In Praise of Dumpy Dwellings

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Sleek, clutter-free modernist homes are not for everybody. In fact, sometimes they’re not even for modernist architecture writers. Design critic Adele Weder writes in The Walrus about leasing a modernist Vancouver house—the type of dwelling she has written about for two decades—only to find her minimalist ideals clashing with the messy realities of domestic family life.

“Like a surprising number of my peers in this glamorous industry, I’m a slovenly sort,” she confesses, allowing that “we do our jobs as diligently as we can, but we can’t tell you what a house is like to live in. After all, we rarely prepare a meal or spend the night, let alone settle down to live there.”

In Weder’s rented home, fingerprints and possessions easily marred the gleaming kitchen surfaces, a lack of interior walls led to a lack of privacy, and a step in the middle of the kitchen floor “triggered a series of spectacular wipeouts” for family members. “Our daughters started calling our place the hurty house,” she writes. Eventually she was forced to face a hard truth:

Sometimes we need hiding places; sometimes we yearn to dissolve into the woodwork, to blend into the wallpaper. As the postmodernist writer J.G. Ballard once observed, “Most people, myself included, find it difficult to be clear-eyed at all times and rise to the demands of a pure and unadorned geometry. Architecture supplies us with camouflage.”

When you don’t need camouflage, the modernist house can be the most beautiful dwelling on earth. Like any digital medium, though, it’s either on or off—either pristine or a pigsty—with no in-between. That bowl of leftovers or that empty pizza box, any bit of human residue, shatters the illusion of purity. The conventional house, filled with nooks and crannies, may look dumpier, but it is more forgiving of human entropy.

Source: The Walrus 

Image by, licensed under Creative Commons. 

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