While my architect and I were designing my Rhode Island home back in 2015, we spent a great deal of time thinking about how the house would fit into the surrounding environment and complement the natural beauty there.


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A sense of place depends on its coherence. Every element in that place needs to work together. A 2017 article in Current Affairs magazine asserted that most contemporary architecture is poorly designed, unattractive, and offends our sense of aesthetics because it lacks coherence with its surroundings.

The streets of the Beacon Hill neighborhood in Boston are beautiful because the many different elements are aesthetically unified.

On the other hand, Frank Lloyd Wright’s impressive Guggenheim Museum in New York doesn’t bear any actual relationship to its surroundings; it could have been placed anywhere.

But it can get much worse. The Tour Montparnasse in Paris is horrifying because it doesn’t flow with the surrounding buildings and draws attention to itself.

When a building like Kunsthaus Graz in Austria is placed in the middle of an old village, the entire fabric of the village is disrupted.

In terms of coherence with its surroundings, most contemporary architecture is ugly. Some of it is very ugly. The worst examples attain a degree of ugliness that can only be the result of special effort.