Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I take it all back

I take everything in the earlier post about Martha's homes back.

Business Week Online has a great spread on them this week. It has much better pictures of the new homes inside and out, so I can really get a good look at them now.

I hate them.

In fact, the things I thought I liked about them the most I've decided I hate, and I have reevaluated my position on the Celebration houses as a result. Martha's houses are not really *aweful*, but they are pretty bad.

The best part of the business week article is that they got Mark Robins, dean of the Syracuse Architecture School, to comment on them. He is obviously a modernist, and he shows a typical modernist disdain for postmodernism. But with these houses, which are obviously very postmodern, he’s not to far off (in fact, he’s kinder toward them than I am). In the best of the houses, the Lilly Pond model based on Miss Martha’s shingled Hamptons home, Robins notes that it combines elements from shingle style, Dutch Colonial, Victorian and Queen Anne homes, and throws in some obviously fake brickwork and carriage house doors on the garage: very postmodern, referencing several different styles of architecture in one structure. The other homes are more of the same. The interiors are a similar collection of mish-mash references and faux history. Nothing wrong with that: we are living in a postmodern world. I love Robins’ comment that the houses look like Hollywood sets, because it supports my theory that postmodernism is a reflection of how film and TV have undermined culture by building in us all a desire to live in the movies. A movie set, inside and out, is what we want, and we want one that references several of our favorite movies and TV shows, not just one. At least that’s how I see it. I dare say Robins sees it that way too. Like most modernists, he believes such referencing implies that culture is static. But so is modernism, which, by stripping everything down to un-ornamented elements, has left architecture (and culture) with no place else to go.

But the pictures in this article reveal a lot more then the ones n the KB website, and are not nearly so flattering. The juxtapoitions just don't work as well as I thought at first. Comparing these houses to the even more post-modern house at Celebration I have to say that Disney trumps (not Trumps) Martha. Both places have houses that smash together different periods, but the Celebration houses are a bit more cohesive on the exerior. I guarantee that the dormers on Martha’s houses are as fake as the ones on the Celebration houses. But the real trick is how they handle the interiors. at fist I thought Martha's aproach was better, but I've done a complete 180 on that. Martha carries the movie-set referencing inside as well, even to the point of using fake brick veneer that has been painted over white (reminiscent of Vivian Perry’s fax bricked-over fireplace), as though the bricks are an old element that is being unsuccessfully hidden. But the Celebration houses make no such pretensions. The inside of the Celebration houses are completely contemporary, with big open floor plans and cathedral ceilings. Seeing these pictures, I'd now rather live in the Celebration homes (of course, then I'd have to live in Celebration, which I'm not sure I'd like very much).

But who am I to complain.


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