3/11/2007

Fake Lofts...

Been reading Virginia Postrel for the longest time, was first introduced to her back in late 2004 - Race Riots and Property Values - and saw this in the April 2007 issue of Atlantic Monthly.
postrel-lofts.jpg
Lofts were never supposed to be homes. They were vacant old factories and warehouses, taken over by artists looking for cheap space and good light. In the 1960s, loft pioneers in New York violated zoning laws and managed without heat or interior walls, creating functional arrangements in strange spaces; a loft might be 25 feet wide and 200 feet long. The original lofts represented an ingenious, economical compromise, not a new architectural ideal. Yet, quite by accident, those loft-dwelling artists invented a new form of vernacular architecture. Their lofts demonstrated the possibilities of a big open space more suited to a certain kind of modern urban life than the rigid divisions of a traditional home. The trend spread to other cities, popularized by movies, from An Unmarried Woman in 1978 to Big a decade later, that portrayed lofts as scenes of creativity and independence. By the late 1980s, affluent professionals were paying a premium for the wide-open living spaces made fashionable—and habitable— by bohemian types. Read the rest...
Postrel quotes Ada Louise Huxtable - The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion in her recent piece...
Authentic is the real thing, and a reproduction, by definition, is not; a copy is still a copy, no matter how skilled or earnest its intentions. To equate a replica with the genuine artifact is the height of sophistry; it cheapens and renders meaningless its true age and provenance. To imply equal value is to deny the act of creation within its own time frame, to cancel out the generative forces of its cultural context. What is missing is the original mind, hand, material, and eye.
Considering the premium being placed on lofts in downtown Buffalo, NY...like to know how your impressions and understanding of loft life squares with Postrel's critique...

__________________________________________________________________________
Artspace ArchiveAnnals of NeglectBAVPAWhere is Perrysburg?Broken Promises...
Writing the CityWoodlawn Row Housesfaqmy flickr
the creativity exchange

4 comments:

Jim Lindley said...

It's just a marketing term now - just like ranch houses aren't on ranches any more, a loft isn't really a loft. It's used for any building in the city with semi-open spaces and a modern feel.

That new build on Elmwood near Utica, they called those loft-style apartments, and they aren't even particulary open, it's a bunch of tiny little rooms crammed in together.

Jefferson said...

I can appreciate Ms. P's comments.
The concept of the loft started with people moving into vacant warehouses and factories and getting incredible space for the money. DC is awash in these new faux lofts. Personally, I think it's a bit of a scam - basically they are what not too long ago were considered unfinished units with exposed pipes, brick walls, heating ducts. Yet you pay top dollar for them.

gabe said...

Right on. A loft is really just one big unfinished space--furnishings or not.

Once you start dividing it up into proper rooms than it becomes nothing more than a loft-style apartment.

Personally I love some of these spaces and appreciate all the cool shit people do with them. Yet, in the back of my mind, I realize that "loft" apartments trivialize the super-important economic functions these old warehouse buildings fulfilled in the old days. Back in those days, even a manufacturing or storage facility was worthy of decent architecture.

Jeff said...

Sure there's a difference between 1970s SoHo and 2007 SoHo as the exerpt points out. I'm not as concerned about the purity of the program and original intent of loft living maintaining integrity as an artist only domain. Loft has been bastardized into its barest form, and has come to mean high ceilings. But to address the issue of authenticity as it relates to lofts and Buffalo, I think there is a much more important distinction to make.

What's sad is that in making the trip upstate, the translation of modern design is only a cartoon of what it should be. There is a huge difference between intelligent, progressive architecture, and cheap imitations. We love to celebrate the groundbreaking accomplishments of Wright and the Saarinens, and hold them up as part of Buffalo's proud modern offerings. This city was once a truly progressive area, on the vanguard of architectural thought. What do we have now? Vague interpretations, or faux lofts as jefferson said. I'm really saddened by the current Buffalo loft offerings. After seeing them up close, I'm always shocked at how developers and their decorators actually convince locals to buy into the loft idea. They expose ductwork and beams as if it's an amenity that we want to see, they paint the walls purple yellow and green to look "hip" and "urban," they fill the house with swirly crap from advance furniture. It's one thing to make a copy of a copy and pass it off as authentic, but it's another to try to copy it without ever really trying to understand it. As awful as it sounds, I'd almost wish they'd just plagarize something good out of New York, just go rip off Ian Schrager...seriously, grab the plans for 40 Bond (here: www.40bond.com), and just duplicate. At least that way there would be some sort of control to compare the crap that is built around here. Maybe then the brave souls who have decided to make the plunge into living downtown would have an "A ha" moment (or maybe people who have been waiting to move into the city would actually be compelled to do so).

But who knows, maybe I'm deluding myself. There is an honest demand to see real change in Buffalo. And some are getting it right, just look at the Art Gallery this week. We like to cling so much to the past in this city, the art that doesn't fit in our collection, the architecture that crumbles around us, and the memories of congestion and population that made Buffalo a real city. But in buying into the false imitations that are currently offered, we're just celebrating the cheap karaoke act that has been playing here for years. We need to stop being 5 steps behind communities like Louisville, KY and start pushing the envelope like we did 100 years ago.