You certainly haven't offended me, and I'm not trying to limit your ability to offer criticism. As I said, I agree with many of the things you raise.
My issue is that non-constructive criticism isn't helpful, and also tends to get repetitive fast.
Thanks for the reply.
I’m trying not to get defensive here, I’ll do my best…to me, “non-constructive criticism” would be saying things like, “This sucks”, “This building is terrible”, “Awful”, etc without offering support for the opinion. I’d ask you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and consider the possibility that there are posts where I do support my positions and, in turn, I will allow that there are instances where I’ve offered short/useless/unsupported criticism.
There are several examples around this forum where I’ve offered support but one comes to mind that I think illustrates my point.
I think this is a good building. Snow-Kreilich is a great firm. There are many people working at Snow-Kreilich that I like and respect. They have won many awards. They have achieved something in this profession and I have not (please don’t confuse this with false modesty/flattery, I say what I mean and I mean what I say). I applauded this developer for sacrificing rentable area by creating double-height retail and going another step to sacrifice rentable area by carving out amenity space at the ground level that engages with the street. For all I know, this was proposed by the architects and the developer jumped on board with the idea even though it was financially detrimental (which would make it even better on all sides). As you rightly pointed out in your original post, it is HUGELY important to have owners/developers willing to do something creative and in the case of the Brunsfield, it is apparent.
With all of that said, I made the claim that the building was designed “from the outside in”, I then made screenshots of the unit plans with notes and diagrams to support what I was saying. This building won awards and I’d wager that none of the design jury set foot in a dwelling unit. From the exterior, this is a GREAT building. The outdoor amenity space is great, the retail space is really good, the balconies try to do something different (and succeed) and the lobby is good. The units aren’t good.
I would argue that some people bring their own issues to the table and their take away from the above would be, “This building isn’t good.”
I’m sure I have given one word criticisms here and there but, for the most part, I try to offer support. I’ve been challenged when offering a terse opinion and I’ve supported the opinion in a follow-up.
I think two things are at work here.
1. Architects are critical and don’t offer enough praise (guilty). I’m working on it.
2. What others see as harsh criticism, we see as basic criticism and not harsh in the slightest. I’ve pointed out on other threads that we are TRAINED to be critical from (literally) day one. It is impossible to turn off. The way that we talk about projects/turn a phrase is easier to modulate. I’m working on it.
3. People hear/interpret what they want to hear/interpret. I try to stay away from extremes but if I ever did get into a harsh criticism, I feel like I’d be sure to support it. I wish people would hold themselves to the same standard before they offer “Better than a surface parking lot!”
You're obviously very aware of how the whole process works, and you understand the hows and whys of how a project gets whittled away at. So, in a case like this building, where a non-profit on a budget partners up with a developer and the architect needs to hit a budget... who's really at fault when the result is less than spectacular? And how do we change the process and the expectations to get better results?
Ha. Well, I think you know my answer, “the client, the developer, the architect and the city” are at fault but to be more specific, I’ve NEVER been in a room where an architect said, “let’s use this crappier material.” Owners generally don’t want to use lower quality materials (unless they are also the developers) so the greatest share of the “fault” lies with the developer and a compliant city. More on this below…
I agree that the "better than a parking lot" schtick is pretty weak, but in this case, even though I think the architectural merits of this building are "meh" at best, I'd argue that not only is it better than a parking lot, but it's better than a whole host of things that could have gone there. In spite of its uninspiring architecture, it's a very solid addition to the neighborhood. Is it great architecture that will thrill us? No, unfortunately it is not. But it's also not committing any grave architectural sins.
We diverge a bit here. I think you are responding to the size/use/capacity to contain inhabitants which are all good but I think comparing it to its former use or some other bad use is a low bar. Not that the market will be there forever but, for example, would housing here be a better use? Day AND night activity, potential for retail/restaurant that is convenient to the stadium. You seem to have a low opinion of “5 over 1” housing which is fine but strictly as a use, it would have merit would it not? Perhaps you think that the “5 over 1” architecture happening right now would be worse architecturally than this building. That would be an interesting argument to take up. I’d offer that Junction Flats has a worse site and really appeared to try to do *something*, I’d offer that it has more architectural merit than this building and to put something like that on this site would be better than the bland suburbanism on display. Here is where the “argument” should be fun because it’s all subjective!
I’m all for a mix of uses in this area, but offices are going to be built, I want them to be great! I have high hopes for the Hines site which looks great in the renderings BTW.
You and I obviously have different priorities and that is okay with me.
But. At this point, how does good design manage to come out of the process? I can think of three ways:
1. You have an owner who appreciates the value of outstanding design, and is willing to pay for it. These owners are apparently in short supply.
Agreed. This is THE most important factor but I’d go one step further and say that developers need to be held accountable for squeezing every last nickel out of a project.
2. You have a very skilled architect, who is able to work within the system to push forward great design while not burning so much fee that they go out of business. These architects are apparently in short supply.
I’ll defend my discipline here and say that these might be in greater supply than you think, fee is less of a problem and that the VE process tends to have a crushing effect.
3. You have a city that somehow mandates "good design" and they have a commission of enlightened individuals who will reject anything not meeting their standards. This seems like a pretty sketchy way forward. But if you've got specific recommendations on how to improve the city's material guidelines, I'd love to hear them. Really.
This is already WAY too long so I’m not going to dive deeply into this but let’s just say that material guidelines could go a long way toward improving the state of architecture. St. Louis Park for example has mandates that involve materials that they consider Class I, Class II and Class III. These materials are allowed in certain percentage per facade. As materials/technology change it should be easy for materials to be added to the different classes. Minneapolis’s system isn’t as good. Period. There are ways to govern outcomes without a “design commission” and the subjectivity that comes with them.
Anyway. To get back my original point, if you want to elevate the level of architectural discourse on the site, I think it would be helpful to hear from you the things that you appreciate about projects (even if you don't like everything about the project). Since none of these projects are going to be the greatest building ever, and we've stopped building abattoirs in the city, let's talk about what seems to be working well along with what's not.
See my item number one above; I’m working on offering more praise.
And I think the rendering issue is a red herring to this conversation.
This is the only thing that I’m offended by in your reply. A “red herring” is a logical fallacy intended to mislead. I think it this point is absolutely germane - when a team displays a rendering that shows an ideal that does not represent reality, I think that is unfair to the end user (“the city”/us). I talked about how easy it is to manipulate materials and the intent that goes into it. I am very confident that if there was a way to sort comments from this forum for the words, “flat”, “disappointed”, “not up to par” etc we would find that they are criticisms leveled at built projects that didn’t come anywhere near the renderings. MOST IMPORTANTLY, the fact that misleading renderings were used to get a project approved BEFORE the VE process is a major component to what makes the city’s job very hard. Lastly, the city should be going out on site, holding up the APPROVED rendering from the same vantage point and discussing what changed. When the developer next brings a project to the city, this discussion is exhibit number one. I think this is ABSOLUTELY critical to getting good outcomes in the future.