Meet George Jetson…

31 07 2013

Has anyone noticed that much of residential architecture remains solidly in the realm of traditional styles that have been around for centuries? Most of our subdivisions and developments are filled with gabled Tudors, Victorians, Classicals, Colonials, Cape Cods, Bungalows, Mediterraneans, Salt Boxes, etc.; or, oft-times, schizophrenic mixtures of those styles. Yes, there are many advances in materials and techniques but no real (visible) advances in style. If you review any architecturally focused journals or web sites, you will see examples of some architects pushing the design envelope but our hearts (and wallets) seem to be firmly entrenched in what the developer’s marketing gurus see as Home. No doubt, psychologists can weigh in on our need to hold on to the romantic notion of what home is and there is also, perhaps, security in the notion of a simpler time and place. But, there was a time, not too long ago, when many of us embraced the concepts of a quickly evolving society and saw a different future, I know I expected things to be different by now. So, allow me to digress a bit…

One of my favorite cartoons, growing up, in the 1960’s, was The Jetsons. Some of you oldsters may remember:


With the world solidly caught up in the space race, many facets of our society revolved (or, orbited) around what our world might be like in the not-to-distant future; the media was full of predictions and, I for one, was fascinated by the thought of flying cars, saucer-like houses and apartments, robot maids, capsule meals, etc. So, when The Jetsons aired in September of 1962, I was naturally drawn to glimpse into our future and being 8 years old, at the time, may have been convinced of its relevance. Now, to be fair, The Jestsons originally aired as a prime-time, adult oriented animated sitcom about what family life might be 100 years into the future or, the year 2062; and, if you looked at the proliferation of new gadgets and advances in science, could The Jestsons lifestyle have been that far-fetched?

Well, it has been 50 years since the 24 original episodes of The Jetsons initially aired and I see no signs of saucer shaped houses perched high on pedestals, much less flying cars, or robot maids serving capsule-like meals. Certainly, since the early 20th century, there have been numerous examples of the International Style which exhibited clean lines, flat roofs, monochromatic color schemes, and minimalist decoration but the style is still not prevalent in mainstream America or, the rest of the world for that matter.

Early modernist architects, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius introduced the International Style in European residential architecture as a response to an advancing and changing society. And, as the movement crossed the pond, they were followed by Americans Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier, Philip Johnson (and others) who, during the mid-twentieth century, proffered hard-edged, stark modern interpretations of home but, many examples were fraught with pragmatic construct-ability issues not to mention extremely limited acceptance of the general public.

Today, we continue to see limited examples of a more modern style but these remain limited and seldom appear in our American developments and sub-divisions; they tend to be seen in the realm of prefab housing or multi-family complexes. Although these designs may not seem quite as edgy,as their 20th century predecessors, with a more varied palette of materials and textures and colors; many of these designers are also address issues of circulation, wasted space, and scale rather creatively because they have broken-out of the proverbial traditional house box. I, personally, would like to see  this movement gain traction in mainstream residential developments and progress toward a more modern aesthetic because, after all, it’s not the container that makes it home, it’s the family that lives inside that keeps those home-fires burning. As I have said, before, home is in our hearts and we express that in the container.

And who knows, in another 50 years (2062, to be exact), my grandchildren may be living in a “Jetson-esque” world of flying cars, saucer-like houses and apartments, robot maids, capsule meals, etc.; perhaps they can even teleport” me back, just for a moment, to have a peak.

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