Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Link: "Ugly Belgian Houses"

Well, I could scarcely ignore a blog post at Dezeen titled

Ugly Belgian Houses

I often point out to my World History classes that Belgium and Poland are Europe's two most geographically tragic countries, situated as they are between larger powers that frequently go to war. But Hannes Coudenys sees another type of tragedy going on in his native country: The domestic architecture is for shit! So he established a Tumblr to helpfully document this.

Ugly Belgian Houses

This sad specimen looks as if it had been castrated by the (far uglier) building to its right:

Coudenys has now compiled a book of his findings:

Ugly Belgian Houses

After having puttered around Coudenys' website a bit, I'm not inclined to argue with most of his choices, but on the other hand, oddities will always have their defenders, and a few of the buildings he picks are borderline "outsider architecture" that could generate some fans. I was struck by this house (the placement of which in the flow of the Dezeen post makes it seem as if it is Coudenys' own house, but maybe I'm misinterpreting):

Something about the odd window placements tickled my memory, and then I realized why. One of the slides in my Modernism course is devoted to Charles Voysey's Forster House of 1891:

My class notes on this building read: "A building such as Voysey’s Forster House might look unremarkable to the untrained eye, but is actually quite radical and original 'in its rhythmic groups of windows and door openings against broad white areas of unadorned, starkly vertical walls' (H.H. Arnason, History of Modern Art, Fifth Edition). The asymmetries of this building (including the asymmetrical placement of windows) will be an important feature of Modernist architecture in many styles."

Identifying "ugly Belgian houses" is a fairly harmless and amusing bit of snark, but like all snark, it cuts us off from considering why the objects of the snark are different, and what we might learn from that. It's what I think of as the Mystery Science Theater 3000 problem; as incredibly funny as that show often was, it was also dismissive of difference in a way that became positively frat boy-esque under Michael Nelson (which is why I'm a Joel Hodgson-ite, when it comes to that debate). Ultimately, it's just not that productive a way to think about things.

No comments:

Post a Comment