House Wars: Attack of the Cookie-Cutters

In the world of Architecture, there has been a constant tension existing in the built environment between sustainability and capitalism. I\'d like to focus on one building typology which is a fundamental structure, the house. This tension, I would call, \"House Wars: Attack of the Cookie-Cutters\". I\'m even compelled to spoof a logo for it:

From the movie Star Wars, in the planet of Kamino, a secret clone was being developed for the Republic.

From across residential planned communities, there is a parallel development being done to the built environment, the cookie-cutter house:

Cookie-cutter houses are also known as tract houses. These are houses built identically to create a community, much like the clones. It is a \"clone trooper army\" of the built environment. It gives a sterile character to the neighborhoods, that is, if one can still distinguish between neighborhoods. In these types of communities, there is not much room for celebrating one\'s individuality. In a way, it takes away the spirit of the environment, losing a sense of place.

In the early 1930\'s, Frank Lloyd Wright conceptualized a suburban development called Broadacre City. (I studied this development theory in-depth when I was living at Taliesin West.) In his community planning manifesto coupled with a socio-political scheme, \"each US family would be given one acre plot of land from the Federal lands reserves.\" Each house will be designed by him. When I did my research on the plans/drawings for Broadacre City, I was amazed by his forward-thinking concepts. Even the designs for the cars that he drew back in the 1930s looked like something that came out of a Star Wars movie!

Although the Broadacre City model is one that celebrates the individuaity of the family and respects the character of the house, there are some lessons to be learned about its ideology. This development model is about sprawl. It embraces the automobile as a necessary part of the house\'s existence. There is limited regard for communal or public transportation. In a way, I see this development model as segregation. On the other hand, it deeply respects the privacy within the house and around its environs.

One of the better housing developments of today, is the Houses of Sagaponac in New York, specifically in the Hamptons in Long Island. It is a housing solution that allows the community to express individuality. This one allows us to think and correlate it with great architecture, as opposed to the McMansions that are ubiquitous in housing developments. It is like a living and thriving architecture gallery/laboratory, that is so similar in concept as the Taliesins.


It features 34 houses designed by internationally recognized architects, in a subdivision development. It totally shatters the notion of \"cloning houses\" or the cookie-cutter concept. It introduces a new kind of force that hopefully sheds light and meaning to its residents, casual observers, and guests.

So as you wage through this tension of house wars, may the force be with you...


Christopher K. Travis said...

Hi Lira,

Nice blog. We have a lot in common. If you get a chance, you should check out my blog - with its similar name - Architecture of Life.

We also have another website you might be interested in - not fully finished - but you will get the idea. It's at Truehome.net.

Good work here!

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