Sunday, May 19, 2024

Cracking the Housing Affordability Nut


It is no secret that the absence of affordable housing is a crisis here in Lane County. According to Better Housing Together, the Eugene area is among the most-constrained housing markets in the nation, second only to Seattle. Eugene also holds the dishonorable distinction of possessing the highest per capita rate of homelessness found anywhere. I’m no housing affordability expert, but I am deeply concerned about how inaccessible the local housing market has become in recent years. As baby boomers, my wife and I enjoy the good fortune of having purchased our home when costs were reasonable (back in the 1980s). That’s hardly the case today.

Cracking the housing affordability nut has proven to be an enormously vexing problem. There are several reasons for this. For one, Euclidean land-use regulations historically downzoned urban areas, effectively banning multifamily housing while promoting suburban sprawl. On another front, North American building codes effectively (if unintentionally) erected barriers to the creation of affordable housing typologies, typically mandating multiple egress routes for large multifamily buildings. Also contributing to the dilemma has been the intransigence of many to change of any kind, especially when such change holds the potential to impact their neighborhoods.

Point-Access Blocks
Re-legalizing single-stair apartment buildings, or "point-access blocks," offers one promising solution. This typology, once common in the U.S. and still prevalent in Europe, could, when paired with zoning reform, enable the cost-effective construction of attractive, light-filled multifamily housing on urban sites currently zoned for single-family homes. Michael Eliason, founder and principal of Larch Lab in Seattle, is perhaps the most ardent evangelist for single-stair apartments, tirelessly working with policymakers, advocacy groups, and jurisdictions to introduce and pass legislation allowing point access blocks. The type is a compelling alternative to the “5-over-1” model so prevalent for multifamily developments in the U.S. today.(1)   

Double-loaded corridor configuration, showing poor unit mix and multiple stairs (source: Larch Lab

5-over-1 apartment buildings are typically constructed using light wood framing up to five stories built over a single-story fireproof podium, and feature double-loaded corridors with stairs at each end. The downside is that the type too often results in long, windowless corridors slicing through deep floor plates, with non-corner units having windows on only one side, opposite the entry door, thus favoring studio and one-bedroom layouts.

Connected point access block, showing unit diversity and typical vertical circulation (source: Larch Lab)

In contrast, point-access blocks have shallower floor plates, allowing "floor-through" light on at least two sides of each unit and often featuring shared central courtyards. This not only enhances natural light and airflow but also provides acoustic privacy akin to that of detached single-family homes. Additionally, point-access blocks facilitate community building, as smaller complexes with units arranged around a single stair are more conducive to neighborly interactions.

Single-stair buildings also enable economically feasible multifamily development on small infill lots, whereas the space taken up by two interior stairwells and a corridor render the typical 5-over-1 multifamily buildings infeasible unless the developer aggregates multiple properties. Point-access blocks are inherently more efficient and cost-effective, and hold the potential to comprise a substantial portion of the desired future “missing middle” housing stock.

Seattle revised its building code a few years ago to legalize the point-access block type. The Oregon legislature has followed suit, passing SB 847-4 and subsequently HB 3395 Section 8, which Gov. Tina Kotek signed into law last June. The legislation directs the Building Codes Division to revise the state's building code to allow single-exit apartment buildings by October 1, 2025. The proposed standards include prescribing no more than six stories and four units per floor, limiting distances to the exit stair from any apartment, and requiring application of NFPA 13 sprinkler standards (rather than NFPA 13R). The legislative initiatives apparently passed with overwhelming support, paving the way for new building regulations that may help address the housing affordability crisis while simultaneously promoting compact, sustainable growth.

Lessons from Japan?
Japan possesses an abundance of relatively affordable housing in compact, low-carbon neighborhoods. When conducting research for this blog post, I found this surprising. Apparently, a reason for Japan's success lies in its unusual degree of national control over zoning and building rules, which overrides local housing obstructionism. While this level of centralization would never gain traction here due to the deep-rooted American preference for local regulation, there still may be valuable lessons to be learned from Japan’s experience.

American cities could adapt some Japanese principles without requiring a complete shift to centralized governance of property development. These principles include encouraging rapid housing turnover, promoting compact and efficient land use, and maintaining a regulatory environment that supports diverse housing types.

