Ugly Buildings, Are Ugly For A Reason

There are nice looking buildings, and unfortunately ugly ones. The ramifications for creating an ugly building means that communities have to live with the results for decades. This simple fact distinguishes Architecture from other professions where a product can be used for a much shorter period of time and then discarded. Because of the financial investment in building, being careful on what you allow to be built is critical to a building’s life and community.
 
Here’s an example of a horrible developer and designer, who was probably a structural engineer or a very unskilled architect. One can just read this residential building and hear the conversation. “Keep it as cheap as possible, but lets add balconies to be a feature that will get people to purchase the units.
 
Even more critical to your neighborhood when your project is at an intersection where two sides, which have the opportunity to define the spirit of a community, are exposed to the public.
 
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So here we are, 6 don’t’s no one should impose on their building:
 
1) Balconies: Don’t add balconies to the front of a building, where the resulting impression is dark shadows and people’s junk displayed for the world to see.
 
2) Setbacks: Don’t set your building back from the street wall and leave an unsightly blank wall defining your property.
3) Silhouette: Define the top of the building with something other than a gutter, or as shown in this example.  Smaller contextual buildings should always be complete from base, body and top.
4) Facade:  Not only does this side facade have a variety of haphazard openings, but the proportions of window to wall are weak.  Not having a plan to accommodate air-conditioning is also just cheap.  White window and door frames looks cheap in the context of this brick color.
5) What’s acceptable? The brick color is acceptable and the fence style is acceptable, but the ‘stoop’ and balcony door/window combination is problematic as the door is at the corner of an interior room making the wall adjacent to the door unusable.
6) Front & Side Yard:  Paving the entire front and side yards ensures that trash, or in this case trash cans will be placed wherever, adding to that feeling of ugliness. The addition of having trash cans in front of basement windows isn’t exactly ideal, especially during summer months.  Because this front slopes down, it would have been better to have a small retaining wall with the fence horizontal, with of course a planting bed for greenery. The current ‘solution’ is hot, dusty and unfriendly.
The same budget could be used to make a nice looking building that 1) ensures the best income and 2) adds to the quality of the neighborhood which in turns secures the income that can be generated by this investment.  Instead of using a skilled company to bring this building’s design up to snuff, we are all left with a hole in the fabric of the community, where the most common response is to just not look at it in order to avoid the negative spirit it portrays so well.
Most disheartening is that ugly buildings exist because of stereotypes, the kind that makes people like those responsible for this building think that what they are doing is the best approach for success.  They are the type that think only of the most basic things they can write on a description of the building, like 2 bedroom, balcony, full bath, etc. as if the list is what defines quality when one’s eye can see it is a complete failure, except the brick color.
Look just next door, a nice facade with meaningful openings and a stoop/entrance to match.

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