Visual Appropriateness, car show rooms and church gables

As the faithful readers know I studied at was Oxford Polytechnic (now Brookes) and the defacto bible that the architects and urban designers worked to was RESPONSIVE ENVIRONMENTS A Manual for Designers by Bentley, Alcock, Murrain, McGlynn Smith Still very relevant and brilliantly still in print (click on link to buy from Amazon). I’d mentioned the book previously in this POST but this post covers a couple of concepts I’d be mulling over recently:

I’m currently working on a project where the client is a little worried that too much glass = car show room (see below for example from :

And it reminded me of the cartoon illustrating Visual Appropriateness in Responsive Environments:

Factory or Town Hall?

Image from Responsive Environments ‘Visual Appropriateness’ – click on image to purchase the book from Amazon

As you’ve probably realised I’m not frightened of a bit of glass and many architects would disagree with the following from the book:

“For example, a town hall should look like a town hall, and a house should look like a house, to as many users as possible”

I guess it’s the architects job to create an architecture that is suitable for it’s environment and that does not alienate the public; it’s a very difficult line to tread as shown in the following example:

I’m occasionally asked to glaze a gable but to me the visual appropriateness smacks too much of church architecture:


Now my guess is that a lot of people enjoy that connection with ecclesiastical architecture; the soaring heights of church spaces with oak trusses framing arched windows. In fact I did something similar for a house in County Mayo which used similar metaphors (below) and IMHO it does look rather nice.

Swinford Cottage Interior - Dining

Swinford Cottage Interior – Dining

The trick I think to move from ‘Church’ to ‘Contemporary’ for a larger glazed gable is to minimise the solid element around the window (as in the church gable above) to either have the entire gable glazed or to use similar materials that visually opens the glazing to the extremities of the roof – as in the final example (not by me btw) which successfully achieves exactly this:


Comments as always welcome…

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