Local Architecture Critic Running Farther Amok


I’ve mentioned the local alt-weekly’s architecture critic and how he’s drifted from the mission of uselessly attempting to shame absentee-owner slumlords. Last week’s issue continued that trend. He slammed a house for “unfortunate alterations and updates”. Among them, “the broad eaves that characterize the [Craftsman bungalow] style have been removed, leaving no overhang on the gable rakes” and that “the ashlar stone veneer selected for the exterior cladding [ … ] does not fit with this home’s original style.”

I’m told that back in the day the Eyesore of the Week critic would try to contact the absentee-owner slumlord of a place to be shamed, so that they could get a proper “no comment” about the house’s condition. The current guy doesn’t seem to be doing that. That’s a pity. I would like to know how the owners would respond to being warned the local alt-weekly was going to call them out for exterior cladding “more appropriate for postwar ranch homes”, and whether the silence would last for more than twenty seconds before the sad head-shaking and turning away from the critic.

Also, the classified ads don’t have the job listing for a Senior Physicist this week, so I guess they found someone they could work with. They do have a listing for a delivery person for Jersey Giant Subs, though, if you feel less like particle physics and more like giant sandwich delivery.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

5 thoughts on “Local Architecture Critic Running Farther Amok”

  1. Well, I don’t know about the whole slumlord-shaming bit, as it seems like a bit of a insider-local gambit on the reporter’s part, but, as a historic preservation/history major, if that’s a drawing of what the house looked like before the alterations, and they removed the craftsman-style columns, the porch and the eaves and all that, especially if they were actually historic/vintage (please just tell me they weren’t), well, let’s just say *gasps* *clutches heart* *laughs* What a tragedy if it really was a craftsman-era/vintage house… 😦

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    1. I don’t necessarily disagree with the criticisms this guy makes of house alterations, it’s just that the column has pretty clearly drifted far afield of what it originally did, which was point out truly blighted properties and attempt to get comments from the owner about what they intend to do with it. This can in fact be useful when the owner is, for instance, the County Land Bank (like this house). But since they hired this architect it’s a completely different feature. This guy actually called out a perfectly respectable building at the community college because he didn’t like an addition that had been put on it.

      Craftsman houses are pretty common around here… enough so that people often refer to “Michigan craftsman” as a style. I do not know what distinguishes Michigan craftsman from other state’s craftsman homes.

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      1. And a column that went over the architectural errors of buildings, as opposed to just how buildings turned blighted, would probably be interested if the architect had the space to explain why something is regarded as aesthetically offensive. Being told that a building shouldn’t have had the eaves removed or the windows changed from a vertical split to a horizontal is something, I suppose, but it doesn’t inform. It just looks like he’s picking on a onetime bar because there’s slate covering the walls and why is that even wrong?

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    2. For what it’s worth, it isn’t clear to me that they do know what the house looked like before alterations. It may be the architect’s best idea of what the house would look like in an ideal form, or what seems most plausible for the estimated age and dominant styles of the building’s original — or most prominently used — dates. And that’s probably a fair extrapolation, since it’s reasonable to guess the average building looked about average. But it does mean the architect could be projecting onto the building a quality it never actually had.

      To the best of my knowledge these haven’t been historic or vintage buildings, just the stuff that people built to use several decades ago and that’ve seen generally better days. There have been a couple times the critic’s focused on buildings that used to be libraries or school buildings or other structures where we can know reasonably well how they originally looked and how they’ve been altered, but that’s always made clear.

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