Tag Archives: What’s this blog all about anyway?

Misfits’ @ JESTER

Last December I had an e-mail from a Mr. Raphael Beaumond asking if I’d like to speak at JESTER*, a cultural café he was opening in Brussels in February. As Raphael explained, the jester was an historic court figure who could communicate to the king things no other court personage would dare. His real role was not to amuse but to provide a balancing alternative to other court figures likely to say only what the king wanted to hear. I see the sense in that. We need more.

It’s unlikely that people who don’t belong to the same university, company or organization ever get together to talk about architecture, and rarer for that setting not to be a corporate meeting room (in which case nobody outside gets to hear about it), a lecture theatre at some university (in which case the conversation spreads but never disseminates), or a biennale (in which diverse people interested in architecture get to receive calculated content spread very thin). I’d have thought a city as affluent and cosmopolitan as Brussels would have ample opportunities for people to discuss architecture but apparently not for, with JESTER, Brussels had space for one more. 

Pierre Eyban, a Belgian architect I later learned was responsible for me being invited, asked the questions and lead the talk. What follows isn’t a complete or even accurate transcript of the talk and later discussion. It’s more a general summary of the points covered – or not, as is sometimes the case.

• • •

What was your intention in starting the blog? And how do you see your contribution to architecture culture?

Although I teach at a university, I’m here as Mr. Misfits’ Architecture – the name of my blog. The blog began with me as an instructor disillusioned with the state of architecture, and Bashar Al Shawa, a student equally disaffected. We found we shared doubts about what is regarded as architecture, what is regarded as good architecture, and about what was taught and how. Initial posts questioned what was usually presented as architectural beauty, and sought out architects that produced architecture based on more useful criteria. After eight years, this is still a part of the character of the blog. I’m not surprised many of the blog’s early followers were students but I’ve since discovered many more people disaffected with architecture are actually working in practice and in universities. There’s definitely something wrong with today’s culture of architecture when its practitioners and educators are as disaffected as students.

People you identified as misfits: who are they?

The most striking thing they have in common is that they all designed buildings according to how they thought they ought to be designed and without regard for how they were perceived by people other than their users. Their buildings thus have a different value. Misfit architects contribute to a knowledge base that is never remembered, taught, learned from, or built upon. They are not the architects today’s students are taught to aspire to emulating. So far, I’ve identified 31, most from the last century.

  • The first was Hannes Meyer [#1], the director of the Bauhaus after Walter Gropius and before Mies van der Rohe. Meyer was the one who introduced architecture to the Bauhaus curriculum. He was also the first and last person to make it turn a profit. He was a radical functionalist and a communist. He also believed the purpose of architects was to create buildings for a better society for all. Most of the misfit architects share this value, though some more explicitly than others. 
  • In the 1920s Soviet Union, Moisei Ginzburg [#17] and the team of architects he assembled devised a building for a new form of communal living they thought the new society was needing.
  • In Uruguay, Eladio Dieste [#14] created breathtakingly thin shell structures of brick for socially useful buildings like bus stations and marketplaces.
  • In the United States, Rural Studio [#24] are making intelligent yet economical buildings for the rural poor of Alabama.
  • Post-war Milanese architects Asnago & Vender [#26] had a very simple yet useful concept of history as “what’s already there” and used it to produce thoughtful and beautiful buildings that still seem fresh today.
  • In the UK, Colin Lucas [#10] designed high-rise housing with dignity.
  • Eileen Gray [#3] is relatively well known. She designed a sensual and humanist house that was the opposite of Le Corbusier’s intellectualism.
  • Few people know about Togo Murano [#21] – a Japanese architect who produced about 300 buildings in a long career spanning most of the twentieth century.  He was never part of any movement. He had no single style. He didn’t build outside Japan. He had no craving for international fame. He involved clients in the design. Some of his buildings have a beauty as breathtaking as it is inexplicable.

The blog collects these misfit architects into one place but they have little in common apart from a belief people should benefit from buildings in very real ways. Misfit architects are those that do not seek fame or publicity for its own sake. The standard history of architecture is over-populated with those that that did. Our current media is over-populated with those that do, and illustrates how showing a representation of value has come to be more important than any inherent value. It’s a construct very much tailored to our times. It rewards those that play the game, and shuns those that don’t. It is ruthless in its selection. Alvar Aalto fades into obscurity while Le Corbusier continues to be taught as the only role model for architects to aspire to. If there had been no Le Corbusier, there would have been no Rem Koolhaas and if there had been no Rem Koolhaas, there would have been no Bjarke Ingels …

You coined the terms “Performance Beauty” and “Existential Architecture” – tell us more. 

Performance beauty was, I remember, how Bashar first described what he was thinking about in the early discussions for his senior design project. He showed me photos of the Soviet AK-47 and the US M-20 assault rifles and explained how the M-20 looks the more elegant but the simplicity and reliability of the AK-47 are what seems to have made it the world’s weapon of choice. His other example was the SUKHOI S-30 fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The SUKHOI looked ungainly and the Eurofighter sleek but the SUKHOI performs better in all ways you’d want a fighter aircraft to perform. It’s no accident that both these examples are military technologies because it’s a fields where aesthetics is secondary. It’s only in really extreme environments such as Antarctica where keeping people safe and comfortable becomes the primary criteria by which the worth of a building is judged. I believe that increasingly severe “weather events” will force us to reconsider the kind of beauty we want our buildings to have.

Existential architecture was an attempt to find a philosophical basis for reconstructing architecture from first principles. I’ve always thought of buildings as if they were people, and so I’m disappointed most of the time because I think they could be better than they are. Some are perhaps more attractive than others yet lack principles that shape their existence. The concept of existential architecture was an attempt to map the ethical and moral obligations of existentialism to architecture.  It’s not such a crazy idea. Buildings are artificial artefacts conceived of and built by people. Seeing buildings as organic or natural objects following pseudo-organic or pseudo-natural principles has got us nowhere. However, seeing buildings as the extension of human behaviour (that they are), means the same rules can apply. Existentialist philosophy transfers very cleanly and neatly to architecture. It’s an ethical stance.

Existence: A building should be what it is rather than what others want it to be. This denounces pretensions of all sorts.

  • all buildings whose appearance contradicts their internal configuration
  • all buildings whose structure is not what it appears
  • all buildings that present an idealized image to the world
  • all yet-to-be-built buildings with images at odds with reality
  • all buildings whose primary existence is as a vehicle for publicity.

Facticity: A building should not deny the facts of its existence.

  • Buildings are artificial objects. Any pretensions to having, or to having the appearance of any of the qualities of organic or natural objects is inauthentic. This includes implied growth and movement.
  • Buildings are static, physical objects.Any pretensions to denying their physicality is inauthentic. This includes weightlessness and transparency.
  • Buildings have a reason for existing. Any pretensions to catering to other reasons is inauthentic. 
  • Buildings are products of their time and place. This means the use of materials and technologies appropriate for a time and place, not adopting whatever stylistic fad is currently circulating (as that would be contradicting 1. Existence).
  • Buildings are for humans to use. This means that the indoor environment cannot be ignored. Energy performance and internal environment are thus core qualities of existential architecture. To be otherwise is to deny its facticity.