Firstly, Japan’s regulatory environment welcomes a variety of housing types and sizes. American cities could emulate this flexibility by revising building codes to accommodate different housing typologies, including point-access block designs. As I mentioned above, this is now occurring here in Oregon.

Tokyo (photo by Morio, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Secondly, a significant contributor is Japan’s “disposable house” culture, wherein small homes depreciate completely in about 30 years and are replaced soon thereafter. This rapid turnover, driven by rigorous and frequently updated earthquake-safety laws and a cultural preference for newness, allows Japan to continually replace small homes with larger buildings. American cities could adopt a similar approach by incentivizing the redevelopment of aging housing stock, thus creating opportunities to increase density and improve housing quality, through the implementation of tax incentives, streamlined permitting processes, and subsidies for redevelopment projects.

The notion of a “disposable house” culture does prompt important questions about sustainability. This ingrained practice seems at odds with the ethos of sustainability, which typically emphasizes durability and the conservation of resources. Critics argue that frequent demolition and reconstruction generate significant waste and consume substantial resources; however, this rapid turnover also offers opportunities to incorporate the latest advancements in energy efficiency, materials, and building technologies. Each new construction can integrate greener technologies and higher standards of energy performance, potentially resulting in a housing stock that, on average, is more sustainable than older buildings retrofitted over time. Moreover, continuous redevelopment supports compact urban growth, reducing urban sprawl and its associated environmental impacts.

The “disposable house” model also raises concerns about the potential loss of historic continuity and neighborhood character. Americans cherish the few historic buildings and neighborhoods that exist for their architectural heritage and the sense of identity they provide. The constant replacement of homes, as seen in Japan, could erode this cultural and historical fabric. To strike a balance, American cities should continue to preserve historically and architecturally significant structures while encouraging redevelopment in areas that lack such value. Preservation incentives, such as tax credits for rehabilitating historic buildings, can encourage property owners to maintain and improve these structures.

The NIMBY Challenge
The American mindset is fundamentally predisposed to individualism, localism, property rights, skepticism of government, and a fear of change. Eugene is most decidedly not Tokyo. Local resistance to land use changes—such as the introduction of middle housing types like point-access block housing—is a persistent obstacle, particularly from well-organized neighborhood groups. That resistance has proven effective in impeding even the most suitable new developments, especially in R-1 zoned neighborhoods. The opposition to change often stems from a desire to preserve the perceived tranquility and exclusivity of single-family neighborhoods, coupled with concerns about increased traffic, parking shortages, and strain on local infrastructure.

The recent passage of progressive legislation mandating the introduction of new housing types and compact development will shift the dynamic and potentially help alleviate Eugene’s housing affordability crisis. This shift will take time and the change will be incremental.

Local governments will need to allay the fears of established property owners. Would creating “opt-in” zoning overlays that allow neighborhoods to choose increased density and mixed-use development be a possibility? I don’t know. Such an approach would respect local control while providing a pathway for those willing to embrace change. I believe framing the conversation around the broader community benefits of housing reform will be a key. Addressing the housing crisis requires a multifaceted approach that includes education, community engagement, and strategic policy changes. Advocates can highlight how increased housing supply can stabilize or reduce housing costs, prevent displacement, and create more inclusive, vibrant communities.

*    *    *    *    *    *
Transforming American housing policy is by necessity a multifaceted challenge. The mandate to revise the building code is one step. The U.S. may not embrace centralized control over land use to as great an extent as in Japan, but local governments can still implement significant reforms to encourage housing turnover, promote compact land use, and support diverse housing types. I’m hoping the reforms will result in the accelerating development of affordable, attractive, and sustainable housing here in Eugene, drawing on successful models from Europe and Japan, while working within our unique cultural and regulatory landscape.


(1)   I wrote a contrarian’s blog post back in 2019 extolling what I regarded as the virtues of 5-over-1 construction. Both ArchDaily and Common Edge subsequently picked up the piece. Michael Eliason responded on Twitter (now X), not so much to take exception with what I had written, but rather to note that 5-over-1 developments and the point-block morphology should not be mutually exclusive.   

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Eugene/Architecture/Alphabet: S

 
The Shedd (photos by Brian Davies unless noted otherwise).

