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Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski

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1 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski

2 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Painting on book cover: “Interior with a Woman Playing the Virginals” , circa 1660, Emanuel de Witte

3 Emanuel de Witte Emanuel de Witte (1617–1692) was a Dutch perspective painter. In contrast to Pieter Jansz Saenredam, who emphasized architectural accuracy, De Witte was more concerned with the atmosphere of his interiors. De Witte initially painted portraits as well as mythological and religious scenes. After his move from Delft to Amsterdam in 1651 de Witte specialized more and more in representing church interiors, and he painted the old church in Amsterdam from almost every corner. He sometimes combined aspects of different churches to depict interiors of ideal churches, populating them with churchgoers, sometimes accompanied by a dog. De Witte's excellent sense of composition combined with his use of light created atmospheres which seem honest and real. His theme may have been light and how it creates livable space.

4 Paintings by Emanuel de Witte Choir of the New Church in Amsterdam, 1683 Interior of the Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, 1657 Market in the Hague, 1660

5 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski
This book is essentially one long essay dedicated to opening up and trying to understand what is meant by the term ‘comfort’ as it relates to domestic environments in the Western world. Focused largely on Northern Europe in the 16th through 19th centuries because of the influence of that time and that place upon American domestic practices today. The essay is a sometimes rambling, wide ranging, exploration that touches on physical design, economics, culture and sociology.

6 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10, pagers 216 - 232
This chapter opens with a reproduction of a Norman Rockwell painting titled ““Willie Gillis in College”, 1946. This painting is typical of Norman Rockwell in that it depicts a warm and comforting scene.

7 Norman Rockwell painting, “Willie Gillis in College”, 1946.

8 Norman Rockwell paintings

9 Norman Rockwell

10 Norman Rockwell Norman Percevel Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) was a 20th-century American painter and illustrator. His works enjoy a broad popular appeal in the United States, where Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine for more than four decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are the Willie Gillis series Rosie the Riveter, Saying Grace (1951), The Problem We All Live With, and the Four Freedoms series. He is also noted for his work for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA); producing covers for their publication Boys' Life, calendars, and other illustrations.

11 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10 Pages 217 - 232
In Chapter 10, the author provides an overview of his analysis of the concept of comfort. He discusses décor and visual style in relationship to actual human behaviors; what a space looks like versus what people do in the space. He discusses some reasons why styles of décor from the past are copied, and how they are copied (mostly in limited, and piecemeal selections of individual elements) He contends that to understand comfort what is needed is to study social traditions and patterns; of what people do, rather than to study the visual décor of what spaces have been made to look like.

12 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski
He concludes the chapter, and the book, by asking “What is comfort?” Is comfort ‘objective’ and measureable, or is it ‘subjective’ and immeasurable? As an example of an attempt to measure comfort he discusses criteria used to assess the comfort of a workplace, using the drug company, Merck, and their office environment, as an example. The point of this discussion is to demonstrate that there are different ways of thinking about comfort, such as the temperature and humidity of a space, to the sense of intimacy in a space.

13 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski
He proposes that the scientific definition of comfort – namely one that is based upon quantitative and objective measurements - is flawed because it only considers those aspects that can be measured, which does not include many of the human and qualitative characteristics that clearly make people comfortable. In other words, the realities of human experience, like feeling good, happy, content, calm, et cetera, cannot be quantified.

14 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10 Pages 217 - 232
“…lately I have been thinking how comfort is perhaps the ultimate luxury.” Billy Baldwin (as quoted in the New York Times) Billy Baldwin: The dean of indigenous decorators (he abhorred the term interior designer), Billy Baldwin was at once a classicist and a modernist. Though his aesthetic emotions were from time to time stirred by things Continental, in general he disdained the florid, baroque and rococo in favor of the clean-cut, hard-edged and pared-down. Among his early influences were Frances Elkins, perhaps the most sophisticated decorator of her day, and Jean-Michel Frank, whom he described categorically as “the last genius of French furniture.

15 Billy Baldwin Decorator

16 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski chapter 10
For Baldwin, who was partial to plump deep-seated sofas and chairs, the ultimate luxury was comfort. “First and foremost, furniture must be comfortable,” he decreed. “That is the original purpose of it, after all.” He usually had it upholstered straight to the floor, believing that too many naked chair legs left a room looking “restless.” This point of view is one that we may agree, or disagree, with. Within the world of design ideas, there are overarching positions, or sensibilities, that each individual must decide upon for themselves.

17 The New York Times: The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization. Its website is the most popular American online newspaper website, receiving more than 30 million unique visitors per month.

