institutions, such as museums and concert halls, to local community centers and religious sanctuaries; from public-housing projects to private housing."
posted by rushmc (37 comments total)

 
This is a long-standing pet peeve of mine. Why do we choose to live in dull, uniform boxes? Why do we adapt ourselves to simple spaces rather than adapting spaces in our environment to our own needs and preferences? Why do we demand so little and receive even less? It can't all be about cost, because many alternatives require no greater expenditure. People have done better for thousands of years, with far less resources and less powerful tools of design and construction.
posted by rushmc at 11:30 AM on December 24, 2001


and that, my dears, is why i'm glad i live in chicago (the occasional horrifying mies va der rohe structure notwithstanding).
posted by patricking at 11:44 AM on December 24, 2001


For a humorous and interesting perspective on American architecture and its boring boxiness, try reading Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House.
posted by Red58 at 11:45 AM on December 24, 2001


I think this quote sums it up: "Yet all too often today, people perceive architects as out of touch with the public's needs--or see them as boutique designers who provide luxury goods at enormous cost with little added benefit."

I would have to say: yes. I think that like myself, many Americans could give a darn what the building looks like. Unless it's some sort of green eyed monstrosity or something with all kinds of wacky edges, the content of whatever goes into the building is more important than what it looks like.

I think the difference between us and the Europeans is that we have a McCulture. Damn what it looks like, just get it up quickly. And while you could argue that the Japanese are a "faster" culture, I think they've got several hundred years of history to fall back on while we're the obnoxious teenager who can't even remember last year well.
posted by owillis at 11:53 AM on December 24, 2001


From the linked article: "The twin towers were that rare entity in the American architectural fabric: a good, perhaps even a great, work of architecture."

Now, I don't spend a lot of time reading about, or even thinking about architecture, but I would swear that the above statement is at odds with the majority of opinions I've heard re: the WTC towers, for example:

"Many eulogies of the World Trade Center architecture suggest that the towers may be sorely mourned, but they were never dearly loved. "Blandness blown up to a gigantic size," in the words of the New Yorker's critic Paul Goldberger".

Now, as far as architecture in general, I think I'm much like most Americans in that buildings hailed as great and wonderful works of architecture just seem to be, well, ugly. The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain springs instantly to mind. But then, I don't like the Milwaukee Art Museum either. I don't find it ugly, just silly. To me, good architecture should be pleasing to the eye but also practical. Americans are, for the most part, a practical people.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:55 AM on December 24, 2001


Europe has a longer history, more architectural monuments, and much denser and more richly textured cities. And it has both the old built fabric and the new architecture--some of it designed by American architects--that has captured the media's and the public's imagination...

That kind of sums it up.

That being said, there are some rather architecturally interesting places in the states. Chicago does come to mind. Also, Seattle ranges the gamut of 20th century American architecture.

As to the question of why we don't adapt our architecture to our needs instead of our needs to our architecture, the answer is clear to anyone who has really looked at custom built housing. Not the mass designed do you want a 5th bedroom or a vaulted ceiling custom home, but a one of a kind architect drew it just for you house. This, btw, does cost more no matter what anyone tells you. Furthermore, such homes always have some aspect that makes you scratch your head and say "what were they thinking when they put *that* in?" As a result, if you build such a house, you'd better plan on dying in it, because it will be a bugger to sell.
posted by ilsa at 11:57 AM on December 24, 2001


Actually, Europe hasn't done that much better in the 20th Century--just check out the Paris 'burbs.

The bottom line regarding American architecture is that it's the most cost-conscious, and generally, great aesthetic design costs more than a box. Hopefully, over time, people, even Americans will become more aesthetically aware, value beauty more, and business will invest more in creating aesthetically pleasing places. Or, at least we can hope.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:09 PM on December 24, 2001


PS: down with Mcmansions!
posted by ParisParamus at 12:10 PM on December 24, 2001


To me, good architecture should be pleasing to the eye but also practical.

Absolutely! Good architecture is not primarily about using new materials in innovative ways to achieve unique effects, or about creating an eye-catching facade, or about making something strange and unprecedented to attach your name to in order to achieve recognition and fame. Good architecture is (or should be) about optimizing space, creating functional beauty that facilitates function and fosters feeling.