Authenticity: A building should not pretend to be something it isn’t. 

  • All kinds of fake surfaces, proportions, illusions and ornamentation are inauthentic, as well as being wasteful.
  • To design a building for its media impact is inauthentic and to give essence priority over existence – as well as being unethical.
  • To design a building in denial of its environmental facticity is inauthentic – as well as irresponsible.
  • Globalised design agendas and building solutions are denials of facticity.

These three very simple and straightfoward criteria are all that’s needed for us to have an authentic architecture. Most of today’s architecture is lacking in all three. [c.f. Existential Architecture: Being There

Isn’t there a risk of losing a certain poetic approach if one tends to only see and resolve the facticities? 

The blog began as a way for Bashar and I to organize our thoughts on architecture. Many of these thoughts re-stated the form vs. function argument in terms of the purposeful application of intelligence vs. random displays of inspiration. It’s an old argument that’s been around for so long we’ve grown used to it. The fact we still don’t have any solution makes me think it’s a convenient yet false opposition. I’ve nothing against the inspired application of intelligence. Think of the Periodic Table. Dmitry Mendelev didn’t sit down and work it out. The original format came to him in a dream as pure inspiration but he had the intelligence to understand its importance and how to apply it. I’ve nothing against inspiration and for me the best kind is the kind that solves a problem. If the problem is solved I don’t care how or where the solution comes from.

As it’s currently understood, inspiration can only produce solutions to problems we didn’t know we had. Most are aesthetic ones. Buildings are too large and too expensive to be used as vehicles for displays of such experimentation. That may be the primary function of certain buildings but that doesn’t make it any less irresponsible.

How do you see current architecture practice evolving? We have a pluralism of theories, justifications and tendencies but there is usually a dominant one.  In one of your previous posts you talked about the New Decency and The Old Guard with Rem Koolhaas representing the old guard. What’s this New Decency?

There a saying “One swallow does not a summer make”. Originally Aristotle I think but it’s been quoted in the architectural sense of one example of anything not necessarily being the beginning of a trend. The winning proposal for the La Tour Montparnasse competition is, I hope, the beginning of a trend. When the time is right for an idea, I’ve seen that all you have to do is give it a name for it to become “a thing”. For me, the New Decency is an attitude of architects that involves:

  • not being afraid to produce an obvious solution,
  • not feeling the need to reinvent a typology with every commission,
  • not being compelled to advertise how clever one is
  • not using a commission as a branding opportunity
  • not wanting one’s work judged by their peers but by its users and the general public. 

And what do you think is the impulse for this New Decency?

I think we’re just tired of a top-down architecture that never really permeated that far down anyway. It’s a bit sad that an architecture that people can connect with has to be presented as the next big thing but if that’s what it takes then why not? There’s nothing to lose. We might believe there’s never been a time in the history of the world where the awareness of architecture has been as great but it’s wrong to equate an awareness of architecture with§ the consumption of images disconnected from the realities of site, users, and their judgment. [c.f. The Old Guard and The New Decency]

Would you look forward to some AI program designing buildings? It would probably take into account space, building physics, cost and other performative criteria far better than human designers. 

I think I would, but I don’t think it’ll be possible anytime soon.  Look at AI translation. After thirty years it still can’t be trusted 100% with sentences and their simple function of communicating sense in a tense.

  • Programs already exist to arrange the many and varied items required of clinic and hospital rooms, in the required numbers and relationships. I’m sure they don’t overlook anything.
  • Some programs will tell you when you are trying to make two things such as a beam and a pipe occupy the same space. This is useful and can prevent much overtime and pain.
  • Parametric design has the potential to be very useful if it includes all the known and relevant parameters but choosing what they are is a subjective design decision as is linking them and assigning each of them a relative importance.
  • Parametric design coupled with building information modelling does make it very easy to redesign all or part of a project if something changes and this is very useful because things often change. I suspect the over-publicized aesthetic “possibilities” of parametric design are a smokescreen for the design and fabrication economies they enable whatever gets decided upon. [c.f. The Parametric Bottom Line]
  • The perception of parametric design is that it can generate thousands of possibilities from given parameters but choosing when to stop the process and make a choice are also subjective design decisions. We forget how amazing the brain is. One thing I try to teach my students is not to have ideas that won’t work. AI would need to be trained to do that and it would only be possible if there was a known universe of possibilities and there never is. I don’t think we’re anywhere near knowing how to train AI to creatively break the rules, or when it’s okay to do it. Trying to teach that to even gifted students is as challenging and rewarding as it gets.

• • •

* JESTER – Avenue de la Porte de Hal 2-4, 1060 Brussels, Belgium



This second installment of misfits’ prehistory builds upon some of the ideas in last week’s Property, Time & Architecture from 1999. I remastered the file from an InDesign package created February 2010. The original was probably made in Quark XPress a decade earlier because all images were .tif files. Bold headings summarize the text. Blockquotes are diversions and expansions.

In this essay, I use the word aesthetics in the usual sense and the term an aesthetic to denote a set of architectural devices united by an underlying philosophy and purpose. I only mention this because since this essay was written, the term has been largely supplanted by the word style even though (or, more likely, because) it makes us expect neither.

• • •

Aesthetics is the study of notions of beauty.
These notions change over time.
This essay is about architecture in general and architectural beauty in particular.
It identifies what successive notions of architectural beauty have had in common.
It identifies why certain aesthetics fall into and out of favour.
It provides a framework for understanding how aesthetics operate over time.
It is a meta-aesthetics.

• • •

Aesthetics give shape to our values and aspirations. This is not necessarily a good thing.

By 1850 in Britain, property and people had been divided into three classes. The upper class (still) had property in the country. The middle class had property subdivided in the form of townhouses and, later, as suburban houses. The working class had property stacked, as tenements. The middle classes overlooked communal property in the form of the squares or parks recreating country estates, and the more fortunate of the lower classes had communal property in the form of basic facilities provided by humanitarian industrialists.

The success or failure of any aesthetic is an expression of the values generating it.

19th and early 20th notions of an Ideal City separating the functions of the city also served to separate the classes for the two were the same. Over the course of the Industrial Revolution, the upper classes built townhouses but anchored themselves on their land. The middle classes were to build their townhouses in locations such as Belgravia, Paddington and Kensington, separating themselves and their new wealth from the docks, mills and railways that were the sources of it, as well as from where the workers lived. In a consistent expression of this attitude, convicts were separated as far away as Australia. The style of the 19th century urban townhouse was the Classicism of the country house and the square or park recreated the impression of property outside one’s window, even if it was communal.


The style was successively simplified for houses of the lower classes. Within the larger townhouses, there was a similar separation of function/class, with servants having their own working spaces, stairs and living quarters, within which, location and quantity of space established a similar separation amongst servant classes. The use of servants also enabled the functions within the building to be separated. Whereas the lower class could only bathe in a tub in front of the fire, servants duplicated the roles of pipes and conduits, transporting hot and cold water throughout the building, maintaining and lighting the lamps, and carrying away waste.


