08 October 2009

A Vision of the Urban Crapscrape to Come

Pieces of ungodly crapitecture go up every week, and we dutifully rail against their plastic, cookie-cutter, soul-killing awfulness. But very often they exist in our minds as a sore thumb, an annoying eyesore upsetting the block. We put in the back of our mind, as too terrible to contemplate, what our city will become when these isolated pieces of shoddy "architecture" pile up and reach critical mass.

I had a horrifying vision of what that city might look like the other day as I was biking around Red Hook, looking for trouble. I came upon this deadening row of houses on Richards Street, three in a row, all completed within the last five years. The unstoppable blandness of the trio overwhelms you like a wave of nausea. The absolute and transparent ersatz quality of their materials and conception injures the eyes. There is no corner of relief, no minute aspect of beauty to latch your peepers in hopes of momentary solace. It's all dreck.

Notice how every detail is fake and half-assed: the quasi bay windows; the half-hearted cornice on one, the why-bother shingled "roof" on another; the barely there lintels (where there are lintels at all); the afterthought keystones on the one of the left; and rotten, rotten, cheapo windows on all three.

These buildings are not worth having a pigeon shit on. And this is what the City's prepared to vote back into office for four more years next month.


Anonymous said...

do you think a thompson administration would be any different in this regard?

he'd be fine with it as long as its filled with low income residents and constructed by union labor.

since that's all he seems to care about

not that i love bloomberg, but you cant blame him for everything

A Bulldog in Red Hook said...

the two on the left at least appear to have some degree of thought put into the design of the upper levels. not a whole lot and maybe sloppy construction but much better than the one on the right. why that didn't carry through to the bottom floor, doesn't make any sense.

Blayze said...

I think you're going a little nuts. The two on the left aren't the most god awful things in New York. If anything, the one in the middle is at least trying to recapture the history of the old New York townhouse with it's decorative cornice. I wouldn't mind living in it.

The one on the right is bland, that's true, but it is built to scale. Nor does it have a garage.

They get a C for some effort.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

If you think any of these building are attractive and acceptable efforts, I think you're nuts. You're welcome to them.

Blayze said...

Don't get me wrong, they are pretty bland and could never compare to a stately brownstone, but there's far worse than these little carbuncles ruining the city.

Mosh Lou said...

You're totally wrong here.

Even the most casual student of New York's urban fabric should recognize that, far from being new buildings, these houses probably date from the early 1900s. In fact, the middle house is largely original above its ground floor, retaining its historic paneled bay and cornice decorated with festoons. Brooklyn's streets are filled with modest early-twentieth-century dwellings like these, many of them altered in much the same way.

Granted, the ground floor of the middle house has been replaced with something pretty ugly, and the other two have largely been stripped of their ornament and resurfaced, but looking at the bay on the left house and the window pattern on all three buildings makes it fairly obvious that these were almost certainly built as a common row. (A row, by the way, that continues down the block--the house that barely peeks into the frame on the far left appears to be identical to the middle house.) I'll admit that the alterations aren't pretty, but if these houses were "all completed within the last five years," I'll eat my hat, five pairs of long johns, a New York Jets football helmet, and all the floor tiles from an R44 subway car.

In the future, you'll probably be better off saving your outrage for issues that you actually know the slightest bit about.

And if you can explain to me what Bloomberg had to do with any of this, I'd love to hear it. Please enlighten us.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Get ready to eat your hat, Mosh Lou. I live here, near these buildings. I've seen these buildings go up. Maybe it's you who should save your outrage when you don't know the slightest thing of what you're talking about.

How is Bloomberg to blame. He has given developers free reign to build and do whatever they want for 8 years, without a thought to the impact on the surrounding community and city's landscape. It's amazing to me that people still have to have this explained to them.

Ed said...

I've become a BANANA in recent years simply because the architecture profession has gotten so bad, it would be better not to build anything at all until they get things straightened out. Its as bad as the post WWII decades.

This was a great internet exchange, someone claiming that buildings Brooks personally watched being constructed were built around 1900.

Mosh Lou said...

If you saw these houses go up, you're either 110 years old or severely delusional.

I'm looking at Richards Street on Google Street View right now. Adjoining the left house in your photo are two houses whose top two stories are EXACTLY THE SAME as those of the middle house in your photo. Same buff brick, same quoins, same paneled bays, same festooned cornices. So, what happened then? Are all five of these houses new? Did the fellow who built the center house in your photo exactly copy the top two stories of a pair of circa-1910 houses a couple of doors down just for kicks? Nope. They were all part of a row of at least five houses built in the early twentieth century, two of which (the end houses in your photo) have been more altered than the other three.

I'll be looking up the 1930s tax photo for these buildings on Tuesday, and I'll let you know what I find. I'm 99% sure I'll find that you're wrong.

I don't like Bloomberg either, but really, unless these buildings were in a historic district, the government has no authority to tell people that they can't change their windows, put stucco on their houses, and take off their historic cornices, whether you approve of their taste or not. So, I guess Bloomberg was supposed to tell these people they couldn't change their windows? Please.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I urge you not to waste your time, Mosh.

Btw, the middle house in my picture is actually the youngest of them all. I know, because some friends of mine and I was supposed to live in it once. It was an affordable housing initiative, but the guy who built it did such a bad job, and wouldn't listen to my friends' instructions (as he was legally bound to do) that they decided not to move in and let their claim on the building lapse.

And just look at the building on the right. LOOK AT IT! You truly think this is an old building that has been defaced? Are you drunk?