The article is quite right that most of us view architects and their work as precious and removed from our realities; but why is this so? Have you never entered a space and felt awed or empowered by or simply comfortable in it? Do you respond to all structures in the same way, intellectually and emotionally, with equal force (or lack thereof)? Surely architects must bear a lot of the blame for foisting uninspired, overly-intellectualized structures upon us--in doing so, they earn their reputation and lower our expectations, even our understanding of what is possible. But, at the same time, we get what we demand. Desire drives production. How did we come to view comfortable, practical, meaningful structures as somehow frivolous, excessive, non-essential, or luxuries that only the rich should even aspire to?
posted by rushmc at 12:14 PM on December 24, 2001


Sturgeon's Law, plus--

I've been working with two teamsof architects to create a housing project. This is a substantial thing--we have an 8 million dollar budget and a good, professional team with many built projects--and one of the first things I had to come to terms with was tha if we wanted beautiful spaces, it was going to cost more than we had. And we're not talking about decoration or frills here, we're talking about getting beyone the basic six-sided box. Projects like mine are so hemmed in by construction costs on one side and regulations on another that the space of possible solutions just doesn't contain much in the way of "beautiful" spaces--or rather the beauty is of a modest--but real--sort, not the flashy Architectural Digest heart-stoppingly dramatic sort.
posted by rodii at 12:22 PM on December 24, 2001


McMasions - ugh. I live next door to one that looks like a 4-storey cinderblock.
Most of the stuff on my block (Chicago, Wicker Park) was built in the 1890's and (unlike the crap built since the 1950's) has aged well. There are 2 new houses near me that actually aren't eyesores - tasteful ornamentation, quality materials (not cinderblocks) but they stand out as exceptions.
But I wonder WTF some of these designers were thinking when they built this stuff - didn't anybody ever teach them that a stainless steel door set in a white brick facade looks gawdawful? A lot of the places wouldn't look so bad if they were just proportioned right, but I guess to maximize rentable square footage the new apartments look squat and awkward with big doofy windows and stupid postmodern geegaws stuck to the roofs.
I love the turn of century stuff in Chicago but if you have to go modern (cheap) I'd much rather have a well-designed steel and glass box than the overdone crap that's been going up. (Any other Chicagoans here thing that whole stretch of Diversey from Damen to Ashland needs to be razed?)
posted by twitch at 12:24 PM on December 24, 2001


As a result, if you build such a house, you'd better plan on dying in it, because it will be a bugger to sell.

Perhaps another indication of the true depth and breadth of the conformist threads that run through the trademarked and widely-advertised individualism of the American personality.

Question for all: Given the choice, and all else being equal, would you more likely choose to buy a home with "character" and some unique attributes or a home very much like those of your friends and neighbors? Why?
posted by rushmc at 12:24 PM on December 24, 2001


"Given the choice, and all else being equal, would you more likely choose to buy a home with "character" and some unique attributes or a home very much like those of your friends and neighbors? Why?"

When we started looking for a house to buy, we began by looking at older (1890's-1910's) homes, precisely because they had so much character. We didn't want just another "cookie-cutter" split-entry.

What we found was that, although older homes in our area do have a lot more visual character, they're also for the most part unsuitable for modern family life. Bedrooms too small, staircases too narrow and winding, poorly insulated, substandard electrical service, etc. Buying one that's already been updated to modern standards was also out of the question, since that would typically triple the selling price.

Since we didn't have the money to buy a house and then completely renovate it, we ended up with a tri-level in a newer subdivision, where most of the houses look pretty much the same. We do still aspire to trade up to something with more character someday, but for the money we had to spend and the needs we had to fill, character really dropped to the bottom of the priority list.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:36 PM on December 24, 2001


I think an excellent example of successful and beautiful American architecture is Richard Meier's work on the Getty Center in LA. The architecture awed me far more than any of the art on display.
posted by padjet1 at 12:37 PM on December 24, 2001


I work with architects on a daily basis on a variety of projects, varying from state and federal funded structures, to retail, to worship houses and such.

Here is what I've learned: architects are self-righteous in many accords. They also make extremely high commissions on buildings, usually a percentage of the cost, not based on whether they make something unique, or your average box. They also get bonus funds if they bring a project in under budget.

