Please can we have more houses with happy smiling faces

It could be a normal request in briefing letters to architects: ‘Please give my house a happy and beautiful face’. The house in the above photograph is not convulsed with laughter but I read the slightly raised eyebrows as a sign of good humour – and the face of the house shares a beautiful simplicity with Botticelli’s face of Venus. I would like the house to have flowing tresses of vegetation and some beautiful steps could symbolise lips. Can the faces of buildings be classified as masculine and feminine? .

8 thoughts on “Please can we have more houses with happy smiling faces

  1. christine

    The anthropomorphic house is the ‘house’ of children….

    [ ] This one is by a female age six. I supposed the colours might be gendered, but I was wrong…[ ] This drawing is by an Egyptian male aged six. (Titled joy and happiness.)

    Her brother, age eight, is drawing interiors in perspective….
    [ ] I supposed the content of the drawing might be gendered, but I was wrong….By comparison this drawing (which seems to include a skyline with the rather large penguin)is by a Japanese female aged eight. [ ] The content could also be described as more masculine than the drawing of a six year old female…

  2. Tom Turner Post author

    Anthropomorphism is a useful concept in this context and I guess the grandest example is the anthropomorphic concepts of God (rejected by Islam). The scientific community also tends to reject anthropomorphism (as in behaviourism) and it may be that this is why it is rejected by modernist designers (though it remains natural to children and the ‘lay’ public).

  3. eljardinero

    It does so often seem that Modernism rejects the human scale, but does it really have to? Often confronted by frowning facades the practical question is how can I make this grumpy house smile? Hell is other design professionals, and landscapers are some of the worst whingers.

  4. Tom Turner Post author

    It is true that landscape architects tend to whinge and I think the reason is that they practice an art with sublime potential and often-ridiculous achievements.
    Regarding Modernism, I think of it as the application of a scientific mode of thought to design. In science, everything has to be evidence-based. This caused a split with ‘beliefs’ and with the traditional/craft-based approach to design. Since a great many questions cannot be decided by evidence, I therefore favour a post-Modernist approach which accepts all that is good in Modernism and, where science cannot give answers, turns to beliefs. One could certainly have a ‘Modernist’ approach by designers who also believe in a human scale and a whole range of other humanist (and religious) values.

  5. Tom Turner Post author

    Thank you for the link! With regard to context-sensitivity, I think this is Zaha Hadid’s best project. She has taken the style of the surrounding buildings and MADE IT DANCE. So the building responds to (1) its surroundings (2) its intended function.

  6. Christine

    What makes context-sensitive (landscape architect) designers frown? Perhaps most telling of all are these series of architectural models from the design competition for the Hague….(or was that Prague,…or Vienna)?
    [ ]

    Tom you are right. Great building! (I would love to see Zaha’s sketches because she most probably did consider the urban context in the way you suppose).

  7. Tom Turner Post author

    I welcome a sculptural approach to architecture. But it needs to be Site-specific Sculpture and not 1950s-style Abstract Sculpture – which is how all the designs (inc Zaha Hadid’s ‘whole smiling body’ design) appear on your link to the results of the Dance and Music Center in the Hague competition.


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