AJ Logo

Nancy Levinson on architecture

Monday, November 27, 2006
    Last Post

    I'm posting for the first time in weeks, and what I'd intended to do is to review The Perfect $100,000 House, a new book in which architecture critic Karrie Jacobs recounts "a trip across America and back in pursuit of a place to call home." I enjoyed the book: I liked traveling along with Jacobs as she sought out architects and homebuilders around the country—ex-hippie design-builders in Vermont, prefab architect-entrepreneurs in Missouri and Texas, alternative energy communards in New Mexico, idealistic professors in Kansas and Alabama, etc. etc. But what I liked most about the book weren't any of its particular profiles, but rather its driving (so to speak) idea: The Perfect $100,000 House is a road book, which means that it is an unabashedly old-fashioned book. I say this as a compliment: to hit the road in your Volkswagen Cabrio in seach of a good affordable house is coast-to-coast (and back) affirmation of the value of experience over ethernet—of the superior understanding of places and persons that comes from encounters that are grounded, sensual, multi-dimensional . . . old-fashioned. Nowadays none of us needs to log 14,520 miles (!) to learn about the Rural Studio, or Rocio Romero's modernist prefabs, or Dan Rockhill's Studio 804, or any of the estimable enterprises Jacobs visits. Nowadays all we need to do is to log on, and follow Google wherever it goes.

    I've been thinking a lot lately about this tension between real and virtual, between on-the-ground and online—a tension that seems to me inevitable and ongoing as our culture migrates more and more from print to web, from public theater to private screen, from communal connection to micro-niche market. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this won't be that review I set out to write, but instead my last post on "Pixel Points." I've had a great time blogging on Arts Journal, but I've just gone on my own cross-country journey: I've moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Phoenix, Arizona, to take on the directorship of the Phoenix Urban Research Laboratory, a program recently begun by the College of Design at Arizona State University. Stay tuned for our updated website: the Phoenix Urban Research Lab will be a mix of think tank, project design center, lecture and conference venue, and publications generator, and via all of these activities an advocate for progressive urban thinking, in the Southwest and beyond. Boston to Phoenix is, of course, a big transition—from harborside to high desert, from compact colonial settlement to sprawling modern metropolis, from old urbanism to 21st-century urbanism . . . still a work-in-progress, and all the more exciting for being so.

    posted by nancylevinson @ 9:00 pm | Permanent link



About Nancy Levinson
I like to think of architectural journalism as an extension of architectural practice. More

About Pixel Points
Pixel Points is a reference to an influential magazine called Pencil Points More

Write Me:

(syndicate this AJblog)


Prefab seems always to be the next big thing—the solution to our chronic shortage of middle-class housing, a means to making contemporary design affordable. It's been around for a while, of course, from the "Modern Homes" that Sears, Roebuck sold via catalogue to Buckminster Fuller's curvy Dymaxion prototype to recent experiments in shipping-container chic. But lately there's been a lot to look at, and much of it's good-looking.

The LV Home, by the Chilean-born, Missouri-based architect Rocio Romero, is an effort to make "high-end modern design" not only affordable but unintimidating too. The kit-of-parts—basically the exterior shell—starts at $32,900, and Romero's web site features testimonials like this, from a Wisconsin homebuyer: "the closest I could ever get to the aesthetics of the Mies van der Rohe Plano house."

For the manufacturer Kannustalo, Ltd., the Finnish firm Heikkinen-Komonen Architects have created the Touch House. First exhibited at a housing fair, the 2,000-square-foot house hasn't been yet been widely marketed, which seems a shame.

Austrian architect Oskar Leo Kaufmann designed the SU-SI House in the mid-'90s, for his sister Suzy. A couple of years ago, the 1,400-square-foot house was constructed—or rather, assembled—on a rural site in Sullivan County, New York, for about $300,000, for a Manhattan photographer and his family.

Marmol Radziner Prefab, a division of the Los Angeles firm, designs "factory-made modules shipped ready to occupy." The architects, known for design/build work, both manufacture the modules and supervise construction. So far one house has been built, in Palm Springs—near Richard Neutra's Kaufmann House, which the firm restored—and a few more are underway.


Some mostly recent books on houses, some posh, some not.

The Green House
Authors Alanna Stang and Christopher Hawthorne argue that green design is not just ecologically responsible but also high style— "camera ready." They make a good case, using projects like Georg Driendl's Solar Tube, in Vienna, Brian MacKay-Lyons's Howard House, in Nova Scotia, and Lahz Nimmo's Casuarina Beach House, in northern New South Wales.

Prefab Modern
A well illustrated and gracefully written survey by Jill Herbers showcasing some designers who are making prefab both affordable and stylish. Besides the projects listed elsewhere on this site, these include Adam Kalkin, Jennifer Siegal, Michelle Kaufmann, and Resolution: 4 Architecture

The Very Small Home
The subtitle says it: "Japanese Ideas for Living Well in Limited Space." Author Azby Brown has compiled a collection of houses most of which are so diminutive they'd fit into the master bath of a McMansion. These include Tadao Ando's austere 4 x 4 House, just 243 s.f., and Architecture Lab's White Box House, a comparatively roomy 559 s.f.

David Adjaye Houses
A handsome monograph featuring a dozen of the houses that have made Adjaye a rising star of London architecture. These include Elektra House and Dirty House, plus the residences he's designed for Ewan McGregor and Chris Ofili. More


Architecture + Design

A Daily Dose of Architecture
Architectural Record
Architecture for Humanity
Architecture News Now
City Comforts
Design Feast
Design Observer
Environmental Design and Construction
The Gutter
Life Without Buildings
That Brutal Joint

Art + Culture

Center for Land Use Interpretation
Museum of Jurassic Technology
Society for Commercial Archeology
sounds & fury



  Pixel Points
    Nancy Levinson on
  About Last Night
    Terry Teachout on the arts in
    New York City
  Artful Manager
    Andrew Taylor on the 
    business of Arts & Culture
  blog riley  
    rock culture approximately
  Straight Up |
    Jan Herman - Arts, Media &
    Culture News with 'tude
  Seeing Things
    Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
  Serious Popcorn
    Martha Bayles on Film...

    Drew McManus on orchestra


    Greg Sandow on the future of
    Classical Music
    Doug Ramsey on Jazz
    and other matters...
    Kyle Gann on music after the
Visual Arts
    John Perreault's 
    art diary
  Modern Art Notes
    Tyler Green's modern & 
    contemporary art blog

AJBlog Heaven
    A Book Review review
  Critical Conversation II
    Classical Music Critics
    on the future of music
  Tommy T
    Tommy Tompkins'
    extreme measures

  Midori in Asia
    Conversations from the road
    June 22-July 3, 2005

  A better case for the Arts?
    A public conversation
  Critical Conversation
    Classical Music Critics on the 
    Future of Music
  Sticks & Stones
    James S. Russell on
   In Media Res
    Bob Goldfarb on Media
    Sam Bergman on tour with 
   the Minnesota Orchestra

AJ BlogCentral

Home | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
Copyright ©
2002 ArtsJournal. All Rights Reserved