Friday, August 3, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

This house, not far from where I live now, was built around 20 years ago. The man who had it built for himself and his family never moved in, and it has been on the market far more than it has been lived in during those years.
The house angered neighborhood residents, who were not able to keep it from being constructed. Before it was even completed, bricks were thrown through the windows. The pattern of vandalizing continued, and for the first decade of its existence, I never saw this house without at least one broken window.
The house is not located in a posh historic district where property values are protected against such "eyesores" as tree houses, lawn gnomes and columns inconsistent with the columns of neighboring houses. It is on a street where several other modern houses stand. This is a neighborhood where it is okay to be different. A little different.
But not like this. This house is often referred to as "the spaceship house" and is just too weird, apparently, to be left alone. Over the years, I've heard lots of people say it should never have been built; I've heard a few, too, who "understand" just why others might see it as deserving of vandalism and defacement. After all, to be this different, and for no good reason, someone must be trying to prove something.
Social norms, and sometimes architectural norms, are enforced through the use of sanctions. These consequences apply not only to the individual in question, but also to associates. In the case of odd houses, this means neighbors who might share in spillover victimization or at least see their property values decrease.
In the case of odd people, sanctions can range from sideways looks all the way through murder. Potential friendships are discouraged by fear of declining "cool" values; everyone who has ever been 12 knows about this. Talking to somebody "weird" makes one an instant suspect, and few teens or pre-teens can afford the tax levied for such associations. For many, this fear of contagious stigma persists into adulthood, contributing to the myth of difference as a moral issue, and creating a society in which the few throw bricks and the many stand by quietly and "understand".


  1. Good post! You know, I kinda like that house. Probably lots of cupboards space build into that protruding central region.

    The nice thing about being a person, rather than a house, is that we can, once we are adults, move to places (either virtually or physically) where our level of oddness is accepted and appreciated.

  2. our house looks like pizza hut. what is funny is that i didn't realise this until my students pointed it out. i just thought it looked familiar...

    that one you posted wouldn't happen to be 8ctag8nal, would it?! (^_^)

  3. Maybe the house could be surrounded by a privacy fence. I've got one around me that goes, "Who gives a shit what you think of me? Not me!" It pretty much wards off vandalism to myself...but some people do occasionally get through...

  4. Well written comparison Bev. I'd be the oddball to buy such a house. Can one have compassion towards Architecture?

  5. What a thoughtful post (not that I am suprprised).

    Before I even read your post, I saw the picture and thought how cool that house looks. So I guess I'm "different" too (hooray!)

    karen in CA

  6. Following our 'visit' home [and house hunting on the side] I was particularly taken with a truly hideous monstrosity, all glass and chrome, very futuristic! It stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea side neighbourhood, but the LIGHT if you're transferring to England was amazing.

    I'm still very tempted. I'm only put off by a few things [being dressed, supplies of Windex, shortage of available sunshine] There again, you know what they say about people who live in glass houses.

  7. I like that house too.

    What you've written reminds me that there was a time in the U.S. when a persons choice of magazines was Life, Look, and Post. The T.V channels were A.B.C., C.B.S and N.B.C.. The ice cream came in flavors of chocolete, vanilla, and strawberry.
    The first suberban neighborhoods had houses that were all built in very similar ways.

    Neighborhoods with houses built so much alike did little to encourage creativity and diversity.

    Its too bad that some people have such a problem with peoples differences that they do what youve decribed has happened to the owner of this house.

  8. natalia,
    That's a cool house you have, even if it is shaped somewhat like a Pizza Hut. I'm surprised at the number of people saying they like this one. I'm a big fan of modern architecture, but the "spaceship house" is not my favorite.
    Did you get a photo of the one in England?

  9. I would love to live in a house shaped like the one in that photo. I've always liked odd-shaped houses, cars, trees, and other random objects. Especially trees...too bad there's nowhere around here for a twenty-six-year-old to build a tree house!

  10. It's not quite as cool as the Brithdir Mawr Roundhouse.

    But it's still cool... :)

  11. I have never been fond of "the norm", I like the house.

  12. I think it's ugly and I'd bet it's completely unlivable inside. People should be allowed to make all the bad decisions they want, but I'd agree that was a house that shouldn't have been built.

    For all the comments about people who'd be willing to live there, it seems apparent from the post that people don't really want to live there. A house that "has been on the market far more than it has been lived in" is clearly more of a sculpture than a real residence. That shows, objectively, it was a failure.

  13. The more I see it, the more it grows on me.


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