Back to Future Shack: A Recap

After a stroll through the past at the Sunday Flea Market, we hopped on a bus to the future.
Future Shack, that is!

In preparation, Adam and I spent the afternoon in feisty discussion about modern architecture- and I wish we'd seen the same spirit out of the Future Shack panel. It became clear that the two juries had polarized agendas for the future of our city, but they tiptoed around their differences very politely. To hell with polite! These are issues of major import- something worth of throwing punches raising your voice over.

Despite this, we really did learn a lot. In most cases we found ourselves siding with the public jury, who placed a greater value on maintaining Seattle's aesthetics than maximizing density. They acknowledged the need for a variety of housing- and that one-size-fits-all needn't be the solution for dwellings. They even admitted to preferring a more traditional style of construction. (I wanted to high-five Knute Berger when he said he had liked an old house that had been torn down better than the project that had replaced it!) I thought the overall attitude of the public jury was appreciative... but hesitant. The heart of the issue? While the jurors admired the innovations of the modern projects, they didn't want to live there.

Adam and I found the social engineering aspect of many of the projects to be disconcerting. I feel that a home should be sculpted around its occupants, not the other way around. The size of your home should be based on your needs and means, not based on the lowest common denominator of the community. And it's not immoral to require a parking space!

So, the program reaffirmed to us that we aren't really new house types. But, all my ranting aside, we were inspired by what we saw: buildings constructed conscientiously and creatively, even if they didn't appeal to our taste.

I've already mentioned my admiration for House for a Mother and Daughter. Here's a few other submissions that earned my non-professional approval...

Impluvium by Roger H. Newell was the only multi-unit building that I would have seriously considered living in. The exterior was completely inoffensive to the surrounding neighborhood- and I think that's the highest compliment that an apartment building can achieve. I could actually imagine this building becoming more attractive with age.

Photo by Jennifer Jenkins - Vista Estate Imaging

Danielson Grove by The Cottage Company really got us thinking. I wasn't thrilled by the execution, but I was inspired by the concept. The project is essentially a mini-development of small-scale detached homes, designed to appeal to people like Adam and myself. We won't have the budget for a full lot for quite a while, but sharing walls with our neighbors has become very tiresome. I'd love to see a similar project in which the homes sported a little more variety and were plotted out in a more organic (and less grid-like) way.

Photo by Ross Chapin, Triad Associates, Northwest Property Images

Boulders at Greenlake by Johnston Architects was a fresh take on high-density living. Knute Berger put it best when he described it as having the feel of "urban Paganism." There's something that gets my romantic little heart beating! The finishes, while modern, were very characteristic of the Northwest. My favorite part of this project (other than that worship-worthy tree) were the peaked roofs. A refreshing departure from uncountable boxy, flat-roofed dwellings!

Photo by Will Austin

Our verdict? We hope they ramp the discussion up next year and find a way to involve more audience participation. I think this is an excellent forum for intelligent and active community members to interact with design professionals. Adam and I are eager to come back in 2010!

2 Have Spoken.:

Nicolette said...

Hey there, thanks for visiting my blog. I think the problem here is not necessarily preferring a classic design. It's more about holding onto what they're familiar with, instead of exploring different aspects of creativity.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in a boxy one story rambler, yet I really prefer longer, leaner gothic style houses, or homes built in the Tudor style. I think people prefer classic architecture because there is something inherantly desirable about those forms. On the other hand, some new and "creative" forms are just ugly and uncomfortable. I think characterizing traditionalists as people who cling to their past is a mistake, and often the best things last a long time.