18 The New York Times Although the print version of the paper remains both the largest local metropolitan newspaper in the United States, as well the third largest newspaper overall, behind The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, its weekday circulation has fallen since 1990 (not unlike other newspapers) to fewer than one million copies daily, for the first time since the 1980s. Nicknamed "the Gray Lady”, and long regarded within the industry as a national "newspaper of record”, The New York Times is owned by The New York Times Company, which also publishes 18 other newspapers including the International Herald Tribune and The Boston Globe. The company's chairman is Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., whose family has controlled the paper since 1896.

19 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski
“Domestic well being is a fundamental human need that is deeply rooted in us, and that must be satisfied.” “If this need is not met in the present, it is not unnatural to look for comfort in tradition.” “In doing so, however, we should not confuse the idea of comfort with décor – the external appearance of rooms – nor with behavior – how These rooms were used.” Décor, the ‘style’ in which a room is visually outfitted, is usually short lived, whereas social patterns, such as men retiring to a room to smoke, may last generations.

20 The steamship Normandie
The SS Normandie was an ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France for the French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat; she is still the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built. Her novel design and lavish interiors led many to consider her the greatest of ocean liners. The steamship Normandie

21 Queen Anne style The Queen Anne Style in Britain means either the English Baroque architectural style roughly of the reign of Queen Anne (1702–14), or a revived form that was popular in the last quarter of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. The historic reference in the name should not be taken too literally, as buildings in the Queen Anne style can bear as little resemblance to English buildings of the 18th century as those of any revival style to the original. What is called the "Queen Anne style" in other parts of the English-speaking world, especially the United States and Australia, is completely different.

22 Queen Anne style

23 Art Nouveau Art Nouveau is an international philosophy and style of art, architecture and applied art—especially the decorative arts—that were most popular during 1890–1910. The name "Art Nouveau" is French for "new art". It is known also as Jugendstil, German for "youth style", named for the magazine Jugend, which promoted it, and in Italy, Stile Liberty from the department store in London, Liberty & Co., which popularised the style. A reaction to academic art of the 19th century, it was inspired by natural forms and structures, not only in flowers and plants, but also in curved lines. Architects tried to harmonize with the natural environment. It is also considered a philosophy of design of furniture, which was designed according to the whole building and made part of ordinary life.

24 Art Nouveau Design

25 Art Deco Art deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920’s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and jewelry, as well as the visual arts such as painting, graphic arts and film. The term "art deco" was first used widely in 1926, after an exhibition in Paris, 'Les Années 25' sub-titled Art Deco, celebrating the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts) that was the culmination of style moderne in Paris. At its best, art deco represented elegance, glamour, functionality and modernity.

26 Art Deco Design

27 Japanese hot tub

28 Post Modernism Postmodernism is a philosophical movement away from the viewpoint of modernism. More specifically it is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problem of objective truth and inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Rather, it holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependent on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist of. It upholds the belief that there is no absolute truth and the way in which different people perceive the world is subjective. It attempts to problematise modernist overconfidence, by drawing into sharp contrast the difference between how confident speakers are of their positions versus how confident they need to be to serve their supposed purposes.

29 Post Modernism Postmodernism has influenced many cultural fields, including religion, literary criticism, sociology, linguistics, architecture, history, anthropology, visual arts, and music. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from modernist approaches that had previously been dominant. The term "postmodernism" comes from its critique of the "modernist" scientific mentality of objectivity and progress associated with the Enlightenment. These movements, modernism and postmodernism, are understood as cultural projects or as a set of perspectives.

30 Post Modernism "Postmodernism" is used in critical theory to refer to a point of departure for works of literature, drama, architecture, cinema, journalism, and design, as well as in marketing and business and in the interpretation of law, culture, and religion in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Indeed, postmodernism, particularly as an academic movement, can be understood as a reaction to modernism in the Humanities. Whereas modernism was primarily concerned with principles such as identity, unity, authority, and certainty, postmodernism is often associated with difference, plurality, textuality, and skepticism.

31 Lillian Gilbreth & Christine Frederick
Lillian Gilbreth combined the perspectives of an engineer, a psychologist, a wife, and a mother; she helped industrial engineers see the importance of the psychological dimensions of work. She became the first American engineer ever to create a synthesis of psychology and scientific management. Christine Isobel McGaffey Frederick (February 6, 1883 – April 6, 1970) was an American home economist and early 20th century exponent of Taylorism as applied to the domestic sphere. She conducted experiments aimed at improving household efficiency, as well as arguing for women's vital role as consumers in a mass-production economy. She wrote books on these subjects, the best-known of which is probably Selling Mrs. Consumer, which offers an early justification for planned obsolescence as a necessary feature of the industrial economy.

32 Lillian Gilbreth & Christine Frederick
We’ve come discover that meal planning can save money, time and foster great family relationships here in the 21st century. The time is the very early 1920′s.  Famous Home Economist Christine Frederick author of several homemaking books and magazine articles not to mention a homemaking correspondence course gives the following advice on meal planning … “Many women admit that while cleaning takes a great deal of time, still it is one of the tasks of the home which can be glossed over, or quite neglected in extreme need.

