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The American Idea of Home: Conversations About Architecture and Design
by Bernard Friedman
foreword by Meghan Daum

“Home is an idea, a social construct, a story we tell ourselves about who we are and who we want closest in our midst,” writesLA Timescolumnist Meghan Daum in her foreword to Bernard Friedman’sThe American Idea of Home: Conversations About Architecture and Design. The book gives readers a peek inside the design process of many of America’s well-known and up-and-coming architects, as well as the field’s frequent commentators. Interviews expound upon meanings of home, importance of site, and necessity of sustainability, among many other wide-ranging topics.

Los Angeles is well represented in the interviews—AIA Gold Medalist and Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne, FAIA, Eames house restorers Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena, AIA, theoretical practitioner Gregg Lynn, Arid Lands founder and Woodbury instructor Hadley Arnold, former SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss, FAIA, andHouses of Los Angelesauthor Sam Watters.

The book of compiled interviews stems from conversations the author and documentary producer conducted for voiceover commentary for his short film “American Homes,” an 11-minute animated film that displays 1,800 years of American culture through the lens of residential architecture.

In the book, 30 conversations are organized into five themes: The Functions and Meanings of Home; History, Tradition, Change; Activism, Sustainability, Environment; Cities, Suburbs, Regions; and Technology, Innovation, Materials (four of the five interviees in this chapter are LA based). In addition to designers and architects, Friedman sought commentary from thought leaders, such as Sarah Susanka of the small-homes movement, Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity, and Robert Ivy, FAIA, executive director of the American Institute of Architects.

Opinions range from what the home represents (“a breeding ground for culture,” Tom Kundig, FAIA), how it’s used (“The living room was a shrine to furniture,” Lester Walker), and the power we give it (“Building a house is not a really good way to save a failing marriage,” Tracy Kidder), to current topics of sustainability (“The most sustainable building is one that people love, maintain, and cherish,” Marianne Cusato),size (“Bigness is not a virtue,” Robert Ivy, FAIA), and the challenges of urbanism (“Sprawl emerged from the American dream as a single-family house on a lot,” Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA).

“If all architecture, no matter its purpose, is shelter, then architecture intendedasshelter must be the ultimate haven,” writes Friedman. These conversations appeal to all fans of architecture and design—indeed, to anyone interested in design decisions that fundamentally shape our ideas of home.

University of Texas Press; 246 pages; hardcover; $27.95

 

 

 

 
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