18 March, 2009

Metal House -- Love It or Leave It?

Ted and I walked downtown today to catch a movie at the Century. The route we take zig zags through the adjacent historic district, a federally designated district with gorgeous eighteenth and early nineteenth century homes.

And right alongside them is the Metal House:

I would probably be kinda cranky if I bought a house on a historic block like this (wish I could), and then had this built next to me. The thing is, it's not the only one. The architect, who is finishing up Metal House 2, has this one for sale right next door. Follow the link, and you'll be able to see interior and exterior photos of both homes. Be sure to watch the video for clips of our neighborhood. At least in the first few minutes.

I think the problem I have with these is that they look cold and closed off from the rest of the neighborhood, with garages in front. That's one thing I don't like about a lot of modern suburban architecture--the garage door is often the largest, most noticeable feature of the house. All the other houses on this block have separate garages in back, accessible from the alley; the houses themselves are warm and inviting, with a focus on the front door or a porch.

It kinda depresses me to walk past the metal houses. What do the rest of you think?


modernemama said...

I love the house, especially the metal roof but it does look strange next door to the traditional porch. I wonder what it's like inside? I bet it's full of light. I also wonder how they have damped the noise of rain on metal...

Lady Quilter said...

I agree with Joanne, these two houses, while both interesting in their own right, are an eyesore on this block. They belong somewhere more 21st century, not the last. I had an opportunity to speak to the owner/builder last summer. He is quite excited and would like to see the rest of the houses on his block replaced with metal homes. A whole block of them!! Ugh!

Andy said...

1. All due respect to others' tastes, I personally think they are both ugly as sin. If I wanted to live in a metal house, I'd just buy an old shed and have it retrofitted. It looks like a warehouse or office building, not a home. The interior is nice...the exterior is terrible. And that doesn't even consider what's around it and how it sticks out like a sore thumb.

2. How in the world did EVANSTON allow this? That's mind-boggling. I can't believe there wasn't an uproar that stopped this. Don't tell me Evanston has gone soft...

Christopher Busta-Peck said...

I'd like to see how the houses fit into the block before I make any real judgements. I like the wall on the house in your photograph mirrors the wall on the Italianate house next to it - but I can't tell if this was coincidence or whether there's a similar relationship with its neighbor on the other side.

There will always be a need to put new houses in old neighborhoods - even with the best intentions, some succumb to decay. New houses in a historic neighborhood can fit in quite well if they reflect the details of their neighbors in some way, be it by using similar materials, similar shapes, or even just similar colors.

There's a great house in my neighborhood, the Don Hisaka residence. It was the AIA Honor winner for 1970. There was a huge fuss over it with the archictectural review board at the time that it was built. In my opinion, however, it fits in better with the neighborhood than many of the other houses built at the time. The roof pitch and materials mirror those of some of the 1920s Colonial Revivals in the neiborhood, so the shape doesn't seem so strange.

Of course, the example I give above is about the best of the best - the average, unfortunately, is closer to average. But give anything 60 or 80 years, and if it survives, it'll look better, both from having time to mellow and to patina.

As for which I'd choose, I'd go with the old house, but purely because it represents a better value - a new house of the size and finish quality of mine would cost at least five times what mine cost. Heck, even a boring, bland, run of the mill new house would cost 65% more than ours - for something boring and smaller - and that would be outside my budget.

Joanne said...

I knew I'd get some varying opinions on this one. :-)

We chose Evanston because of its diversity (it's a university town, home to Northwestern), historic architecture, proximity to Lake Michigan (not that we make it over there much), and quick accessibility to downtown Chicago. We chose our neighborhood of bungalows and simple two and three flats because it was, frankly, what we could afford. I think most of them were constructed within twenty, twenty-five years of each other, so while there is some notable architecture, it all flows rather nicely.

I think most of the adjacent Ridge historic district and the street leading up to it were constructed between 1870-1935. There's more diversity to the architecture, but very few homes built after the 1940s. Or if there are, they blend into their surroundings well.

I'll still maintain that what bugs me about the metal houses are their closed off feel and the focus on the garages.

Eh. Architecture, like art, needs to inspire, challenge, and when necessary, create controversy and shake our foundations a bit. But I don't have to like it.

The family across the street from the metal houses supposedly planted a huge evergreen in front of their living room window so they wouldn't have to look at them.

Karen Anne said...

Garages - I think of houses like that as "garage with house attached." Some would be fixable with the judicious use of paint, so the house shows up more than the garage door.

Anonymous said...

I dunno.

Progress is progress and we can't expect things to always remain static. Houses burn, other times they fall into disrepair and are demolished.

This looks odd in the picture, but it also adds interest and it's obvious that the house had a real architect design it.

Frankly, if I had the money to build this new masterpiece, I'd have built in the style of the original New Orleans Shotgun. Those things rock!

Joanne said...

I love those, too. I had a place in Iowa City sort of like that--you entered into the living room and had to walk through the bedroom to get to the kitchen. It was bizarre, but very homey.

denise said...

Ah yes, we drive by this house every day on our way to work. Rumor has it that the house across the street from it planted the huge pine tree in their front yard so that they didn't have to look at the metal house.

I can appreciate the style, but not when it's surrounded by Queen Anne's and Italianates. I would suspect that the same was said about the 1960s homes when they first went up in the area, although they don't look as out-of-place as these do. I don't think these will ever fit it with the neighborhood, however, and he doesn't seem to be having an easy time selling metal house #1.

urbaneddie said...

I like the houses, but don't like how they're sited in the neighborhood. If there is an alley, these homes should have rear garages facing it, or at least less prominent garages.

These homes could easily fit into the existing neighborhood if built to similar scale, curb setback, etc.

There's no reason for the architect to have built a faux-old looking house just to match the others already there, but more consideration to the above mentioned details would have gone a long way in creating harmony.

Anonymous said...

Buy them and tear them down.


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