“Entstuckung” was the modernist craze for removing stucco from buildings, and I’ve mentioned it before, but seeing this album of examples makes me feel weirdly hopeful.

Every single “before” is far superior to every single “after”, and I’ll fight you if you think otherwise. The only improvement I can stretch to see is ease of cleaning, and the wanton destruction of artisanship is depressing as hell.

But beyond that, if I look at the “afters”, I see the same mediocre bones of design that I’ve seen in a hundred, you know, Best Westerns.

And that’s really cool to me, because it implies we are not so far down a road of ugliness that we couldn’t fix it. With these big block buildings, money and attention and care could make every Khrushchyovka or fast-casual capitalist affair as beautiful as anything in Paris or Prague I’ve oohed and aahed over. Our construction practices aren’t disposable. If as a society we cared about these things, we could prioritize getting the housing we need up, and then trimming and edging and corniceing and casing to suit resources and taste. We could have neighborhood-level investment in these improvements instead of adversarially pissing away money and time squabbling about what exactly should be allowed to be built in the first place (seriously, go look at that thirty page “Early Design Guidance”). Hell, you could make a jobs program out of the whole thing from design to installation.

Now, is any of that politically feasible? At least from what I see around me: absolutely not. But the aesthetic possibility latent in the space between the “befores” and “afters” is cheering.