Ugly Houses: A Different Point of View

As I was perusing the Monolithic Dome Builders Bulletin Board one day, I came across an interesting post regarding a presentation given by Dan Sutterfield, a Monolithic Dome Builder from Newburg, MO.

The portion of the post I am referring to is as follows:

… I’m going to paraphrase Dan Sutterfield in a presentation he gave Monday evening:
You know what I think is ugly?

  1. a $100,000 stick-built home infested with termites.
  2. a non-monolithic house scattered all-over the neighbors property
  3. a mother who has lost her two children in a house fire.
  4. the sight of an ever increasing utility bill as rates go up and traditional houses keep wasting energy. — Chuck

Share YOUR thoughts on Ugly Houses…click here

This got me thinking. What makes a house beautiful? What makes it ugly? If it’s true that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is ugliness there too? In other words, do we judge something, like a house, to be either beautiful or ugly simply by how it looks? Or are our judgments based on how the house makes us feel and what it does for us? I think the latter is true. To me, houses that are truly ugly are shelters that don’t really shelter.

I recently made up this list of ugly qualities a house might have. Read it over and see if you agree. Let me know if you have one or two you would like added.

Ugly Houses

  • Give a false sense of security
  • Burn— destroying lives, families and keepsakes
  • Blow away in tornadoes
  • Get flattened by earthquakes
  • Disappear during a hurricane
  • Float during a flood
  • Rot after a flood
  • Allow wind to blow through without any air control
  • Do not hold sounds out
  • Do not contain interior sounds
  • Are not soundproof
  • Harbor and provide food for mold
  • Can be eaten by termites and other pests
  • Lose their roofs
  • Develop foundation and wall cracks when the ground shifts under them
  • Consume high amounts of energy
  • Require expensive repairs and maintenance
  • Have load bearing walls that limit remodeling
  • Have to have high ceilings added in at vaulted prices
  • Have a short lifetime — often less than 50 years
  • Use up our forests
  • Deplete our fuel reserves
  • Cannot be recycled to be used as something else
  • Have an unnatural shape or artificial look
  • Make people feel boxed in
  • Are the homes of the past, not the future


More letters from YOU regarding Ugly Houses…

06/14/09 – My idea of an ugly house is one that sits above ground, surrounded by concrete and asphalt, crammed together with other houses that cover all the arable land with inorganic, toxic surfaces where nothing can grow, or lawns full of lethal chemicals. My dream home is an earth-sheltered Monolithic Dome in a complex with other earth-sheltered homes opening onto a central dome sheltered courtyard filled with vegetable gardens illuminated by flexible LED panels, and exterior roads made of grassphalt that lead into common garages. I dream of sipping tea at a table outside my door, toasty and warm in winter, and mosquito-free in summer, while moose munch willows on my roof. - Forest, Alaska

10/23/08 – I used to live in an ALL wooden house that my parents had built in Oregon. I saw first hand what a hassle a typical wooden stick house was. Too much maintenance, wood rot, cracking decks, nails popping out, constant repainting of the house, sun bleaching of the paint. The house was NOT energy efficient, with the large sized windows. It was freezing in the winters and roasting hot during the summers. The house just required too much work. I was there as a kid growing up, and swore that I would NEVER, ever build a house out of wood inside and out! The wood looked nice inside, BUT was very vulnerable to young kids like me and my brother who constantly threw things at each other, and objects would bang into the wood walls and leave dents, scratches, etc. It would have been too hard to replace the tongue and groove wall without having to tear apart many areas of the house. My brother is now grown up and dealing with a Nightmare House in San Diego. It was a 30 year old house they had bought for an insane amount of money, and it was ALREADY damaged from termites, wood rot, mold, moisture problems, etc. It was a very expensive fixer upper that my brother and his wife spent 6 years remodeling, doing most of the work themselves to save on money. The house is still not finished, and my brother is currently tearing up the wooden pine floor that has extensive termite damage under the wooden floor boards. The previous owners of the house never bothered to maintain the house, so the house was a wreck when my brother bought it. The wooden fence around the property was falling apart, entire walls and decks of the house had to be torn out and replaced from water and termite damage. 20 years of creeping vines had done their damage to the decks, the walls and vents. Ants, rats and termites were a constant problem for my brother to fight every week. On top of all this, the house faces the moist ocean breezes and they have moisture problems in the house….. it is so bad, that they have to dump out almost a gallon of water from their dehumidifier every week. The energy efficient windows and sliding glass doors they installed on their top deck STILL does not keep the house cool, and they still have to deal with 100+ degree temperatures upstairs during the summer months in San Diego. This is strange, as they are near a watery bay and ocean, which is typically cooler with breezes than the hot desert areas that I live in. The house is now worth over a Million, but it is a typical box house that is very costly to repair and maintain… My brother would have been better off getting a dome house instead and saving a fortune in repairs. My future home will definitely be a dome, as it makes far more sense economically, safely, and environmentally. Monolithic Dome is in my future. I just have to figure out how to get the money for the land and designing the Dome Home of my dreams. -Eric, California