Houses of worship are usually built on tight budgets which no longer afford the church these ellaborate structures of architecural marvel.

Schools are constructed with strict state guidelines, because the funding is dependant on many factors including compliance to a state code by a facilities commission that wouldn't know proper architecture if it bit them in the ass. (Oftentimes, these commissions can cause project costs to soar so much that it becomes more cost effective to repair than replace, when prior to interferance, it would have been cheaper to replace than repair).

The buildings look non-unique because it doesn't matter, because they have to churn twelve buildings out for their large architectural firm in hopes of making partner. In this matter, substance is taken over style.

In these large firms, there is usually one person, normally the principal, who works to create fantastic designs that win awards. Of course, his one stroke if genius is killed when he screws up the rest of the designs, costing that firm the project. The stroke-of-genius part is then melded into another project to make it look unique, resulting in either (1) a mish-mash of horrible architecture or (2) a nice design which the principal then takes full credit for.
posted by benjh at 12:56 PM on December 24, 2001


Park Slope, Brooklyn Rocks. But there aren't any good links on the Web (and my blog isn't up yet), so you'll just have to discover it yourself.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:57 PM on December 24, 2001


rushmc:

You asked "Have you never entered a space and felt awed or empowered by or simply comfortable in it?"

Once. And I've been searching all over the Web to find more information (and pictures), but all I could find is this.

Before you click on the link, let me tell you a little bit about this place.

The guy who built it had no formal architectural training at all. He built the place as a labor of love, using only materials that he collected in his junk business. Not only was the building all hand-built, but the majority of the furnishings were, as well. At various times it was a restaurant, a reception hall, and in its last days a Halloween haunted house.

Unfortunately, it burned three times, the last in 1996, and he gave up on finishing it.

I was there in about 1992 right after the second rebuilding (1991 was the second fire). At that time, he was going to use it as a restaurant/reception hall, and my wife and I were there to do the interior decorating (flowers, silk trees, etc.)

He gave us a tour of the building and pointed out each little feature of it, all of it built with his own hands, and he had some incredible stuff in there. The main showpiece was a large meeting room with a stone waterfall covering one entire wall, which he had put in rock by rock. I was entranced by the place, and amazed that the man had put pretty much his whole adult life into it. For someone with no formal training, he really built an amazing building, and I'm sorry that I can't find more pictures of it. I wish I had the foresight to take some when it was still standing.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:53 PM on December 24, 2001


Whoops, my wife informs me it was actually before the second fire, more like 1986 when we were there. I think within ten years is pretty close for someone who has trouble remembering what he had for breakfast.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:59 PM on December 24, 2001


I saw this article last week and wanted to post my comments on my blog, but I realized if I started I'd find it hard to stop and I had work to do. Lucky you, I happen to be away from my computer (so can't post to my own site) and here's the same article linked on MeFi.

Best (i.e., worst) comment from the article: "approximately 90 percent of our private housing is designed not by licensed architects" but by "incompetent" developers and contractors who are only allowed to do so because of "loopholes" in the law, as if it were a natural law of some sort that an architect be involved in the erection of a house. This is such a fundamentally ridiculous statement that I literally laughed out loud when I read it.

Nearly all of your interaction with your house (or, for that matter, your interaction with someone else's house) happens inside it. As long as it's not offensively hideous, I couldn't really give a flying fuck what the exterior of your house looks like. The interior can be customized as wildly as you like even on the least inspired cookie-cutter houses, and that is where you will do your living.

It's not as if having a licensed architect on the construction team will lead to your house having a new, heretofore unimagined form of bathroom. Even with the best architect you can buy, your bathroom will almost certainly be roughly rectangular, like virtually every room in every house, and it will likely have a crapper, a sink, maybe a closet, and of course a shower or a tub. Your living room will also be roughly rectangular, as will your bedrooms, your dining room, and any other rooms you have.

Now, you might want some expert help for the kitchen, but what you want there is not an architect but a chef. Otherwise, it ain't exactly rocket science. You think about the houses you have lived in and what you liked and didn't like about them, and you eventually come up with a pretty good idea of what you want.