Servants also isolated the household as a class unit within society since they performed necessary tasks such as shopping by either going to the markets or dealing with cart vendors for milk, bread, vegetables, meat and fish. The physical and social separation of classes inside the house replicated the physical and social separation of the house from other classes in the city. Separation by function was separation by function in society. Status of the owners was denoted by the location and size of the house, the design of its facade, and the number and decoration of its major rooms.

Buildings require money and land to build. The history of architectural aesthetics is the history of articulating the ownership of wealth and property.

The use of decorative ornament in the 19th century indicated the rich man’s surplus and the poor man’s lack of it. In the 20th century, the architectural aesthetic of Modernism was to shun decorative ornament as bourgeois and attempt to generate form from the separation of physical functions. In patterns of living however, it maintained the class values inherent in the forms it replaced. The Georgian square miniaturized the pleasure of overlooking property. Although many of those townhouses were subdivided into flats in the 1920s and even today remain prime properties because it still possible to overlook the property of the square as if it were one’s own.


In 1922, Le Corbusier arrived at an identical form in his Immeuble Villa unit for the élite in his Ville Contemporaine, planned, ‘as a capitalist city of administration and control, with garden cities for the workers being sited, along with industry, beyond the ‘security zone’ of the green belt encompassing the city.’ Le Corbusier also designed 19th century notions of social segregation into both his urban plans and his private houses such as the Villa Stein (1926-7) and Villa Savoye (1928-9), two buildings commonly regarded as seminal works of the Modern movement.

An aesthetic loses its usefulness when its connotations of status are lost, and any process of refinement stops

Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitations of 1947-53 was never going to be a realistic prototype for low-cost, high density living. Needing to be surrounded by sufficient Nature/property, it was self-defeating in the city and absurd in the country. Despite its claimed advantages, shop space was not let immediately and few shop-owners were keen to relocate there. The fact that what was once the outskirts of Marseilles is now a popular address indicates that property prices in central Marseilles have risen in the meantime, and that a view of the ocean from there is better than none at all. It also means that instead of being located in “Nature” it is now located in a thriving suburb with sufficient population density to make stores within the building viable. If such buildings have large sites, then the cost-effectiveness of site use is less compromised by siting such buildings alongside virtual property such as public parks or bodies of water, but these sites are usually occupied by premium high-rise dwellings or hotels.


Having one’s own estate in the country downscaled to communally-owned squares in the city or smaller properties of the suburbs, with the virtual property of converted flats remaining preferable to that of purpose-built flats. Public property such as parks or bodies of water became virtual country estates, and views of one’s neighbours did not rank. Modernism presented light, space and a view of Nature as universal rights, but in reality, continued to treat them as commodities of status, their absence signalling poverty. Another problem had to do with materials. While concrete and prefabrication feature largely in the technical history of Modern architecture, it was not until Le Corbusier’s Maisons Jaoul of 1954 that concrete slabs were combined with bare load-bearing brick walls and presented as an aesthetic.


Despite Stirling’s use of this in the 1955~8 Ham Common flats and the attempts of the Brutalists to develop it, the sheer applicability of concrete slabs and load-bearing brick had sent them straight to low-cost housing worldwide, making Modernism the aesthetic of the poor. This fact did not pass unnoticed by the poor. Pruitt-Igoe. Built 1958. Dynamited 1972. The providers of public housing formed the last remaining market for Modernism. Any product becomes unmarketable when the market becomes disenchanted with the brand.


An aesthetic must continue to adapt in order to maintain status …

Internationalism was to escape being condemned along with Modernism because in the hands of Mies van der Rohe, it combined metal and other materials with a status-inducing Classicism such as in the German Pavilion at the Barcelona World Exhibition (1929) or the Tugendhat House (1930).


Purged of any ideological content it may have had in Europe, Modernism in the United States became the preferred institutional and corporate style. Curtain walls became a lattice of structure and window, effectively creating a visual barrier. Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1946-50) and Johnson’s Glass House (1949) were excellent solutions to this problem and restored the status of privately-owned Nature to the aesthetic.  Concern for privacy was for people with neighbours. Mies’ went for overkill, using expensive materials and methods. The steps, terrace and floor were faced in travertine, and welding joins were ground away before the steel was painted. Whereas the Farnsworth house stepped over Nature, Johnson’s house, the more spartan of the two, was the more decadent in that it sat on its lawn and indicated possession.

The near absence of house emphasized where the real status lay. The adjacent guest house had no windows for even visually possessing the estate at any time was the owner’s right alone. Modernist derivatives (Meier, Eisenman, Graves, etc.) restored status through similar means, but all have in common the necessity for big property.


… or another will quickly replace it.

If Modernism combined the human factor in terms of plan, with the built factor in terms of structural logic, then Post-Modernism combined the human factor of a populist vocabulary of building terms, and the built factor as a grammar of their usage. The result was something akin to a toff swearing in order to be popular at the pub – patronizing. From the start, the aesthetic was defined by generating and sustaining two aesthetics which, times being the times, were called levels of meaning. Its goal was never to bridge them for then it would cease to exist. Maintaining this aesthetic double standard was both its means and its end in public. In private however, the familiar indicators of status and wealth were to reassert themselves and by 1985, intoxicated with its imagined popularity, the aesthetic of Post-Modernism spoke only in double-entendres to itself. One of which was to take a material formerly regarded as unworthy for use in buildings of all but the most temporary and lowly nature, and to use it ‘out-of-context’ in a sophisticated manner, thus making a point about duality of meaning. Without exception, it was the materials such as concrete or Formica carrying the low and form the high. This led to High-Touch and Creative Salvage aesthetics of the late 80s, which found their beauty in the visual and tactile qualities present in any materials. The result was self-consciously designed, expensive one-off objects. This new materialism turned out to be not so new. Chicken wire, exposed 2 x 4s, and gypsum board have found little appeal, but polished concrete, terrazzo and Formica are being invested with status once again by finding their way into commercial interiors such as shops and restaurants en route to private residences.


Once connotations of negative status are lost or forgotten, a new value-adding aesthetic can be applied and marketed.

Property pressures and availability led to interior space making do for property in the 60s, and neglected building types being converted as a means of attaining more space than provided by contemporary building types. Former prejudice was disregarded and mews buildings, coach houses and warehouses were given a new lease of life as premium dwellings.


Being only a pre-existing building providing space, juxtaposed with a human factor of use, such buildings remained outside the realm of architecture. However, once possession and use began to carry notions of status such as more space and enlightened freedom from the tyranny of plan, it became possible to subdivide any large building and market it for more than a comparably sized flat. Interior partition walls then become a separately marketable commodity, as they had already become in office buildings.

all sold

Whilst an aesthetic of space and light is essentially one of property, aesthetics can also add value by how they enclose space.

Gideon saw modern architecture as an increasing perception of space as a quantity in itself. Whilst this is not untrue, it ignores the fact that that space must belong to somebody. In other words, it ignores the political dimension of space and property. Space, the stuff between the walls, and the space outside them as well, is a commodity of status because space is merely enclosed property. As the amount of property people can have has decreased, ways of creating the impression of having more have developed from closed plan to free plan, free plan to open plan, and finally open plan to no plan. A blurring of the distinction between inside and outside assumes that there is an outside of one’s own to blur. Large areas of glazing indicate no neighbours nearby.