03/10/08 – An ugly house is a death trap waiting for the right conditions to snare it’s occupants. A beautiful house protects them instead. Fire, tornado, earthquake, vehicular impact; none of these are any particular concern to a monolithic home owner. Houses built out of hundreds of pieces of wood only temporarily held together by blind nails are ancient technology. They rot. They attract pests. They blow apart under severe weather events. They shake apart in earthquakes. They are built out of flammable materials, potentially trapping and incinerating the very occupants they should be protecting. There’s nothing beautiful about that. A monolithic, steel-reinforced, super-insulated concrete home is the way of the future. No need for FEMA with houses like that. Go to bed and sleep without a worry even under a tornado warning or during a hurricane. They can’t burn, because they aren’t made out of flammable materials. A house should be a shelter instead of a threat in all situations; why build a house that could eventually contribute to killing you, when you can build a house that would provide protection for you under the same circumstances? Now that’s beautiful. - Danny, Ontario

06/10/07 – A house that is built from non-sustainable building materials. Any house that will not stand for more than three hundred years with out major rebuilding. Any house that does not have a natural flow and lack of right angles, is an UGLY house to me. I guess my train of thought has always leaned toward a more organic looking structure. From a very early age I could never understand why, when we are born, we come from the perfect Organic Form and are immediately placed into a box. Then put into a box looking car, taken home to a box, and eventually buried…IN A BOX! My taste in homes starts with an Earth Ship and grows steadily more enraptured until a total organic form is realized. The monolithic dome is in the top two best structures I have ever seen. The others are built by artistic types who build from their minds and not a set of plans. - Paul

02/13/07 – I frequently wince when I walk by them—the multi-gabled houses pretending to be McMansions. Even a small house may have four or five wierd gables that add nothing but unnecessary cost. The bigger “mansions” are equally ugly and even more wasteful because there are more and bigger useless gables. And of course the monotony of repetition enhances the ugliness. - Mary of Michigan

02/09/07 – No matter how much money you pour into it, it’s still ugly! You can add insulation (fiberglass of course!) and add new efficient windows, caulk all openings and put in a radiant barrier. New AC, heater and replace all lights with florescent. Dig a trench around the house and fill in with pretty river rock to keep the termintes and bugs at bay. Spend $50,000 to replace board rot with Hardee board and paint with the best paint. Sounds of jets from the Air Force base nearby, cars on streets, lawn mowers, music from oversized pickup’s and dogs barking at the mailman still permeates this expensive home. Even with all that, it’s still a 30 year old house that can still burn, flood, mildew, mold, be blown away or just plain age with time. How ugly is that? - Gary of Houston

02/09/07 – Enjoyed the Article on “Ugly House”. Seems the gentleman from Missouri has it well defined. I often say there are two types of homes: a dome home or a dumb home. Best Wishes, Larry

04/10/07 – To borrow (& reword) a phrase from my wonderful Scottish friends, (said with thick Scottish accent) “If it’s not Monolithic, it’s CRAP!” Seriously though, if it’s not efficient, it’s ugly! Wasted natural resources are ugly! Not having Monolithic Domes for sale where I want to buy a house is ugly!! Who on earth wants to settle for some inefficient storage box to live in when there’s beautiful, efficient, secure, cozy, & environmentally friendly MONOLITHIC DOMES to live in! (especially in Florida where I live – why there’s anything BUT Monolithic Dome construction going on here of all places is quite beyond me) You know, I went to several of the most popular real estate sites online and not one of them has a search function for Monolithic Domes??? That’s ugly! The thought of paying off a 30 year mortgage on a home that might not last long enough to leave to my heirs is ugly too… Those are some of my thoughts on the matter… Feel free to use any, all or none of that as you please ;). Brightest Blessings, Lisa

