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Archive for October, 2012

Modernity and the End of the Painted Ladies

Modernity and the End of the Painted Ladies

On an architectural walk through the historic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, one can see perfectly historically preserved Victorian style homes… Or so it appears!
Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Homes JAN BUTCHOFSKY-HOUSER / CORBIS
Though the majority of the neighborhood was built up by 1940, there has been series after series of interior and exterior remodeling. It is sometimes hard to believe that these Victorian style homes exist in the same city as the modern high rises of the financial district, but that is what some people call the charm of the great city of San Francisco.

The clean lines and sleek look of modern architecture typically overshadows the delicate beauty of intricate Painted-Lady Victorian detailing. Nevertheless, much of the neighborhood is architecturally frozen in time; there is much to be said about the preservation of historic architecture in San Francisco. But can these opposing design styles peacefully co-exist in one neighborhood? And what’s more, should they?

As an architecture student at Cornell University, I pledged my solemn allegiance to Le Courbusier, a French architect who tackled the issues of urbanismexterior view of Villa Savoye - LeCorbusier during the 1920s-1940s. The timeless beauty of his foray into modernity and urbanism produced contemporary architectural wonders including: the villa savoye (France), the Curutchet House (Argentina), and the Swiss Pavilion in Paris. These works are a testament to his design genius as they have stood the test of rapidly changing times. A big apology to all the preservationists out there because, beautiful though it may be, Victorian Architecture has become an outdated design style.

The exclusion of the contemporary branch of architecture within neighborhoods undermines the essential progress of the architectural industry. In fact, a place must be found for Benches at the Swiss Pavilion France contemporary design even if that means, in time, there might not be a place for the Victorian style. Many neighborhoods in San Francisco appear generally frozen in time. Seemingly preserved in their early 1900’s “glory”.

The question:

Why should modern architecture be introduced into neighborhoods, fundamentally changing the community aesthetic?

My answer:

With the amount of advancements in building technologies and materials and the highly specialized training of modern architects, it is almost a shame how quickly contemporary architecture is dismissed as “destined to be outdated in the next 5 years.” Modern concrete, steel, and glass technologies are highly customizable, affordable, and durable. Architecture is an industry that must advance with material and building technologies, and preservation of an aesthetic simply for the sake of not letting go of community tradition undermines the fundamental purpose of architectural design. Many define architecture as a physical manifestation of the local people’s way of life, a means of gauging the way of the times. Architecture must be designed with consideration to contextual realities of society and climate; times are changing and our city’s architecture must change with it.

The real question:

When will the allure of modern architectural design supersede antiquated notions of preservation?

  About the Author

Lauren R Jordan is a Junior Architectural Designer at Ashbury General Contracting & Engineering, a design-build company located in San Francisco, CA.