History and Consumerism / by Michelle Linden

Ever since I made the life changing decision to follow C and move away from Chicago, I’ve bemoaned the fact that I no longer am a part of a larger architectural community. I recently decided that I’ve been complaining, but not doing anything for too long. So, I am making the conscious decision to involve myself in design events and make an attempt to meet new people. We’re talking baby steps here, but I like to think that something is better than nothing. Part of this new effort includes trying to attend more lectures, if only to learn more about the relevant local architects and engage a part of my brain that has been dormant for too long.

Last week C & I attended a lecture by Alex Anderson, a UW professor and theorist. The topic: The problem of the house. He based this lecture on his latest book, so he had plenty of research and forethought to offer. While, I didn’t think that he presented any earth shattering architectural theories, he did provide interesting discourse and imagery.

One of his more thought provoking ideas is that the house is unique to each culture, and that modern homes are direct descendants of the local culture and the (relatively) new phenomenon of commercialism. His book, and subsequent lecture stressed the idea of the French home... incorporating ideas of cultural design identity and obligation. He discussed the idea of defining oneself by one’s home and the objects which have been carefully collected for that home. This collection and design organization is a new privilege following the rise of commercialism. It makes me curious; if French, English, and German interiors can be easily recognized due to their roots in a historic cultural identity, are American interiors as easily defined by a much younger US culture? Design tv shows, magazines, and blogs are all the rage right now, and I wonder if this is influenced by a desire to develop a cohesive design sense, or could we argue that it is simply a consumerist’s desire for more more more?

Image Via Walnut Wallpaper