Book Review: Modern American Houses: Fifty Years of Design in Architectural Record

Mostly a fine look back

Only a few years old and this colorful historic survey can be picked up quite cheaply. I would recommend any architectural student get their copy. As a very loose primer on what was going on in designed domestic housing over the decades it provides some interesting insights. The five decade essays also fill in a lot of detail about the thinking behind these homes.

Thankfully the style of the chosen homes varies enormously from John Lautner's bizarre 1977 Arango House in Acapulco, Allan Greenberg's 1986 classical Connecticut farmhouse to Shigeru Ban's 2003 picture window house in Japan and a whole load of modernist premises in between. The common element that runs through every home is how each architect handled the interior space and I was conscious of an editorial flaw here because not every building had a floor plan and nearly all those that did had more or less unreadable plans (mostly too small) and they ended up as mere graphic elements on the page.

Another thing that could my eye was the decline in usefulness of the photos as the years past by. The early black and whites were of Ezra Stoller quality but by 2000 the photos seemed more expressive interpretations by photographers. Houses are photographed, it seems to me, in deep sunsets creating far too many shadows and dark areas or the exteriors are photographed at night with the house lights on. Hardly the best way to appreciate form and structure.

All the houses retain the copy as written when it was first published and some of the views expressed by writers from years ago I found as fascinating as the photos. Overall an interesting backward look at some remarkable, thought provoking homes.

Modern American Houses: Fifty Years of Design in Architectural Record is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Title spread.

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Contents.

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Meier's wonderful Smith house, 1968 in Connecticut.

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John Lautener's Arango house, 1977.

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Lautner's 1977 Arango House.

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Paul Rudolph's 1963 Milam house, Florida.

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The Gwathmey Siegel masterpiece: Haupt house, 1979.

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The stand out in a crowd special: Graham Gund Associates 1984 house off the coast of New England.

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Fernau and Hartman 1989 Berggruen house.

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1991 Chmar house by Scogin Elam and Bray.

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The 2003 Picture Window house by Shigeru Ban.

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