Custom Structures

Architects & General Contractors

Who is to blame

2016-01-06 10:03:00

Who is to blame … builders, developers, designers … or all of us?

I don’t know if builders are to blame or if it’s designers and possibly the general public at large. And I don’t point my finger at all builders and designers. My complaint isn’t with the quality of work provided as much as it is with the loss of art in construction.

Builders, developers and some designers have influenced design in a way that places cost above good taste. Here again, I know many builders and designers that provide projects with quality being a priority. In my opinion, the public is also to blame because they have accepted lower standards.

Let me give you some examples that you may recognize that go counter to the principle of art in construction.

As far as Lynchburg is concerned this first issue started in Northern Virginia, about twenty years ago, in an attempt to save the home buyer a few dollars.

The first lowering of standards was when the developer, builder, or designer thought it was ok to brick the front of a house and completely change materials at the corner. The buyer was sold on the statement that the front still looked nice. To me, it made a potentially nice home appear temporary. There is no problem mixing materials, but to completely stop one material at the corner did nothing but lesson the standard used to appraise visual quality.

With most of Lynchburg’s home being based on traditional architecture the following will be for comparative purposes.

Window shutters were on earlier houses to protect the glass during storms and to better resist water infiltration from wind. Today they are cosmetic. The problem today is that you may have a five foot wide window or even a pair of windows with a 12 inch shutter on each side. It is a crazy detail. Shutters should at least look like they are operable and would cover the window opening. False louver shutters are also made up-side-down, but that is another issue.

Jack arches open all kinds of issues. They should be wedge shaped to at least visually support a load above. Often they are vertical courses that would fall without a hidden metal lintel. Jack arches should look like they really work. Some projects put jack arches on the first floor but not on the second…. (Why).

The other day I was out of town and drove by a house that had a garage door. There was no jack arch visually supporting the masonry above the door, but there was a keystone in the middle. This makes no sense. Two houses away there was a wider sixteen foot garage door. It didn’t have a jack arch either, but it made up for it with an extra keystone. One door with two keystones and no jack arch. I wanted to cry.

I am limited to 500 words, so I will close with a favorite that deals with miss-sized columns and the lack of an entablature. It is awful to see majestic columns that run vertically only to be met by siding. Columns support beams, not siding. Look up classical orders or find a nice house that is over 150 years old and you will see what an entablature is. While you are checking out classical orders you will also see how tall columns are supposed to be based on their diameter.

The topics mentioned above are a few of many examples that need to be addressed if we are interested in bringing good design back into the construction field.