Wednesday, May 19, 2004

contemporary architecture

memepool linked to some sites discussing modern prefabricated housing (as in international modernism). while prefab has somewhat of a derogatory connotation, especially when applied to big ticket items such as housing or aesthetic concerns such as architecture, the mass production technique falls in line with the goals of the modernist movement. in addition, making the modernist aestetic more accessible could help reverse the mcmansion-ization of america. as this newsweek article says:

Design is everywhere, right? Your toothbrush, your running shoes, your cool-looking couch, your latte machine, your laptop. OK, no one would mistake Indiana for Italy, but you can finally buy good design almost anywhere, from the mall to the Internet. But there’s one big-ticket item in this country that is virtually untouched by the hand of a good designer: your house.
It makes me wonder whatever happened to the modern house, and why the core idea of modernism—that through mass production, ordinary people could afford the best design—never caught on when it came to houses. Le Corbusier called the house “a machine for living in”—which meant, notes New York architect Deborah Gans, that the house is a tool people control, not the other way round. The brilliance of the modern house was in the flexible spaces that flowed one to the next, and in the simplicity and toughness of the materials. Postwar America saw a few great experiments, most famously in L.A.’s Case Study Houses in the late 1940s and ’50s. Occasionally, a visionary developer, such as Joseph Eichler in California, used good modern architects to design his subdivisions. Today they’re high-priced collectibles.

on the other hand, we have what will surely be the focus of innumberable semiotics doctoral theses at brown: prefabricated warehouse-style loft subdivisions. i think we've all come to accept that actual urban lofts are now appropriated for yuppies instead of artists, and mcmansions have indelibly constricted the relatively open proportionality of suburbs, but now entire subdivisions of fake lofts are being built mcmansion-style in the suburbs. house size lofts with garages. as the metropolis article puts it:

My talent is discovering the places where hipness goes to die. I drive around the country and stumble on phenomena that make me realize that something I once valued is about to be eaten alive by mindless commerce.

i'm reminded of the tagline of the movie the last big thing: "the culture is going down on itself".....but i guess this should all be expected.


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