Magazine article Artforum International

"The Un-Private House"

Magazine article Artforum International

"The Un-Private House"

Article excerpt

Few architectural phenomena are as paradoxical as the question of the private house. At once a vehicle for change and a vessel for conservatism, the private house taps into an extraordinary inertia: No matter how radically transformed our place of work and play, we still, at the end of the day, apparently want to go home to a house that has changed little from that of our parents, and is at least as old. In the making of the private house, that peculiar relationship between architect and client, and the curious mutual education that occurs, is at its most quintessentially acute, precarious, tortuous, and potentially fulfilling. As for the clients themselves, they are not only paying for it but electing to live in it. In what is frequently a bid to make or break some aspect of their private lives, they are risking in a most public way not simply the bank account but the rocky marriage, the already fading relations with the teenage children, or the fragile coexistence with the baby/lover/peace of mind that won't come and for which the house is a substitute. In the face of this cathexis of desires/duties/roles/needs, nowhere is architecture quite so crude, so blatant, and so transparent. Nowhere are all the constructs of voyeurism, fetishism, and paranoia so plainly laid out for all to see.

The brief behind "The Un-Private House" is initially compelling: to examine how the public/private matrix that is a house might have changed in response to the permeation of the public/private membrane by information technology and new media, on the one hand, and to the ever more intricately varied sets of relations that make up a contemporary family, on the other. The relationship between parent and child (full, step, or otherwise) is pivotal here. None is so intensely private and yet so publicly scrutinized as the relationships we have with our children. How this complex and increasingly ambivalent relationship might play itself out in the fabric of the house that "holds" it together is certainly worthy of scrutiny, as is the much-heralded trans-formative effect of the virtual on domesticity via new media.

The exhibition comprises twenty-six built and unbuilt projects for private residences in the form of drawings, models, and, in a couple of cases, computer-animated videos. If you can get a seat, there is also a rather amusing lazy Susan-like table with interactive placemat entries on the projects, where you can watch the not-so-discreet jostle for their favorite dish--any of the three or four projects involving complex geometry or anything touched by Rem Koolhaas (whose display model of Maison a Bordeaux is refreshingly dog-eared compared with the immaculate conceptions around it).

Michael Bell's Glass House @ 20 stands out as the only project that mentions budget (a scheme in Houston for low-income housing) and one of the few that does not feature either a seminal piece of modernist furniture, an exercise machine, or a muscle-clad (and clad in little else) male body. It is also an exquisitely intelligent and unpretentions scheme, and about a third the size of the others. However, as with many of the projects, the extent to which it might address the brief is debatable, as it deals with neither questions of the family nor issues of mediation in any pronounced manner. There are some very Dutch projects by the Dutch contingent, some overbearingly New York projects still rearranging objects in lofts, and some surprisingly un-Japanese projects by the two Japanese contributors (SANAA & Shigeru Ban). Scogin Elam and Bray's uncharacteristically restrained (almost Northern) 64 Wakefield, though not their best, does have some juicy moments with its demure version of Josephine Baker's lap pool shrug across its front elevation (minus portholes). And in the place the North was invented, Lancashire, England, Farjadi & Farjadi's BV House suggests a refined relation to the landscape, as does the proposed use of thatch cladding to the area's climate and flora, but the project is done an injustice by the slick computer renderings--an implicit sensitivity to the Lancashire grittiness gets lost. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.