Alison and Peter Smithson: From the House of the Future to a House of Today

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010 Publishers, 2004 - Architecture - 238 pages
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The Smithsons' interest in the everyday and ordinary originated from various circumstances, such as their experience of wartime and the poverty and scarcity during the post-war reconstruction period. More or less forced by circumstances, the Smithsons were determined to make the most out of what little there was available. They called this approach "As Found:" aiming at a revitalization of the ordinary and the most humble of things. The ordinariness of inhabitation, its triviality and self-evidence, was a constant source of amazement, inspiration and energy for the Smithsons. They wished to look at "ordinary life and ordinary objects with an eye that sees the ordinary as also magical." It often set them thinking about bigger issues. Singing the praises of cabinet doors could therefore easily result in an exemplification of the house-town correlation. Current interest, in both the everyday and the magic of the ordinary, stems from a quite different situation. In the Western world, most people now live a life of unprecedented plenty. The society of the spectacle and the consumer culture that were just remote prospects in the 1950s have become our everyday reality. The everyday and its earthiness function as a critical moment, breaking down the illusions and desires produced by the media industry. Besides being a site for possible resistance, the everyday and the ordinary offer an alternative approach. First, by providing a space into which one can retreat; a refugium, a place for calmness and reflection, a breathing space. Secondly, by providing the opportunity to once again reconsider the relations between media, consumer society and inhabitation. The point at issue in both cases is the construction of new places for dwelling. Emphatically, the everyday neither provides an idyllic spot nor regains us our lost innocence. On the contrary, it constitutes a site of contestation of values, where new relations between realism and idealism may be established.
 

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About the author (2004)

The British architect Peter Simpson has produced one of the most significant and influential bodies of work of the second half of the 20th century. His books include Urban Structuring, Ordinariness and Light, Without Rhetoric, The Shift, and the influential Team X Primer.

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