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On dwelling

I had a sculpture professor during my undergraduate who said that “the strange thing about the infinite choices offered by democracy is that infinite choices do not produce infinite objects. And, after a while things start to all look alike.”

He would point out that cars were a perfect example, “they started by looking different and now, 70 years later, they all look alike.” Who can tell apart the generic black compacts or the luxurious silver sedans?

Jeans are another example of sameness. My daughter once wrote a piece on it for her college’s fashion magazine:

Hi-rise, mid-rise, low-rise (hip huggers), loose fit, carpenter, boyfriend, phat pants, relaxed, baggy, boot-cut, flare, wide leg, straight leg, and the immensely popular skinny leg, dark wash, light wash, the 80s classic acid wash, stonewashed, distressed. These denim demigods are still constantly reinvented with a myriad of varieties. There is a pair of jeans for everyone. Every major company and designer makes them. This is America and we are the jean culture.

Jeans have become our uniform.

The tyranny of consumerism, of infinite choices, is that eventually we all want the same thing. Capitalism is supposed to free us by choice, by allowing us choice: we can express our individuality. But choice is exhausting! And, the worst is that the irony of the situation seems lost on us.

Design and architecture are not exempt here. After a renaissance of modern design, we now find ourselves under the grips of what I call “Dwell light”–representing a house as thought it was made with a kit.

Dwell, as you may know, is a design/shelter magazine that was started about decade ago in the Bay Area. The magazine has done a lot to put modern architecture back in the forefront of residential design.

Unfortunately Dwell now represents only one kind of modernism (of course there is more than one kind– there’s always choice in architecture!).

And you know the kind: right degree angles, flat roofs, Ipe siding, large overhangs, boxy bay windows, big sliding doors with open corners, wood floors—bamboo (you end up rolling your eyes at how green it is)—these elements have become the predominant language of Dwell residential architecture.  And do not forget the silver sedan in the garage.

After serving on many architecture juries through out the USA, I can tell you the Dwell Light disease has spread across the country. DL has rendered homes indistinguishable from one and another. Lost is the individual creative voice of the designer, it has been replaced here as with cars and jeans by the desire for the mean, the unintentional uniform. And that’s never a good place for design to be.

This is a call to action. Join me! Just Say No to “Dwell Light!”

Fougeron Architecture in the NYTimes!

Delighted to let you blogfollowers know that a project I did in Potrero Hill (San Francisco) is featured in today’s New York Times!

Real archiblogging to resume on Monday! 

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