FUBARchitecture.
June 4, 2013 7:34 AM   Subscribe

 
My eyes have been soiled!
posted by 445supermag at 7:42 AM on June 4, 2013


Does what the Tumblr suggests.
posted by Mezentian at 7:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


*Thinks of the vast suburban expanse of new-build beige townhouses that surrounds him, shakes head, closes tumblr*
posted by Think_Long at 7:46 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


These really don't look that bad to my American eyes. Any of them are better than the typical suburban crap that gets built here.
posted by octothorpe at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


STICK TO CHOCOLATE AND COWS, BELGIUM!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2013


Ask a Belgian to think outside the box and they come up with a box with things outside.
posted by schmod at 7:51 AM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


With the exception of the box, these are ugly, but not amazingly so. Many just look like lousy, quick conversions of commercial or other spaces into living space or the addition of walls.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:54 AM on June 4, 2013


No, I think the "typical suburban crap" link houses look much, much better than the Belgian ones.

However, I want to know about the construction itself. I see the Belgian ones are brick while the US ones are probably plastic and pine, with 1/10" of topsoil in the yard.
posted by DU at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best. Post. Title. EVAR.
posted by eriko at 8:02 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Apparently the thing where the front-facing windows are covered is not as unusual as I thought! When I was visiting Belgium, I was staying with a friend's family outside of Ghent in this pretty, rural area. They lent me a bike to get to the train station (which is another funny story because at that time I didn't know how to ride, shock and horror), but I followed my friend's mum to the train station very early in the morning while it was still dark. I went to Brugges, had an awesome time, got back on the right train, found my bike at the station, and retraced my route carefully back to the house.... except that it was dark again and I had no idea which house was theirs and I passed one that I thought might it, except the windows were boarded up so clearly it was abandoned!

Yeah, it was their house. Eventually the driveway turned into a cow trail, and I turned around thinking I must have missed the turn... only to see them all standing on their porch with flashlights, waving at me. D'oh.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:03 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was in Belgium for a couple of days recently, and my (entirely superficial, touristy) understanding is that owning a house, preferably one you built rather than bought is a Big Thing for Belgians. If I remember correctly, they have a saying about every Belgian being born with a brick in their belly.

Non-professionals having significant input into the building of their own place probably has a lot to do with all the, uh, unconventional design choices.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:03 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


These aren't ugly to me at all! They remind me of Stewart Brand's book, How Buildings Learn. One of the big ideas of that book is that often buildings that look good are bad buildings: they'll outlive their purpose, and be difficult to adapt to new uses. Almost all of the houses on this blog look like they've been adapted from previous uses to new ones—some of them have changed many times. These buildings are more likely to last and be used than the latest beautiful building on the cover of Dwell; they're more adaptable, and therefore more useful. And useful things are beautiful things!
posted by ocherdraco at 8:08 AM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


Here is a blog post on How Buildings Learn that is a good introduction to that book.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


No, I think the "typical suburban crap" link houses look much, much better than the Belgian ones.

It's not a fair comparison though. This is the worst they've got and they don't come close to the shite they foist on us over here!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:10 AM on June 4, 2013


meh, I prefer houses with an original, unconventional beauty such as these, as opposed to the cookie-cutter kinds that are popping up in my neck of the woods.

with houses like those, who needs addresses!
posted by bitteroldman at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Taste... As an American I have to say that the Belgian houses at least looked interesting, compared to the usual kitsch/krap you see here. As if an architect of sorts had something to do with them...
posted by njohnson23 at 8:12 AM on June 4, 2013


Hah. This is actually quite an old Dutch stereotype about the Belgians, that all their houses look like crap from the outside and that their city councils are too incompetent/uncaring to enforce any sort of guidelines, unlike the orderly decent housing we build.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:13 AM on June 4, 2013


Most of these look beautiful to me, possibly because they're all so distinctive. There are a few that strike me as bad, but on the whole I'd happily live in or near any of them. What exactly makes them seem ugly to people?
posted by cjelli at 8:14 AM on June 4, 2013


I LOVE literally every one of them.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:19 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey! As one of Belgium's few residents present here,

