Many times when explaining what Architecture is, people use
the building analogy. Imagine you built a house without a master plan, by
continuously adding and changing it over a long period of time without a broad
plan of what you were doing. You might end up with something like this:
160 rooms, 40 bedrooms and 2 ballrooms.
47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys
2 basements, three elevators.
Doors and stairways that lead nowhere
Steam and forced-air heating
Push-button gas lights
The Winchester Mystery House is a well-known California
mansion that was under construction continuously for 38 years. It once was the
personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt
Winchester, but is now a tourist attraction. Under Sarah Winchester's
day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded
around-the-clock, without interruption, from 1884 until her death on September
The mansion is renowned for its size and utter lack of any
master building plan and is often used as a perfect example of bad
Architecture. In fact, it is a perfect example of good Architecture! How come I
hear you cry?
The story goes that after her husband’s death, Sarah
Winchester became obsessed by the all the ghosts from the people her husbands
guns had killed. Having consulted a (very wily) clairvoyant (with good
connections to building companies!), she was told that the ghosts needed to be
“deflected” if they came through windows and doors and the only way to stop them
was to confuse them by putting doors on walls the led nowhere, etc.
Unfortunately that meant the ghost were deflected so another false door or
internal window was needed…. Etc, etc, etc. Think of it as Feng Shui on Acid!
The point is this.
Any “good” architecture ONLY
EXISTS to fulfil a customer’s needs.
It does not exist to “look” nice (unless that’s what the
customer wants of course!).
In general, “good” architecture tends to “look” nice, but the
key thing for people to understand is to concentrate on satisfying the client,
not making perfect pretty architectures.
This building, although totally “crazy” and “wrong” to some
peoples eyes, is actually “perfect” in the clients eyes, hence, by definition,
its “good” architecture.
A little piece of trivia - A film “Winchester” (released in
2018) staring Helen Mirren, tells a dramatized story of Sarah Winchester and
the house. Although the film shows a lot of the houses interior, very little
filming took place at the actual mansion.