Your house is a garage


(I’ve stolen this post from an old unsuccessful blog of mine focussing on Edmonton architecture and design, thinking it might be of interest. (dates from April 07).

I’ve already commented on the lack of colour and imagination in my neighborhood but among the things that are right in the area where I live are easy access to green spaces, some innovative front yard gardens, more dogs that you can throw a stick at, and very few home designs like that in the picture above.

This can no longer be considered a trend but an imposition, a cancer, a pox on the eyes. But for the sake of fairness let us first consider why this type of design might serve a purpose. After all, home design seems to be a continuing negotiation between the demands of aesthetics and utility.

First of all, there may be no back alley and the garage needs to be in front. Second, putting the garage in the back uses up valuable recreational area.

I think Jane Jacobs, were she still about, would agree with me that this design is not a positive element. When I think of community togetherness I often think of old Frank Capra films, and scenes of New York tenements with people hanging out on the front stoops and spending time with their neighbors. Those stoops are right up on the street. The house fronts are inviting.

Not only have we pushed the houses back from the street but when the garage and driveway dominate, the result is a further retreat from the street, a shunning, a turning the back on the community. I would take that further and say that I feel that the house is mooning the street.

I’ve always felt that if the parts of the house were the parts of the body, the garage would be the colon. Its the ass of the house. Trash seems to move toward the garage, and to carry the analogy where it naturally goes, the cars are, well…you can fill that part in. And if you buy that, then what this design expresses to me is the celebration of the accumulation of waste. Not so much different from bragging about the size and frequency of your bowel movements.

If there were only a few of these houses around it would not be that annoying but they tend to populate entire subdivisions and tend to co-occur with colour restrictions as well, so we have the unvarying onslaught of not only these domestic posteriers but also the slightly off white to beige boredom. The one above is a little more risque with the pale blue but you can see that it exists within a sea of similar houses.

Take another look at the picture, the garage is actually wider than the rest of the house. The whole aspect pushes you away. It really is a garage with a house attached. (I have seen small garages which face the front and are attached to the sides of the house, and they can seem an afterthough, hardly drawing the eye at all, and those can even be pleasing in overall effect).

I will return to this tirade in the future but if there is any justice in this world, the rising eco awareness as well as the rising cost of fuel will undermine the future of this template. We might actually move away from this counterintuitive trend toward larger and larger homes, larger and larger garages, and larger and larger vehicles.

2 comments on “Your house is a garage

  1. You, sir, have hit the nail on the head.

    I find it interesting that you’re also making a comment on the blandness of Edmonton architecture. My wife and I just built a house in Calgary, and we were shocked to find that we were the only ones on the block with any colour on our house. We’re a great, shining beacon of ocular stimulation in an otherwise putrid sea of varying shades of brown vinyl siding. Since the majority of homes in our area are thankfully laned (and thus no front attached garage), you’d think folks would take the time to truly beautify the front of their houses. No such luck. Might as well have the gaping maw of a 22′ garage door out there instead…

  2. Its fortunate that you are even allowed to control the colour of your house. My brother built a house in a new neighborhood and had to fight tooth and nail to have it smaller than the others. Before I saw it I thought it actually would be small but it was still a fairly large house and hardly distinguishable from the others.

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