So ordinary people can and frequently do design their own houses, and many others choose a pre-designed plan. If they're happy with the results, who cares how anyone else feels about it? Nobody has to live in that house if they don't want to. As for other people's aesthetic sensibilities being offended by the exterior of a house, well, people don't build their houses to please others, they build them to please themselves. If someone thinks a given house should have a nicer exterior, I'm sure the owners would gladly accept a check.

I am so fed up with people who think that everything in life has to be Art (according, of course, to their definition) -- else it is a monumental failure and an intolerable affront to human dignity. Bleargh.
posted by kindall at 7:11 PM on December 24, 2001


I agree, wholeheartedly, kindall. It just seems like so many houses (especially in my area) are of three designs. The "California split" (my house is this style), the "split-entry" (not as common as it was in the 70's but seems to be making a comeback), and the "rambler".

Thankfully, there are some subdivisions around that are reintroducing the more traditional homes (Cape Cod, Tudor, colonial) and so mixing up the neighborhood a bit.

I have no problem with function over form (and since becoming a homeowner I'm actually preferring it) but it can't be that hard to ensure that I won't drive around the corner and find another house exactly like mine in every respect other than trim color.

Again, it doesn't take an architect to do this. Common sense and a half-aware sense of style should take care of it.

I have a set of plans for our dream home, which I designed myself. The only problem is that it would take about a half-million to build it. Someday, someday...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:19 PM on December 24, 2001


it can't be that hard to ensure that I won't drive around the corner and find another house exactly like mine in every respect other than trim color.

This frequently comes up in rants about how the suburbs are so soulless, and I just don't understand why it is important to so many people. So the guy down the street or even next door to you has a house that looks just like yours except for a few details. What makes that so awful? I mean, you probably own a car that is basically identical to tens if not hundreds of thousands of other cars in every externally-visible detail, and that doesn't seem to bother anyone so much that they write screeds about it.

Sears used to sell houses from its catalog. The plans and all necessary materials would be delivered via railroad, and you and your neighbors would put it together; it wasn't even prefabbed. Whole neighborhoods of these houses were built. Today, many of those cookie-cutter buildings are considered classics. That's because now they're old. When a neighborhood has a bunch of new houses that all look alike, it is "bland and boring." When a neighborhood has a bunch of old houses that all look alike, it "has character." The obvious solution is to build houses that already look old when they're new.
posted by kindall at 7:48 PM on December 24, 2001


"I just don't understand why it is important to so many people."

I can't say exactly why it's important to me, it just is. If look-alike homes are OK with you, cool. I just don't like it.

In addition, I don't think a bunch of old houses that look alike shows character. To me, it's still just bland and boring, as you put it. It seems to show that homebuilders had no more imagination fifty years ago than they do now.

I also prefer cars that not everyone else drives, too, but that's not quite as important. My commuter car is a lookalike GM product, identical to millions of others, but it's just an appliance. It gets me from point A to point B reliably without a second thought.

Now, when I want to drive as opposed to commute, I get my '72 AMC Javelin out of the garage, which I restored with my own two hands. It's a statement of my personality, whereas the GM is just a tool. Yes, there were still relatively many Javelins built, but I can guarantee there's not another one like it in existence now.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:22 PM on December 24, 2001


Samuel Mockbee is doing some interesting , beautiful, affordable stuff. If you want to hate - here's the place .

posted by colt45 at 2:57 AM on December 25, 2001


Mockbee I dig -- he's putting his money where his mouth is, instead of just whining about how nobody will build his beeeeyoutiful buildings.
posted by kindall at 6:01 AM on December 25, 2001


I liked the caption on this page, under the picture of the roof of Mockbee's Harris House, while still under construction:

"Unlike other architecture students, those in the Rural Studio must figure out how to construct their fanciful forms"

Very cool. He's saying "Go ahead and design weird shit, but don't leave it to some other poor sap to figure out how to make it work. You thought of it, you build it."

Good link, colt45.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:28 AM on December 25, 2001


I highly recommend the book "How Buildings Learn" by Stewart Brand. It presents a unique view on many of the issues raised.

I thought this article was largely uninspired, with one interesting point about architecture not being part of a typical American education.
posted by pekar wood at 4:54 PM on December 25, 2001


down with Mcmansions!

