Architecture affects your mood, your sense of wonder, your ability to get through the day. When it’s good you won’t notice it. When it’s great you may not even realise that it’s given you a certain lift. When it’s bad you’ll feel it niggling like an itch or a distant fire alarm that won’t let you find peace. Because what’s done is done. That is, until someone comes by with a good mind – and budget – for rethinking what’s been done.
When I step into many buildings I immediately think ‘Oh no, disaster.’ And for me, that’s where the engagement usually ends. That’s why I enjoy driving around surveying what people build as their home – sometimes I’m alone, often I’ll have kids asleep in the back.
Unlike the enjoyment of Grand Designs, seeing what’s inside a building tends to unravel the mystery too much for me. I much prefer to judge the book by its cover, as it were, standing in front of a house and imagining the people inside, their jobs, guessing at what motivated their choice of bricks, that colour paint, such enormous windows or no windows at all.
For some years, I’ve been compiling a gallery of photos taken out the front of the houses of everyday Australians who love in Sydney. I began a Facebook album with the goal of capturing the most inspired and most typical. And in recent months, the album has become a topic many people raise with me. I’ve even had several submissions from people who spot a good house and photograph it, thinking of my album.
(I have also had requests for it to be published as a coffee table book, but that won’t happen as the quality of my photos was never a concern.)
This week, using a new Facebook feature, I opened up the album for contributions. If you submit an appropriate pic to me via my Facebook page I will gladly add you as a contributor (background checks, permitting).
Here are my favourites.
The McMansion was a spawned by a widespread demand for affordability, function and privacy amid the shrinking blocks of urban sprawl. I’d like to think this monolith was the original, with broad shoulders, an eagle chestplate and a doorway big enough to sprout small houses.
So many of us dream of a countryside mansion set among fields of green. This house would have had it all, that is, if something had not gone terribly wrong. She now stands alone in a field, scaffolding still attached as if holding out hope that builders may return to finish her off before the encroaching bush does.
Being caught for the first time is always a special moment. For me, it happened one sunny day as I drive a sleeping baby around the southern suburbs of Sydney. This home of weatherboard and louvred windows captured me as the owner captured me capturing a photo.
Of all the architectural styles I have noticed and photographed, I can’t get past the simplicity and artfulness of art deco numbers from the twenties and thirties. After that, I most enjoy the angular roofs and enormous windows of the sixties. There as always a single vision, unlike modern homes with their eclectic materials, varied textures and look-at-me rooflines. Sure, they have more fun, but something is lost in all the revelry.
I must be getting old.
Let me know if you also think architecture is captivating or if you think this is all bonkers.