House: American houses for the new century
The idea and function, image, and built reality of the house vary from culture to culture, locale to locale, generation to generation, demographic to demographic. Houses do much more than provide a roof over our heads: They are sanctuaries, havens--our private kingdoms, our personalized cocoons. They are backdrops to our everyday lives. They are status symbols. They are economic indicators. For architects, they are dream jobs, test beds, manifestos. Only by understanding the predominant reality of and the prevailing attitudes toward the house can we appreciate the great leaps and changes it is--and always has been--undergoing.
The houses in this book represent new ideas about how to build houses, how they are rooted (and root us) to their locale, and how we use and regard them. The first chapter, "Tectonics," features houses that explore the novel application of materials and building techniques in the domestic realm. Next, "Context" showcases houses that actively engage in their site, drawing inspiration, whether in texture, form, or topography, from their surrounding landscape. Lastly, "Revolutions" addresses the significant shifts our lifestyles have undergone and how the house responded to them.
House features twenty recently built houses that have been designed by some of today's leading architects, including Steven Holl, Toshiko Mori, Alberto Kalach, and Rick Joy. By leading readers to the cutting edge of today's architecture, authors Ho and Barreneche relate today's building trends and hint at what awaits us in the future. Featuring more than 200 color photographs and plans, House is the perfect book for house enthusiasts worldwide.
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The introduction implies that the selected projects represent alternative design approaches that acknowledge post-nuclear family demands on an increasing segment of US housing (I applaud the authors for acknowledging that “America” includes at least our immediate neighbors, BTW). To this end a nice cross section of, more or less, cutting edge architecture is presented through many lavish photographs of the architecty sort. If you don’t keep up with such things – or only read Dwell - this means interesting, cropped shots devoid of humans but overpopulated with chiaroscuro (no “Unhappy Hipsters” here!). Despite plenty of images, many projects are less than holistically presented through photographs alone. Therefore I suggest you look to the plans and sections…elsewhere. For you see, these drawings are not only minuscule but, inexplicably, most have the resolution of a Google satellite image zoomed in to the max – New Century indeed! The 440 House plans appeared to have had an autoCAD hatch meltdown. Why would someone publish such a thing?!? Fortunately the short descriptive essays decently describe the intent, issues, etc. This is surprising as coming across the word “perosnal” in the second paragraph of the introduction makes me think that – much like Kaplan study guides and any typical Princeton Architectural Press offering – no one bothered to proofread anything. Nonetheless, the descriptions are mostly error free as they were probably written by the marketing departments of the various firms. But let’s return to the introductory promise of a more balanced future housing bliss. All the examples prove is that, at $1,200 a square foot, you too can own a hyper-customized home that accommodates your elderly parents, an indoor lap pool, and/or your Lichtensteins. I already knew that from such examples as the Palazzo Medici and Izzy Garner’s house. The closest they come with this theme is in the introduction itself where they focus on the proposals for the temporarily hyped $75,000 house designs for Houston’s Fifth Ward. Of course these ultimately remain unbuilt as the costs of realization were probably a bit closer to $300,000 a pop – and conversely, I doubt the average 1998 home price within that Ward was beyond $35,000 at any rate. The three book divisions – Tectonics, Context, and Revolutions – are a bit dubious as well. A house dealing with domestic “Revolutions” might be a three bedroom house with a bit more spatial segregation to accommodate the kids visit for the weekend. Responding to “Context” apparently means not tearing down every tree on site or the violent interplay with hapless existing structures. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with any of the strategies – this is mostly sophisticated work – but the book is little more than a glamour shot portfolio of the hottest, ca. 1999 houses coated with a flimsy veneer of ethical/prognosticatory intent.
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