33 Christine Frederick, Household engineering
But the three-meals-a-day problem seems the one from which there is no escape. We can leave the windows unwashed if we don’t get time or are too tired, but no matter what the circumstances or how the homemaker feels, the family must eat and so food must be prepared regularly. Nothing wastes time more or is more inefficient than to let the choosing of a meal go until an hour or two hours before it is to be served. If left in this way until the last moment it is quite sure not to be a “balanced” meal, but one hastily put together, of anything that happens to be in the house or that can be obtained quickly.

34 Taylorism Taylorism, was a theory of management that analyzed and synthesized workflows. Its main objective was improving economic efficiency, especially labor productivity. While working as a lathe operator and foreman at Midvale Steel, Frederick Winslow Taylor noticed the natural differences in productivity between workers, which were driven by various causes, including differences in talent, intelligence, or motivations. He was one of the first people to try to apply science to this application, that is, understanding why and how these differences existed and how best practices could be analyzed and synthesized, then propagated to the other workers via standardization of process steps. He believed that decisions based upon tradition and rules of thumb should be replaced by precise procedures developed after careful study of an individual at work, including via time and motion studies, which would tend to discover or synthesize the "one best way" to do any given task. The goal and promise was both an increase in productivity and reduction of effort.

35 “A house is a machine for living in
“A house is a machine for living in.” Le Corbusier Shodan House, Ahmedabad, India, 1956

36 Maison Jaoul,1954, by Le Corbusier

37 Le Corbusier born Charles Eduard Jenneret “Architecture is the masterly, correct, and magnificent play of masses brought together in light”

38 Le Corbusier: Villa Savoye, Chapel of Notre Dame, Ronchamps LC2 Petite Armchair, LC4Chaise

39 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski chapter 10
“Changes in fashion occur more frequently than changes in behavior.” page 218 Spaces that try to recapture the comfort of the past by making them look like the past, are missing the essential ingredient of comfort: the behavior of the people was a result of large cultural conditions that caused the spaces to result in a certain ‘look’, not the other way around. A Colonial living room was comfortable for people of that time, whereas a Colonial looking living room today is merely an image of a time gone by. Our contemporary definition of comfort does not really fit into a ‘Colonial’ package.

40 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10
Comfort in the contemporary world is tough to imagine without: Central heat Central air conditioning Electric lighting Refrigerators Hot and cold running water Elevators “As John Lukacs reminds us, although the home of 1930 would be familiar to us, it would have been unrecognizable to the citizen of ”

41 John Lukacs John Adalbert Lukacs (born Lukács János Albert on 31 January 1924) is a Hungarian-born American historian who has written more than thirty books, including Five Days in London, May 1940 and A New Republic. He was a professor of history at Chestnut Hill College (where he succeeded Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn) from 1947 to 1994, and the chair of that history department from 1947 to 1974. He has served as a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, Princeton University, La Salle University,Regional College in British Columbia and the University of Budapest, and Hanover College. A self-proclaimed reactionary, Lukacs often holds views that many consider idiosyncratic

42 Early Electric Lighting in Homes

43 Nikola Tesla Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer. He was an important contributor to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor. This work helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

44 Nikola Tesla Because of his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist by many late in his life. Tesla died with little money at the age of 86 in a hotel suite in New York City.

45 Nikola Tesla Nikola Tesla developed polyphase alternating current system of generators, motors and transformers and held 40 basic U.S. patents on the system, which George Westinghouse bought, determined to supply America with the Tesla system. Edison did not want to lose his DC empire, and a bitter war ensued. This was the war of the currents between AC and DC. Tesla -Westinghouse ultimately emerged the victor because AC was a superior technology. It was a war won for the progress  of both America and the world.

46 Nikola Tesla Tesla introduced his motors and electrical systems in a classic paper, “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” which he delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. One of the most impressed was the industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse. One day he visited Tesla’s laboratory and was amazed at what he saw. Tesla had constructed a model polyphase system consisting of an alternating current dynamo, step-up and step-down transformers and A.C. motor at the other end. The perfect partnership between Tesla and Westinghouse for the nationwide use of electricity in America had begun.

47 Nikola Tesla In February 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current.  Tesla brilliantly adapted the principle of rotating magnetic field for the construction of alternating current induction motor and the polyphase system for the generation, transmission, distribution and use of electrical power. He designed the first hydroelectric powerplant in Niagara Falls in 1895, which was the final victory of alternating current.  The achievement was covered widely in the world press, and Tesla was praised as a hero world wide. 

48 Nikola Tesla Nikola Tesla patented the basic system of radio in 1896.
His published schematic diagrams describing all the basic elements of the radio transmitter which was later used by Marconi. The United States Supreme Court, in 1943 held Marconi's most important patent invalid, recognizing Tesla's more significant contribution as the inventor of radio technology.