There is a saying in Flemish that all Belgians are born with a brick in their stomach, and it describes the way in which the call to build, or at least extensively remodel, one's home is almost an inborn trait. Everyone I know here over the age of thirty has bought a plot of land, or a plausibly run down or ugly house they can tear down, and built something themselves from scratch. You can see some of the least outwardly attractive of the results of all of this amateur architecture and collective madness here, but fuck you guys (in the nicest way possible), Belgians live just how they like to in just exactly the surroundings they want. I for one envy them.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:20 AM on June 4, 2013 [17 favorites]


"Hah. This is actually quite an old Dutch stereotype about the Belgians, that all their houses look like crap from the outside and that their city councils are too incompetent/uncaring to enforce any sort of guidelines, unlike the orderly decent housing we build."

Oh them's fightin words, they are also to be honest not exactly unfair
posted by Blasdelb at 8:20 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


What exactly makes them seem ugly to people?

Most of the buildings have a sense of proportion that is wrong, or at least very different than what we're used to seeing in Western architecture.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:21 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


i love these.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:21 AM on June 4, 2013


I've seen houses with roofs like these in a 70s-era development US.

I would welcome a cash-for-clunkers program for ugly 70s era buildings. What were people thinking?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:22 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't see the opposition that others are suggesting. I pretty much despise suburban American homes and their bland conformity. But I also think most of those Belgian houses are individually, uniquely ugly.

That said, to my untutored eyes there does seem to be a cultural architectural context implicit that I'm unfamiliar with, and, were I familiar with it, I might judge many of those houses differently. The roofs and the towers are very weird and often mismatched and disproportioned to my eye — there's a lot of dissonance, like how I perceive different plaids worn in combination in fashion.

I dunno. I'm ambivalent because I do get the sense that there's something I don't have the context to understand; but then, on the other hand, I've pretty much never seen very unfamiliar (to me) foreign architecture in the past that struck me as ugly and dissonant as this does.

I hate to assume universals of proportion and visual harmony, but it's hard for me to avoid thinking that most of these are inherently discordant in ways that aren't self-aware and deliberate (although a few of them are modernist and are self-aware and deliberate).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:32 AM on June 4, 2013


It is better to be uniquely ugly than to be universally bland.
posted by aramaic at 8:35 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Blasdelb: "There is a saying in Flemish that all Belgians are born with a brick in their stomach"

Meanwhile in the Netherlands...
posted by schmod at 8:36 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


You see, if this house were a cookie cutter thing copypasta'd into a 'neighborhood' by 'professionals', all of this Belgium hating would be totally valid, but its not. That house was clearly built by some Belgian who really wanted themselves a fucking tower, and by God they figured out how and built themselves one. That home is some badass' castle and particularly with the tastefully oldtimey windows, that makes it, like much of Belgium, charming as fuck.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


"It is better to be uniquely ugly than to be universally bland."

That's like asking me to choose dog vomit over Wonder Bread.

Spoiler: I'm going to go with the Wonder Bread. But may I have another choice?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's quite a funny blog, but let's not thumb our noses too much at a nation who takes such a personal interest in architecture. After all, English-speaking countries are almost uniquely shit in their approach to architecture - tower blocks, anybody? - so perhaps we'd be better off applauding their efforts than pointing and laughing.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having lived there as a child, I'm just struck by how Belgian these houses look.
posted by wotsac at 8:42 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


these mostly look weirdly... stumpy to me.
posted by sp160n at 8:44 AM on June 4, 2013


The beer makes up for the architecture.
posted by dfm500 at 8:47 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


When a house is a home and it doesn't have a large yard you don't look it from a distance and see it as a whole. You see one corner, wall or nook at a time and these problems with proportion disappear. Many of these are very homely, best suitable for living in close distance: poking the garden, mending the wall etc. There maybe moments when you are returning from vacation or otherwise feel alienated to your house and then see the house as ugly, but soon you're back home and everything is nice again.
posted by Free word order! at 8:48 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


This site seems like a combination of picking on urban structures that used to be wedged in-between two other houses, and therefore look weird when the adjacent ones are gone, and rampant anti-Mansard-roof bias.
posted by aught at 8:50 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Let's be fair, though, Mansard roofs are evil and may one day destroy us all unless we can stop them.
posted by aramaic at 8:52 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Put a Mansard roof on it!" was the 19th Century equivalent of "Put a bird on it!".
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2013


1870s Mansard roofs are awesome, 1970s Mansard roofs not so much.
posted by octothorpe at 9:03 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was all "meh" until I got to the one with the tiny replica in the driveway and then I lol'd.
posted by elizardbits at 9:05 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Meanwhile in the Netherlands..."

