one and three houses


October 2013


Following our monthly topic, a recommendation; a literary triptych, to be enjoyed and learned from, on the topic of the house. Read together, as a single, big book, these three approaches provide a beautifully complex vision of the house.


E. E. Viollet Le Duc's "History of Human Dwelling" is written in a literary tone. Two characters - the eternal Doxi and Epergos - contemplate the river of time, as it meanders through a historical line populated by peoples and cultures, each producing their own version of the fundamental house.

Since the very first shelter, and linking materials and building processes (as described by Gottfried Semper in his theory of technical motivation) to cultural (or ethnic) specificity; the revolutionary French architect constructs a progressive hypothesis on the evolution of the house, while elaborating a novel, of sorts.


Joseph Rykwert's "On Adam's House in Paradise" proposes an investigation on the many versions of the primeval hut as a reflection on the essence of architecture itself, founded on what appears to be its basic output. Paired to the image of the "noble savage," the quest for the original, untainted seeds of what "should be" (the ideal house of Adam, before the fall), can be found in the attempts to bind classicism to the primitive origins of architectural form, usually by means of symbolism.

Aside from the intensity and exhaustive research that supports this history, few figures are as beautiful as Rykwert's proposition of the beginning as the promise of a perfect end.


Cultured, smart and certainly original, Iñaki Abalos's "The Good Life (A Guided Visit to the Houses of Modernity)" attempts to pair a diverse selection of houses (canonical and iconic, each in its own way) to the evolution of mainstream modernist culture, both in the field of philosophy and in the broader humanities.

From film director Jacques Tati's architecture in the classic Mon Oncle, to Mies Van der Rohe's courtyard houses or Andy Warhol's "Factory" loft, rather than confirming the canon, this book describes hypothetical, mostly unrealized or ephemeral projects, completing a triad that oscillates between the past, the eternal present, and a series of possible futures for the most basic of architectural reflections.


Jorge Mejia Hernandez