The compound wall of a theatre hall

There exists an ancient movie theatre next to the central business district of a small city.
It’s adjacent to an alleyway narrow enough to restrict hunky cars from passing through
But wide enough to be inviting to explorers of the lesser-known shortcuts, two-wheelers, and clueless pedestrians too.
This road has a quality which is ‘holy’ some might say, Why?
Because the compound wall is clad with tiles featuring a well-curated selection of gods and goddesses to keep the owner from dealing with piss marks the next day.
Why is this random wall in a random city being talked about when it’s a bore?
Because to the people it bothers, it is an eyesore.
Like stick no bills written on perfect blank walls or layers of posters glued atop one another with no geometric precision outside theatre halls.
An apartment complex might have been designed with great care, but a month later,
The occupants would have decorated it with colorful underwear.
Some buildings’ unique charms may initially seem hard to voice,
But the crowd grows immune to their presence, and they slowly dissolve in the background noise.
So, the next time someone says “The audacity of the architect! That was an assault on my eyes”,
They might just be 50 years ahead of meeting someone who finds it nice.

What determines the unacceptability of the unacceptable?

People may get visually irked by many things. These range from open drains in central traffic junctions to candy-colored houses that just do not fit in a neighborhood. How critical we are can be determined by a bunch of factors, some common ones are listed below:

  • Location: 

A shantytown will be easier to ignore when located in the outskirts of the city than when next to an iconic skyscraper. (The advancement of building technology can look less glorious when next to a bunch of shabbily assembled structures that serve as a reminder of the existence of lesser refined lifestyles. Trying to ‘fix’ this ‘issue’ is called gentrification.)

When architectural eyesores become a sight for sore eyes - Sheet1
Shantytown, Hong Kong – 2005_©

When a building or a structure does not merge with its surroundings. This can be a badly designed cottage being a blemish on a beautiful mountain or a bare building in a historic city center.

When architectural eyesores become a sight for sore eyes - Sheet2
Golden Gate Bridge-San Francisco, California_©

A structure that does not fit in the narrative of a place can often be viewed as a display of insensitivity to the collective identity that the majority of the population in that place assumes. (No, I have not met my great-great-grandfather, but he will be appalled by the loss of a culture that dates back to a time when our single-celled ancestors were doing their traditional dance on the ocean floor.) 

When architectural eyesores become a sight for sore eyes - Sheet3
Eiffel tower- Paris (faced protests even before the commencement of its construction)_©

The same applies to the time in which the buildings were built. A building that neither respects the sensibilities of its present environment nor reflects the richness of its historic context might end up being a shell with not much substance.

  • Aesthetics:

Architecture styles like modernism, postmodernism, and brutalism earned the ire of many when they were newly introduced. Unfinished construction, dilapidation, unusual forms, and the usage of unappealing materials also affect the aesthetics of a building or a structure.

When architectural eyesores become a sight for sore eyes - Sheet4
Majesty Building/ I4 eyesore – Florida_©,_Altamonte_Springs,_FL.jpg

What makes the unacceptable acceptable?

  • Time. Yes, as the years pass by, most buildings gain a sense of acceptance as they are built to outlast people. The building might eventually invoke a sense of nostalgia amongst people and it might not continue being an oddity. 
  • Some designs may inspire new styles and other better designs, so, they may end up being revered for their originality.
  • As people evolve, tastes evolve too. And the newer generations might find the architecture to be more appealing.
  • The buildings’ functionality might change in the future and adapt better to newer surroundings.
  • People may also start recognizing some structures as revolutionary and futuristic for the time that their designs were conceived in.

The futility in the search for a generalized visual perfection

Perfection as a concept is subjective and theoretical. So, the reification of perfection to extract standards to objectively determine the worth of structures that surround us may end up being pointless. The visibility of a building does have a major impact, but there are many more senses at play that may be redeeming.

Wabi-Sabi or not, most of us are used to visual imperfections. We do not always see our surroundings as perfectly composed frames and regularly come across mismatched colors, textures, and proportions. So, accepting occasional dissatisfaction can also be delightful in the process of observing changing cityscapes.


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image 4:,_Altamonte_Springs,_FL.jpg 


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