This is the next in my Eugene/Architecture/Alphabet series of blog posts, the focus of each being a landmark building here in Eugene. Many of these will be familiar to most who live here but there are likely to be a few buildings that are less so. My selection criteria for each will be threefold:
  1. The building must be of architectural interest, local importance, or historically significant.
  2. The building must be extant so you or I can visit it in person.
  3. Each building’s name will begin with a particular letter of the alphabet, and I must select one (and only one) for each of the twenty-six letters. This is easier said than done for some letters, whereas for other characters there is a surfeit of worthy candidates (so I’ll be discriminating and explain my choice in those instances).
This entry’s selection begins with the letter S, for which my choice is The Shedd. I could have picked the Schaefers Building, or the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House, or the Smeede Hotel, and perhaps I should have selected one of these, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nevertheless, I chose The Shedd, primarily because of my firm’s (Robertson/Sherwood/ Architects) history with and ongoing work for the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts. The current efforts, led by RSA principal Scott Stolarczyk, AIA, CDT, LEED AP BD+C, will further enhance the facility’s ability to support the Institute’s culturally diverse performance and educational programs.
 
Original construction drawing by F. Manson White, Architect (1926).

The Shedd
What is now The Shedd has been a downtown landmark since its initial construction in 1926 for the First Baptist Church of Eugene. Designed by Portland architect F. Manson White in a Georgian Revival (a.k.a. Neo-Georgian) style, the 1926 building is notable for its brick and cast stone detailing, the grand scale of its pedimented portico facing Broadway, its simple massing, and its large sanctuary. The 1960 addition, designed by the firm of Hayslip, Tuft, Hewlett & Jamison (also of Portland) in the manner of the International Style, features similarly plain massing but a different inventory of spaces (classrooms, recital hall, etc.).
 
In 2000, The Shedd LLC, led by Jim and Ginevra Ralph, sought a suitable venue for the Oregon Festival of American Music (OFAM). The First Baptist Church property emerged as a promising candidate when the church decided to sell to facilitate its own growth elsewhere. The potential inherent in the church’s sanctuary as a performance hall, and the historic significance of the site, combined with its central location, made it an attractive option for The Shedd's vision. The Ralph’s decision to purchase and adaptively reuse the church was a civic-minded act, one that has contributed to the vitality of downtown as Eugene’s center of the performing arts community, while abetting the City of Eugene’s goal of compact urban growth.
 
RSA prepared a facility assessment prior to the purchase of the property, Though the two buildings presented myriad challenges—such as barriers to accessibility, the presence of asbestos, the absence of energy-efficient MEP systems, seismic risks, and the need to optimally separate acoustically sensitive functions—our report highlighted the church’s potential for adaptive reuse.
 
Upon officially moving into the former church in July 2002, Jim and Ginevra initiated a series of renovations designed by Scott to enhance the facility's offerings. The Jaqua Concert Hall, with its seating capacity of approximately 700, became a focal point for performances, known for its acoustics and historic ambiance. In addition to the concert hall, further renovations resulted in the Sheffer Recital Hall (an intimate 175-seat venue) and the Laraway Wing (featuring improved classrooms). Recent renovations have further solidified the institute's reputation as a center for music in Eugene.
 
Jaqua Concert Hall.

Warren Court

The architectural contrast between the church's Georgian Revival style and the modernist design of the 1960 addition posed a unique challenge. Whereas the original building emphasizes the solidity of its masonry forms with punched windows and traditional detailing, the 1960 building subverts this approach by expressing its brick walls as independent planes and including large areas of curtainwall glass. The original orange color of the brick on the addition contrasted with the older building’s red brick. In many ways, the 1960 building tried to appear very much like a neighbor rather than an addition to the church.
 
The original appearance of the 1960 Addition's Broadway facade (photo by me).

The two formed an incongruous pair. White designed the older structure in a style that revives an earlier fashion imported from 18th century England, which in turn was a revival of Classical Greek and Roman architecture. Hayslip, Tuft, Hewlett & Jamison designed the newer building during a period when the favored mode was to reject history, there being some irony now because the mid-20th century modernist vocabulary is itself a historic style. The probability of an awkward and unsympathetic melding of architectural philosophies was great; many unfortunate examples exist all over the country.
 
What saved First Baptist Church from architectural ignominy was the architects’ decision to organize the complex about a courtyard. The courtyard is an architectural device that at once separates the buildings and unifies the complex, albeit a device that was necessitated by building code considerations. Stylistically, the buildings were free to be aesthetically distinct, creating a dialogue between past and present.
 