49 Christopher Alexander
Christopher Wolfgang Alexander (born October 4, 1936 in Vienna, Austria) is an architect noted for his theories about design, and for more than 200 building projects in California, Japan, Mexico and around the world. Reasoning that users know more about the buildings they need than any architect could, he produced and validated (in collaboration with Sarah Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein) a "pattern language" designed to empower anyone to design and build at any scale. Alexander is often overlooked by texts in the history and theory of Architecture because his work intentionally disregarded contemporary Architecture discourse, appealing more through methods consistent with his theories than through established practices. As such, Alexander is widely considered to occupy a place outside the discipline, the discourse, and the practice of Architecture. In 1958 he moved from England to the United States, living and teaching in Berkeley, California from 1963.

50 While searching for Christopher Alexander, I bumped into MRGD Architects, and their Urban Lobby project

51 MRGD Architects cites Christopher Alexander as an influence in their exploration of these ideas
“According to Christopher Alexander, compartmentalization and the dissociation of internal elements are potential signs of anarchy and schizophrenia.” “Fuzzy logic thinking is another step of helping human thought to recognize our environment less as a world of crisp boundaries and disconnections and more as a field of swarming agents with blurred borders.”

52 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10
“After 1920, especially in America (somewhat later in Europe), physical comfort in the home was no longer the privilege of a part of society, it was accessible to all.” page 220 The author observes that the contemporary, ‘open plan’ home offers as little privacy as a home environment in the Middle Ages. Page 222 He proposes that what would create a better domestic comfort would be more small rooms rather than a large open space. Furniture too, he observes, should be designed and manufactured with practical rather than aesthetic goals.

53 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10
Convenience, as practicality, not aesthetics should, in his view, be the basis for the design of the physical home environment. Kitchens, for example, should not consist of cabinets that hide their contents, but rather should keep all of the working ‘tools’ of the kitchen out in the open, where they can easily be seen and gotten hold of. The author observes also that kitchens are generally too small today. The actual tasks done in cooking require more room to work than usually provided. Similarly, the layout of bathrooms is not based upon patterns of use, and space needed to do what is desired.

54 Home: A Short History Of An Idea by Witold Rybczynski Chapter 10
He concludes by saying that comfort is a complex, multi-dimensional, concept, and that like an onion, it may initially appear to be simple, but it is not. “We must discover for ourselves the mystery of comfort, for without it, our dwellings will indeed be machines instead of homes.” The author concludes the book by proposing that domestic comfort involves “a range of attributes – convenience, intimacy, and privacy – all of which contribute to the experience; common sense will do the rest.” page 231

55 So what does domestic comfort look like to us?
What do you think is the relationship between visual beauty, and comfort? Is your physical comfort impacted by visual beauty, or lack thereof? Is visual beauty impacted by physical comfort or a lack of physical comfort? If a chair is comfortable does it therefore look good? If a chair is uncomfortable does it therefore look bad?

56 So what does domestic comfort look like to us?
If your house interior is neat and clean does that have an effect on your sense of comfort? If your house interior is messy, and dirty, does that have an effect on your sense of comfort? Does your sense of comfort go more with you than with the physical environment you are in, or do you respond to, and change in, different physical environments? Is domestic comfort a design issue and something for designers to address in their work, or is it something that the occupants must bring to an environment? Does it require attention by both designers and occupants?

57 Google ‘Comfortable Room’ and these images come up

58 Too precious; a stage set that looks ‘comfy’ but is actually too small of a space to support any activity, including sleeping.

59 The sense of a view out, and light coming in, create a comfortable ambience.

60 This space looks ‘noisy’
This space looks ‘noisy’. All hard surfaces will be cold in winter, and acoustically clattery.

61 A pleasant looking bath space, but the ceiling seems to loom close above the tub and above the sinks.

62 The windows add a good amount of daylight but the room feels hard, clattery, and piecemeal.

63 Pleasant in many regards
Pleasant in many regards. The window plays a big role in creating the overall comfortable ambience.

64 This space and its furnishings speak of a particular sensibility, a particular time: 1950’s Modern. For a design knowledgeable person, this room is unified in expression.

65 For design oriented people, any sacrifice in physical comfort demanded by these furnishings and the décor are amply paid back in cognitive, conceptual, affirmation and contentment.

66 Feels like a generic hotel room.

67 Uniformity becomes stifling. The window is just right for a burglar!

68 White does set off the ‘pops’ of color, and for a small-ish apartment space, there is a good range of visual texture.

69 The view makes the room. The seating almost ruins it.

70 The art makes the room.

71 This looks comfortable and appealing, but what can you actually ‘do’ in here?

72 Yeah Baby!


74 Home at last!

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