IN architecture, everyone’s a critic. One of us, Steven, was recently driving down Elliott Avenue in Charlottesville, Va., his hometown, with his 88-year-old mother. They passed a house designed and built by architecture students at the University of Virginia. To Steven, an architect, this model for affordable housing — a tough pair of stacked boxes, sheathed in corrugated metal — was a bold design statement. But to his mother’s eye, the house was a blight on the landscape, an insult to its historic neighbors.
“It looks like somebody piled a couple of boxcars on top of each other, then covered them up with cheap metal and whatever else they could find at the junkyard!” she said.
It’s easy to dismiss Mrs. Bingler as an unsophisticated layperson. But that’s the problem: For too long, our profession has flatly dismissed the general public’s take on our work, even as we talk about making that work more relevant with worthy ideas like sustainability, smart growth and “resilience planning.”