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Past: Present: Future

August 31, 2014

Houses are time travelers, – each is built for a brave new world, personal or cultural, and inevitably change to provide useful and comforting shelter as they age into new generations.

In his “Poetics of Space” Gaston Bachelard, uses homes as universal symbols that “satisfy both pride and reason – two irreconcilable terms.” Homes embody history, reflect the here and now and project a future for every occupier.

Homes are a human product: they mirror values set in very specific places for very different families – but they also freeze time at the moment of their completion, only to see the passage of time change them.

Homes often embody hope and focus to the future, homes often embody the past and they wrap us in history. New England is filled with truly antique homes, and new homes striving for the provenance of history. Parts of Long Island and Connecticut have iconic Mid Century Modernist homes – once extremely edgy, now venerated as windows to architectural passion.

The pungency of  extremes – venerated age in an ancient Colonial, or the denial of any past or present in a Modernist future-focused art piece limits marketability for mass appeal, but heightens the fetishistic desire of their devotees.

Most of us find ourselves living in the moment of coping with the here-and-now of our homes: simple registration to a neighborhood’s context, functional fine-tuning within the safety of a known style and tight budget. The vast aesthetic reality of our housing stock is softly age-ambiguous: domesticated and comfy, versus edgy or antique.

Provenance from the past or a visionary designer is the exception to the rule of finding safety in a real estate pigeon hole of type and style. Beyond physical comfort, the fiscal comfort of bankability manifest in a Ranch/Cape/Center Hall often trumps the thrill of the historic or the art piece.

Do you, like architect Le Corbusier, see your home a “machine for living” – future focused?, or do you feel, as theorist Christopher Alexander wrote, that our houses should embody “a timeless way of building” -“same today as it has ever been”?

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