I love International Style homes, but they don't seem that homey...
I’ve always considered the International Style to be my favorite style of architecture. I find myself to be far more intrigued by Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye than by Ledoux’s Château de Bénouville. I appreciate the apparent simplicity, the minimalism, the clean lines, and everything else that separates the style from previous designs. What I find so iconic about the movement, however, is not the International Style buildings found in the public sphere, but the private sphere. It is the residential homes in this style that I prize so much. I constantly find myself in bookstores, seeking out the small architecture related section, just to find that even smaller section of books devoted to modern homes. (I have a real soft spot for the big, hardcover coffee table books in this vain).
My point is, I think that International Style homes are a visual treat. Still, I must ask myself, would I actually want to live in one of these homes? Because I have always found these constructions to be so aesthetically pleasing, I have pushed away the obvious notion that such a home could lack a true sense of place. I enjoy looking at it, but would I actually like to live in it? Can it really be called a home
? Or is it just, simply, a house- or an inaccessible piece of art?
I’ve never lived in a definitively modern, Mies van der Rohe-esqe house, so I can’t really say for certain what it is like to live in such a place. However, I think it is worth considering. These International Style homes are my dream abodes, so I suppose I should
consider whether or not they are actually livable.
The first argument I’ve often heard against the style is that the design is cold and static. While visually I view these houses as crisp and clean, these International Style homes can also translate as very sterile. They appear to lack the sense of comfort that one equates with home. I suppose I can understand this argument in a sense. The sharp lines of such a house, and the minimalist furniture that generally fills it, does not necessarily foster an automatic sense of coziness. I guess coming home after a long day’s work and trying to snuggle up in your Barcelona chair isn’t the same as sinking into a Lay-Z-Boy.
Nonetheless, this argument still does not deter me from enjoying this style of home. I think the starkness and lack of ornamentation would be more of a comfort to me than the alternative. To me, the simplicity is a relief. The uncluttered design is calming, not off-putting. In a world where there is so much excess and congestion, I find tranquility in such a minimalistic environment. We are constantly surrounded by people and things and commotion. Everything about the design- the interior and exterior- is clean, uncluttered, and simple. It would be a true point of escape. I like the idea of a stripped down existence, and I think calling a place like this home would be a perfect base for leading that type of life.
Another argument I’ve heard against the International Style is that it is too homogenized, that is, all the houses look the same. This argument I can also understand. The pilotes, the stucco walls, the flat roofs- there are very definitive characteristics to the design of an International Style house, and in many ways, there is little room for markedly creative additions to the design. To the untrained eye, telling one house from the other truly could be a challenge in many instances. This type of similarity between houses could surely create the lack of a sense of place that one would feel in a suburban environment filled with cookie-cutter or track homes. How can one feel that special, personal sense of place when your home is just like the one down the street?
Once again, while I understand this argument, I have trouble sympathizing with it. To me, each house in this style is very special and unique. The differences are often unobvious, but they certainly are apparent and defining. And still, while all the homes are
similar, I find that exceptional design makes up for the lack of obvious creativity or ingenuity. As they say, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’. In my mind, the problem with suburban cookie-cutter homes is that they’re all ‘broken’ and boring.
So after thinking it through, I believe that I can say for certain that I would still want to call an International Style house my home. The simplicity is something that I feel would create a sense of calm. The verdict is still out on how I feel about the International Style in the cityscape, but that is a topic for another day.