House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Houses
With the nationwide devastation wrought by the sub-prime lending scam increasing and while credit tightens and housing prices tank, reading House Lust: America's Obsession With Our Houses by Daniel McGinn, is an interesting way to reflect on a particularly American predicament. What is it about houses that drives our restlessness and desire for the next great nest, loaded, of course, with all the latest and greatest accoutrements?
By Daniel McGinn
A Currency Book Published By Doubleday, New York, 264 pages,
Reviewed By William J. Angelo
Modern housing has transformed America. In pre-WW II days most Americans lived modestly in a home passed down or built by family. Credit was hard to come by and interest rates were fixed. Repairs and renovations were usually financed out-of-pocket. But after the war Levittown came along with easy credit, production building, right pricing and great location and changed the landscape, literally. Now, easy credit, tax deductions and technology are helping to super-size homes.
According to McGinn, Americans light up parties with unabashed discussions of how much a neighbor's property sold for, or who is doing the latest add-ons and how much it costs, or by comparing square footage. We watch TV shows like: This Old House, Flip This House, House Hunters, Extreme Makover: Home Edition, Buy Me, Designed To Sell, Million Dollar Listing, shop at Home Depot, and read an endless plethora of magazines devoted to the home beautiful. We are, in fact, obsessed with homes, ours and everyone else's. Why?
McGinn says there are five primary reason for house lust: the high-five effect - riding the housing boom and celebrating the thrill of newfound riches; our house is our retirement plan - with disappearing savings and pensions, houses are a good bet for the golden years and we can also tap equity to finance other lifestyle spending; we used to play the market - but during the boom years we began playing our houses because interest rates were low and refinancing was easy; it's so easy to peek in the window - finding information on home values, comparison shopping, is easy using the internet; and you are where you live - jobs are less useful as status markers, but houses better communicate socioeconomic rank.
Most likely you have heard the phrase "buy the most house you can afford?" Or how about "it will pay for itself in the long run?" But how about "maximum use imperative?" No, well, that may very well be the driver for the others according to McGinn. We desire a home big enough to accommodate the most extreme situation - multiple family members staying over, or hosting a large party, even if it is only one night per year and we rattle around the super-sized structure the other 364 days. It's all about changing wants and needs and the prosperity to accommodate it. We can do it because we can afford it, at least until recently.
McGinn also explores how run-down property became the new 401(k) and that by 2005 absentee owners looking for positive cash flow bought almost 28% of the 5 million houses sold. Buy cheap in a low cost city like Pocatello, and live off the rental income. Or how Americans spent $180 billion on remodeling in 2006, and how 6.3 million Americans moved into brand new houses between 2000 and 2005, spending more than $1 trillion in the process.
Forget the new car smell - desire the new house smell and feel - only your bottom has been in this virginal bathtub - and the floor plan and hardware were designed to your exquisite taste. Galleries, not hallways, master suite, bathrooms and bedrooms galore, elevators, home theaters, billiards parlor, infinity edge pools, open floor plans, upstairs laundry, wired for sight and sound, twin dishwashers and freezers, mudroom, vaulted ceilings, built-in coffee maker - more possessions, more space. You have arrived. Welcome to house lust.
House Lust, a Currency Book Published By Doubleday, New York, 264 pages, ISBN: 978-0-385-51929-8
Getting a Job in Architecture and Design
By David W. Patterson, W.W. Norton & Co., 2008, ISBN-13: 9780393732177, 208 pages, $25.00
Although good design jobs are always available, it’s just a matter of finding them. Whether you are an architect, interior designer or are in a related area, and if you are a student, intern or project manager, this book provides invaluable information for getting a job. With more than 30 years in the design field, David W. Patterson has provided tried-and-true and unusual strategies for job hunting, as well as a complete realm of job possibilities and how each plays an integral part of the profession. This includes jobs in design-build, corporate design, facilities planning and management, graphic design, construction management, sustainable design, law, education and real estate development. The author also shares his knowledge of the eccentricities and trade secrets of the profession.
2nd Edition by F.G. Bell, Butterworth-Heinemann, a division of Elsevier, 2007, ISBN-13: 9780750680776, 595 pages, $49.95
Whether a building, bridge or road, every engineered structure is affected by the ground on which it is built. This is why it's essential that engineers have a basic knowledge of geology, which is of fundamental importance when deciding on location and design of all engineering projects. Engineering Geology introduces the fundamentals of the discipline so that engineers have a clear understanding of the processes at work, and how they impact what is to be built. In addition to theoretical knowledge, Bell introduces basics of soil mechanics, links between groundwater conditions and underlying geology and techniques engineers need to understand the geological conditions in which they intend to build. Key points are illustrated.
Celebrating the Courthouse
A Guide for Architects, Their Clients, and the Public Edited by Steven Flanders, W.W. Norton & Co., 2006, ISBN-13: 9780393730708, 240 pages, $60.00
There are almost as many ways to design a good courthouse as one that is less than satisfactory.
Celebrating the Courthouse provides practical experience and wisdom that will help those who come to a courthouse project without much previous experience quickly learn what opportunities and special problems are presented by this type of project.
The book unites the skills and experience of architects, judges, administrators and lawyers to guide the design of this complex building type. It illuminates the subject for the diverse professionals and laypeople who plan and create courthouses, as well as discloses issues that must be addressed to achieve an effective and satisfying building.
Because we live in a diverse design world and courthouse programs are specific and distinct from one another, no attempt is made to prescribe a particular program for any model courthouse project. Rather, the distinguished contributors lay out a variety of solutions that can help solve problems confronted in particular settings. Considering historical precedent, context, functional requirements, and public and client needs, they focus on the best practices in design and also upon some design failures, addressing the pitfalls presented by courthouse programs which are among the most complex that architects face. Finally, they look at the technological revolution and the future of courthouse design.