What is the danger of making something pretty? Well, when it comes to homes it can be complicated. Curb appeal seems like an innocent concept, but architects have been quoted calling it “empty signifiers of good design” or even eerie or creepy. Curb appeal privileges superficial visual composition over deeper, more spatial considerations. Further, the overregulation of visual propriety easily strays into practices that are exclusionary and oppressive. This video takes a close look at the history, evolution, and consequences of curb appeal from an architect’s perspective using examples from popular culture, art, film, and architecture. Unexpected origins and peculiar turns through picturesque gardens, mirrors for viewing the landscape, and exhibitions like Venturi Scott Brown’s ‘Signs of Life’ serve as waypoints in our journey for understanding people’s views of what houses should look like.
Architecture with Stewart is a YouTube journey exploring architecture’s deep and enduring stories in all their bewildering glory. Weekly videos and occasional live events breakdown a wide range of topics related to the built environment in order to increase their general understanding and advocate their importance in shaping the world we inhabit.
Stewart Hicks is an architectural design educator that leads design studios and lecture courses as an Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He also serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts and is the co-founder of the practice Design With Company. His work has earned awards such as the Architecture Record Design Vanguard Award or the Young Architect’s Forum Award and has been featured in exhibitions such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial and Design Miami, as well as at the V&A Museum and Tate Modern in London. His writings can be found in the co-authored book Misguided Tactics for Propriety Calibration, published with the Graham Foundation, as well as essays in MONU magazine, the AIA Journal Manifest, Log, bracket, and the guest-edited issue of MAS Context on the topic of character architecture.