128 Flipping the Future of Architecture

Image: UXO Architects

A few weeks ago I retweeted an article about a nightmarish Victorian house flip that touched off a minor architectural tweet storm. That prompted an email from James Heard and Ashton Hamm of UXO Architects who had some opinions about this flip and about architecture and city design in general. So I asked them to join us on the podcast. During the conversation Ashton and James mention:

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. Closing theme music by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Leave a comment


  1. It appears that the episode uploaded to iTunes and linked off of this site is about the Rapture and Apocalypse.

    • Erik–Many thanks for catching that mistake! I fixed it and it should appear in the iTunes store in the next few hours.

  2. Architects have increasingly become a kind of preisthood that navigates the endless complexity of zoning regulations, building codes, value engineering, and political landmines. Design is often window dressing.

    • Yep–I had to hire an engineer when we first bought this house for exactly that reason–navigating the many desks of the building and safety department.

  3. I was disappointed but not really surprised at the snickering at Prince Charles’ name, which is a real shame in consideration of the great work that the Prince’s Trust has accomplished revitalizing traditional arts and crafts.

    I for one, really love most traditional architecture because it is designed around human nature- perhaps not as we like to imagine it to be, but as it really is- and subsequently promotes our flourishing and well-being. One of your guests mentioned his admiration of the Brutalist movement. Non disputandum gustibus est, what? Brutalism would perhaps be a fitting architecture for machines but not for people who have any innate sense of beauty left intact.

    I may be overstepping bounds here, but I don’t think that architecture is properly “art”. Art can define itself; the artist can give it any nature that she pleases, through whatever medium. The lived or worked in edifice has no such freedom. It has a very narrow purpose that conforms with our nature and can only be worked in a particular number of media. That isn’t to say that architecture can’t be artful or artistic, but it must always have an eye toward that limitation.

    Architecture in late modernity has done away with that objective and rather than giving us beautiful lives, it prescribes a new mechanistic nature to us. Exhibit A: the office cubicle. Exhibit B: Clear, glass-enclosed shitters that don’t offer the courtesy to extend all the way to the ceiling. Exhibit C: Single pitched roofs. Nobody wants to live or work in those conditions! Human nature balks at efficiency and all things merely functional. Give us wonder! Surprise us! Delight us! But don’t make it programmatically quirky- we aren’t stupid.

    Architecture is a craft- it rarely needs to make grand gestures, but its works must be handsome and endure. It should evolve slowly. Architects should be apprenticed, rarely schooled, and spend more time observing how people live and thinking about how to help them live more wonderfully.

    All that said, I have nothing but admiration for the cooperative ownership model these architects are implementing and I wish them nothing but success.

    • I probably should have handled this part of the interview better. We were snickering because the guest knows my fuddy-duddy taste in architecture. Somehow I need to find a way to talk or write about the odd fact of my hanging out with conceptual artists who all have a secret admiration for representational art and pre 20th century architecture. Perhaps the problem is the point at which the arts and crafts became separate–the former overly abstract and the latter too literal. What the guests and I do agree on is the harm of capitalism and its effect on art, architecture and the trades. As Thomas Paine said, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” I think we need to ask what that new world could look like and how it could support the needs of the people that live in it.

  4. A fresh take on the pressing issues of the profession. I had never really thought about the gig economy being able to creep into architecture. Perhaps the ‘old guard’ ways of the profession will change egged on by this new threat.

Comments are closed.