These posts are either "jump pages" for my weblog or posts-in-process that will eventually appear there. For what it's worth, here's an archive of these random bits. The picture to the left is by a famous comic book artist.
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Courtenay Smith and Sean Topham
“The house has become to contemporary architects what the seven-inch single was to Punk bands,” declare Courtenay Smith and Sean Topham. “It is a liberating challenge for its designer and an immediate, accessible product for the end user.” Xtreme Houses examines forty-five newly designed and built dwelling spaces by architects, artists, collectives and individuals from around the globe. Responding to the changing desires of consumers and the inevitable influences of overpopulation, suburban sprawl, environmental concerns, technological advances and economic fluctuation, each of the selected projects offers radical and unique solutions to our basic human need for shelter.
Xtreme Houses considers four general approaches to residential dwellings. The first chapter entitled “Self-Construct” covers a variety of do-it-yourself strategies. From private individuals who consider custom building a luxury to impoverished self-builders for whom it is the only means to obtain shelter, taking matters into one’s own hands and starting from scratch has resulted in exceptional and innovative housing solutions. Three pioneering examples are Michael Hoenes’ Tin-Can Houses in Africa, Brooklyn artist Vito Acconci’s House of Cars #2, and Atlanta-based Richard Martin’s Global Peace Containers in Jamaica, an entire community constructed from converted shipping containers.
Aided by the Internet, fewer people are bound to their jobs by location and are opting to live in rural areas. Chapter 2, “Move to the Sticks” focuses on nontraditional country abodes that work in harmony with their surroundings. Unlike conventional country cabins, these homes disappear into the landscape, as is the case with Michael Reynolds’ Earthships, float on water like Jean-Michel Ducanelle’s Aquasphere, or rest in the trees such as Softroom’s Tree House. As with other dwellings throughout the book, many of the projects take tremendous strides toward sustainable building, including Rural Studio’s Corrugated Construction made from recycled cardboard.
Chapter 3, “Bring Your Own Building,” explores modern takes on nomadic living. In addition to discussing the plight of forced nomads, such as refugees, the homeless and other displaced people, this chapter also examines transient living as a purposeful choice, often adopted by fashionable young urbanites and the super wealthy. California architect Jennifer Siegal and New York artist Andrea Zittel revisit the mobile trailer home, while other designers explore portable pods and articles of clothing that double as architecture, also known as “clothes to live in” or “buildings to wear.”
The final chapter, “Space Invaders,” discusses innovative methods of inhabiting the rare empty spaces left in cities. Through stacking, hanging, inserting and inflating, these homes playfully reclaim unused urban gaps. Many tap into underutilized resources, such as New York-based Michael Rakowitz’s inflatable homeless shelters which attach to the ventilation systems of public buildings. Others hang outside windows or are inserted into the existing infrastructure, such as LOT/EK’s Guzman Penthouse which rests on top of a Manhattan skyscraper.
Well-written and generously illustrated with photographs, drawings and plans, this exciting new book provides a sampling of the most cutting-edge developments in residential housing. Whether spurred by the latest advances in technology or the scarce resources of poverty, these homes challenge our traditional notions of what a house can be and demonstrate architecture’s ability to shape the way we live. They will undoubtedly set the standard for where and how we live, now and in the future.
Other featured dwellings by: Cal-Earth, FAT, Doug Garofalo, Herman Hertzberger, Doug Jackson, Jones, Partners: Architecture, Lacaton & Vassal, Atelier van Lieshout, Greg Lynn FORM, Monolithic Dome Institute, N55, Oosterhuis.nl, OpenOffice, Po.D., Marjetica Potrc, Michael Rakowitz, Jessica Stockholder, Sarah Wigglesworth, and Krzysztof Wodiczko, among others.
Courtenay Smith is a curator with the Kunstraum München in Munich, Germany. She was formerly Associate Curator at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art and has written about contemporary art and design for a variety of publications, including ARTnews, InForm, TenbyTen and the book, Icons of Design (Prestel).
Sean Topham is a full-time writer and journalist. His recent projects include the popular book Blowup: Inflatable Art, Architecture and Design (Prestel*) and Hands That Really Grip, an award-winning documentary about Action Man for British television. He lives in London, England and is currently working on his next book about space age design.