Marching in lockstep towards towards an outwardly ridiculous, if ergonomic and efficient, alternative transportation path? You don't say...
posted by Blasdelb at 9:06 AM on June 4, 2013


Why does this house need a 2 meter diameter chimney? Missile silo?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2013


"Missile silo?"

Sunroof! You can kinda see the glass in the top along with the drain. I bet thats over a staircase that goes between the floors freeing up space inside the house.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:18 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Between this and its unfortunate cast of holiday characters I would be tickled pink if Belgium somehow managed to end up on the list of things metafilter does not do well. I mean, unlike any other country that the average global Anglophone could point to on a map, there are no slurs that mean Belgian in the English language. None.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


These are spectacularly ugly in a very Belgian way, ie, I can look at most of these and know instantly that they're Belgian, and don't belong anywhere else.

There's a story that comes to mind, which might be some kind of explanation, taken from the (excellent) book "Brew Like A Monk", by Stan Hieronymous:

"In one of the many stories he likes to tell about German, British and Belgian brewers, Michael Jackson (the beer writer) first asks a German how beer is made. "Pils malt, Czech hops", the brewer replies. Then Jackson asks the German brewer down the road the same question, "It's the same as Fritz said. That's how you make a Pilsener, that's what we learn in school."

"After getting a different answer from a British brewer, Jackson turns to a Belgian brewer. "First of all, you take one ton of bat's droppings. Then you add a black witch," the Belgian answers. "The brewer down the road uses a white witch." Jackson concludes with the lesson: "Belgium is a nation of tremendous individualists."
posted by daveje at 9:38 AM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]



When a house is a home and it doesn't have a large yard you don't look it from a distance and see it as a whole


That explains how I was able to cycle around Belgium and not come across any of these houses. Belgian terrain makes it pretty hard to casually see anything from a distance. I only saw what came into view up close, and since I wasn't looking for examples of Belgian DIY Culture Gone Wild, I didn't come across any.
posted by ocschwar at 9:40 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


God I wish I had a house.
posted by compartment at 9:47 AM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


"She couldn't think of a more derogatory term than Belgians"
posted by Windopaene at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, by way of explanation, the strangely shaped roofs are often because the rules regarding them and building height, which vary depending on where you live, arcane formulas that only make less sense the more you think about them, who your current mayor is, what your neighbors built before you bought that piece of land, and what monstrosity you tore down to build your paradise.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:49 AM on June 4, 2013


All these houses with towers make me want to volunteer to help dig a moat, regardless of what the builders spouse says.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:57 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


what hell is: the entire rest of eternity spent in fuckin' Bruges
posted by surplus at 10:03 AM on June 4, 2013


Also, by way of explanation, the strangely shaped roofs are often because the rules regarding them and building height, which vary depending on where you live, arcane formulas that only make less sense the more you think about them, who your current mayor is, what your neighbors built before you bought that piece of land, and what monstrosity you tore down to build your paradise.

From my perspective, the odd thing about the roofs is that there's no eaves, but I can understand them not just going with a flat roof because of requirements or cultural norms. It seems like the odd mansard roof with window cutaways comes up a bunch of times in the tumblr. Belgian residential architecture seems to be very much about carving away from a solid, while typical American suburban houses (at least where I live) are more about assemblages of planes. A lot of these "ugly" houses seem to be categorized as such because they have odd additions that don't really match the scale of the original structure.
posted by LionIndex at 10:10 AM on June 4, 2013


I like these weird houses. Individually they're not especially attractive, but as part of a broader urban fabric I think they're awesome.
posted by rodii at 10:17 AM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Blasdelb: ... there are no slurs that mean Belgian in the English language. None.