Light is an indirect commodity of status because of its connection with property and density of land utilization but the conversion of warehouses has shown that people are prepared to sacrifice light and location for space. A building envelope enclosing a physically and visually finite space and with no plan would seem to be resistant to notions of status, but as long as there is an enclosing structure, an aesthetic can still operate through the use of materials and methods in new value-adding ways to indicate status.


High-tech is aesthetic which has little social mobility, thereby allowing it to remain an aesthetic of status.

The aesthetic of High-tech finds its purest expression in the spanning of large areas without internal supports, making it a horizontal Gothic exploting the tensile limits of steel.

h-t gothic.jpg

This makes it inherently suitable for buildings that are only perimeter walls within which either culture or machines set the spatial agenda.


When relatively mundane spaces for human activity are required to be housed, it resorts to vertical Gothic with full-height atrium spaces displaying engineering prowess being justified on the grounds of providing light.


The high levels of accuracy and craftsmanship involved render high-tech inapplicable to the relatively modest spatial and structural requirements of living. High-tech also has a large research and development component tailored to individual projects in the same way as in civil engineering structures. Its lavish and visible use of resources to achieve large, dubiously justified spaces, maintains its status as an aesthetic and consequently ensures its inapplicability to anything other than prestige projects.

Minimalism is another.

The Minimalist aesthetic is that of an en-closure creating the sensation of infinite space, a concept the Japanese found attractive even when both space and Nature were abundant. But feudalism in the past and overcrowding in the present have led to owning any space, let along property, being an object of status, and if space is a commodity, then appearing to have infinitely more is better even if it isn’t real.


In Minimalist buildings, windows overlook a courtyard or whatever property remains, and infinite property (“space”) is ‘seen’ in the walls. Light enters through slits to exaggerate its value. If it doesn’t use exquisitely executed concrete, the building process is denied through the expensive and contrived elimination or concealment of joins and lines.


Minimalism is much money being used to create the impression of having little except a sense of infinite space, a trompe l’oeil of nothing. It is an expensive aesthetic of denial of both the envelope and use, and an apparent denial of possession when linked to the concept of voluntary poverty. It is not an aesthetic for the actual poor.   

Successive aesthetics use progressively less expensive means to indicate wealth and property, but status-laden materials and processes then work to make them less accessible.

Before the Industrial Revolution, the buildings of the upper classes took the style sanctioned by the church or state while buildings of the lower classes were the result of the expedient use of available materials, techniques and labour. With middle-class country estates in the later 19th century, architects such as Shaw, Webb, Lutyens, Voysey and Wright were to use vernacular materials combined with their respective Post-Classic aesthetics to indicate wealth and property, thus furnishing the new suburbs with motifs.


Modernism took functional industrial forms and structures and used them to indicate wealth and property. Post-Modernism took its visual techniques from roadside cafés and other structures not in the realm of ‘high’ architecture, and did the same. As soon as the Case Study houses made a cheaper aesthetic available through the use of ready-made ‘industrial’ materials, Internationalism used expensive materials and the restoration of a Classical relationship to property to distance itself again. High-tech did the same through refined materials and technology. Its applicability to spanning large spaces assumes a large space to span. Minimalism takes the very idea of looking and one’s walls and living with very little and makes it into an aesthetic of wealth and property. Loft living takes a former worker’s reality and makes it into an aesthetic of space, but being ‘fitted to the highest standard’ maintains status. The attraction of each new aesthetic is that it uses a progressively less expensive means of indicating wealth and property, or the aspiration to it. This makes them inherently vulnerable to marketing in less expensive and accessible forms. As an aesthetic cascades through society in this way, status and corresponding aspiration are artificially maintained in a carrot-on-a-stick fashion by increasingly mannerist use of expensive materials, finishes and processes.


20th century aesthetics are irrelevant to future housing and even current housing problems.

The alleged virtues of Modernism disappeared when it was applied to less bourgeois housing problems in general, and to less property in particular. Its legacy was structural rationality and lack of decorative ornament, and (due to property pressures) a view of activities taking place in spaces rather than rooms.


Post-Modernism largely treated social identification at the public level rather than the individual. The Taller Bofill “Let them eat cake!” approach refers beyond even the public aspirations of the individual. Aesthetics as a palliative. Post Modernism’s twin legacies were to alter certain pre-conceptions about what buildings could look like and to pave the way for a re-evaluation of the fundmental properties of materials (once the status/historical meanings had been stripped away). Its major socially applicable benefit was a re-evaluation of materials which sooner or later would have occurred anyway (due to decreasing availability or affordability).


Metabolism correctly identified buildings as organisms in the city, but was content with expressing it at the metaphorical level. Brutalism supposedly made ordinary materials into an aesthetic which allowed materials and construction to be appreciated for what they were. This made it inherently inapplicable when lesser standards of materials and labour were used. Minimalism took the status aspects of appearing to have more space and owning less but relied for its effect on expensive materials contrasted with expensive effects achieved via contrived construction processes and finishes. In effect, it was a metaphor for the elleged virtues of historical examples of simplicity. High-tech isolated functions and satisfied them using expensive materials and processes and became in effect, a metaphor for the economies that mass-produced industrial components could theoretically offer.

It is necessary to have a way of seeing beauty which, for once, does not derive from wealth and property.


Consider Le Corbusier’s inspiration for the machine aesthetic – the ocean liner and the the grain silo. Both have in common a certain technical and functional sophistication, but they also have in common a necessary relationship with large amounts of open space. Although the visual implications were revolutionary for architecture, the relationship between those built objects to the spacesurrounding them continued to link beauty with the ownership of property. There is nothing inherently wrong with technical analogies since housing is the result of a production process.


Whereas ocean liners and grain silos taught us about function and form, other inherent (and these days, more useful) factors such as construction process, sourcing and design optimisation were ignored. Unsurprisingly, aesthetics derived from the display of the wealth or property associated with private houses on private land, prove inapplicable to low-cost housing using public money on public land.


Those 20th century aesthetics which have been applied to mass housing have had their deficiencies highlighted. This is not a problem of aesthetics per-se. It is a problem of where they come from and the criteria by which beauty is defined. The marketability of an aesthetic is related to the desirability of its product, which has changed very little. This means that low-cost housing, being neither an indicator of wealth or property, can never benefit from aesthetics. Ever.


However, if successive aesthetics are evolving from criteria which are less and less expensive to achieve, it ought to be possible to shortcut this process and determine a way of seeing beauty by concentrating attention and techniques on other articulating the possession of wealth or property,and thereby arrive more quickly at a modern vernacular aesthetic towards which we are moving anyway. This would be an aesthetic applicable to everyone, not just the providers and occupants of low-cost housing. Warehouse conversions have indicated that people are willing to sacrifice light and location for space. It is only a matter of time before other qualities that have been essential considerations in private housing so far will also come to be devalued. Location, quantities, materials, processes and contents will always remain indicators of whatever level of status people can afford to display or aspire to.

An architectural aesthetics independent of wealth and property will mean traditional displays of status will for once be explicit, not mistaken for beauty, and the aspiration to them will be less attractive to those who can ill afford to.

