Monday, April 17, 2006

I was walking around Parkview Heights Sunday morning when a retired gentleman in his pajamas out collecting his newspaper inquired of me whether I had brought the good weather with me. I replied that rather, the good weather had brought me in its train. I hadn't been out that far towards Zion in a good many years - usually I act as if Bellefonte comes to a hard stop at the Lutheran Church & the Junior High campus.

That end of town has grown greatly, if not quite as wildly as the construction along Blanchard and upper Valentine Hill Road. There's an entire neighborhood of McMansions going up about three-fourths of the way out to the Rt 26/I-99 highway, and I had fun wandering around, playing "spot the architectural reference".

The designs were very pseudo-Victorian, with a lot of obvious references to various buildings in town. The wooden gables'-eave-guards I mentioned before were present in a number of these brand-new buildings. None of them had the "spar-pointed-down" design, but since that can easily be confused for something blasphemous when looked at in the wrong light, I can see what this would be the case. Far more popular are the "captain's wheel" section, with two or three examples scattered around the front end of the development. One building had the "organic wooden vine" eaves-guard design, but it wasn't a particularly well-executed version, being rather brutish and fat-fingered.

There were a lot of large gables, and a good deal of cleverness exercised in the service of said gables. I think I rather saw more full-size gabling going on than dormers, which I suppose makes sense. Dormers are either extensions of old buildings - not to be expected in new construction - or constructs designed to let light into garrets & other servants'-quarters, which shouldn't be expected in McMansions, which aren't designed in the expectation of the need to house large platoons of live-in servantry.

One building was pretty much perfect - fine colors, good use of materials, well-balanced proportions, fine details - except for the fact that the architect or construction-company had put in many strong, balanced, large gables, and then left their interiors blank and unadorned. The architectural equivalent of whitespace. I found myself wishing for it those scale-tiles you see on a certain class of wooden-construction Victorian. Oh, well. I'm sure the inhabitants will spot the need in a year or two - the one thing you can rely on is the occupants' need for decoration & adornment. An excess of asceticism is a rare fault indeed.

Not so rare, however, are the obscenities inflicted upon an innocent world by the architects of the Long Sixties. On the road I followed into the new neighborhood was a massive construct which could have been confused for some institutional monstrosity like a bureaucrats' hive or an office hovel for pyschiatrists were it not for its location in the heart of a residential zone and its total lack of professional signage. It had the oversize, overlong institutional windows with their excess of viewage from the exterior - no privacy for *that* family, no indeed! It also had the brick-and-concreted Mondarian-style walkway-screen which reminded me so forcefully of the ugliness the late Sixties inflicted upon the educational landscape in junior high schools and dorm-building complexes like East Halls throughout this afflicted commonwealth.

Speaking of large, inexplicable homes along Summit Drive, the vast ranch at the top of the hill is for sale - a property so large they had to put *two* signs in to clarify what all was up for sale. Whoa! That's a lot of money for a ranch! But it really is a vast ranch. I've always referred to it as more of a "compound" than a "home". I pictured the inhabitants as one of those sprawling extended-family patriarchies, like a clan of Mormons. Huh, there *is* a basement. I had been wondering...

No comments: