Comment of the Day: We’ll Do It Our Way

COMMENT OF THE DAY: WE’LL DO IT OUR WAY “The (ugly) status quo is easy and cheap — why take risks? This is the mentality that makes Houston Houston, and this is why Houston is ugly, easy, and cheap. Just what Houston needs: another “Mediterranean” Villa, or French Chateau, or Spanish Revival building. BARF. Why not make it a mixture of all three and stir it up with a dirty, oily dipstick? All of the potential should be squeezed out of this project until it is as dry as last years Thanksgiving wishbone, then it should be propped up with an open-air parking garage, cheaply constructed cookie-cutter units that will be rather nasty in 10 years, and exorbitant rents. Then it will fit in purr-fectly! Go H-town!” [Bare, commenting on Apartments Planned for Montrose Fiesta Site Will Go Tall Mediterranean]

22 Comment

  • How is that different than Boston or Baltimore have row after row of identical brick houses tightly packed together? Or Queens having block after block of identical small homes? All these in their day weren’t any architectural masterpiece, it was just building because it was needed.

    By your standard, these east coast cities were unimaginative and building ugly, easy, and cheap? The same can be said for ALL the bungalows in the Heights. Which was a masterplanned community that clear cut all the existing pine trees to put up row after row of cheap houses bought out of a sears catalog (i.e. manufactured homes). But some how all these get passes because they are from a era long ago? The architectural punditry intellectual groups have to be classified as the most inconsistent and petulant whiners for crying to not get what they want.

    The reality is that most buildings are not built to be architectural gems now and in the past. All those pretty European cities weren’t built to architecturally pretty. It was the “cheap and easy” of the time except for the palaces. A little perspective would keep the childish whining away.

  • Amen to that.

    I’m a native Houstonian and I keep wishing, hoping and praying that someday we will do better, but it does not seem that it’s ever going to happen.

    Ugly, easy and cheap just about sums up 90% of what is constructed in Houston.

    The Houston of my childhood was not this way. It was big and over the top and maybe a little tacky, but it was not mediocre.

  • One, the market does not demand it. Two, probably the main reason other cities get buildings more architecturally significant is because of zoning. If it were not for that, they’d be just like us.

  • I agree with kjb. Most of the buildings that are built in any place or any time frame are nothing special. There are some that are able to stand the test of time either due to their architectural wow factor, the historical significance or by fear shear force of numbers they are able to persevere through the ages until they go from being cheap to historically chic.

    His example of the Heights bungalows is perfect. A bunch of cheap bungalows from the everyman 90 years ago are now considered an architectural gems only when viewed through the filter of 90 years passing. Who’s to say that we won’t view NewCharlestorleans townhomes the same way in 2075?

    I certainly don’t think that we will (and I vastly prefer my nice Heights bungalow) but this architectural whining drives me insane.

  • “Who’s to say that we won’t view NewCharlestorleans townhomes the same way in 2075?”

    Me, because those houses won’t be standing. Please do not compare the craftsmanship and quality construction of my house to the crap that is being thrown together. My house is nearly 100 years old and its the 10 year old addition that is costing us a fortune to maintain. If you think any of this new construction will still be standing in 65 years… well, “I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona… From my front porch, you can see the sea… I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona… .”

  • Mel is right. Most of these new places wont stand the test of time. Case in point; my sister’s 1920s brick home in the Museum District. The original brick house is solid. The foundation is excellent. Other than upkeep, she’s had to do nothing to it. Meanwhile, the rear brick addition added to the back of the house in 1993 was a complete POS. The foundation was already buckling and the builder actually drained the yard into the structure. It was literally rotting from the inside out. She’s since had to remove the entire addition. That thing didn’t last 20 years!

  • The house next door to mine just had its 1990’s era addition removed and rebuilt because it was pulling away from the 1930-era original structure… .

  • Childish whining?

    See how childish it sounds 20, no make that 10 years from now when the vast majority of this new construction is nothing but a tear down.

    Maybe that will shut the experts on childish whining up, especially if they live in one of them.

    Comparisons to the East Coast and Europe are just laughable. Those buildings would not be standing today if they were not well built.

  • I just moved to Philadelphia from Houston, so let me tell you that all of those brick rowhouses are magically well-built because they’re old, and they’re not attactive either. Many of them have originally flat roofs at 30 degree angles, and of course let’s not forget the blocks of abandoned decaying buildings.

    But at least Philadelphia has zoning, right?

  • Spoonman, as I understand, the brick rowhouses in Philadelphia generally have walls 4-6 brick layers thick.

  • I agree with Mel and Doofus that these new construction places around town will be worth lot value in 30 years. They are cheaply built with materials that leak and then rot, hope the insurance companies contiune to bail everyone out.

  • As someone who kind of agrees with the “whiners” about the current quality of construction.

