A San Diego Designer in Europe: why does dilapidated look charming in Europe?

Jun 17, 2010

So, I’ve been traipsing through Europe looking for architectural inspiration for a few weeks now.   While everything here is decades and centuries old, I am finding inspiration for both traditional and contemporary design.  But, I think what amazes me most on this trip I’m taking through Italy and the French Riviera, is how the Europeans make run down look romantic.  Where peeling plaster in America looks dilapidated, in Europe, it looks charming.  Why is that?  Well, I think it has to do with the big picture.  What I mean is cracked and peeling stucco looks the way it looks in Europe because it has the depth of color that years of aging create.  The vines that grow up the three-story cement buildings, have often times caused the break in the stucco and bring in a natural element that is critical to the facade not looking like a penitentiary.   And of course, the cobble stone streets add the combined element of nature (rock) put into our man-made form (rectangles) which, in combination with everything else, just works.

Then why is it that one town can look charming and another run down?  If you remove any one of those elements, plus many more I haven’t written about,  you’ve lost the balance.  After all, design is all about bringing the right elements together, isn’t it?