Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clean Lines And Black Boxes

I've always been interested in architecture. I really enjoy being in a building (the Tate Modern in London, for example) or a house (Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater comes to mind) that makes you feel something.

I enjoy being in a building and letting the building have its way with me, to let it influence how I'm thinking and what I'm thinking.

I might not like them in the end, but I admire buildings that elicit a reaction of any kind.

So many of the buildings and houses built today are so, well, boring. There's no imagination, no effort to instill the structure with a soul or personality. Does it really cost that much more to add a little whimsy to a building, or a detail that is pleasing to the eye?

I live in Prague, so I'm never far from some amazing architecture -- 1,000 years of architecture. In Prague, we have everything from the 14th-century Charles Bridge, to Frank Gehry's so-called Dancing Building, to the Art Nouveau masterwork Obecni Dum, or Municipal House, one of my all-time favorite buildings in the world.

Lately, I've been interested in apartment buildings in Prague. I've noticed that a few the apartment complexes being built around the city have a certain style that I admire. They're not cookie-cutter buildings.

A few months ago, I took some pictures of what I believe are two separate apartment or housing complexes off Evropska, toward Divoka Sarka, that I admire. I think they're cool. They've got clean lines and splashes of color and I really admire them.

I'm not quite sure what style of architecture these buildings would fit into. Post-Modern? Functionalist?

Take a look above and below:

On the flip side, I discovered a couple of houses in a new neighborhood in the village of Roztoky that seem to take the same general idea and totally botch it up. They can only be described as black cubes.

I use to think that they were not quite finished, but now I'm convinced that this is the way they're supposed to look. Why someone would design such an ugly house I do not know. I wonder what it's like to live in them.

Is there a method to the madness?


  1. Those buildings might not be particularly nice, but at least they are different to the McHouses (those from catalogues that look all the same) that are almost the rule of all new housing estates around Prague. A good example of this is our neighbouring Veklé Přílepy. Those terraces are abominable and worse still are the Lego-like cabins at the other end of town.
    I happen to live in a McHouse, and believe me, the difference in price is huge. It can cost you a couple hundred thousand CZK to have an architect design the house. On top of that, you might have to put up with douche that thinks himself Frank Gehry and fight for hours to have YOUR house laid out as YOU want. I know what I'm talking about, this happens to friends.
    We bought or little McHouse because we didn't have much of a choice. The developer said that if we wanted to buy the land at the low price they were offering it, we would have to build with them. We were given some more flexibility than the peolpe who came after us and so, we were able to pick a house that met our needs, was practical, was sensibly oriented and that we could afford. Others didn't have such luck and had to choose from four or five options, one worse than the other.
    Though, to be fair, I have come to the conclusion that many peole choose their houses the way they choose butter at a supermarket. It is incredible how little they seem to care about something they will have to spend a ton of money on and much of their lives.

  2. Wow, those black boxes are jaw droppers. They are u-g-l-yyyy! I signed up to follow your blog by the way cause I've always enjoyed it and hope to meet you and Daisy someday!

  3. Thanks, Karen. I really appreciate that. Looks like you've got your hands full with your own blog, and with a brand new life! All the best, and I'll see you around, I'm sure!

  4. Hey, Pivni filosof,

    Thanks for the comments. I guess it's true. At least those black boxes *are* different, but while I'm a big fan of different, I'm not sure I would choose them over a McHouse. Just too oppressive. And I certainly didn't mean my post to be a critique of anyone in a more conventional house. It was more a tip of the hat of those developers, especially of apartment complexes, that are using some imagination. All the best.

  5. It'd be nice to see what they look like inside, maybe they are the most comfortable houses ever. And as I say, my house might not be the best looking, but I live inside...