Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Book Review: The shock of the new again...'Case Study Houses' Revisited.

I re-discovered a subject(bless Amazon)I have not thought about for over 10 years...in fact I completely forgotten about the Case study houses and how much they have influenced how we live today...

Back in 1945, John Entenza's Arts & Architecture magazine, commissioned major architects of the day, to design and build inexpensive and efficient model homes for the residential housing boom caused by the end of World War II and the return of millions of soldiers.

The houses are amazing to say the least - architects (Like Richard Neutra, Charles & Ray Eames for example)experimenting with materials from wood to steel to even plastic...creating open planned abodes with floor to ceiling doors & windows opening up these dwellings to natural light and views of the surrounds... or to the new to patio or terraces..from bedrooms with built in robes and furniture...to kitchens with all mod conds and bench seating...to ensuite bathrooms with double vanities...to open fireplaces, sunken rooms and split level floors - all of which we take for granted today...the indoor and outdoor blended, and the home started to take form and life ( or should I say 'lifestyle') of it's own - not just a art deco or colonial or Spanish mission revival box - it became a living functional machine...

The program ran from 1945 until the mid 60's. Most of the houses were built in California. The case study houses in their time started basic and pure, but ended up costly and a luxury item for rich americans...Was the idea of a low cost architectural abode lost?

Well yes and no...it exploded the idea of the traditional house - and the way we interact with it...in fact if you look at homes from the Mc Mansions of the new estate suburbs to the more expensive commisions some architects are lucky enough to create - all (yes even the ones which look like a copy of Tara) have used, abused and quite frankly stolen ideas from the case studies...that is the legacy which has survived.

'Case Study Houses 1945-1962' by Esther Mc Coy First published 1962, Reprinted 1977

(NB - Originally written for an Review for Amazon)

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