You CAN get sued for ugly

516 Euclid front
© Louis Cherry Architect

Well, not ugly, but for aesthetics that your neighbors don't like. This is not a good thing.

A few years back the BUILDLLC blog had a great post titled You’ll never get sued for ugly They wrote:

It was a frequently used phrase by one of our professors back in school. What he meant by it was this; as architects and designers we’ll always be liable for everything except aesthetics.

They go on to list a few examples of aesthetic negligence that should be lawsuit fodder in a perfect world:

Topping the list is the complete lack of any driving idea or concept. A close second is having no relationship to time (like the present one) or region. Following close behind is the architectural movement known as “a mixture of various globbed on styles from bygone eras and distant places”.

© Louis Cherry Architect

In Raleigh, North Carolina, architect Louis Cherry is being sued. Construction as been stopped on his own house, 85% complete, because a neighbor doesn't like it. She considers it ugly. Allison Arieff writes in the New York Times:

Gail Wiesner, who lives across the street from Mr. Cherry — not incidentally, in a house built in 2008 — doesn’t like it in her neighborhood. In her appeal, she complained not only that the house was too modern for the area’s historical character, but also that the impact of its completion posed a threat to the community.

There are so many problems with this. The house is in fact quite attractive, but the neighbors evidently prefer that "mixture of various globbed-on styles from bygone eras". In fact, the local preservation society quite likes the house too; it wrote a letter of support, making the case that the house is “is in line with a half-century of preservation philosophy and practice, contrary to the assertion of their opponents.”

Myrck Howard, head of Preservation North Carolina, tells Allison that " the case “is giving preservation a black eye. Because it sounds like preservationists are against this house. It has put the historic development commission on the defensive." But true preservationists are not against development and certainly are not in fans of faux.

On his website, Louis Cherry writes:

Designing buildings carries an environmental responsibility. Buildings should be created to use the minimum of energy and material resources. Every building should minimize its footprint on the environment.

House design is not fixed in time; it evolves as conditions change. Materials and methods used a hundred years ago are not necessarily appropriate today; From the looks of google street view, the majority of these houses in this historic district have vinyl siding. Ask any real historic preservationist and she will tell you the same thing: Modern is heritage too.

More in the New York Times, also read Paul Goldberger in Vanity Fair.

Tags: North Carolina | Preservation

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