Fast forward to today. The Broadway façade of the Laraway Wing now features a classically detailed cornice, complete with dentils, a frieze, and an architrave of similar proportions to that of the 1926 building. Additionally, the brick is stained to match more closely that of its older counterpart. Some may criticize the decision to blur the lines between old and new(er), citing a loss of architectural integrity. On the other hand, any loss of authenticity is offset by the more cohesive aesthetic, in my opinion a worthwhile tradeoff.  
 
Jaqua Concert Hall balcony.

The continuing evolution of The Shedd Institute includes a new north addition, now under construction. The addition and associated renovation will provide a new “Nils Clubhouse” meeting space, as well as expanded ticketing facilities. The improvements will enhance the visitor experience and further integrate the institute more deeply into the fabric of downtown Eugene.
 
The Shedd stands as a testament to the delicate balance between preservation and progress. Its transformation from a religious landmark to a cultural institution reflects a commitment to honoring heritage while meeting the evolving needs of the community. Robertson/Sherwood/Architects is a proud partner of the John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts and honored to have contributed toward its success.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Site Tour: The Ponds on Alexander

 
Inside the Clubhouse entrance at The Ponds (all photos by me)

AIA Eugene and the Willamette Valley Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute jointly hosted a construction site tour of The Ponds on Alexander this past Thursday. I found the tour informative, as it shed light on both the unique attributes and the inherent challenges of this project. Despite facing rigid constraints, the design team of 2fORMArchitecture and The Satre Group managed to create a development that balances functionality with aesthetic appeal. Umbrella Properties is the owner/developer, and Essex General Construction is the contractor.
 
The Ponds on Alexander is a significant complex, comprising 195,000 square feet of floor area spread across four 3 & 4-story apartment buildings and a 2-story community building. In total, the complex offers 186 units on a 5.38-acre site that borders the picturesque Delta Ponds wetlands area. The unit mix includes 34 studios, 102 one-bedroom units, 49 two-bedroom units, and one three-bedroom unit. Construction is nearing completion, with the first residents expected to move in by late summer.
 
The Ponds on Alexander (rendering by 2fORM Architecture)

Richard Shugar, AIA, LEED AP, principal at 2fORM Architecture, spoke about the challenges of working within a pre-approved planned unit development (PUD) plan, which Umbrella Properties inherited from a previous developer. While the plan provided a framework, it also imposed strict limitations on the design and configuration of the project.
 
One key obstacle was the rigidity of the PUD site plan, which dictated the overall layout and building configuration, leaving little room for significant changes. Richard noted that if the team had more freedom, they would have reimagined the design to better leverage the site's proximity to the Delta Ponds. The existing plan didn't fully embrace the scenic views and natural setting, and its high parking-to-unit ratio seemed excessive given anticipated demand. Despite these hurdles, the design team incorporated elements from the natural surroundings, emphasizing views from certain units and using landscaping to harmonize with the environment.
 
Clubhouse exterior view.

Clubhouse interior.

Even within these constraints, 2fORM crafted a welcoming and well-appointed complex characterized by the firm’s trademark use of clean lines, attention to detail, and high-quality materials. Although the building orientation and layout were predefined, the complex still accommodates a range of community spaces and amenities. These include a fitness center, pool, spa/hot tub, BBQ/picnic area, clubhouse, and on-site management. The apartment units come equipped with all the modern conveniences and features you would expect at their price points.
 
Interior of the 3-bedroom unit.

Rental rates for The Ponds on Alexander range from $1,395 per month for a studio to $2,900 for a three-bedroom unit. These prices seem reasonable, given the level of amenities and the complex's location. Although the constraints imposed by the PUD plan limited certain design choices, the development is positioned to attract a diverse group of residents seeking quality housing.
 
Overall, the tour highlighted the project's success in overcoming the challenges of a rigid PUD plan. The Ponds on Alexander represents a careful balance between constraints and creativity, offering a range of amenities and a setting that integrates well with its natural surroundings. I look forward to seeing how this development contributes to the evolving landscape of Eugene's multifamily housing market.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Implicate Order

 
The interior of the main dome of the Selimiye Mosque in Edirne, Turkey (photo by Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)
 
Architecture is a field where the physical and the metaphysical converge, providing opportunities for profound exploration into concepts of beauty, order, and meaning. Among the metaphysical concepts that can influence architectural thought, the notion of implicate order stands out. Implicate order is a framework for the understanding of the nature of reality, and for this reason is applicable to the making of architecture. I find it compelling because it presents us with a means to conceptualize the design of a building as the expression of a universal and fundamental order.
 