• • •

This essay will conclude next week with Part II, Modern Vernacular.

street language.jpeg


Property, Time & Architecture

To commemmorate seven years of not fitting in, misfits would like to present some of the early thinking that led to its formation. This visual essay dates from around 1998. It was put together between occasional bouts of paid work, using Quark XPress 3.2 and a PowerMac G3 with 64MB of RAM.

The file was stored on iomega 100MB Zip “backup” disks which is why what you’ll see here is a scan of an A3 laser-print hard copy. It’s as-was, complete with original typos, proofreading failures, plus a numbering error I’ve only just noticed – there’s no 10.1.1. The font is Trebuchet which, for some reason, was popular at the time.



Misfits’ 2015 Midsummernights’ Quiz

Welcome to misfits’ 2015 Midsummernights’ Quiz! I know I know, there wasn’t one in 2014 but don’t worry – misfits haven’t gone all biennale on you. The quiz is only ever a compilation of oddities and curiosities that hadn’t yet found their way into a post. So go on – enjoy it for what it is!

Q1. First up, what’s this?


Q2. Who all-capped this on April 10?

all caps

Q3. One of the signs of a dysfunctional architecture is when buildings have active online lives but don’t know what to do outdoors. It’s increasingly common for a building to be more image that substance. Images however, are all image and no substance and this is why they have become the purest expressions of a dysfunctional architecture. Which of the following images is the odd one out?

Q4. We’re so used to looking back at images of buildings we’re becoming less and less curious about the intended user experience. Part of that experience was to appreciate a view of one’s expansive property or the views it affords. Here’s some views. Name the buildings.

Q5. Country and approximate date please.


Q6. What do you first think of when you see the following photographs?

Q7. What’s the significance of this next? 


Q8. What do you first think of when you see this image?

ALM_Museum (1)
  1. Total harmony with surroundings as strong verticals resonate with surrounding forest?
  2. Touches the ground lightly?
  3. Unapologetically industrial aesthetic?
  4. Looks a bit like the previous building?
  5. For such a simple building, it manages to look extremely pretentious?

Q9. Who lives here?


Q10. What do you notice about this washbasin? [Clue: washbasin]




Q1. It’s Arata Isozaki’s once-famous Marilyn Ruler derived from, one can all-too-easily imagine, a shot or shots from Playboy’s 1949 Marilyn Monroe “Red Velvet” photoshoots. In his early buildings, Isozaki claimed to use this ruler whenever he wanted a “sensuous” curve …… such as in the Kamioka Town Hall 1976-78. If you weren’t alive then, be glad – they were horrible times.

all caps

Q2. An easy one! The answer’s Patrick Schumacher on Facebook. The most important thing I’ve learned from this man is to stay away from the keyboard if I’ve had a drink. 


Q3. The correct answer is C. It has been built and is the Art Gallery of Alberta. When winter arrives I’ll no doubt agonise over the real-world function of architectural invention as we currently understand it but right now it’s summer so I’ll let it slide.


Regarding Fallingwater, has anyone ever seen a photograph of the eponymous falling water taken from the living room terrace? Do we care?


Not really. Ol’ Frankie wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last, architect to get a wealthy client to pay for their media content.


It would be an interesting exercise to design a house – in the style of Wright – for the spot Mr. Kaufmann originally envisioned his house would be.


F-R.van't Hoff, Villa Huis ter Heide, Netherlands 1915
F-R.van’t Hoff, Villa Huis ter Heide, Netherlands 1915

Q6. It’s not a Rorschach Test, but your answer may indicate you’ve had too much architecture this past year. For want of a correct answer, architectons is the correct answer.

The early career of Zaha Hadid and, for all we know, THE ENTIRE FUTURE OF 20TH CENTURY ARCHITECTURE might have taken a different turn had Kazimir Malevich used sand instead of plaster. The physical impermanence of sandcastles is something we learn at an early age as our parents tell us pick up our buckets and shovels and get a move on. These sandcastles use an inexpensive and impermanent medium to allow us to enjoy gratuitous form-making for the fun of it. This is vastly more responsible than using the medium of architecture. Take a bow, Calvin Seiberg.


Q7 It’s Le Corbusier’s Villa Harris. Designed in 1930 for a Swedish-American Marguerite Tjader Harris. (For some reason, she’s usually mentioned as the Swedish-American heiress Marguerite Tjader Harris.) It was never built. She divorced Overton Harris in 1933. Le Corbusier designed this house for her in 1930. When their long-term affair began is conjectural. According to kiss-and-tell Tjader Harris, he “was not a complicated man, not even an intellectual, in the narrow meaning of the word. He lived by his faith and emotions.”

ALM_Museum (1)

Q8 The correct answer is 5) It manages to look extremely pretentious for such a simple building. It does this by using few resources and simple techniques to do something that, if it needed doing at all, could have been done much more easily – by simply building on the adjacent ledge, for example. If this building is a lookout of some kind, one would have been looking out from just as high. The project is a zinc mine museum in Allmannajuvet, Norway.


Here’s another building from the same project. Take an unpretentious building and, rather than build it on the stone wall, hang it off the edge. Peter Zumthor’s genius is to give complex buildings a devious simplicity. We know we’re looking at “architecture” but we quite can’t pin down where the necessary wastage is.


Q9 Bill & Melinda Gates. The most unusual thing about this house is how little we know about it. It breaks the historic pattern of using architecture to flaunt wealth. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t used to flaunt other things. At the time of its construction, the media was flooded with articles describing its technical “innovations” that, curiously, have not come to pass.


Q10 The problem of overflowing has been ingeniously solved by making it impossible for the basin to ever fill! The English word ‘basin’ does not do it justice.


Too Clever for Words

There’s a book – The Humument – by artist Tom Philips. What Philips did was take a book, The Human Monument (W H Mallock, 1892) and artistically deface it to make a new story with a new plot and new characters. More or less. It doesn’t matter. Each page is a joy.

[no title: p. 56] 1970 by Tom Phillips born 1937

I’m going to give The Humument treatment to Michael Sorkin’s article Critical Measure: Why Criticism Matters from the June 2014 issue of The Architectural Review. Here’s the full article. Like A Human Monument, it suffers from being a bit long, a bit longwinded, skewed by the author’s preoccupations and prejudices and – most damningly – having no illustrations.  

To me, the point of the article seems to be to position Mr. Sorkin as conscience consultant to the architectural profession. It had to happen I guess as part of the ongoing outsourcing of architectural skills, but what’ll become of those who can’t afford this service? More to the point, what’ll become of us because of those who can’t afford this service?! Will we be condemned to suffer shapes that haven’t passed Sorkin’s critical digestion? Will we even notice?

Another comical theme is to reprimand Zaha Hadid Architects for not setting a better example regarding sustainability.


I’ve neither the humour nor Philips’ talent so what I’m going to do is just delete the bulk of the text and keep only what amuses me or otherwise suits my purposes.

DISCLAIMERS: For all you Post-Modernists out there, I must state that Mr. Sorkin did not embed any specific text for me to discover. He did though embed meanings but for the most part they eluded me and I’m not sure whose fault that was. But for all you Deconstructivists out there, I should mention that my generated text was never a subtext of any kind. It follows its own path at times contradictory and at times parallel. And finally, if there’s anyone who actually bought into the recent attempt to resuscitate AdHoc-ism, a dictionary does not say all there is to say. Are we good to go?

