Sure an’ it was a short one..what with the horses to look after and all that, but we did go for a stint over the peninsula to one of those now booming coastal towns where marinas and holiday development enclaves have replaced that “sleepy village” atmosphere and ‘beachfront cafes’ now pepper the foreshore along with the McMansions and other beachfront developments to keep a holiday-happy clientele…..well….happy!
Perhaps it is time here to inject a conundrum into the conversation about the connection between the idea of the “sleepy village”, cultural architecture and the hunger for so many housing developments in these coastal locations…Well how about this:
Why is Art?
Indeed..or rather what has art got to do with the above three discussion points…where does an artistic eye come into the relationship of village, housing and development?…Simple…The once “sleepy village” picture of these coastal towns didn’t just arise out of nothing..they were a result of settlement of one distinct cultural ethnic group..The Cornish, in this instance….and with their migration from their homeland, they transported their own peculiar style of housing size and design…these styles slowly morphed into the turn of the twentieth century cottage we see in the older parts of the towns and give the village that attractive air of settled conformity…
In a sample street of the old part of the towns, you will see limestone constructed houses of similar dimensions, the straight or return verandah, finials and lacework or timber shaped corbels on the posts..similar but never the same..slight variations to mark the individual tastes of the builders..These houses can be considered samples of what has been a long tradition of “timeless buildings” and can be viewed as an example of “quality without a name”…that vision of a “certain something” that holds and delights the viewer.
But these variations only ventured within a kind of perimeter of cultural allowance..to be too extreme was frowned upon..to be too radical was seen as thumbing one’s nose at your fellows…not appreciated nor tolerated..hence we see the evolution of the uniform umbrella of “sleepy village” cultural architecture…that ingredient that made these coastal villages so attractive to the holidaying city dweller and then opened up the surrounding land to speculators and property entrepreneurs..who went on to develop the eyesores we now have to endure in these once lovely coastal locales.
Where we stayed for our short sojourn was in one of those lovely old town streets..in a renovated old house..a pleasant “feel” …next door, an old house was knocked down and a brand-spanking modern unit was built…it was said the knocked down house was in a bad state of repair…I have my doubts of these claims..I have been employed in trade to renovate many older houses and find that when the in-situ structure is reasonably sound, the roof and rooms can be restored within reasonably cost…certainly cheaper than demolition and new build with the incumbent costs of fire, energy and structural engineering requirements now required by law…
In a street of cultural/period-piece dwellings, this new unit is an eyesore…regardless of design material, colour…it stands out like I suspect the bombastic owner wanted…but I see it as a blot on the streetscape..and the fact that it is in the end no more than a “holiday house” more incriminates the owner for its gross intrusion.
In stark contrast across the street stands an old house of the turn of the 20th century…not renovated, but assiduously maintained…it’s walls and roof line along with the footpath aligned wooden balustrade original and complete..certainly the maintenance has been attentative to detail as can be expected to retain the cultural architecture of the street…I have sat and just stared at that house in its balanced beauty for a long time…just absorbing the “art” of balanced construct inherent with the eye of the trades who built it…for certainly the trades of times gone by are reflected in both design and construct…from the burnt lime of the mortar to the size of the limestone chosen and placed to the joinery of the windows and structure…what the ancient Greeks would call ; “Eye sweet”…in contrast : A thing of beauty….a joy forever.
At one point in our holiday, we were taken to the town lookout and our friend pointed to the bay and exclaimed..
“Isn’t it a beautiful view?”
There blotting out most of the bay-view was the backyards of foreshore McMansions and the caravan park with the usual flotsam and jetsam of accompanying residences…I wasn’t wanting to rain on the friend’s parade, so just nodded in reply and when they directed my attention to the “North Shore Beach” in the distance and how wonderful the sands there were, I recalled my visit to those same sands around 40 years before and remember camping behind dunes there and casting a fishing line from that beach…now the dunes are long gone and the foreshore lined with those same McMansions (Is there a design factory somewhere churning out the same designs for these boxes?) and if I turned around at this lookout, I would see similar boxes overlooking even the lookout..like the owners saw it as their right to even steal the view!
I have worked for many spec-builders and I can tell you that few..VERY FEW..have any sort of eye for the Art of the thing they are building…their developments certainly capitalise on the “sleepy village” atmosphere of the locale when selling their ghastly eyesores..and then play upon the “getting away from it all” holiday feeling of the coast…and then proceed to dump their monstrosities onto the landscape until they completely destroy that very essence of the location that first attracted their unwanted attention..
This is where the “Art” is lost and where it badly needs to be restored…restored like those cultural architecture houses…the streetscapes that were not just dropped from a designers sketch-board in one day, one year or one generation..but rather evolved as did those Cornish and other migrants to the vastness of this country…an art that grew from the foundations up rather than dropped from a false God down onto the populace…and this attitude has expanded unwanted and un warranted into every part of our lives, from our workplaces to our politics…we have this demand of the “individual” to both steal our culture and dominate our view of where our lives ought to be heading … there needs to be change and the only way it will change is to once again seek the cultural base of our lives and rebuild from those solid foundations.