"...there is one word that is still beyond the pale. The concept it embodies is so revolting that the publication or broadcast of the word is utterly forbidden in all parts of the Galaxy except for use in Serious Screenplays. There is also, or was, one planet where they didn't know what it meant, the stupid turlingdromes."
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:02 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


While some of these are truly ugly, I actually kind of appreciate the uniqueness of many of them. A few of them even appear positively normal (i.e., they look as I'd expect a fairly unremarkable house to look).
posted by asnider at 11:25 AM on June 4, 2013


Many of these same looks can be found in Philadelphia and its suburbs, I swear.
posted by VicNebulous at 11:49 AM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are the interiors as . . . unique . . . as the exteriors? I haven't been to Belgium since I was a kid and don't remember a thing about the houses, but if you had asked me, prior to reading this post, what Belgian houses look like, I would have thought lots of mansard roofs (wasn't wrong there), lots of brick (wasn't wrong there either), very traditional and tasteful (um . . . ).

That one with the white triangle tacked to the roof--what?
posted by HotToddy at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember visiting Brussels a while ago and walking around the city, on a self-guided tour of the city's many Art Nouveau houses. The houses themselves were almost all stunning, but they were all the more so because they were often flanked with abominable architecture on either side. I kind of loved it. Probably for the same reason I love living in Berlin.
posted by LMGM at 2:19 PM on June 4, 2013


We have a winner!
posted by daveje at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Miserable, fat, Belgian bastards houses!
posted by ShutterBun at 3:12 PM on June 4, 2013


daveje: "We have a winner!"

If by "We have a winner!" you mean "This house is awesome!"
posted by ocherdraco at 3:20 PM on June 4, 2013


Yeah seriously, that is the abode of a badass
posted by Blasdelb at 3:51 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I was Belgium, I'd start perfecting my Hobbit Hole House building real fucking quick.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 7:46 PM on June 4, 2013


octothorpe: "Any of them are better than the typical suburban crap that gets built here."

I would so, so love to have a house that looked like American "typical suburban crap". You guys don't know how good you have it.
posted by Bugbread at 8:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


No disrespect intended for the makers of the featured domiciles nor trivialization of what in some cases must have been enormous effort, but some of these houses had me HOWLING.

Windows right up against the roofline, zigzagging joints and seams between haphazardly connected facades, disporportionate walls and roofs, illegible and incongruosly dimensioned silhouettes—at one point I started tearing up from lauging so hard.

I know, I am an ignorant, insensitive provincial, but SHIT IS FUNNY, yo.
posted by mistersquid at 9:39 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


My Belgian must be showing, because most of these aren't particularly remarkable. Yea, the proportions of Belgian houses are a bit different than those in the states, but when you see a lot of them, all together, they start to look normal.
And the Belgians really are homebodies, which is probably why so many build/remodel, more so than in the states. It's also more expensive to buy/sell houses here, apparently, which means people tend to live in their houses forever.
posted by Karmeliet at 2:06 AM on June 5, 2013


That's what they do in West Virginia too. The real estate market is illiquid so everybody just works with what they have, tacking on additions in various styles (with a lot of aluminum).

But I bet Belgium doesn't have the arson problem that W.Va's illiquidity begets.
posted by surplus at 6:48 AM on June 5, 2013


Seeing that everything was covered in mayo was the last straw for me.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:23 AM on June 5, 2013


Proportion: IF you consider these homes have no basements. The attic space is built to be used similar to how Americans do basements. Now they will make more sense. (no basements because there is no ground underneath. It's water, just under the dirt).
posted by Goofyy at 8:31 AM on June 5, 2013


Seeing that everything was covered in mayo was the last straw for me.

The best thing about my trip to Belgium was the horse mustard. I don't know if it's made of horses or you are supposed to eat it with horse or what, but it comes in a jar with a horse on the outside. It is vaguely fluorescent yellow, has little bits of pickle and stuff swimming inside and it's *delicious*.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:37 AM on June 5, 2013


" The attic space is built to be used similar to how Americans do basements."

There are many, many places in the US where most houses don't have basements.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:04 PM on June 6, 2013


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