• • •


I began this exercise intending to ridicule excruciating paragraphs such as this next. Make of it what you will. It doesn’t seem a great way to argue for why criticism matters. Oh to be paid by the word!


In the course of writing this post, I read between and across the lines and paragraphs in more than one direction. I saw and tested many juxtapositions of words and meanings. Some I played for cheap laughs and some I twisted to my own agenda. Some paragraphs I inadvertently paraphrased. The original meanings did not go unnoticed. I agreed three times at least with Sorkin and this I did not expect.


Misfits’ Hit List

Yes, it’s that time of the year again for a quick roundup of who’s searching for what and see how it compares to misfits’ all-time hit list. We’ll never know if they found what they were looking for but there is data for where it got them. First of all, here’s the all- time list of popular search terms, unedited.

All Time

Search Views
ak 47 3,756
microprocessor 2,140
hannes meyer 941
sanaa 691
unite d’habitation 630
unite d’habitation plan 507
unitè d’habitation 491
villa savoye 419
ak-47 397
le corbusier unite d’habitation 393
unité d’habitation 314
tv tower 239
eileen gray 237
le corbusier unité d’habitation 214
le corbusier unitè d’habitation 205
unité d’habitation plan 199
unite d’habitation floor plan 197
jungfraujoch 172
antonio sant’elia 147
microprocessors 130
barajas airport 125
unite habitation 113
oil rig 112
villa savoye site plan 112
yakhchal 111
hannes meyer bauhaus 110
unite d’habitation plans 108
domino house 106
domino system 96
maison jaoul 93
irving gill 91
corbusier unite d’habitation 87
unité d’habitation le corbusier 79
villa savoye plan 76
portland building 76
auguste perret 75
le corbusier plan 75
tv towers 74
unité d’habitation berlin 74
steiner house 73
sanaa architecture 71
josefa moreu 71
unite d’habitation floor plans 71
unitè d’habitation le corbusier 70
dogma architecture 70
bauhaus 67
unite d’habitation le corbusier 67
prosopis cineraria 65
michael graves 63
al madina supermarket 61
misfitsarchitecture 61
madrid airport 60
michael graves portland building 58
le corbusier plans 58
misfits architecture 57
lincoln house mary otis stevens 57
big architects 57
superstudio 55
michael graves portland 55
melltorp 54
unite d habitation 54
le corbusier unite d’habitation plan 54
diagrid structure 51
halley iv 51
unitè d’habitation plan 50
unite le corbusier 50
sant’elia 50
wolkenbugel 50
unite d’habitation grundriss 49
unité d’habitation plans 48
mary otis stevens 48
weissenhofsiedlung 48
unite d’habitation section 47
diagrid 47
peter eisenman 46
maisons jaoul 45
tashkent tower 44
plan unité d’habitation 44
cctv structure 43
guangzhou opera house plans 42
chaparral 2j 42
villa savoye site 41
cctv building structure 40
guangzhou opera house 40
oil rigs 40
television tower 40
fair landscape 39
villa savoye orientation 39
le corbusier floor plans 39
beijing national stadium structure 38
unite d’habitation berlin 38
eileen gray architecture 38
space architecture 38
unite d’habitation marseille plan 37
brick country house 37
peter zumthor 2014 37
vernacular architecture 36
sanaa plan 36
pier luigi nervi 36
unite de habitation 35
eileen gray e1027 35
villa savoye dimensions 35
auguste perret rue franklin 35
microprocessor images 35
eileen gray house 34
valve to prevent water from gravity feeding 34
portland building michael graves 34
unité d’habitation 34
plan unité d’habitation le corbusier 34
villa savoye aerial view 34
madame savoye 34
ак 47 33
offshore rig 33
guild house venturi 32
unite d habitation plan 32
tashkent tv tower 32
diagrid detail 32
al noor mosque sharjah 32
corbusier unite d’habitation plan 32
cap martin 31
islamic architecture 31
paris opera house 30
corbusier unite 30
unité d’habitation marseille plan 30
niemeyer berlin 30
villa savoye plans 29
unite d’habitation marseille plans 29
lincoln house stevens 28
corbusier unité d’habitation 28
weissenhof 28
villa savoye location 28
unite corbusier 28
disguised mobile phone masts 28
basic design in architecture 27
paris opera house staircase 27
villa savoye inside 27
villa savoye floor plan 27
al noor mosque 27
villa savoye aerial 27
unité d’habitation le corbusier plan 26
twisted architecture 26
sanaa housing 26
robert venturi guild house 26
chicago school of architecture 26
ensco 104 26
unite habitation plan 25
villa savoye surroundings 25
le corbusier apartment 25
villa savoye construction 24
graves portland building 24
english for architects 24
madina supermarket 24
chicago school architecture 24
hannes meyer architecture 24
ikea melltorp 23
misfit architecture 23
shell structures 23
dogma architects 23
orientation villa savoye 23
hannes meyer architect 23
seagram building 23
peter eisenman house iii 23
mary otis stevens lincoln house 23
sanaa leaking architecture 23
le corbusier marseille plan 23
corbusier 23
le corbusier unite d habitation 23
bauhaus drawing 23
lc6 22
portland michael graves 22
unitè d’habitation berlino 22
mies van der rohe brick house 22
cctv facade 22
apple store new york 22
pepeta moreu 22
domino house le corbusier 22
carbon fiber table 22
unitè d’habitation de le corbusier 22
opera garnier plan 22
useful buildings 21
microprocessor architecture 21
le corbusier unite d’habitation floor plan 21
unite d’ habitation 21
big architecture 21
adolf loos 21
bauhaus hannes meyer 21
le corbusier floor plan 21
corbusier plan 21
beijing national stadium structural plan 21
beehive 21
parametric architecture 20
offshore oil rig 20
diagrid construction 20
materials architecture antarctica 20
falconcity of wonders 20
farnsworth house plan 20
different types of palm trees diagram 20
depero 20
zaha hadid architecture 20
maison jaoul le corbusier 20
al madina supermarket dubai 19
villa savoye bad 19
karama metro station 19
maisons jaoul le corbusier 19
unité d’habitation grundriss 19
prosopis cineraria tree 19
unite d’ habitation plan 19
unité d’habitation floor plan 19
villa savoye bathroom 19
mukesh ambani car parking 18
cctv diagrid 18
unité d’habitation marseille 18
portland building graves 18
le corbusier unite 18
unite d’habitation marseilles 18
beijing stadium structure 18
corbusier table 18
frederick kiesler 18
brick house mies van der rohe 18
muslim mosque 17
tower tv 17
guangzhou opera house plan 17
sydney opera house inside 17
corbusier unite plan 17
shading devices 17
unité le corbusier 17
villa savoye floor plan dimensions 17
perret rue franklin 17
sanaa diagram 17
sun shading devices 17
diagrid architecture 17
rokko housing 17
venus project 17
villa savoye structure 17
le corbusier apartment plan 17
shell structure 17
le corbusier habitation 17
riba pylon competition 17
patrik schumacher logo 16
farnsworth house details 16
all towers 16
a k 47 16
mukesh ambani house 16
hannes meyer petersschule 16
villa savoye www.fondationlecorbusier.fr 16
guangzhou opera house section 16
rigs 16
zaha hadid architects 16
auguste perret casa in rue franklin 16
unite d’habitation pläne 16
unite d habitation floor plan 16
plan sanaa 16
oil rig fire 16
mies van der rohe brick country house 15
peter eisenman architecture 15
the emperor’s new clothes 15
frank lloyd wright buildings 15
heating hannes meyer 15
diagrid cctv 15
brick country house mies van der rohe 15
big archi 15
