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The House Without and Within | Birmingham Architecture

“The ‘styles’ –-for he must indeed have something to furnish—come in as the great contribution of the architect. They intervene in the surface decoration of facades and of drawing rooms ; this is the degeneration of ‘style’, the old clothes of a past age ; it is a respectful and servile salute to the past : disquieting modesty!”

– Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture

“Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning, and we cannot do or say anything without its acquiring a name in history.”

– Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception

There is a history of architects and designers who struggle with the balance between earnest design and the accepted “style” of the times. Le Corbusier speaking of “-the old clothes of a past age…” may have been misguided or even servicing his own agenda, but he was genuine in trying to understand what the home wanted to be for man, and what the man wanted the home to be.

Le Corbusier, often considered the father of modern architecture, was creating prototypical homes in response to materials generated at the turn of the twentieth century, and much of his work then is still more progressive than the common American home today. The architect today has near infinite material options and yet more and more often is generating homes, and details from modern materials that look and feel like homes built 500 years ago.

So people want to live inside of homes that are from another time. What’s the big deal architects? You’re working, doing what you love, right? The human mind is symbolic, so even homes are symbolic of people’s feelings about them, simple. That seems simple enough until you come to question how and why people decide on “when” their house will look and feel. If people started driving vehicles as old as their houses look then we would have need for a public stables, or at the very least more saddle shops. Also, one has to ask themselves if the look of a house means its old and trustworthy then why do we stop with American Georgian, Tudor Revival, or Craftsman style homes? At some point the mud hut is much older and in ways more trustworthy.

As designers ourselves we spend some time thinking about why things are the way they are, and what influence we or technology will have on how we live our lives. So we ask ourselves in a digital age where things are becoming less and less tangible and increasingly technological, what will the homes of the future do and how will they affect the people who occupy them.

Is a holographic home or an augmented reality home useful or desirable in the future? Could you tailor the appearance of the interior according to your dinner guests, and afterword go back to your McMansion interior with eight foot crown molding circa 1994? Or could you visit your childhood bedroom, and if you feel larger than your memory, adjust the scale of the projection? Would you feel the warmth and wonder of your memory, or the emptiness and thinness of images?

And really how different is it to live in a thin projection of a time and place that isn’t here and now, than live in a recreated home from the past? Both approximate reality in thin material, one in light the other sheet rock and plywood.

You have to wonder if the houses we live in are sincerely the houses within us.

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