More than what it’s made of

In the 1970’s, there was a slew of books about owner built, funky, human scale houses. Everything was geared to reflect the personality and spirit of the builder…and the builders of these homes were not hobbled by normal constraints like bank loans or building codes. It was a creative time for a lot of things…and that creativity played out in the homes some people were building for themselves.

I read somewhere that the 60’s actually happened in the 70’s.  I don’t know if that’s true or not…I’d like to think that it was as my teenage years took place in that time period.  It seems a lot more digestible to be able to think that I grew up in the “late period sixties” than that I came of age in the disco era.  Maybe it was a last gasp situation before we veered into the 80’s, I don’t know…but it was my time of youthful exuberance… so to me it was a golden age. ( All the flappers say, “How about that F. Scott?!!  Wasn’t that a time?!!)

This book is one of many on this subject that I have in my collection.  It seemed that for a time in the seventies that there was a lot of this type of book for sale.  Like Carter in the White House…turning down the heat and putting on a sweater…I think we were pretty aware of what could be done after coming out of the sixties.  Maybe we were getting further along in the practical application of our ideas…seeing how the conceptual actually played out when you could walk inside the dream…I don’t really know.

I was and am obsessed with this type of building.  I’ve been in a few homes that completely reflected the personality of the builder…it’s a shock after living in and around most of the cookie cutter houses that the majority of us own.  The building codes it seems are there as much to protect us as to guarantee that we use a certain type of material, keep a bunch of government folks employed, don’t build anything that freaks anybody else out…and generally just rein us in. If there wasn’t money being made from the process, I wonder how much interest any of them would have in my “welfare”? That’s a cynical viewpoint but it makes you wonder who’d come around to check on you if it wasn’t their job.  Life is not meant to be a work of art (to the general population) …it’s meant to be a “standing in line”, a waiting…an expectation that at some point the living will start, whether at graduation or retirement or marriage.  The beauty of these pictures of houses to me is that I get the impression that there isn’t a sense of deferral of life…they are vital and alive in the moment.

There are some beautiful books being published now on this subject.  Many of my favorites are published by Shelter Publications (see the earlier blog post on them)…wonderful books full of life and color and brave people. This book, Handmade Houses, is out of print but still “findable” as a used book. It is worth seeking out…it’s a great little book with some really wonderful pictures.

I guess the house we live in is really just an expression of what we are. We become less, I’m afraid, when we are never given the gift of believing that life is more than a long period of “quiet desperation” before we die (Hey….whadda ya gonna do?!! That’s LIFE!!!)  Like the frog in the “gradually getting hotter” water, we need to keep swimming… no matter how uncomfortable it gets…or get ready to jump.

About Peter Rorvig

I'm a non-practicing artist, a mailman, a husband, a father...not listed in order of importance. I believe that things can always get better....and that things are usually better than we think.

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