weissenhof stuttgart 15
image of microprocessor 15
barmpton 15
images of microprocessor 15
unité d’habitation marseille grundriss 15
unité habitation 15
villa savoye problems 15
unité d’habitation berlin grundriss 14
hannes meyer school 14
sanaa almere 14
cctv building section 14
small fiberglass pools 14
pier luigi nervi buildings 14
sanaa house 14
cctv building diagram 14
paris opera house floor plan 14
picture of microprocessor 14
grundriss unite d’habitation 14
the villa savoye 14
george fred keck 14
steiner house adolf loos 14
mcnulty house lincoln ma 14
statue of liberty interior structure 14
chicago 1890 14
big architect 14
television towers 14
cctv section 14
al hamra palace spain 14
great towers 14
dymaxion house 14
casa de la rue franklin 14
what is the point of architecture 14
ak 47 type 2 14
fountain marcel duchamp 13
le corbusier unite plan 13
cumberland terrace 13
villa savoye construction details 13
meyer hannes 13
villa domino 13
thomas mcnulty architect 13
burj al arab 13
melltorp table 13
irving gill architecture 13
hannes meyer quotes 13
graves portland 13
le corbusier’s unite d’habitation 13
astana architecture 13
genpei akasegawa, shinbo minami, tetsuo matsuda, and joji hayashi 13
paris opera house section 13
habitation corbusier 13
eileen gray e1027 house 13
brise soleil marsiglia le corbusier 13
dodge house irving gill 13
rue franklin apartments 13
le corbusier berlin unite d’habitation 13
pylon design 13
villa e 1027 12
sanaa houses 12
interlocking apartment 12
sukhoi 12
su 37 12
irving gill dodge house 12
unite d’habitation plan 12
the microprocessor 12
paris opera house plan 12
le corbusier marseille plans 12
shell structure architecture 12
cctv building construction 12
ak47 12
sanaa architects 12
space station architecture 12
madrid barajas airport 12
unite dhabitation plan 12
venturi guild house 12
perret notre dame du raincy 12
adolf loos steiner house 12
bashar al shawa 12
wolkenbugel el lissitzky 12
tv tower tashkent 12
e1027 12
el lissitzky architecture 12
dubai opera house plan 12
dogma a simple heart 12
micro processor 12
sydney opera house interior 12
villa savoye concept 12
lincoln house stevens mcnulty 12
scott base antarctica 12
seagram building structure 11
corbusier firminy 11
törten dessau meyer 11
pyramid of peace 11
unite habitation le corbusier 11
unite d’habitation marseilles floor plan 11
unite d`habitation 11
azuma house 11
eilen gray 11
unité d’habitation corbusier 11
garnier opera house 11
architecture 11
e 1027 11
frank lloyd wright taliesin 11
fortunato depero 11
e-1027 house 11
site plan of villa savoye 11
cctv foundation 11
honey bee 11
perret casa in rue franklin 11
adalberto libera 11
though the great expanses of glass that he favors may occasionally turn his rooms into hothouses, his flat roofs may leak and his plans may be wasteful of space, it was architect le corbusier who in 1923 put the entire philosophy of modern architecture into a single sentence: “a house is a machine to live in 11
le corbusier maison jaoul 11
islamic mosque 11
beatriz colomina, eileen gray and le corbusier 11
nervi 11
zig zag brick alvar aalto 11
paris opera house horizontal plan 11
futurist architecture italy 11
guild house robert venturi 11
umayyad mosque 11
savoye 11
shit shapes 11
villa savoye plans with dimensions 11
stevens mcnulty house 11
okurayama apartments sanaa 11
le corbusier apartments 11
michael graves buildings 11
flying saucer 11
system domino 11
farnsworth house blueprints 11
friedrich kiesler 11
wolkenbugel by el lissitzky 1925 11
dom-ino le corbusier 11
domino le corbusier 10
keck crystal house 10
plans of unite d’habitation 10
symbiosis gray-badovici 10
le corbusier domino 10
karlsplatz 10
irving gill images 10
norman foster sketches 10
otto wagner karlsplatz 10
roquebrune cap martin 10
unité d’habitation of berlin 10
charles garnier 10
small fiberglass swimming pools 10
cctv oma 10
astana pyramid 10
casa franklin perret 10
unité d’habitation floorplan 10
le corbusier unité d’habitation plan 10
irving gill architect 10
concrete diagrid structure 10
guild house 10
qatar national convention centre in doha by arata isozaki sezione 10
le corbusier jaoul 10
chaparral 10
al karama metro station 10
bathroom skylight 10
микропроцессор 10
venturi antarctica 10
mary otis stevens and thomas mcnulty 10
fair store chicago 10
hannes mayer 10
almere sanaa 10
richard rogers barajas 10
the venus project 10
frederick kiesler + nesting table 10
antonio sant’elia 10
brick country house mies 10
arm microprocessor 10
http://www.dezeen.com/2009/03/30/high-voltage-transmisison-line-towers-by-arphenotype/ 10
most expensive faberge egg pictures 10
eileen gray e 1027 10
chicago steel frame 10
oil rig on fire 10
double sided elevator 10
diagrid structure details 10
petrol station coverages 10
unite de habitation plan 10
offshore rigs 10
mosque 10
kiesler endless house 10
chaparral car 10
microprocessor arm996hs 10
jungfraujoch observatory 10
orientation architecture 10
sharjah mosque 10
villa savoye basement 10
francois hennebique 10
japanese house plans 10
bauhaus fest 1925 10
e 1027 house eileen gray 10
le corbusier villa savoye 10
famous floor plans corridor 10
shukhov tower 3d model 10
richard+rogers+madrid 10
unite d habitation plans 10
unite d’habitation plans sections 10
unite d habitation grundriss 10
villa savoye materials 9
plan of unite d’habitation 9
hannes meyer en la bauhaus 9
unite d’habitation plan dimensions 9
hennebique frame 9
cassina lc6 9
perspective section 9
structural engineering art 9
ак-47 9
guggenheim museum 9
villa savoye floor plans 9
بيت ستينر 9
whats the point of architecture 9
santelia 9
fan car 9
villa savoye brick 9
le corbusier unité d’habitation marseille 9
unité d’habitation plan 9
barajas airport madrid 9
unité d’habitation marseilles plan 9
richard rogers madrid airport 9
michael graves architecture 9
le corbusier unitè 9
le corbusiers unité d’habitation plans 9
al hambra 9
pylon competition 9
offshore oil platform 9
deepwater horizon 9
plan villa savoye 9
ancient muslim architecture 9
corbusier habitation 9
richard rogers madrid 9
new objectivity architechture 9
opéra garnier plan 9
villa savoye ground floor dimensions 9
shit shapes 9
cutaway reinforced concrete for column 9
exposition crystal house by george keck 1934 9
Unknown search terms 26,683
AK-47 remains the top all time and yearly search term.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know. I didn’t, until just then.
The AK-47 was mentioned in an early post as an example of something that may not look that great as the M-16 or similar devices might, but it works. The magazine of the AK-47 is not curved because it looks good. I hope the people who searched AK-47 apply this thinking to the built environment where it can hopefully be put to better use.
The top ten architects searched were as follows. Again, I’ve linked back to the relevant posts.
  • I expect that Hannes Meyer, Mary Otis Stevens/Thomas McNulty, Irving Gill and Superstudio feature on this list because there isn’t much information newly available on the internet about them. You’re welcome. 
  • And I imagine that some people come to this blog after searching SANAA, Sant’Elia, Bauhaus and BIG because, with the number of students probably searching those terms, chances are they will.

