Jon Talton is one of my favorite Seattle Times columnists. His latest big-picture piece in the Sunday Magazine ($) has a lot in it that I agree with, although overall it has a get-off-my-lawn tone.
But one sentence bothered me a lot:
Dull glass-skinned towers have replaced architectural variety.
For one thing, many of the new towers are anything but dull. Secondly, the best place to find architectural monotony is in the single-family neighborhoods, frozen in amber by law, where any differentiation beyond one craftsman after another is viewed as an affront to the “character” or “scale” of the neighborhood. Genuinely challenging new architecture is almost always despised by its future neighbors, going all the way back to at least the Eiffel Tower. Moreover, we’ve set up a design review process where the surest guarantor of success is copying whatever got through before.
Even in the absence of all this, there are surely economic incentives to build a certain kind of building in a certain style, and repeat ad nauseum. But all of the process we’ve erected to police building style, and the kind of comments that come in as opposition, serve to reinforce architectural sameness and squash whatever individualist impulse might exist. It’s fine to be bored with one identical building after another, but it’s important to remember who to blame.