Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Changing Tastes

What were they thinking? I just got back from the French Alps where, in addition to obtaining a nasty sunburn, sore legs from snowshoeing, and a new appreciation for Savoyard cuisine, I learned a bit about mountain building design throughout the ages. A hiking expedition took me past old stone houses and an adorable stone church that recall a simpler time in the valley; a time before ski lifts, tourist shops, and noisy British vacationers. Some of the houses were even still occupied by local residents. Architecturally appealing, they make you want to buy one of your own, move in, and enjoy an authentic mountain existence.

Compare these structures, which fit perfectly into the gorgeous landscape, with the 70s-era monstrosities created to house crowds of tourists. The only word one can use to describe the modern buildings is "hideous." They lack character and taste. I was happy that the hotel I stayed in looked nothing like them, resembling a quaint chalet instead. What on earth made builders of the 1970s think that their design choices were acceptable? Their creations are unfortunate eyesores that mar the awe-inspiring mountainside. Rather than convincing you to set up shop in the Alps, they make you want to run as fast as you can in the other direction!

Old stone houses in the Alps have stood the test of time. Despite all of the modern building projects that have gone on around them, their charm and historical significance have thankfully spared them the wrecking ball. Hopefully, their 20th-century descendants won't be so lucky.

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