A Hut of One's Own: Life Outside the Circle of Architecture

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This small book on small dwellings explores some of the largest questions that can be posed about architecture. What begins where architecture ends? What was before architecture?The ostensible subject of Ann Cline's inquiry is the primitive hut, a one-room structure built of common or rustic materials. Does the proliferation of these structures in recent times represent escapist architectural fantasy, or deeper cultural impulses? As she addresses this question, Cline gracefully weaves together two stories: one of primitive huts in times of cultural transition, and the other of diminutive structures in our own time of architectural transition. From these narrative strands emerges a deeper inquiry: what are the limits of architecture? What ghosts inhabit its edges? What does it mean to dwell outside it?Cline's project began twenty-five years ago, when she set out to translate the Japanese tea ritual into an American idiom. First researching the traditional tea practices of Japan, then building and designing huts in the United States, she attempted to make the
"translation" from one culture to another through the use of common American building materials and technology. But her investigation eventually led her to look at many nonarchitectural ideas and sources, for the hut exists both at the beginning of and at the farthest edge of architecture, in the margins between what architecture is and what it is not.In the resulting narrative, she blends autobiography, historical research, and cultural criticism to consider the place that such structures as shacks, teahouses, follies, casitas, and diners--simple, "undesigned" places valued for their timelessness and authenticity--occupy from both a historical and contemporary perspective.
This book is an original and imaginative attempt to rethink architecture by studying its boundary conditions and formative structures.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Every child has felt the magic of a rainstorm from beneath a rickety porch roof, or some makeshift structure. In this passionately written melange of autobiography and architectural criticism, Cline describes growing up in and later building structures that would re-create the experience of being barely protected from the big world outside. She begins by quoting work from different cultures that reflect nature as experienced from hut-like structures, as in these lines from ninth-century Chinese poet Po Chu-i: "Already I feel that both in the courtyard and house/ Day by day a fresher air moves./ But most of all I love, lying near the window-side,/ To hear in their branches the sound of the autumn wind." Cline has long been interested in the Japanese tea ritual, and the tea hut became the model for Cline's structures. While many passages describing experiences from huts are engagingly sweet and stir innocent memories (madeleine, anyone?), the rest of the book tends toward an over-reaching criticism of all architecture and even culture. Arguments borrow from a broad range of disciplines and are ultimately bound only by Cline's strong opinions. The result lies uncomfortably somewhere in between a researched study of the Hut; a gentle, poetic description of Cline's own projects; and a polemic on the state of architecture and architects' motivations. This is a brave book, nonetheless, that asks readers to try to understand the interaction of one's surroundings with every aspect of daily life, mundane and metaphysical.
Frederick Turner
Ann Cline's book opens architecture once more to the dishevelled and unruly imagination of dreams, that combines the ancient and the immediate, the uncanny and the homely. -- Frederick Turner
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262531504
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/10/1998
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Table of Contents

Opening Interval: The Hut in My Mind
1 Primitive Huts 2
Life in the Margins 3
Habitations 7
What is Really at Stake 15
Landscapes Recalled 21
Interval: The Hut in the Backyard 27
2 Experimental Lives 38
Cabinets of Curiosity 39
Little Houses of Pleasure 45
Ritual, Freedom, and Bondage 52
Avant- or Arriere-garde? 57
Interval: The Hut in the Rotunda 63
3 Ritual Intentions 70
Vision(s) 71
Uncanny Arts and Untenured Lives 78
Inside the Stretch Limo 84
Making Believe 92
Interval: The Hut as Gallery 97
4 Architects in Transition 106
Taken for Granted 107
What Architecture is 113
What Architecture isn't 117
A Hut of One's Own 123
Closing Interval: The Hurt in the Wasteland 130
Acknowledgments 133
Notes 138
Illustration Credits 143
Index 146
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