Well, I think they were pretty bad. That’s just my view, as an amateur who grew up with buildings from that era, ignored them for years, and only recently started paying attention. Now they seem to be everywhere. There are lots of exceptions, and people who know architecture might disagree, but as a whole, commercially and residentially, I feel that Seventies architecture is a blight.
Many times, when you walk into a building designed in the 1930s, you look on in wonder. When you walk into a building designed in the 1970s, most of the time you think, Jesus. It feels like an hallucination.
The interesting thing for me is how that happened. I don’t believe that 1970s architects were incompetent. If nothing else, they designed buildings that keep standing and standing and standing. And I don’t think people who came of age then were born with bad taste. Yet imagine the day in 1975 when President Ford dedicated Washington, D.C.’s J. Edgar Hoover Building, with thousands of well-intentioned and smart people looking on. They looked at the building, which is pictured above. Most of them probably said, Wow, that is really breathtaking. Bravo!
Think of all the architects that worked on that building. Think of all the committees the plans had to go through. Not one of those people ever said the obvious: This is a really ugly building.
There was a spirit in the air then that wafted away long ago.
And then there’s the houses. A depressing rectangle from the street, with a similar, smaller, equally depressing rectangle on the side that is the garage. Sometimes, you open the front door and look right at a stairway. Not a foyer or a family room, but stairs. You are invited to pick your poison. There is wood paneling downstairs and cottage cheese on the ceiling upstairs.
But I’m not giving up on it. Views change with time. Even now, I’ll see something from the 1970s and catch the vibe: Don’t conform, man. Be outrageous. Was that the appeal?
Were they so far advanced then that the average person like me doesn’t get it yet? You’d like to know what was going through their minds. What was the secret we’re missing out on?