In praise of the "dingbat" apartment


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I think Mr. Miyagi lives in one in Reseda.
Actually I guess his student is the one who lives there.


(earthquake) danger! will robinson!


I like the last illustration because it makes Dingbats look like microchips due to their boxiness and carport pillars.


I’m not keen on the “6” in “658”, but otherwise that frontage is perfection; its the feckin’ future!

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The earthquakes are nothing compared to the loud, jackass neighbors.


I had no idea that that was even a style of architecture, let alone that it had such an odd name. Now it’s been pointed out, I shall have to keep an eye open for it in American media.

For reference, here’s one of those stenciled Seoul apartment blocks mentioned:


I don’t know why anybody should be so down on the Dingbats for being boxes; all houses are surely boxes. Some of them very odd shapes, to be sure; I personally grew up in a terraced cottage dating back to the 1600s, that wasn’t so much a cottage as three cottages on the side of a steep hill, bits of which had been subdivided, knocked down and knocked together, making a very strange shape in three dimensions, especially where the other half of one of the subdivisions encroached over our ground floor.

It was an interesting house, i guess, and I find more regular buildings a little boring, but interesting often equates to expensive, and outside of Kowloon Walled City, you don’t have room to be interesting in high-density housing.


The parking situation in those pictures looks to be more poorly designed than the homes.


I’ve always been rather fond of these, especially the decorative flourish. I live in a 70s house whose front is a broad expanse of stucco, one of the giant stars would be perfect for us.

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I loved these until everyone started to like them. Then, I don’t know, ugly is ugly.

I’m glad Vancouver was mentioned in the post. We don’t have many dingbats here, but instead we have Vancouver Specials: one or two family boxes from the same era with a veranda on the second floor. Nothing to look at, really, but some are getting heritage status. It boggles my mind.


The 1998 film “The Slums of Beverly Hills” consciously features a number of apartment buildings of the “dingbat” style.

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Not in the manner being described. Boxy, or box-like when describing architecture typically describes a house with roughly similar LxWxH dimensions, little articulation and a general cube or near cube appearance. Of course real boxes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the description when applied to architecture is much more specific.

If heritage status was reserved for buildings the majority of the population thought was attractive at the time very few buildings would ever gain the status. Most architectural styles go heavily out of vogue before they have the chance be seen as significant and regain a certain attractiveness as time passes. Much in the same way that fashion tends to go out of style before coming back, or at least being considered glamerous, etc (e.g. the clothes in Mad Men are unlikely to be considered by many as ‘fashionable’ in any current sense but they are certainly regarded as “stylish” by many). The very fact that these houses are considered an architectural style distinct to Vancouver means they have played a role in shaping the cities form, appearance and ‘vibe’; that is probably worth protecting.


Well I think they’re charming. This style was everywhere in the (eastern) town where I grew up, on small office buildings more than apartments, but it’s probably gone today. Also, I remember almost identical buildings all over Ocean City, MD, which is quite far from Los Angeles. We rented one every summer.

If I could find a rocketship apartment building I would move in tomorrow.


That’s the kind of apartment grownup Stewie Griffin had before baby Stewie burned it down with stress relief candles. Grownup Stewie felt better after he was reminded of the first cut in a fresh sheet of construction paper.

It’s worth noting that these structures collapsed en masse in the Loma Prieta earthquake. The building above collapses into the structurally weaker garage. (I understand that most have been seismically retrofitted but one questions why they were ever built in a known earthquake area in the first place.)

(Picture’s not displaying, but the link to the Wikipedia page with picture works.)

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I fucking knew they looked familiar! that’s why. Alan Arkin; man, what a talent.

there’s not a pic of a single dingbat building in that entire slideshow. the first one to come up does have the basement floor collapsed, but it’s a multiple story building the size of a city block, i.e. there’s a lot more potential energy in it than in a dingbat, presumably. despite this, you’re saying from personal experience that many of the dingbats collapsed in a similar fashion?

Well then, I didn’t expect a discussion of architecture to involve such vitriol. I presumed that a “dingbat” apartment building could be of varying size - if you’ll note one example in the original post was multi storey over a hollow garage area. I was simply pointing out that many structures of a similar design (soft storey with apartments above) collapsed in a recent earthquake. I wasn’t attacking your super-favorite style of vernacular architecture.

I didn’t mean to imply vitriol. There’s not any dingbats where I live. I was just trying to figure out what you meant when you posted a pic that didn’t correspond to what you wrote. since it was a slideshow link, I thought maybe you had ctrl v 'd the wrong thing from your clipboard or something.

There were a lot of these dingbats that squashed down flat on the carports in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, like this:

Do a quick Google image search of Northridge Earthquake Apartment Collapse and you’ll see plenty of examples.

Dunno about the S.F. area to which @Matthew_MW_Holl refers, but the L.A. area is positively rotten with these structures.

I kinda hate 'em. Lived in one once. Hated it.