This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

In defense of historic architecture, even, uh, the 1970s


I'm a defender of historic architectural design. That is, I like to see old buildings kept as close to their original state as possible. I dislike seeing stucco over original old bricks. However, if the building was originally stucco, I defend that. It's about design integrity, not about a particular person's taste. And if you've ever wondered why old buildings were "modernized", or why Victorian houses had all of their elaborate decorations stripped off of them, all you have to do is to understand that things go out of style, and tastes change.

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It's always a cycle, and it's what I call "garage sale" ugliness. That is, whatever becomes so common that people laugh at it. It could be a color, it could be a texture. It changes with every generation, and every generation knows what's "ugly". So they destroy it, with the best intentions. And it makes me sad.

Yesterday I was talking to someone who is preparing a house for sale in Moon Valley in Phoenix. Well, actually south of Thunderbird (the original Moon Valley Subdivision was north of Thunderbird), but still a wonderful 1978 home with very little "improvements". As I wandered around it I time-traveled back to 1978. The kitchen was particularly fascinating, with the distinctive colors of the era and even the original inset ceiling fan. Of course, the plan was to tear it all out and modernize it. This is a house to be sold, after all, and that's what most people want!

So all of the original design will be torn out and thrown away. The house already had the modern beige tile floor, and other things that increase the resale value. I looked up at the vaulted ceiling and wondered if the beams had originally not been painted? Certainly the floor didn't originally look like it belonged in a grocery store, with cold, hard, tile, it had carpeting that you could wiggle your toes in.

A stylish interior of a 1973 Phoenix home.

Right now we're still too close to the 1970s. I have to admit that green shag carpeting and avocado-colored kitchen appliances aren't to my taste, but that's what the original design was. And hopefully there are people who are preserving them. Because once the design integrity is gone, it's gone forever. And while people stand there and cheer the 1970s ugliness that is being destroyed, I stand there and picture people doing the same thing to Victorian houses in the 1920s. I couldn't say anything back then, but I can say something now.