Sheds Without Shame
And Peter Behrens saw the shed was naked so he covered it up.
And so the shed was made to feel shame. Taking something virtuous and forcing it to wear an aesthetic statement of questionable value is the original sin of architecture, its genesis. It’s as if architecture loves to see good ideas killed through a process of aestheticisation – the real meaning of Death by Architecture.
Why I dislike The Eames’ House
The Eames took a shed and decked it out with the arty pretentiousness of Mondrian colours.
They were also responsible for the intellectual dishonesty of using cheap components to build on a fairly decent slice of well-located real estate. What’s going on? Did one of them inherit it? I’m guessing Ray did for, by all accounts, Charles was a bit of a bounder, possibly a cad.
Reasons to dislike Case Study House #21
Reasons to dislike Case Study House #22
Reasons to like Case Study House #22.
It’s a shed.
It’s still a shed and, after seeing what their renewable neighbours have done to their site or were made to do to their site, it’s just as well it’s a shed.
If the Case Study House program was really about the beneficial use of industrial components to enclose space quickly and inexpensively, then we’d expect to see the north elevation used to illustrate this a lot more than we do. The useful idea apparent on the north side, is only important because it enables the aesthetic idea on the south side. Once inside, it’s all about the view. We’re always invited to look out of the house or through the house rather than linger at any time inside it or, God forbid, behind it. What Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, but she could just have easily said it about the Stahl House – “There’s no there there.”
But sixty-six years on from The Eames’ House has anything really changed?
- Many people would still like a nice parcel of land in the Pacific Palisades – or the Hollywood Hills for that matter.
- But many more people still have an aversion to prefabricated “off-the-shelf” building components.
Even today, if anyone wants to build a shed and live in it, it has to be justified in terms of “fitting in with the local character”. This is as true for the UK
where architect James Gorst has a nice line of sheddy houses alluding to some false memory of a rural vernacular,
and it is in Australia where Glenn Murcutt has also.
Sheds are everywhere but it seems they’re only acceptable when their obvious advantages are overlaid with a veneer of aesthetic pretentiousness. We like sheds but only when they hide their shameful nakedness.
Japanese architect Waro Kishi knows a bit about sheds without shame. Here’s his 1987 Kim House in Ikuno, Osaka. Less baggage than that other one. And no cutting of corners.
Here’s Kishi’s 1995 House In Nipponbashi, Osaka.
One might say “sheds without shame” is Lacaton & Vassal’s motto but this would be to turn their method of designing into a style. If L&V’s early houses such as Lapatie House and Dordogne House are small-scale sheds and their Nantes School of Architecture one of the larger applications of their thinking, then the middle ground is their 2013 two-sheds-are-better-than-one FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais art space in Dunkerque, France. The only design idea was to build another shed next to an existing one. The design idea is practically absent – and what remains of that design idea is probably something we construct in our heads.
I thought FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais was about as shameless as a shed could be but no. Behind bdonline‘s paywall, Speller Metcalfe’s Western Power Distribution depot pushes the envelope with its 102% BREEAM score.