Read an Excerpt
Throughout the twentieth century the house has commended itself as the most appropriate and responsive vehicle for testing ideas and expressing an architectural position in built form. A history of the twentieth-century house is also, therefore, to some extent a history of the leading ideas of the century’s architecture: the scope is enormous, and this book is intended to be inclusive but not comprehensive. Despite the global approach it was decided at the outset not to include Japan because it would be impossible to do justice to the diversity and depth of the designed produced there. But to every rule there must be an exception and ours is Tadao Ando. His work is of such international importance that to omit it would be to impoverish any account of the house during the last quarter of the century. I trust that most readers will discover many if not all of their favorite houses here, as well as some unexpected delights, and those less familiar with the subject matter will, I hope, find sufficient contextual information to situate the houses in the wider currents of architectural development.
The book is organized thematically rather than strictly chronologically. The first chapter begins where many histories of modern architecture begin, in the middle of the nineteenth century, and then moves on to the fin de siecle, where ideas belonging to the dying century culminate and mingle with premonitions of things to come. The second chapter deals with the larger incarnations of the classic Modern (with a capital ‘M’) house, and the third with the smaller ‘machines for living in’ advanced as solutions to the housing problem. The latter includes Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation at Marseilles, because of its pivotal role in his development and the trajectory of post-war architecture, and also a tiny block of apartments in Israel which vividly illustrates many of the ideas and deserves to be better known. Otherwise, I have stuck to the principle that this is a book about houses, not apartments or housing (although one or two seminal housing developments have been allowed in).
The fourth chapter follows the dissemination and adaptation of modern architecture in diverse places, climates and cultures. To capture the variety of approaches it ranges across five continents and decades, but excludes the USA and Scandinavia to which the next two chapters are devoted. The seventh chapter examines the episode of stylistic Post-Modernism in the 1960s and 1970s and the broader post-modern critique, with particular reference to the issues of ‘place’ and ‘dwelling’; in a book of this scope it seemed wise not to tread too deeply into the murky waters of post-modern theory. The final chapter reviews houses built primarily during the last quarter of the century: the selection of attempts to illustrate the bewildering diversity of approaches and forms that characterize our own fin de siecle, but makes no claims to being definitive.
The house remains the basic building-block of the man-made environment and in the West, at least, is still closely identified with the nuclear family, even when that unit in its traditional form accounts for less than half of the households in many countries. Other histories of the twentieth-century house could and will focus on issues of psychology, family structure and the changing roles of women and developments in building technology such as frame construction and central heating, which made the open plan possible. This book makes no attempt to address these issues, or to examine the domain of mass house-builders, whose products remained largely untouched by modern architectural thought.