Theoretical physicist David Bohm (1917-1992) first proposed a theory of implicate and explicate order during the early 1980s. Bohm posited that what we see and can tangibly experience in the visible world is a manifestation of a deeper, indivisible whole. According to Bohm, this unseen construct governs the surface reality accessible to human experience. He reasoned that implicate order represents the underlying structure from which all observable forms emerge. In other words, what appears separate and distinct is actually interconnected and part of a unified whole.
 
Given these ideas, it is no surprise some architects have embraced Bohm’s concepts, particularly those aiming to design spaces that reflect an underlying fundamental harmony.
 
Christopher Alexander's seminal work, A Pattern Language, while predating Bohm’s articulation of implicate order, provides a practical application of this concept in architecture. He and his colleagues identified recurring patterns that shape both the aesthetic and functional aspects of design, suggesting that these patterns represent a form of implicate order. By recognizing and applying these patterns, architects can create spaces that feel inherently "right" to human perception, resonating with a universal sense of beauty and coherence. Notably, Alexander met with David Bohm, having recognized the parallels between his and Bohm’s respective pursuits.
 
Nikos Salingaros, a follower of Alexander (and someone I’ve corresponded with in the past), extended the concept of implicate order in architecture by emphasizing fractals, scale, and connectivity. Salingaros believes architectural design should reflect the fractal nature of the universe, creating lucid structures that resonate with the human experience. Architects influenced by this approach often design with a sense of harmony and integration, recognizing that buildings, spaces, and their components are part of a broader interconnected system. This design philosophy often leads to recurring patterns, symmetries, and elements that flow seamlessly into each other, creating a sense of continuity and coherence.
 
Beyond implicate order, other metaphysical concepts can add layers of meaning to architectural design. Teleology, for example, implies purposeful design, suggesting that spaces can embody a specific intention or narrative. Architects embracing teleology aim to create designs that feel coherent and meaningful, as if they are part of a larger story. Holism, another related concept, emphasizes viewing systems as integrated wholes. In architecture, this translates to considering buildings as part of a broader context, ensuring they work harmoniously with their environment.
 
Cosmology, with its focus on the origin and structure of the universe, can inspire architectural design. By incorporating geometric patterns and forms that reflect cosmic structures, architects can create spaces that evoke wonder and transcendence. This connection to the vastness and complexity of the cosmos can lead to designs that encourage contemplation and a sense of the infinite.
 
Ontology, the study of being and existence, raises questions about the fundamental essence of buildings and spaces. Architects influenced by ontological concepts explore the deeper meaning and identity of their projects, seeking to create spaces that resonate with authenticity and purpose. This approach can lead to designs that reflect the unique essence of a place or community, contributing to a sense of cultural continuity and belonging.
 
Applying these concepts to architectural design requires care to avoid superficiality. If architects focus solely on surface-level symbolism or aesthetics without understanding the deeper meanings, designs may lack substance or practicality. To dodge this, architects should thoroughly understand all theories and fields of study they draw inspiration from, consider the broader cultural and environmental context, and balance aesthetics with functionality. This balanced approach ensures that such ideas enrich architectural design without compromising practical considerations.
 
Incorporating metaphysical concepts into architecture can imbue it with significant depth and substance. By exploring deeper patterns, underlying purposes, holistic connections, cosmic influences, and fundamental essences, architects can design spaces that resonate with a profound sense of meaning and interconnectedness. By striking a balance between these metaphysical ideas and practical considerations, architects can create buildings that are both aesthetically pleasing and intrinsically meaningful.
 
Drawing associations between David Bohm’s ontological concepts for quantum theory and the design of buildings, spaces, and their components might be a stretch for some, but I find significant value in doing so. Acknowledging the primacy of structure and process in the conceptualization of architecture is an essential step in understanding that acts of design are not isolated but instead aspects of a vastly broader, interconnected system. Designs that embrace implicate order reinforce the idea that our built environments are parts of a larger whole.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Architecture is Awesome: #36 Architectural Oddities

Casa Batlló  (photo by ChristianSchd, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

This is another in my series of posts inspired by 1000 Awesome Things, the Webby Award-winning blog written by Neil Pasricha. The series is my meditation on the awesome reasons why I was and continue to be attracted to the art of architecture.