04/24/07 – An ugly house is when people keep on insisting in rebuilding old stick designs AGAIN and again in the same spot where a river flood or a hurricane happened. When will people learn to build something more durable in a different and higher location? An ugly house is when you spend more time and weekends fixing and repairing the house than you do living in it! An ugly house is when you see your electric bill soaring higher every year and the electric companies are laughing at the extra profits they made. An ugly house is when someone spends 4 Million Dollars or more on a box-mansion next to a sandy cliff near the beach, and gets to watch it split in half during rain storms or earthquakes. Only to rebuild it again…at more expense. Most people have forgotten the old proverbs…. A foolish man builds his house on the sand…The wise man builds his house on a rock (or a solid foundation)… Too many square homes that have been wiped out by storms and high winds. People forget that box homes are NOT aerodynamic, and the wind will push in the walls. For proof, just hold a boxy milk carton out the car window, and see how much resistance and force is on the flat walls… The Dome is the only way to go….Aerodynamic, Strong, Smooth, More efficient, lower cost, Organic looking, and Can be made very beautiful. What is even more beautiful is the low priced energy bill and the durability of the home… long after the neighbors have wasted millions rebuilding their box homes again and again and again….The Dome is the future. The box home is an outdated concept from the Old Pioneering West…..Eric

01/14/10 – My car is a prius I have had people ask me this " what did you do look for the ugliest car you could get?" That was then now we have over 1 million of these cars on the road and those that own one know the benefits of choosing function over form. How many of you have driven a car at 80 mph for hours on end and was able to get 40 mpg? That means that you can drive 5.75 hours and would have covered 440 miles.A trip that will cover 1500 miles one way you need all the help you can get. The less you have to stop the more you can drive. This car has 40K miles on it and it has never been in the shop I have changed the tires oil wiper blades that is it. Get this the newer prius cars get better mpg and will require even less maintenance now that their engine is bellt less.What does this have to do with a home? Think about it the less time and money you have to spend refueling or repairing your home the more time and money you will have to devote to other ventures. The best thing is when you are finished paying off your home you will have something to hand down to your family. It will not be destroyed in a earthquake,fire,tornado,hurricane,lightening. Your appliances will not be worn out attempting to regulate a constant temperature. If it happens to be flooded you can rebuild the home will not be a total loss. As the years pass you will spend more time doing the things you want to do not attempting to fight a loosing battle with the elements and your home. Ask your self who cares what people think about your car or home if you have your priorities aligned adequately. As you age you may be less sable to perform your own maintenance on your home that money will really be needed at that time too many reach the age to retire and they less than adequate funds to care for the minimum things let alone all the maintenance of a diva house that is just a high maintenance guzzler. Sean of Louisiana

01/18/10 – Why do people believe domes are not capable of being built in a manner pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately most consider the basic dome to be the pinnacle of aesthetic design. But consider the basic salt box, what is aesthetically pleasing about those designs, nothing. But over time the salt box transformed into something pleasing to look at. It was the shadow lines of extra but unnecessary trim work surrounding doors, windows, roof lines, and chimneys that create architectural interest. Those designs have evolved over the years to transform basic box designs to homes many dream of owning. The same can be said about dome homes. To me basic half spherical domes are no more pleasing then the first basic salt box. My first design attempt at a dome was a disappointment to my wife, and myself. She felt it would not change, until she saw the dome in Florida called Dome of a Home. I combined the traits of that home and of other designs I have seen and finally came up with three designs we both think are stunning. Admittedly basic domes like basic stick built homes are Bla, but with time domes designs will be considered equal in appeal to any conventional home. Now we can’t wait to build our dome, it has been our dream for 3 years now. The design possibilities are endless, and the energy efficiency, safety, security, and carefree structural home maintenance issues are beyond reproach. David from California

01/27/10 – Eloquence is not needed. Housing and homes should meet the needs of fit, form, and function.  Fit would be for the landscape, for the family, for the community, etc. Form should be for efficiency, locality needs(storm protection, insulation,etc.), space actually needed and not extravangance.  Function simply means that it ties the other two into a package that works, is reasonably priced, is cheap to operate, and doesn’t require constant maintenance.  Having spent part of my young life under the direction of my carpenter uncle, I learned to jack up floors until they were level, “fit” room corners and windows that were not square, and  a host of other maintenance and repair items all associated with all wood construction.  I decided then that my retirement home would be something other than this scenario.  Thank goodness the design was done for me. I look forward to doing something besides maintenance work in my retirement years. This is one housing bubble (dome) that won’t burst. Bill from Alabama

10/25/10 – I’ve lived in a few ‘ugly’ houses in my life.  In fact, I’m living in one now.  As I write this an icy howling wind is blowing through the gaps in the steel windows and around the doors, heating and a towel at the bottom of the door helps, but costs a fortune.  That’s ugly!  Ugly is paying an exorbitant mortgage, or excessive rental for a house in ‘the’ area and finding no amount of heating will reduce the internal wind currents – hot air rising and then dropping down as ice cold  as it cools on the freezing, damp walls.  That hurts… and it’s ugly.  Moist, streaming, mouldy walls are ugly.  Most of all, ugly is a house one simply doesn’t want to come home to. Ralf from South Africa

Share YOUR thoughts on Ugly Houses…click here.

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