Some Random Thoughts From Neighborhood Walks
Updated: Aug 29
In my south Minneapolis neighborhood, we are blessed to have many beautiful examples of our vernacular architecture – compact 1910-1940’s bungalows in stucco or lap siding, with unique exterior details, painted trim in brick red, delft blue, deep teal, olive green, and chocolate brown. They give our blocks a distinct character. I am always struck by the love and craftsmanship with which these homes were designed and constructed.
In the past ten years, however, we have seen a distinct new architectural genre popping up on our city blocks (first two photos below). These homes, built for space rather than style, are big, two story boxes, with high-pitched gable roofs, boxy pillars, very few windows, and vaguely Tudor-style trim. They are typically painted white or shades of gray. I call these “The Ugly Houses”. They are production built, stripped-down in style, and tower over their immediate neighbors, blocking light.
I realize that larger homes have a place in the city. Young families want to live in our neighborhoods and need space that our older bungalows cannot provide. But this trend alarms me. I envision a future of tear-downs – row after row of graceless boxes lining our oak and maple-graced boulevards. Fortunately, some residents are fighting back. One nearby homeowner bought the house next door to keep it from being razed and replaced by an ugly house and is renting it. It is only one small gesture, but everything helps.
One new house in our neighborhood that has ADDED rather than subtracted character is this architect-owner-designed home (3rd -6th photo below). Beautifully designed to fit a narrow lot, it proudly stakes out its corner, announcing “I’m here to add contrast and a complementary flavor to my block, rather than to overtake it”. I have been excitedly tracking its progress on my daily walks. I love the mix of materials, the varied sizes of its lap siding, and the playful tilt of its multiple shed roof lines. I hope THIS becomes a trend – new homes designed with thoughtful creativity, rather than a cookie-cutter, assembly-line mentality. I am keeping my fingers crossed.