Now here’s a controversial topic: What style of architecture is best? Examples of poorly designed buildings shape our cities and suburbs. It’s too often the case that the bad design stands out more than the good, which makes us more aware of it.
This has led to the sentiment amongst many people that all new architecture is bad and old buildings are best and, though this belief is understandable, it is far too simplistic a notion to be true. Even worse, this prejudice, if used as a guide, can lead to mediocre design.
There’s no doubt that old buildings can have great character, but the harsh truth is that if you own one you will spend a substantial proportion of your time and money trying to keep it liveable. You will struggle to eliminate damp, fix shonky plumbing and wiring and constantly lament the lack of natural light and ventilation. If you build a well-designed and constructed new home you should not have to worry about these issues.
The desire to create good design by imitating ideas from the past is very popular amongst project home builders. Common styles include Victorian, Tuscan and Federation but these terms are used very loosely, as the houses they describe are rarely anything like authentic period homes.
If care is taken to adhere to authentic and original proportions, materials and finishes it is entirely possible to create an acceptable recreation of any of these styles. If, however, as with most project homes, corners are cut to save money the result is all too often a clunky monstrosity sitting uncomfortably on a suburban block.
The great irony in homes that seek to recreate older styles is that most often the owners are not prepared to do without any of the luxuries that modern construction and design allow. This is why such homes often have oversized windows, aluminium sliding doors and automatic double garages all accommodated under a fake federation roof. Place this next to a real federation home and the contrast is distressing.
Surely the key is to embrace contemporary design ideas which integrate modern conveniences in a straightforward and honest manner. Modern design does not have to be ugly. It can, and in fact should, be a stunning expression of what it is to be alive today. Or are we happy to be remembered as the generation that had so little self-confidence in its own sense of style it sought to recreate its grandparents’?