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Thursday, 8 November 2018

The house that screams 'Arsehole'

If ever I saw a house that tells me it was built by an Arsehole, this is it. Predictably its FTW approach has put it on the shortlist for the 2018 RIBA prize. This piece of crap is exactly why appointing Roger Scruton to chair the new building quality commission is exactly the right decision.  


Where to start. A terrace of Edwardian houses is an architectural whole; typically the two corner houses, the bookends, are slightly quirky, possibly slightly larger than the rest, often with dual facades. Somewhere along the terrace will be one or more passages to the rear gardens, narrow and inconspicuous, sometimes only 2'9" wide, often gated. Door and window openings in the facade are enhanced by composite stone or terracotta detailing, robust enough to allow even plastic replacement doors and windows to be less visible. The design is in fact strong enough to allow considerable variation in roof covering, fenestration, door and window paint colours all to be accommodated without compromising the essential integrity of the terrace.   

The traditional terrace reflects quite well both British culture and society, with plenty of room for individuality but within constraints of a unifying commonality. They afford privacy while allowing communal security, bay windows in particular allowing mutual monitoring of the entire street outside. London terraced housing is far less susceptible to burglary than wonky, cranky little modern developments pushed like crooked teeth into small building parcels. 

The terrace also affords the illusion of a sort of egalitarianism that serves to bond residents to a locality as limited as a particular road, despite disparities in income, education, culture and class that would rarely bring them together outside of the street. 

All of which of course is well known to Dr Scruton;
In Chapter Seven of The Classical Vernacular, Dr. Scruton dares to enumerate a number of propositions, which lovers of beauty may adopt, as “Architectural Principles in an Age of Nihilism.” For example, there is the fifth proposition: “Architecture must respect the constraints imposed on it by human nature.”

This means that vertical windows and doors, mirroring the human form, are more appropriate than horizontal shapes that run in the opposite orientation for no other reason than a desire to deliberately transgress the quaint notion of mirroring nature. Dr. Scruton observes, “As animals, we orient ourselves visually, move and live in an upright position, and are vulnerable to injury.”

The importance of the visual analogy cannot be underestimated. If we do not take our bearings by anatomical nature in architectural design, our constructed habitat will hardly condition us to seek harmony with nature in other spheres. “As persons we live and fulfil ourselves through morality, law, religion, learning, commerce and politics,” writes Dr. Scruton. And yet how can we build a world worth inhabiting in those larger domains, if we cannot build homes for our bodies that are no more beautiful than sheds?

Consider his twentieth proposition, which attends to an apparently small point: “it is necessary to use mouldings.” And yet do not great errors result from a careless attention to something that seemed negligible in the beginning? Sir Roger argues, “Without mouldings, no space is articulate. Edges become blades; buildings lose their crowns; and walls their direction”.

The example illustrates a more general principle, which Dr. Scruton usually expresses as an aesthetic paradox: It is the useless that makes something truly useful. Mouldings may be considered “useless” from a utilitarian design point of view, and yet, as Dr. Scruton observes, without mouldings, “Windows and doors cease to be aedicules and become mere holes in the wall.”
The red excrescence at the end of this charming little terrace does itself no favours. The arsehole who built it will only ever be able to sell it to another arsehole; it will be liable to burglary, those sheer windows that can't open will fry the inhabitants in Summer, the flat roof will leak and rot, the hidden internal gutters and downpipes will block with leaves and soak masonry, that fashionable Farringdon brown-grey (almost indistinguishable from the grey-brown which is the only other powder coating colour in these people's palette) will chalk-up and fade and that blank flank wall of pretty London stocks will be defaced with graffiti in no time. In short, in fifty years when the rest of the terrace is still thriving, this decrepit wreck will be ripe for demolition.  

But the utter pretentious arseholeness of its creator is in terming it 'Red House' - as if this ugly hubristic stain on our urban fabric could offer even a simulacrum of comparison to the genuine house of that name, by Webb and Morris, whose genius produced a dwelling entirely antithetical to the jejune delusions of this nasty carbuncle.  

16 comments:

APL said...

Don't hold back, tell us what you really think.

DeeDee99 said...

Another arsehole - or possibly several of them - waved through the planning permission.

John Brown said...

Surely the responsibility for allowing such a design falls upon the local planning person/department/committee ?

right-writes said...

I preferred the garage, but we have to make space for our new citizens, unless they kill each other before they get their free house.

But I guess there was also room for a new mosque or a mud hut, if you prefer Raedwald.

Sackerson said...

Nice analysis of the trad terrace, Raedwald.

I worked in a town planning department for a while in the mid-70s. At that time, and possibly still now, one couldn't refuse an application merely because it was ugly. But one of the planners, knowing that one could take into account effects on public amenities, consulted his Roget and turned down an application because it was "prejudicial to the visual amenity of the area."

Anonymous said...

For those who hate it - Blame Brexit.

For those who love it - In Spite of Brexit.

Dave_G said...


Follow the money/connections.

There's no way that any unbiased planning committee would have allowed this eye sore to be passed. What ever happened to consultation and local objection too?

No - envelopes have been passed or, at the very least, backs have been scratched to get this through the committee stages.

Such abuse of position should be investigated, the guilty exposed and fined accordingly and the carbuncle demolished promptly. It makes a total mockery of situations where perfectly 'good' new properties have had to be demolished because they were "4 inches too tall" and the like.

WTF?

mongoose said...

And it has a shed for its legion of dustbins. Front and centre, Poppy, for your ugly convenience.

Anonymous said...

You don't even need to see the house, just the cars parked outside!

Raedwald said...

Oh yes - I nearly forgot. No defensible space 'twixt door and pavement will mean that the flower trough by the front door will become, on Friday and Saturday nights, a public pissoir.

Thud said...

My last build.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFym-BGE4MM

Ravenscar. said...

It is rather difficult to understand what that extension is, if it is a piss take, it's very well done.

The whole thing is off, all it needs is a leaning wall and yawning gaps in the brickwork and window frames and..... Reg wuz ere:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU2BO5Obg2k

Budgie said...

This sort of house design was trendy back when I did Art and Architecture at O level a long time ago. I knew nothing of dada-ism back then of course, nor the precursor philosophers such as Hegel and Kierkegaard.

The impossibility of deriving absolutes from man alone leads to what Dr Francis Schaeffer calls "the line of despair". That arose from Kierkegaard's view that Hegel's synthesis could not be derived by reason. The long march from rationality has followed.

Of course randomness could spawn beauty occasionally, you would think. But in a way I find curious modern art appears to actively seek the ugly. Whoever conspired to produce this house obviously thinks he is very modern, but he does not understand where his unthinking philosophy comes from. It is indeed true that "the arsehole who built it will only ever be able to sell it to another arsehole".

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I live a couple of hundred yards away. Actually, I feel for the buyers. It’s the wankers that develop and sell this shit who are culpable, not the people who buy it. People are just desperate to own somewhere to start a family.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

is this a job application for some casual post retirement dabbling? :-p

Roger Scruton got a lieutenant yet?

Anonymous said...

The house, is just a house, until you walk in the door.
Then it becomes a home.
Irrelevant of exterior design.
Shalom