    Another problem here is survivorship bias. The only houses that people whining about the past look at/can see are the marvelous gems. Drive through any old neighborhood and the beautiful old houses are the ones that were exhaustively maintained or expensively rehabbed. Those are the only ones the whiners can see/are looking at. All the shitty/unmaintained houses built 100 years ago have either been torn down, fallen down, or are ignored by the people whining about how great it was 100 years ago.

  • this just in, people go cheap on additions and have to get them re-built because they constantly choose the lowest priced contractor or lack the skill to properly oversee contractors.

    admittedly, i’d love to live in a much more beautiful city such as san francisco, paris, nyc, or any number of the hundreds of small quaint towns dotting the american landscape. however, i don’t want to spend 50% of my budget on housing and i want access to plenty of jobs. i choose to live in houston fully knowing that my living expenses support nothing more than a cheap, ugly and easy city to live in.

    i love houston because it provides an alternative. i can understand other peoples viewpoint, but me and tons of others don’t want to pay exorbitant living expenses just so you all can have better views on your way home from work or while you walk your dog in my yard, there’s tons of other cities that can provide that to you. this will all change as the city becomes richer, just wait and you’ll get your day, but for now let’s just accept the city we all choose to live in for what it is and revel in the benefits it provides now.

  • can anyone answer this, what percentage of the population of it’s time could afford to live in a heights bungalow, brick rowhouse, or any of the other older housing stock we consider to be traditional? how does it compare with the percentage of today’s population that can afford a cheply built townhome or suburban mansion? to me it’s all about affordability and the income levels required to support better construction.

  • I appreciate the alternatives in housing we have in Houston and especially in the Montrose area. Houston is one of the few cities where a person can live within a few miles of downtown, in a decent place, and not spend over half their income on rent. I’ve lived in places where that was not the case, and it does get old quick.

    All I’m saying is that I don’t want to see Montrose/Midtown become the next Greenspoint. I remember when Greenspoint was new, and even considered glamorous. Look at it now. They slapped those apartments up to keep up with what was trendy and new and exciting at the time.

    Someone told me years ago Perry Homes was basically run out of DFW on a rail. People would just not stand for it. Maybe Houstonians need to just demand a little bit more, not enough to lose what makes Houston Houston, but a little bit more.

    It sounds like the builders at the Fiesta site really want to put up something great, so more power to them.

  • Joel, I refuse to accept the city as it is. I want to make it better. Don’t be so complacent.

  • Another case in point; my current house is a 1920s English brick charmer. It hadn’t been lived in for over 8 years when I bought it. It had water damage (an oak limb had fallen through the roof during Hurricane Ike), no central air, and was missing over half of the original casement windows. However, it was solid and the inspector gave it a thumbs up other than the obvious issues. Can you imagine what a prefab fake stucco joint would look like if it had to sit for 8 years exposed to Houston’s elements? Ha, good luck with that…

  • What is really interesting is why the simple pyramid columns of a craftsmen bungalow are so aesthetically pleasing and satisfying, but the ubiquitous two story arched entryway of the McMansion is so nauseating and ugly. And why were designers/architects of the craftsment style so spot on with their work almost one hundred years ago while working with rudimentary drafting tools and the architects and designers of today with all their fancy computers and renderings just do Mr. Potatohead houses, picking out what ever design element is in the tool box to put on a box to make it look historic?
    As for the quality of construction, the reason the 1920s construction was so much better in terms of quality was because they did not know that you could build a house with cheap materials and it wouldn’t fall down. Years of engineering research and development of the construction industry has yeilded the ability to build with the cheapest materials, the fastest construction turnaround (just listen to the snap snap snap of nail guns on a townhome going up) and the least architect time. Markets actually work in reverse. Builders give the public what they want to give them to maximize their profit. With a little marketing, people will spend lots of money without any regard to their self-interest. Just look at the gas guzzling SUV. People still buy them even though the cost to fuel them is double that of a small sedan. Why? Because the automotive industry tells people through marketing that the SUV is what they want so they can sell the vehicles with the biggest profit margin.

  • There’s nothing wrong with nail guns. They are just a tool, that when used properly make the carpenter’s job easier. I have found that nail guns make my maintenance tasks far easier – try installing new toe kicks with a hammer. Or baseboards.

    I own an SUV because a sedan doesn’t have all the capabilities I need in a vehicle. Like carrying lumber. Or large quantities of gardening material. Or lots of ground clearance so I don’t get stuck on the hunting lease.

  • I can’t wait till all the 1960’s built Montrose apartment buildings that everyone wants torn down are considered super awesome and vintage
    (not holding my breath… ;)

  • Trick them out, Cody. Then your complexes will be super awesome and vintage. There is a company in Dallas that does just that.

  • Mel,

    I’ve been working on it. That’s pretty much what I do full time every day. I guess I could speed things up by hiring a proper designer and getting a larger crew but I have to go at the speed the rental income will allow :)