The History of the American House, In Five Rooms

Amanda Kolson Hurley reviews the ambitious exhibit <em>House and Home</em>, on view at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.
May 31, 2012, 9am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Can the whole history of the American house-architectural, technological, social-be documented in five rooms at the National Building Museum. Unfortunately, writes Hurley, in the case of this "overreaching" exhibit the answer is no.

Divided into sections that explore topics such as Living at Home, Building a House, and Buying a Home, the exhibit features "a kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that takes us on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, challenging our ideas about what it means to be at home in America."

However, according to Hurley, "The gap between mainstream housing and capital-a Architecture, between social history and design history, is never quite acknowledged. One gallery shows a bewildering array of nearly 200, mostly common household objects: Atari game console, plunge bath, Barcalounger, butter churn, lawn sprinkler, and so on. Visitors will enjoy pointing out familiar objects, but then what? This reviewer's associative powers are not strong enough to form a meaningful connection between a Crock Pot and the Glass House, a model airplane and Mount Vernon."

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Published on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 in The Architect's Newspaper
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