Ever since he was a baby, Hannes Coudenys had been aggravated by the “visible chaos” round him. On the street from residence to his college in Bruges, he discovered a mishmash of architectural types – haciendas, villas, farm-style homes, all blended up with boxy malls and carpet retailers.
Sooner or later, as an grownup, nonetheless exasperated, he took a photograph of a home that was break up into two jarringly totally different types: a gray city semi whose different half was a jaunty brick cottage. He put the photograph on-line with the title “ugly Belgian homes” and an web development was born.
Ugly Belgian Homes turned a weblog, then a e-book. Final month, a decade since posting that first photograph, a second version got here out: Extra Ugly Belgian Homes.
Coudenys, who has no architectural coaching, mentioned he was simply responding to the “chaos also called Belgium. As a result of we’re such a small nation it is extremely seen how a lot chaos there may be”.
“Ugly” is within the eye of the beholder, and the e-book is a celebration of architectural whimsy and owners who let their imaginations run free. There are redbrick suburban pyramids, homes clustered with turrets and crenellations, a scholar lodging block the place the door body and home windows tilt at a woozy 45-degree angle from the bottom. There are homes with bricked-up home windows, and homes with headache-inducing jangles of home windows of various sizes and styles.
Then there are no-nonsense options to constructing restore: a crumbling facade changed with black corrugated iron sheets, for example. Or simply the eccentricities of non-public style, resembling a facade in clashing pink, white, black and brown, a large mannequin canine guarding a doorway, or partitions festooned with murals of classical warriors within the model of an historical Greek urn.
Many individuals weren’t happy to seek out their residence on a web site known as Ugly Belgian Homes. “Expensive Mr Asshole, if you wish to keep away from a lawsuit, I counsel that you just instantly delete your put up about our home out of your ridiculous web site,” one complained. “What provides you the precise to name these homes ugly?” wrote one other.
When Coudenys compiled his first e-book, few needed to be included. The e-book contained solely 50 out of the five hundred homes within the weblog, as publishers struggled to get permission from residents and designers.
Coudenys, who runs a artistic company serving to firms with social media, mentioned the second version was a lot simpler. Ugly Belgian Homes has now gained a lifetime of its personal. The positioning has 150,000 Instagram followers and 115,000 Fb likes. He believes his weblog impressed others, resembling Ugly Irish Homes and Ugly Melbourne Homes. He additionally took half in a Flemish TV present the place he visited the house owners of “ugly” homes in a section known as “Hannes says sorry”.
He was not apologising for calling their home ugly, he makes clear. Somewhat, he was sorry “for the truth that I may need given them some additional bother,” he mentioned. Assembly residents was a nerve-racking expertise however he was properly obtained. “Most of them weren’t offended. They mentioned: it’s my style, not your style, and I’m very joyful right here.”
The present taught him concerning the homes and the individuals who lived in them. What seemed like a crooked wall was in reality an integral aspect of a “passive home”, designed to maximise power effectivity. Two equivalent indifferent homes, every that includes a turret within the center, belonged to twins, who shared a plot of land and the identical style for mock-Tudor design.
One wood pile dwelling got here to Belgium from Thailand, the place it was painstakingly reassembled piece by piece over a pond. Some occupants, nevertheless, admitted they may have given an excessive amount of free rein to their architect. “To be sincere I don’t actually prefer it,” one house owner instructed him.
Coudenys has additionally modified his thoughts about a number of the supposed ugliness. Somewhat than rant concerning the architectural mishmash, he now respects Belgians’ willingness to experiment. Ugly Belgian homes, he has determined, are a part of his nation’s surrealist custom – one thing he wouldn’t change for the generic developments he has seen within the Netherlands, France, the UK – and more and more in Belgium, too.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m fairly keen on what we’ve got right here,” he mentioned. “It’s good to know that you’ve this sort of freedom to construct and experiment. You don’t have to love my experiment, however I believe it’s good that we might be artistic.
“The credo of my weblog these days is that it’s higher to be ugly than to be boring.”