Monday, January 30, 2012
"They told me I could be anything I wanted, so I became every house I'd ever seen in Capitol Hill."
This multifamily building in Cap Hill is the Nicki Minaj of the neighborhood, this post-modern residence with its quasi-historical context. There are three front doors to the units in this, the street-facing facade. There is brick. There is "stone". There is wood. There is stucco. There are wood columns holding up "stone" turrets, which is a slap in the face of architectural history, building science, physics, and God Him/Herself. Wood does not hold up stone, unless it's heavy timber in a medieval castle in Scotland, and this ain't Scotland.
There are low-profile "storefront"-ish windows in the left turret, and there are wood operable windows in the upper floors, and there are "leaded" stained glass windows in the lower floors, and there are picture windows and bay windows. There are curves and haunches and "stonework" over the doors and "cast iron" lights outside, and ornamental metal fencework. This building reminds me of my sophomore year of design school, when inevitably a professor regards a project with bemused congeniality and tells the hapless design student: "You have a long career ahead of you, both in school and in the profession--you don't have to use all your good ideas in one project." I like every piece of this building; I just don't like them all together in one place at one time. Even beyond the aesthetic, there is the problem of forgetting and/or misunderstanding architectural history (certain kinds of materials don't belong with certain types of architecture--it's anachronistic) and building science (when you hold up stone with some 6" wooden columns, we know it's either not real wood or not real stone).
I'm of two minds when I critique buildings like this. One is that I'm sure people could shred my buildings if they saw them and had the inclination to do so, so who am I to be Miss High and Mighty Architectural Critic? On the other hand, buildings are not like paintings in a museum that I can avoid, or restaurants that I don't have to eat at, or songs I don't have to listen to or buy, or books that I don't have to read--we cannot avoid the built environment so easily as we can these smaller yet no-less-influential works of art. Someone lives across from this building and must look at it every time they check to see if it's snowing, every time they answer the door, every time they take the dog out for walkies and pee. We have to look at this architectural mash-up every time we drive down this street and be overwhelmed by its indecision, its design-by-committeeness, its look-at-me aesthetic.
That being said, I want the unit that gets the balcony with the nautilus-shell-like curve.