I just spent some good quality time with the Ugly Belgian Houses blog. Its originator, who self-identifies only as “@hannes_BHC,” has only this to say to explain the blog: “Because most Belgian houses suck. Even mine. Seriously. My English sucks too. But i kinda like that. Fuckers.” It is all in caps, which is obscene and I refuse to post it that way. Go to his (I assume “Hannes” is a he) “About” page and here is what he says in its entirety:
Project by @hannes_bhc. If you want me to delete your house from my site, just mail me at uglybelgianhouses @gmail.com. No need for angry lawyer mails. They cost too much fucking money. If I can use your house in my book, let me know. You should also check my project #likemyride.
Well, his blog is a damn fine ride. The top photo at left was the latest on the site. The caption is “Batman returns. As an Ugly Belgian House.” All of them have wonderful captions. And his eye for the ugly is remarkable. Not that modern architecture has not made the “game” of finding the ugliest houses remarkably easy. Almost all modernist houses are ugly. And not that Hannes’s taste is incapable of fawlty radar.
About 95 percent of his targets are modernist but about five percent are what many very erudite classicists might call “bad trad” but which I consider experimental or, to twit my boss Andres Duany (I’m editing his treatise), “heterodox.” That is, they stray from a degree of correctness that many classicists demand in design, or even from the good manners upon which most classicism prides itself.
But I agree with someone named “awarmlight” who posted with regard to the first “bad trad” house to the left, “I would totally live there!” Hannes’s caption for that house was “Found another chateau … um, shitteau!” C’mon, Hannes! This is not an ugly house!
Trolling through the extensive archives of Ugly Belgian Houses, I’d have to admit that modern architecture offers a very large opportunity for creativity. But it is a degraded sort of creativity that does not even reach for beauty. Of course, beauty is looked down upon by modernists as some sort of bourgeois conceit that was finally jettisoned by modernism. In fact, Hannes’s captions are a very elegant example of what I have called the “derisive moniker.” I should add that his English is very capable. He selects the sort of silly simile by which most of the public targets most modern architecture, not just houses.
Hannes’s “bad trad” houses have many of the traits of good architecture: high style, proportion, symmetry (or not, if hetero), natural materials and many other aspects of good traditional houses. Those in his archive that qualify as “bad trad” are clearly head and shoulders above the “bad mod” of their archived colleagues. Am I suggesting that there are modern houses that aren’t ugly enough to make it onto this blog? I don’t say there are not. Maybe there are.
By the very nature of modern architecture, which unlike tradition requires genius, there cannot be many. Beautiful modernism is rare, very rare, precisely because modernism has abandoned almost all the tools architects used throughout most of history to achieve the qualities of firmitas, utilitas and venustas. Vitruvius’s words mean what you think they mean. Classicists look back through the history of architecture to find the best ways to achieve those goals in every building they design. Funny! They think that’s their job!
That’s why when people have a choice, as they do far more often about where they live, they generally seek to live in a traditional house, whether old or new.
By the way, I have only been through Belgium on a train, but I hope Hannes overstates the case when he says most Belgian houses are this ugly. But if they are, then the world may at least thank Hannes for sharing them with the world’s funny bone.
Architecture relates to light and shadow, to space and volume, to context, to culture, to creativity and inspiration, to construction methods and materials, to sun exposure, to environmental considerations, to site location and specific conditions, to a functional program, to many other considerations… and last but not least, to the human scale. Without these ingredients, we are not even discussing architecture but merely construction
The two comments by Mr. Sampaio are very erudite, but they neglect the fact that the great works of modernism by modernists early and late are mostly just as ugly as the el-cheapo versions he denies are modernism or even architecture. It was with Corbusier and Mies that architecture took the turn that led to where we are today, in which almost every new building fails to do as much for its setting as most mediocre classical and traditional buildings of yore (or new ones today). Sorry, even the best modernists don’t live up to Mr. Sampaino’s standards in even their most celebrated works. Face up to it: modernists have simply stunk up the entire world, and for no plausible reason.
Modernism like classicism is not for everyone. It requires a little culture and knowledge….
To desing a beautiful modern house one must be well versed in the same tools and knowlledge as are required to design a beautiful classical house
The issue is that what people refer to as modern architecture doesnt even qualify as architecture!
The problem is that greedy mutha fuckas identified a long time ago that to build the ‘modern’ way, is really cheap, erect a structural frame and clad it with a curtain wall…… so what they have accomplished has rigorously nothing to do with architecture, nor modernism, but rather with an ignorant form of becoming rich overnight, and making people live inside ugly boxes, just like the hamsters we buy at the market for our kids… i.e. box like jails……
So the huge majority of what has happened to our physical world all around the planet, in terms of construction, doesnt even qualify as architecture and much less with any aesthetic worthiness
Our urban world is covered by ugly boxes that are a faithfull reflection of the ugly ignorant world we live in