Really Terrible Architecture

I actually typed “Reallly Terrible Architecture” and now I wonder whether it would have been better to leave that third “l” in there.
We are visiting my mother-in-law.
Ever since she came to live here, I have been trying – in a desultory way – to discover who the architect was for this complex of houses and flats, built to include, specifically about 50 residences and a central recreational space + laundry room, &c. It is dreadful.
At first, my mother-in-law, just widowed, moved into one of the flats here. To her, I think, a flat sounded a bit glamorous. She disliked the communal meeting space (and events) and couldn’t abide the idea of the launderette-like facility; so she got a washer/dryer.
That was an upstairs flat. It had (as many of the upstairs flats do) a principal window in the sitting-room which was like a bay window.
But…what could have been a window-seat was above waist height – even her teen-aged granddaughter had to put her hands on it and jump up to a sitting position. It was also deep. You couldn’t hoist yourself up there and sit near enough to look out at the activity in the street – to check out a strange noise for example. Not without drawing your feet up and scooting window-ward. And it was clear from the outside that that shelf had nothing under it. If you were nervous about going out onto Spanish balconies you wouldn’t sit there anyway. The other windows were mostly narrow slots like arrow slits.
After a couple of years of that, one of the “cottages” became empty. Reasonably sized two-up/two-down houses, with small fenced back gardens. The appeal was that she could at least go and peg out her washing outdoors (she’s not one to sit outside, but freshly blown clean laundry is lovely). So she moved across the street.
This is “sheltered” housing. Restricted to over-55s (although there are nearby and across-the-street houses that are not part of the complex). Whoever the ignorant architect was (I cannot help but imagine him [surely not a woman] as being the developer[s]’s nephew) did no reasearch at all into the habits and desires of retired people, or those nearing retirement. He decided they wanted peace and quiet…a sort of getting-used-to-it period before burial actually occurs.
He put the sitting-rooms at the back of the houses, looking out at the 7-foot high fences, with 4-foot high fences separating the gardens on either side. Beyond that 7-foot fence is a well-known greensward (scheduled to be replaced by a supernumerary mega-store soon) full of life, dogwalkers, children, scudding clouds and town roof-scape vistas. But it cannot be seen from the sitting room.

As to life out the fronts of the houses, this can only be seen by going into the kitchen, leaning over the sink and peering out left and right. The (landscaped and maintained) front gardens have un-strategically placed topiary, trees and shrubs that prevent identifying night-rambling animals – “Was that a stoat?” – strange cars, or suspicious-looking people.
Since the whole complex is a cul-de-sac, there is no through-traffic. What little “life in the street” there is is old dears doddling along with their little wheeled trolleys, the arrivals and departures of home-helps, the odd taxi or dutiful adult child coming to take someone out, grand-children visiting, deliveries of occasional new televisions or sofas, and the serious arrivals: ambulances.
The warden’s daily rounds should be monitored.
The total of all those events added up per day is probably seldom above twenty. But it is impossible to sit anywhere and keep an eye on things. This makes the “Neighbourhood Watch” stickers pretty pointless, too.
And the upstairs rooms in the “cottage”? The front bedroom might look out over the street, but its windowsills are even higher – only by standing and peering can you see out. And the back bedroom which faces that lively field permits access to the view also, only by peering out. My husband is installed there during our stay working at a small table, and interrupts himself often to stand and look when dogs and activity catch his ear.
The bathroom (a shower room, only) between the bedrooms has no daylight at all.
And all the “units” are similar. Worse – one woman with a ground-floor flat is presently paying quite a lot to have alterations done: Her bedroom has French windows opening onto a minute patio (unfenced), but no other window. She wants fresh air, but does not relish the idea of an exterior door open all night so she needs French windows with little transoms (I’m sure that’s the wrong description).
What thoughtless berk designed this mess?
The houses are moderately well finished (though the floors creak).
I’d love to know whose fault it all is.


About Catanea

I'm 1/2 of "Keith⁊Amanda" - that's a Tironian "&", but it confuses people, so we write it with a "7" [seven]. Calligraphers. In Catalonia.
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