Meritage Homes [link]
Competition and Obstacles
What can prevent an postUsonian revival? Wright built 50 plus to a 100 plus Usonians, depending what you define them, over a 20 year period; the Case Study Houses, by Arts and Architecture, movement faded; Joe Eichler went broke; green and organic architecture remains statistically marginal and all of these examples of sane housing remain poplular to this day. What is the problem?
There is no simple answer other than to say that the vast majority of people clearly do not want the kind of house the Usonian represents and that, perhaps, many that might do not know it. There are a number of factors that shape today’s market. I do not believe that the market actually represent the values of the majority. I do believe it represents that way the majority will buy given what they understand their alternatives to be. I also believe that the market is shaped (distorted some would say) by the advertising of a few and the paradigm of those with influence. This media world view is an increasing returns phenomena and deeply imbedded in a now habitual consumer society. I can talk about this with some sapient authority because I am old enough to have seen the consumer society come into existence - I remember when this was not what ruled our sense of ourselves, our culture and our environment.
If architecture is merely the reflection of the values of a society, then the masthead picture at the top of this piece is indeed very good architecture for it does embody our current social value set. If the art of architecture is defined to house life as it “could and aught to be” then it is not [link]. There is certainly both goodness and room in the world for widely diverse values and the life-styles that reflect them. This, however, is not what is happening. Within a wave of apparent diversity (5,000 brands of soap) is an underlying uniformity - a sameness that is being amplified by production. The diversity of the world is disappearing and the uniformity of our culture is increasing. And, dissent is becoming more dangerous. There is an increasing conformity that is “in” and all else is out. Cultures can “forget” their past; they can careen down a path into a narrow dead end [rthfBook]. The most prevalent form of conformity in our culture comes from the increasing returns of success. This is what an education is. This is what a good job is. This is what good credit is. This is what a good house is. This is the good life. All else is not credible. There can be differences, even a degree of creativity and innovation, within the NORM - but not out of it.
There is a vast machine that facilitates the production of houses. This machine is make up of numerous self-serving pieces that have grown ad-hoc with no systemic design in mind. Step out of its norms and you will have to deal with a number of issues. These will vary from time to time and place to place.
Below, I am going to take this “machine” apart and analyse its separate components to see what can be done.
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Matt Taylor
May 22, 2004


SolutionBox voice of this document:


posted May 22, 2004

revised May 22, 2004
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(note: this document is about 15% finished)

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Copyright© Matt Taylor 2004


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