The Meaning of a House
September 9, 2004 9:18 PM   Subscribe

This has a value in our profession, and it doesn't have to do with scale at all. It has to do with the actual meaning of a house.
posted by alms (8 comments total)
"You see traces of time in it," he said.

I'll keep this line in mind the next time I'm at someone's house and the dog widdles on the carpet. It's "almost like a patina."
posted by SPrintF at 11:25 PM on September 9, 2004

alms, this is really an interesting read - thanks! I will have to look for the house next time I am in Cambridge. I like the way they created such an intriguing space on such a low budget. It put me in mind of another home I had once seen, but I will never find it. But I did find the Azuma House, another small urban home. Also, we had another small houses thread that I found enjoyable. The idea of making the most of a small space intrigues me, a welcome relief from the super-sizing that seems so prevalent.

Oh, and I would imagine electrical storms could be an adventure when you live in a steel house!
posted by madamjujujive at 11:27 PM on September 9, 2004

Two thoughts: first, the idea of Corten steel (it's supposed to rust, and it rusts evenly to a nice dark-brown, uh, patina, as they say) is neat but you have to be extremely careful in practice. It needs to be used in a very obviously upscale building and surrounded by very obviously upscale landscaping. Lushly Japanese-gardenish with water works well, but at any rate some setting that shouts money-money-money. Lacking this, a Corten building looks like the guard shack in a scrapyard. Despite what the salesman said when he showed you the samples, rusty steel just can't be made to have the same kind of inherently beautiful qualities that wood or stone possess.

It sounds as if this house is not sited in any context that shouts money-money-money, so it doesn't surprise me if other Cambridge residents have reacted poorly to it. There's lots to be said for not automatically rejecting imaginative low-budget design, but it's also true that if you're a prairie dog and you choose to live in a prairie-dog village with other prairie dogs, you have some obligation to your neighbors to build a hole in the ground that looks like all the other holes in the ground.
posted by jfuller at 3:45 AM on September 10, 2004

What jfuller said. I'm afraid I can't share the article's enthusiasm for this plucky couple. "They chose Cambridge, mainly because it was accessible to the subway and they had no car" -- despite the fact that they couldn't afford Cambridge. So they put up a cheap eyesore and wonder why people hate it. Oh, sorry, "they either love it or are offended by it." Right, I'm sure there must be, oh, two or three of the former.

Just you wait, in a year they'll be running a website "Send money! Help Chaewon and Beat save their house!"
posted by languagehat at 6:51 AM on September 10, 2004

So they put up a cheap eyesore and wonder why people hate it.

Are there pictures that I missed? The ones in the slideshow hardly show a "cheap eyesore", although there's only one of the exterior.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:23 AM on September 10, 2004

I agree with the points that jfuller made and languagehat echoed about context, but it is hard to say since we have little about context from the article or photos beyond a very few reactions from neighbors. The one exterior pic looks pretty inoffensive, but we don't get any view of the neighborhood.

languagehat, I think you are a bit hard on them. Deeming the house an eyesore is subjective - the article says people have a love it or hate it reaction, so apparently some people like it. And how "cheap" can the house be if this has any bearing: "The house was appraised at $450,000 and they were able to get a second mortgage." Taste aside, sounds like a good example of smart sweat equity at work.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:00 AM on September 10, 2004

"Beat Schenk laughed."

Sorry. Heh.

But seriously -- it doesn't seem that bizarre or ugly -- moderately interesting, in a sparse, straight-lines, retro 50s ranch-house style kind of way.
posted by davidmsc at 9:28 PM on September 10, 2004

But you're looking at pictures chosen to show it in that light, in an article presenting it as a brilliant adaptation to blah blah blah. I guarantee you disgruntled neighbors have photos that show it in a very different light. Read jfuller's comment above: "Lacking this, a Corten building looks like the guard shack in a scrapyard." It's rusty metal; you can call it "sparse," but if you lived next door I'll bet you'd call it an eyesore.

Nothing against the couple, who seem like nice kids; I just resented the one-sided gee-whiz slant of the article, typical of write-ups of architectural novelties that are fun to think about and analyze theoretically but not as much fun to live with.
posted by languagehat at 5:59 AM on September 11, 2004

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