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Good modernism; bad traditionalism


In a small wedge of land in northwest Washington D.C, there is an enclave of lots which are not subject to design review.  Herein, architects and homebuilders have been free to pursue their dreams.  It is in this special place, where I found the poster child for bad traditional architecture.

Side-by-side, you can see respectful, proportionate, well-designed modernism, and a ghastly, flat, badly-detailed neo-historicist mistake. 

The modern home, on the left, could be politely inserted in any historic rowhouse neighborhood in the area.  The "traditionally detailed" home on the right would be an eyesore in any context.

A word about the Palladian window (arch) at the top -- arches require support.  This one's hung from above, but the appearance of a primal structural member floating in space is inherently disturbing.  The thin window mullions below cannot possible serve as a structural support.

Further, notice

  • the anemic cornice, both flat and thin.
  • disproportion between upper and lower windows
  • thin window trim
  • squatty transom window over the door
  • the big blank masonry wall

For excellent training in how to do all these things in way that is not ghastly, check out Marianne Cusato's new book, hot off the press, "Get your house right." 

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