The modern archaic house

There is a long tradition of technological innovators building themselves ‘dream houses’ that
This can be traced back to Cragside and beyond. Cragside (map) was built by Lord Armstrong, an archetypal Victorian – engineer, entrepreneur, arms dealer and philanphropist. Lit by hydroelectric power, it was a warren of cumbersome (but innovative and effective) engineering and architectural styles, masterfully composed by Richard Norman Shaw.

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Ultimately, the arms dealers lost their architectural mojo and Silicon Valley came to the rescue, spawning a new generation of billionaires eager to transform their living environments into something akin to their vision of the future. This MeFi post on the house move of Richard Garriott, a video game designer of long-standing, reveals some of the features contained within his $4m Texan house, a thing of complexity but no great beauty (‘The lovechild of a McMansion and a motel, given up at birth and raised by a public library.’). They include ‘a 360 degree observatory w/ telescope, pool, grotto, waterfall, +detached studio, separate guest quarters, a/c’d barn, lagoon, lighted track’.

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It is undeniably an ugly house. Whereas the ‘house of the future‘ of decades past had the optimism and excitement of the space age to inform it, the Garriott house is a sorry excuse for historical research (although his other influences are more obvious). Rather than celebrate the rich architectural legacy of fortification building and the grand castles and country houses of the pre-twentieth century era, the ‘medieval aspects’ of this structure are more White Castle than William Randolph Hurst. At least Hearst could bus in authentic bits of European stonework and reassemble them in a dramatic and romantic fashion.

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Garriott is not alone in his veneer-deep appreciation of the physical possibilities of residential architecture. A few months ago, Kottke posted a video on a day in the life of John Lasseter, in which the Pixar CCO reveals his house to be part closet, part train track, and all ersatz super-sized log cabin schmaltz. The house of Dean Kamen is more concerned with physical mementos, rather than virtual ones (although there are also strange territorial disputes regarding his private island), containing enough left over machinery to start a small science museum. It’s still lacking in robustness, despite the masculinity implicit in a collection of scattered steam engines, machine tools and assorted drill bits. The ‘architecture’, such as it is, pales in comparison to the many tons of forged iron.

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Fifteen or so years ago, the ‘extensively automated Pacific Lodge’ (according to Wikipedia) built by Bill Gates was considered one of the world’s most extraordinary residences (in the pre-Cribs era, perhaps). But although the technology was outdated before the first beam was laid (how often is it updated, we wonder?), Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s sprawling design actually has some coherence. Taken in isolation, the compound’s extensive collection of pavilions and earth-sheltered structures appear more contemporary now than they must have done in 1997. This laughably low-res architectural walkthrough is doomed to underplay the tactile and visual qualities of wood and vegetation – although it must have cost as much as a small house in itself to produce back then. Instead, it reveals a pleasantly fluid set of living spaces.

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Some other things. Averia, ‘the average font’. Rather pleasing / Taumazo, a culture and inspiration tumblr / Me, Myself and I, a cinematic tumblr / the Nanowrimo Reference Desk is an entertaining place to hang out / Joakim Blockstrom has some interesting photosets, including Scrubs, Heirlooms and some evocative images of Provence.

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Ferrero Unwrapped: all about the makers of ‘Ferrero Rocher, the world’s best selling boxed chocolate, [who also make] Nutella, Tic Tacs and the Kinder range of bars and snacks. For every 100 hazelnuts grown on Earth, 15 end up in a Ferrero product.’ Not to be confused with TICTAC, ‘a comprehensive CD-ROM database for the visual identification of drugs (primarily Tablets and Capsules) and substances that may resemble drugs’. We bet Damien Hirst has a copy.

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Failpyre has some photographs of the (presumably now rather cold) Occupy Wall Street camp. More at flickr / After the News is a design agency with a weblog, OffBrand / Rarefied Oxygen, a tumblr / Sleeping Beauties, rusty old cars / plenty of pictures of Spaceport America, the future looks quite a bit like we imagined it would / A Collection Of, a stuff blog.

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