I like mine. It may not be the biggest looker on the block, but it suits me fine. Good brick facing, good 3-car garage, good finished walkout, good homeowners' association dues-paying neighbors :)

You want to live in a 750 square foot roach motel with good lines, feel free to do so, Mr. Hoidty-Toidty :)
posted by UncleFes at 9:34 PM on December 25, 2001


McMansion = immobile SUV.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:40 PM on December 25, 2001


I'd pick beautiful lines any anytime. And car windshields over a brick facade. The windshields are shown most clearly in the bottom picture.
posted by colt45 at 11:49 PM on December 25, 2001


American architecture is so bad because the people who construct these buildings care about making money from rent. Aesthetics are secondary. Look at the World Trade Center, the two towers were definitely ugly. The towers being large upright boxes, it could hold the most tenants. The Empire State Building looks much better.
posted by LinemanBear at 8:17 AM on December 26, 2001


Fes--really? Why does it have to be so damn big?

Linemanbear: American architecture is so bad because the people who construct these buildings care about making money from rent.

Right. The economics push the envelope out from the inside, the regulations hem it in from the outside, and you end up with buildings that precisely outline the shape of the setbacks and the light rights. Aesthetics doesn't have much scope to operate. If you want to change American architecture, you should first look to changing the planning process and the zoning laws, or resign yourself to the fact that all interesting architecture will be built for rich clients who can afford to be wasteful in search of interesting spaces.

...or change your mindset and stop focusing on the public, urban, monumental exterior face of the built environment as the interesting one. As kindall says, you spend almost all of your time experiencing interiors, not exteriors. Take a look at the arts and crafts movement as one possible response to the problem. I would also recommend Sarah Susanka's books, though I wish there was a little more emphasis on making them affordable. Susanka's version of "not so big" is still plenty big for us little people.

[Some cites: the usual suspects: The Congress for the New Urbanism and Chris Alexander (caution: worst website ever). See also the Cohousing movement, and if you're interested, two excellent books: Howard Davis' The Culture of Building and Max Jacobson and Murray Silverstein's The Good House. Davis, Jacobson and Silverstein are all Alexander "alumni" who are applying his ideas in a more practical sphere, and Susanka is indebted to Alexander too.]
posted by rodii at 9:50 AM on December 26, 2001


As kindall says, you spend almost all of your time experiencing interiors, not exteriors.

That doesn't change the fact that you experience the SAME uninspired interiors, repeated endlessly, differentiated by a coat of paint (though usually white), and slight variations on furnishings. Little rat warrens inside shoe boxes hardly qualifies as a livable space. But for many, who spend most of their time staring at little boxes with light shining out of them, I guess the surroundings are of little importance.
posted by rushmc at 10:34 AM on December 26, 2001


I thought mr_crash_davis' link was interesting. Anyone know any other eccentric homes celebrated for their unique qualities?

There is the "Mystery Castle," near South Mountain in Phoenix, built single-handedly by a guy over a 15-year period.

And of course, perhaps the most famous, the Winchester Mystery House (why are they always deemed "mysterious"?).
posted by rushmc at 10:43 AM on December 26, 2001


That doesn't change the fact that you experience the SAME uninspired interiors, repeated endlessly, differentiated by a coat of paint (though usually white), and slight variations on furnishings.

Of course not. I'm merely suggesting that it's probably easier to have good spaces on a residential/local/interior scale if one doesn't fixate on the really somewhat separate issues of public/urban/exterior space, which is what most architectural critics seems to dwell on.

(And yes, I'm aware that the exterior and the interior interpenetrate. I'm up to my ass in that issue right now, alas, trying to convince some people that changing a design to make their windows much bigger will (a) ruin their interior space, (b) take away their privacy, (c) mess up their carefully-calculated solar gain and (d) destroy the proportionality and continuity of the communal exterior space. But, they say, we want more light! Big windows good!)

McMansions are all about resale, not quality of life. I've been in enough to get the feeling that people, as much as they say they love it, aren't really comfortable there. Too many oversized rooms with furniture grouped around a TV, or giant bedrooms that are essentially unused except for the bed itself. What's the point? People don't live in these things, they camp in them, like Bedouins relocated to the city.

