The Problem of the House

French Domestic Life and the Rise of Modern Architecture

Alex T. Anderson

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  • Published: 2006
  • Subject Listing: Architecture, Cultural Studies, Interior Design
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp., 97 illus., bibliog., index, 7 x 10 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: A McLellan Book
  • Contents

"The problem of the house is a problem of the epoch," declared the French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier; architecture, he felt, should focus on everyday life and produce housing that is "made for living in." In The Problem of the House, Alex Anderson explores a group of like-minded designers in France, the architects-décorateurs, who also committed themselves to designing and equipping the modern house. Most began as decorative artists, interior designers, and painters but moved into the field of architecture in the 1920s. They envisioned an environment conceived by architects, in which the traditional decorative arts would be replaced with domestic equipment, often standardized and mass-produced, with works of art selected by the occupants themselves. This concern with the house shaped Western European, and especially French, Modernist architecture. The author traces the development of these ideas in France from the Salons d'Automne displays of 1900 through the post-World War I period, when the early modern architects, influenced by Cubism and Art Nouveau, established architecture as a human-centered art based on relationships, not on obedience to rules. Figures include photographs of interior ensembles exhibited at the Salons d'Automne in the early 1900s, illustrations of urban plans and structures, stills from film sets that expressed the design concepts of the architects-décorateurs, and views of living spaces built for clients and for the architects themselves.

The Problem of the House will appeal to art and architectural historians, students and scholars of architecture, interior designers, and decorative artists.

Alex T. Anderson is associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington.
1. Raising Up the Bourgeois Home
- The Ordinary Supersedes the Extraordinary at the Expositions Universelles
- Structural Rationalism and the New French Home
- The Liberalization of the Bourgeois French Interior
- Domestic Themes in the Fine Arts
2. Design and Domestic Settings: The Salons D'Automne of 1910 to 1913
- 1910: The German Challenge
- 1911: Constructeur / Coloriste
- 1912: Un Salon Bourgeois
- 1913: The Good and the Well-Made Thing
3. The War, House Reconstruction, and Furniture Production
4. The End of Decorative Art, The Hour of Architecture
- Toward a Union of Modern Designers
- The End of Decorative Art
- The Hour of Architecture in France
- The Architects-Decorateurs
- French Modern Architecture
Illustration Credits