Making a Manufactured Town Real

When it comes to architecture, what makes a style “real”? Architect Michael Bierut, who created Disney’s Celebration twenty years ago, has an interesting essay on the topic in CityLab. You might call Celebration a completely fake and entirely manufactured town. But you could also say that of tony Westchester County, New York, where Bierut lives:

He even describes his own neighborhood in Westchester County, New York—which he likes—as “a fake Craftsman-style house next to a fake colonial house, next to a fake Cotswold cottage thing, next to another fake thing.”

“No one has ever walked to my house and said ‘This seems quite inauthentic,’” he adds. “They say, ‘What a nice house, how many fireplaces do you have?’” With enough time, anything can become “authentic.” Even Celebration. “The older it gets,” he says in How To, “the more I like it.”

Jerry and I lived in a 1929 Tudor in Rochester, NY, which certainly seemed to have more authenticity than some of the newer Tudors I see in mega-home high priced suburbs, but of course anything “Tudor” isn’t native to upstate New York at all. Cobblestone houses are, but the Tudor style goes back to old England.

The steel and glass building I live in now makes no pretensions to belong to any period at all. It’s more energy efficient than Matt and Amy or Sara’s Craftstman style homes, which in turn owe their origins to the English Arts and Crafts movement. But you could find the same high end building in many urban centers. It belongs to a social class demographic, not an architectural style.

In the case of Celebration, whose middle-American, mostly white residents seem quite happy there, give a place time enough to let the trees grown and the landscaping take root, and even something designed to resemble Disneyworld begins to look like it belongs in the location where it was built. Seems very American to me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.