The Top Ten searched buildings were …

unite ‘habitation plan 3920
villa savoye 1114
CCTV diagrid structure 366
E1027 eileen gray 310
Michael Graves Portland building 300
lincoln house mary otis stevens thomas mcnulty 215
jungfraujoch 172
unite d’habitation berlin 171
irving gill dodge house 149
yakhchal 107
Unité d’Habitation remains the clear winner. This probably reflects the number of architecture students in the world and how little the education of architects has progressed in the past 50 years. Kids, make sure you see how understand how crap the lower apartment is, OK?
Homework: Use the floor layout above, to calculate how many apartments can actually have the plan commonly presented as (and thus thought to be) typical.
Here’s a studio apartment. From the same floor layout plan above, estimate the minimum number of them.
Unité Marseilles 18th floor studio 2Unité Marseilles 18th floor studio

With all its search input variations, the Unité d’Habitations was remains the clear winner and, of those searches, the majority were for the section and/or the plan. At last – somebody’s drawn an new section! Here you go!


Villa Savoye info for student purposes is far more abundant elsewhere but, it’s It’s nice to see Eileen Gray’s E1027 and Irving Gill’s Dodge House make the list.

Eileen Gray E1027

Letting people know about these wonderful yet unpretentious houses is one of the main reasons this blog exists.
Irving Gill Dodge House

And for the Sphinx Observatory at Jungfraujoch as well – a personal favourite.


As is the Lincoln House – my adolescent shapeist infatuation. I’m well over it now of course, but the memory of that first crush remains. I’ll always think of this building fondly.

lincoln house aerial

The Stevens/McNnulty Lincoln House makes the list because there is very little about it on the internet. I speculate on why that is, here.
lincoln house front
The only vernacular building making the list was yachchal. There is also very little new information about these. Views of this post spike occasionally.
So, with all this searching, what did people find? As I mentioned, once people clicked on a page, it’s impossible to know if they read or learned anything or if they downloaded or copied anything. But, for what it’s worth, here’s where they went –

The All-Time Top Ten Misfits Posts

All Time

Title   Views
Home page / Archives   32,886
The Things Architects Do   12,010
The Microprocessor is Not Trying to Look Beautiful   8,900
The Things Architects Believe #1   5,223
The Things Architects Do #3: SANAA   4,374
The DARKER Side of Villa Savoye   3,036
Architecture Misfit #1: Hannes Meyer   2,463
The Things Architects Do #2: Ornament   2,248
The Television Tower is Not Trying to Look Beautiful   1,936
The New Architecture of Austerity   1,916
Architecture Misfit #3: Eileen Gray   1,542
The Dark Side of the Villa Savoye   1,344
Inspirations for Performance-Beauty Architecture   1,220

There’s actually thirteen there. The first doesn’t count since it’s the home page at any given time.

The Things Architects Do reflects the number of people searching for information on Le Corbusier, the Villa Savoye and the unités d’habitations.


The Microprocessor is Not Trying to Look Beautiful probably reflects the number of insurgents, freedom fighters, rebel forces and other interested parties looking for information on AK-47 assault rifles, not to mention government internet monitoring organisations wanting to find out information on people who want that information. I’d just like to mention that misfits’ architecture is only interested in the AK-47 as the inspiration for a new type of building aesthetic that is the result of designing something that works.


The Things Architects Believe #1 is a catch-all post that includes information on Le Corbusier and concrete (he didn’t really invent it), Auguste Perret (who didn’t either) and other facts it’s useful to remember.



The Things Architects Do #3: SANAA is probably a reflection of who’s hot right now, and who’s a student favourite or figure to aspire to. I’m no great fan of SANAA but am pleased to offer an alternative opinion from the general fawning puff pieces one reads these days.


The DARKER Side of Villa Savoye dares to suggest that Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye is something less than a shrine to all that is good in the world of architecture. Can you think of a movie star who was never really a good actor – or even popular – but, long after they stopped making movies, became famous for being famous? The Villa Savoye is a bit like that. Who would the Villa Savoye be? Email me suggestions.

the Villa Savoye being constructed

the Villa Savoye being constructed

Architecture Misfit #1: Hannes Meyer It is the misfits’ belief that if the principles Hannes Meyer was proposing back in the 1930 had been followed up and improved upon in the time since, we would have much better buildings today. Additionally, that humanity would do well to get back to that fork in the road and follow the other path.

Hannes Meyer, Access Balcony Housing, 1929

Hannes Meyer, Access Balcony Housing, 1929

The Things Architects Do #2: Ornament was a quick history of people using decoration and ornament to fool themselves into thinking that buildings are more than they are.


The Television Tower is Not Trying to Look Beautiful was just me using the example of another highly functional object to illustrate that ornament is not really necessary. This post is surprisingly popular. I don’t know why it should be more popular than any other post in the XXX is Not Trying to Look Beautiful series. Remember, the tree is not trying to look beautiful.  


The New Architecture of Austerity highlighted a few trends in what’s considered to be architecture these days. Most of these trends resulted from trying to make architecture using less effort or resources. It would be good if those efforts weren’t misdirected to the making of pretentious architecture of little or no use.

other stuff

Architecture Misfit #3: Eileen Gray is our only heroine so far. E1027 embodies much of what architecture is trying to be now. If anyone says that Modernism (as a philosophy, not a style) had no heart or soul, then they do not know of E1027. The world is about to rediscover Eileen Gray. Blame Le Corbusier for her being sidelined in the first place. Oh, and read the post.

Eileen Gray E1027

The Dark Side of the Villa Savoye is probably the first piece of Villa Savoye bashing that many people encounter. No building is perfect but it is a call for keeping it real, and admitting that VS had a few problems, some of which were construction related, some design-related, and some were just the prejudices of the times.



Inspirations for Performance-Beauty Architecture could just be more people searching for info on AK-47s but we like to think not. This post sets out the inspirations for an architecture where performance beauty replaces visual beauty as the only type of endeavour of relevance for architecture.

Sukhoi SU-37

This post was an early one and remains an ongoing theme of this blog. The flow of posts may drift from this theme occasionally, but will always return to it.