Monday, December 05, 2011

Holiday Gift Guide: Architecture Now! Houses: 2 by Philip Jodido

Say the word “house” and everyone creates their own mental picture. A place, perhaps, of comfort. Shelter. Even safety. And those are fine things, maybe even good things. But what we come to understand in Philip Jodido’s book, Architecture Now! Houses: 2, (Taschen) is that “house” can mean so much more.

Jodido brings us the idea -- not a new one, but still -- that “house” can be more than the sum of its parts. It can be all of the things we ever thought, but it can also be artform. It can be physical manifestation of personal expression. It can even be an earthly representation of spirit. It can be all of those things, Jodido teaches us. But it can also be less. And so together we explore: what are the elements of “house” and what are its limitations?

Since this book is the second in an ongoing series, Jodido comments on where houses are today as opposed to 2009 when the earlier book was published. In the new book, Jodido writes:
Because of their rapid construction cycle as compared to larger projects, houses are a veritable barometer of contemporary architecture, or even its future. A modernity that is not reductive, but rather builds on circumstances, sites, conditions, or sometimes just aesthetics is what is driving contemporary architecture today, and these houses demonstrate precisely that point.
Those who gift themselves or a loved one with a copy of Jodido’s book and who are doing so because they’re contemplating building a home will find some important lessons here, as well. If you’re in a position to build during an economic slow-down, Jodido instructs us, you may well find your buying power increased:
For those who hesitate to call on architect because of cost considerations, the current climate should encourage them to be demanding and to set precise limits in their own budget. With somewhat less work, even well-known architects may well be game to take on the challenge of cheaper creativity.
But though the text is interesting and considered and printed in both English and German, the stars of this particular show are the houses themselves. Houses gives us a voyeur’s eye view of some of the most creative and remarkable new houses in the world.

Highlights for me included Letterbox House in Blairgowie, Australia. It sprawls, wave-like, a wedge-shaped timber form. Dune House in Inner Mongolia, China, a concrete bunker of a sculpture whose interior and exterior would not have looked out of place in the original Star Wars movie. And the industrial elegance that is House in the Berkshires, an a-typical (for the region) confection of glass and steel. But, really: I must stop. So many of the houses included either take your breath away or make you think about what really is possible when you think about what is meant by that single word: house. It’s an extraordinary book. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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