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Palo Alto architects' vision different from mine

Original post made by Susan Meade, Downtown North, on Feb 28, 2007

Architecture, like art, is a matter of taste. As I live in a 100-year-old house in the Downtown North neighborhood and appreciate the history and beauty of my surroundings and of other older homes, it is difficult to share the vision of the three architects of modern houses so glowingly profiled in the Feb. 21 Weekly.
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These new houses do not "blend" with the neighboring homes. They stick out like something dropped by aliens into a foreign land. These two-story mega-houses are replacing one-story bungalows.

While they may have a certain stylistic appeal from the street, try walking around the properties, viewing them from the neighbors' angles. Squishing "boxes" onto 1/8-acre lots and "stacking bedrooms" in the back creates a visual nightmare for up to five neighboring houses, as they have the looming presence of these modern triumphs of design right next to their back fences, losing sight of trees and sacrificing privacy.

It's a sad day for me every time a modest wooden home is destroyed to make way for concrete, steel, gravel and multi-paned glass structures. Tasteful Craftsman homes have stood the test of time. Will these modern visions of homes last 100 years or after 50 years will the next generation of architects bulldoze them in favor of something warmer, softer, natural and enormously more appealing?

Comments (4)

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Posted by Chris
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm

The original poster says architecture is a matter of taste -- then goes on to say her taste is better than those who've spent money designing and building their own houses - that they, not she, will live in.

So the poster doesn't like the way some design their houses. Maybe I don't like the flowers she plants in her yard. Does that give me the right to criticize it in some public forum? Where does this kind of public carping about what others do stop?

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Posted by Carol
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2007 at 8:53 am

I agree with Chris about the importance of giving people freedom to choose how their homes will look - as long as they show an equal respect for the space around the existing houses. Not the style. The space. Zoning, not design review. When a huge house sidles up to a small neighbor, the designer-builder is really stealing something that belongs to that neighbor.

It's not that burdensome to site a new home so that it doesn't spoil its existing neighbors. Lazy architects will whine about "artistic freedom" but they can do it. If not, they're in the wrong field.

I would support giving more advantages to people who choose to be eligible for the historic building code when they need to make small changes. Incentives for them; not penalties for newer homes.

(Except for the sunken basements - we're all paying extra for the services they need. It's foolish to encourage them. We should bill them every year for the extra damage to the general drainage system.)

I appreciate the older homes, even when they're not handsome. The older homes add variety, old trees, spare us all the pollution and expense of services required by newer homes.

Barcelona's center is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The buildings cover a range of centuries. From Gothic through Gaudi and Mies van der Rohe. There are ghastly old buildings, ghastly new ones, and marvelous examples of both. If the scale works (and that's the choice of the City when it lays out roads and plantings) then it all works. Suburban Barcelona is monotonous, treeless, and rather dreary, away from the stunning coast. The best architecture in the world couldn't make it look like a landscape made by men. It looks like a dead coral reef.

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Posted by Moe Hong
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2007 at 4:21 pm

There is plenty of room for taste, but context is important - you can't just ignore 80-100 years of neighborhood history and decide that an expression of ones own taste and style is somehow more valuable than that of an entire district.

So many architects and builders completely ignore the history of their blocks and instead focus on "expressing" themselves. It's too bad, because all the data shows very clearly that in the long run they are hurting both their neighborhood's bottom line, and that of their own home.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2007 at 6:14 pm

At least they are getting rid of neglected eyesores and replacing them with something that is being looked after.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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