Deconstructing Neo-Trad, Again
I just want to say that I love this house, because it’s like like punching Leon Krier in the face, repeatedly, in the most awesome way possible.
My, what a strange house. And what a strange thing to say! But it’s true – the designers of this “perforated house” Kavellaris Urban Design, explicitly designed this house to question the conceits of neo-traditionalist architects: that somehow the kitschier architecture gets, the more inherently vernacular and/or ecologically responsible it becomes. To wit, it doesn’t, and this house moves (rather brilliantly, I think) to call for a renewed emphasis on critical regionalism.
Immediately the design recalls the minimalistic and highly functional openness of southern Japanese machiya houses, with a bit of a mod-Oz twist. Owing to the extremities of the Australian climate, the house is built out of reflective materials, letting as much light in as possible while throwing back as much heat as necessary. And in a nod to privacy, the top and bottom (i.e. “private” and “public” levels) are reversed, letting the hotter parts of the house open up completely while conserving the more intimate rooms, moving them to cooler and more insulated spaces.
I don’t know that I can say more than either the builders or Inhabitat already did, but it’s very easy for me to contrast this with interviews where Leon Krier talks endlessly about modernist conceits as “literal rape”, or Andres Duany claiming that the “neo” element of “neo-traditional” is valid because the clock fixtures are quartz.
I was talking recently with a friend who opined that one of the most pressing issues of contemporary architecture is the tendency of architects to consider themselves pure artists rather than designers; while art can exist for its own sake, design must consider the functionality of created works at least as seriously as their form. (There are some problems with this analogy: in many instances the value of designed objects can easily be arbitrary and fleeting – like clothes that are “loved intensely for a day and then discarded”, in the words of Chuck Pahlaniuk.)
This building straddles that line, possibly sacrificing some of its value as a functional work to make a statement about architecture itself. But it is nonetheless an amazingly useful and beautiful building, even if it seems to be trying a little too hard to be funny. And it is deeply funny, at least to some of us.