The Fascinating History and Hidden Ugliness of Curb Appeal

What is the danger of making something pretty? Well, when it comes to homes it can be complicated. Curb appeal seems like an innocent concept, but architects have been quoted calling it “empty signifiers of good design” or even eerie or creepy. Curb appeal privileges superficial visual composition over deeper, more spatial considerations. Further, the overregulation of visual propriety easily strays into practices that are exclusionary and oppressive. This video takes a close look at the history, evolution, and consequences of curb appeal from an architect’s perspective using examples from popular culture, art, film, and architecture. Unexpected origins and peculiar turns through picturesque gardens, mirrors for viewing the landscape, and exhibitions like Venturi Scott Brown’s ‘Signs of Life’ serve as waypoints in our journey for understanding people’s views of what houses should look like.

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