Kimmy Sophia Brown

Beautifying Uglyville

Nov 11, 2006
Remember the old song by Peter Seeger, "Little Boxes"?

"Little boxes on a hillside and they're all made out of ticky tacky
and they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same."

I was driving on the country road near my house recently looking at a bunch of little boxy houses that had been spawned and scattered over the fields and woodlands that had once stood in their place.

I realize that people need to live somewhere. However, in the effort to provide affordable or (not so affordable) housing, the developers have designed and created subdivisions of crowded, closely spaced houses made of cheap materials that have become a blight on the landscape as opposed to an inspiration.

I was thinking about why people like to travel to the old villages of Europe or New England. People like to see beautiful architecture, charming cottages and business districts that reflect something of bygone days.

I don't think anyone drives past a wasteland of tract homes and one-story ugly shopping centers with neon lights and billboards and sighs as their heartstrings are tugged by the charming sight.

So I had this idea.

Remember a few years back when somebody invented hood attachments for Volkswagens that could transform the ordinary beetle into a Rolls Royce or a Bentley or a Mercedes Benz? I loved that inventiveness, taking a relatively low priced car and turning it into wheels of luxury merely by attaching a differently designed hood. It gave the driver a feeling of added class and creativity and made driving the roads more fun and attractive.

What if somebody made attachments for houses that could turn ugly subdivisions into villages of charm? Imagine a hundred little tract homes that could order attachments for their house that could turn their neighborhood into an English Tudor village or a cluster of thatched roof Irish stone houses?

How about little castles with turrets and towers?

What if suburbia began to look -- gasp -- attractive? Neighborhoods could pick a theme like Busch Gardens and buy attachable facades for their homes that could make their neighborhoods look like a gathering of Native American long houses, or a French or Italian or German village from the 1700's.

How about a neighborhood of Chinese Pagodas?


Mud huts?


The houses could still be built of the same ugly, cheap materials, but the facades could be attachable to the outside somehow -- and created to withstand weather and wear. Imagine trailer parks that looked like a town in the Old West.

Eventually when technology develops enough, people could just set up a little hologram machine in their front yard to project the facade on the house. Then people could change themes if they became bored with the look they had chosen last week. Your house could appear to be a castle one week and the next week it could be a little A-frame with a white picket fence.

At any rate, because home and neighborhood developers have hit an all time low with building materials and neighborhood design -- not to mention a total disconnect from the creation, this area has huge room for creative input.

Instead of tearing up the world and paving it over with increasing ugliness, why don't we take the inventiveness and charm human beings are capable of and make our world a place of beauty and delight? Lady Byrd Johnson started the "Make America Beautiful" campaign in the 1960's. Why don't we multiply that to a world scale? The sight of the earth from space is a heavenly jewel. Wouldn't it be great if that beauty only increased with closer examination in greater detail? Transformation of human hearts on the inside, and beautifying Uglyville on the outside. There's a lot of work to be done!

[ written on December 26, 2004 ]

Kim lives in Maine, which is lovely, and where she continues her enthusiastic relationship with Art, Music, Nature, Books, Animals, Humor and Trees.