As most Americans who are bound to their cars to get just about anywhere (except New Yorkers of course who pride themselves otherwise), we spend a lot of time in our vehicles. One could even say that we live in them, as I’m sure for those residing in Southern California it certainly feels that way. I’m sure that as a society we don’t intend for it to be this way, it’s just that our country is just too big on acreage -it became inevitable.
So what do we do to cope with this reality? We splurge on our vehicles. Since we live in these small mobile rooms, we insist that we have the latest in every technological advancement available to us (or at least the reach of our wallets), from satellite connections and HEPA quality climate control, structural frames meant to withstand a nuclear blast, and sensors for everything short of being connected to ‘The Matrix’. Likewise, we expect the exterior style of these cars to appear from the future, with concealed elements and trim lines looking as if it’s ready to break speed records on the salt flats or launch itself through space and time. In short we want the form of our cars to convey the technological wonder within.
So, how is it that when it comes to the homes and buildings we spend even more time in, we want them to look as if George Washington himself was coming over for dinner? In the sense of the car, wouldn’t this idea be the same as taking all the marvels of science and technology and installing it on a horse and carriage? So just like our cars, if we still want the best for our buildings – for them to be energy efficient, structurally safe, environmentally conscious, even to tell us when we’re running low on something or there’s an intruder inside – then why do we want them, especially our homes, to look like a 17th century colonial estate, bursting at the seams with crown moulding and a faux French provincial kitchen? It is 2013, not 1775, and as architects and designers we have at our disposal the training and ability to design a building to fit the inhabitant’s lifestyle and demands. We can design a dwelling to maximize the use of the sun, the earth, even drawing power and heat from it. We can mold the form to create a living, breathing, expression of your tastes to create a timeless legacy. Sure we can design a perfectly scaled and proportioned 18th century reproduction, and will gladly do so if that’s what the project calls for, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the best bang for your buck.
And if our First President was coming over for dinner, I think he would be proud to see that society and technology has grown – not been frozen in the past.