At a certain price point in this market, even developers realize that it's absurd to add any more square feet--so how do they squeeze more money out of a house? Simple! Thay add bathrooms. It's not uncommon to see new home being built with four bedrooms and six and a half baths. One for each bedroom, TWO for the master bedroom (some men and women don't have to share a bathroom), plus a "guest bathroom" and a "powder room". Is this not fucking insane? But try telling anyone--developers, appraisers, buyers--that a smaller house is preferable with a more richly developed set of interior spaces, better appointed with better materials, and you'll be met with blank stares.
posted by rodii at 11:02 AM on December 26, 2001


That doesn't change the fact that you experience the SAME uninspired interiors, repeated endlessly, differentiated by a coat of paint (though usually white), and slight variations on furnishings. Little rat warrens inside shoe boxes hardly qualifies as a livable space.

Well, at least you can easily tell where the hyperlinks are, since they're always blue.
posted by kindall at 5:33 PM on December 26, 2001


I've been in enough to get the feeling that people, as much as they say they love it, aren't really comfortable there...People don't live in these things, they camp in them, like Bedouins relocated to the city.

Maybe some, not me. I've never been as comfortable in a home (and I've had smaller homes as well as tiny urban fleabag apartments, believe me) as I am in my McMansion. Yeah, they aren't high art, but so what? The same point you make applies the other way - it's all about personal taste. I use the space as I see fit, and decorate to my taste.

It's the SUV argument all over again: If I want one, can afford one, and can afford the resources to maintain one, it's my choice to buy one. otoh, if you like small apartments, small cars, or anything else, that's your choice as a consumer. Who's to say what's inherently superior? The market say. My favorite artist is Pieter Bruegel, a 16th century Dutch satirist; but Monet (whom I always thought was wildly overrated) is beloved of millions - and his paintings are considered far more valuable than Bruegel's, and rightly so.

that a smaller house is preferable with a more richly developed set of interior spaces, better appointed with better materials, and you'll be met with blank stares.

Sez you :) I like a bigger house, on a large wooded lot, with a little white plaster and a big bathroom. So I bought one. I'm sure your house is very nice, but it's your house. I prefer something a little different, I knew what I wanted, and I purchased exactly that.

Fes--really? Why does it have to be so damn big?

Really. Several reasons: to hold my stuff; to hold my growing family; to give me a feeling of openness, of horizon; to give me some space to work in the effing kitchen; to have a work area in the garage; because I enjoy entertaining; because I enjoy yardwork, and am pleased by creating a well-kept lawn and garden; because I enjoy shooing the racoons and deer out of my backyard, and showing my son their tracks; and not the least, I like it when people come into my home and are impressed by it's size and quality - sure, I'm a house-proud town mouse (haha, charade you are!) but it's one of the bazillion things that makes me happy, and my primary business is the making of my family and myself happy. When this house ceases to do that, I'll move.
posted by UncleFes at 9:43 PM on December 26, 2001


Those are all valid reasons, it seems to me, but it also seems to me that you're relatively exceptional in knowing exactly what you want, just like Dreama is exceptional in her need for an SUV with her 11 kids and ten-mile-long driveway (or whatever). There's nothing wrong with being house proud either.

It's unclear what we're talking about anyway, because I don't know how big your "McMansion" is. I wouldn't consider all 2000 sq. ft. houses, say, especially big, and some of them make much better use of space than others. The project I'm building has units ranging from 980 to 1830 sq. ft. (not counting walkouts for some), and I wouldn't consider any of them especially big or small, depending on who's using them.

The point, as I say above, is to find the right size for the people in it and then to make the space as good as possible. If "the right size" is big, I won't argue. But too many people just take whatever the bank will offer and then get the biggest possible place they can afford for the price, and they end up with ghastly, oversized, overbebathroomed monstrosities with cheeseball appointments and poor construction. That's not you, of course, Fes, you're a much more discerning mouse.

The other thing that kills residential design, in my opinion, is the notion of "curb appeal"--that what's key in determining resale value is the impression the house makes from the street. This translates, in developer/realtor-think, to houses that are shabby and jumbled on the inside being tricked out with expensive doors, copper roofs, half-timbering, and other gimmicks on the outside. It shifts the expense from the rooms where people live to the shell that other people look at, and regardless of its soundness as an investment strategy, results in impoverished interiors.
posted by rodii at 10:02 AM on December 27, 2001


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