Matthew Johnson, writing in ArchDaily of the furor aroused by the recent Bingler/Pedersen oped in the New York Times, the response by Aaron Betsky as mouthpiece of the American Institute of Architects, and the tart wrap-up of the brouhaha by Justin Shubow in Forbes, ran a shot of a set of modernist townhouses in Amsterdam. He was making the point that modernism does not need to overwhelm or to otherwise wow a street in order to make livable places. But his photograph, above, undermines his argument.
The fact is that fitting in by way of massing alone is not enough. A set of townhouses that fit in by massing but elbow each other stylistically does not work. Somebody else sent in a photo of a set of proposed townhouses for Brooklyn (below) that also doesn’t work, for reasons that add up to the very descriptive word cheesy. They do not discombobulate as openly as the ones in Amsterdam do, but still leave an empty feeling in the pit of one’s stomach.
I add a third set of townhouses, on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston (bottom), buildings that are stylistically diverse but do not kick each other in the shins. Here is the answer. It is not rocket science. Do not copy it, merely take inspiration from it. It is not illegal. Just do it.