Architectural oddities are unique structures that defy conventional design norms, blending artistic expression, cultural commentary, and experimental innovation. The motivation behind these oddities can range from exploring new architectural concepts to evoking humor or challenging societal expectations. By pushing boundaries and encouraging dialogue, architectural oddities celebrate individuality and playfulness, offering a dynamic and unconventional perspective on the built environment.

There are many outstanding and well-known examples of architectural oddities around the world. Here are just a few that have captured global attention:

The Crooked House (photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

The Crooked House (Sopot, Poland)
Also known as Krzywy Domek, this whimsical building has a warped and crooked facade that gives it a fairytale-like appearance. It is part of a shopping center and is a popular tourist attraction. 

The Basket Building (photo by Derek Jensen Tysto, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Basket Building (Newark, OH)
Shaped like a giant picnic basket, the former Longaberger Company headquarters in Ohio is a unique architectural oddity. The building (designed by NBBJ) served as the corporate office for the now defunct company, which specialized in handcrafted maple wood baskets.

Hundertwasserhaus (photo by C.Stadler/Bwag, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Hundertwasserhaus (Vienna, Austria)
Designed by artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and architect Josef Krawina, this apartment building is a colorful and irregular structure with uneven floors and a rooftop covered in vegetation. It stands out as a testament to non-conformist and eco-friendly design.

Casa Batlló  (photo by Chongming76, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Casa Batlló (Barcelona, Spain)
Designed by Antoni Gaudí, Casa Batlló is a masterpiece of Modernisme architecture. Its surreal and organic design features a facade with undulating lines, colorful mosaic tiles, and fantastical shapes.

The Dancing House (photo by Danny Alexander Lettkemann, Architekt, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Dancing House (Prague, Czech Republic)
Also known as "Fred and Ginger," this modern building by architects Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić is characterized by its unconventional and dynamic design, resembling a pair of dancers.

Kansas City Public Library Parking Garage (photo by Dean Hochman from Overland Park, Kansas, U.S., CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Kansas City Public Library Parking Garage (Kansas City, MO)
This parking garage is designed to resemble a giant bookshelf, with each of the 22 "books" (measuring 25 feet tall by nine feet wide) representing a classic work of literature.

The Elephant Building (photo by Pier Alessio Rizzardi, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Elephant Building (Bangkok, Thailand)
This building, officially named Chang Building, takes the form of an elephant, a symbol of strength and stability in Thai culture. Designed by architect Ong-ard Satrabhandhu, it's an example of how architecture can incorporate cultural symbolism.

The Hole House (photo from the Designing Buildings Wiki: File:Holehouse2.jpg- Designing Buildings).

The Hole House (Houston, TX)
Artist Dean Ruck worked with two houses slated for demolition to create an art installation that plays with the idea of negative space within architecture. The “Hole House” only existed for a few months in 2005 but left an indelible impression.

The Stone House (photo by Feliciano Guimarães from Guimarães, Portugal, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stone House (Guimarães, Portugal)
Also known as Casa do Penedo or "House of the Rock," this unique dwelling is built between four large boulders, seamlessly integrating with the natural landscape. It’s so surreal in appearance that the photograph above looks like something created by DALL-E or Midjourney.

The Cube Houses (photo by GraphyArchy, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Cube Houses (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
Designed by architect Piet Blom, these cube-shaped houses are tilted at a 45-degree angle and rest on hexagon-shaped poles. Blom aimed to create a metaphorical forest within a city. The original goal was to build 55 houses but only 40 of the cube homes were completed.

These examples showcase the diversity and creativity found in architectural oddities, each with its own story, purpose, and impact on the surrounding environment.

Ultimately, architectural oddities remind us that architecture can be a playground for creativity and imagination. These unique structures are AWESOME in their ability to captivate, intrigue, and surprise us. They inspire a sense of wonder and encourage us to see the world from a different perspective, inviting us to embrace the unexpected. By breaking free from the constraints of tradition, architectural oddities open new possibilities for design and challenge us to think about the role of architecture in our lives. Whether they are whimsical, futuristic, or downright bizarre, these structures bring an extra layer of excitement and vibrancy to their designs.

Next Architecture is Awesome:  #37 Standing the Test of Time