Redundancy in design

This cottage is characterized by considerable repetition of elements (stylistic, formal and functional). There is aesthetic logic in the repetition of some elements _ for example, the iteration of portholes & round shapes is appropriate in a renovation that develops the original (sea-captain’s) cottage with its 4 porthole windows. Antique portholes were sourced & restored for a new room, and a porthole has been included in an internal doorway. Elsewhere modern louvres and bi-fold wood & glass doors and windows have been added, affording more light and airflow to previously dim interiors.

But repetition of other elements – of much larger scale and impact – challenges the modernist imperative of efficiency in form and function. This raises the question of redundancy in architecture. Redundancy serves a purpose in language but signals excess in modernist design. So many things about this cottage defy modernist codes and conventions.
A deck on the eastern side of the house links the interior to the garden and offers views across the valley to the sea (image in previous post). A second ‘bow deck’ sits high above it, accessed in nautical style, via a drop-down ladder. This upper deck repeats the lower deck experience, albeit with a higher vantage point and greater privacy (there is no second level to the cottage, so it is not a logical extension of some other interior living space).
Unsuprisingly, it is rarely used – and in I am vindicated in my modernist disapproval of this architect’s folly. But my smugness is deflated when I find myself admiring the bow-deck – simply for being there and for affirming or repeating (excessively) the all-important link, the view to the sea. Shantanu’s photos (The Pixel Trade) have made me rethink this folly. It transcends my expectations and extends the vocabulary of design. It shows the poetic potential of repetition and redundancy.


Writers, particularly script writers, aim to minimize redundancy: characters should be well differentiated and perform distinct narrative functions – rather than occupy the same dramatic space/function as it were. Similarly actions or plot developments may be repetitive to some extent, foreshadowing later events or hearkening back to previous events. But a “well-structured” narrative will only feature an action or event more than once if it assumes a different meaning in the iteration, if it serves as an index of profound change: the character is doing this again, but see how different things are this time. Conditions have shifted: the character and circumstances have developed and will generate a different outcome, purpose or meaning.
This is what we expect of efficient narratives – and efficient design. But it is not necessarily the most expressive or poetic combination of elements.


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