May 13, 2014

House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate in Nineteen Episodes

The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture

House Housing exhibition materials, 2014. Newsprint, transcripts, iPhone. Photo and exhibition design: MTWTF. Image courtesy of MTWTF and the Buell Center.

House Housing: An Untimely History of Architecture and Real Estate in Nineteen Episodes is the first public presentation of a multi-year research project conducted by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University. Installed in the third-floor apartment of Columbia’s Casa Muraro in Venice and staged as an open house, the exhibition responds unsolicited to the proposal by Rem Koolhaas, curator of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition, that architecture focus on its “fundamentals.” House Housing replies by considering architecture’s economic fundamentals, which locate housing at the center of the current economic regime, with the United States as an influential node in a transnational network.

In architecture, economic fundamentals are built from the ground up. The laws of real estate—relating to the acquisition of land, the financing of construction, the cost of building maintenance and services, profit from rent or resale, the value of equity, or the price of credit—inexorably shape any building component (like a window) and any building type (like a house). They are visible even in the residential work of such singular figures as Frank Lloyd Wright, not least because the Greek oikos, or household, forms the root of the word “economy” itself. But look closely and you will see that what seems fundamental, basic, or natural is, like any other law, a historical artifact permanently under construction and subject to change.

House Housing narrates 19 brief episodes from across the last 100 years in a mixture of domestic media, from phonograph to television, answering machine to iPad, converting the apartment into a whispering, humming history machine. Though they mainly focus on the continental United States, the discrete episodes are excerpts from global processes. Their artifacts range from houses designed by figures as well known as Frank O. Gehry to seemingly ordinary gated communities in Florida. Their untimeliness is twofold. First, these episodes return us to financial matters widely discussed in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 foreclosure crisis but now largely abandoned by mainstream discourse. Second, the historical episodes disclose surprising repetitions of themes, tendencies, and actions. This reminds us that the economic infrastructures on which architecture rests are the outcome of such repetitions, rather than an a priori, natural ground.


Exhibition team
Reinhold Martin, Director
Jacob Moore, Curator
Susanne Schindler, Curator
MTWTF, Design

Research team, GSAPP
Óskar Arnórsson, Lluis Alexandre Casanovas Blanco, Erik Carver, Blair Dargusch, Francisco Diaz, Leslie Klein, Sigmund Lerner, Diana Martinez, Pollyanna Rhee, Jack Schonewolf, Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió, Micah Stroup
Marcelo López-Dinardi, Research & Production Coordinator

Design teamMTWTF
Boyeon Choi, Virginia Chow, Glen Cummings, Aliza Dzik, Dylan Fracareta, Pedro Gonçalves, Ravena Hengst, Laura Huaranga, Jess Ngan, Jeroen Sikma


The exhibition and its associated programming were made possible thanks to the support of many Buell Center friends and colleagues. Special recognition is owed to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, in particular to Director Carole Ann Fabian and Curator of Drawings and Archives, Janet Parks; The Frankanet Parks; The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia, especially Chair Holger Klein and Associate Johanna Fassl; and Dean Mark Wigley of Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

For further information, please contact us via email at [email protected], see and, or follow us on Twitter @buellcenter (#househousing).


The Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture was founded in 1982. Its mission is to advance the study of American architecture, urbanism, and landscape. Located within the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, it sponsors program and research projects focusing on issues of both scholarly and general interest. 

Director: Reinhold Martin
Program Coordinator: Jacob Moore
Adjunct Associate Research Scholar: Susanne Schindler

Board of Advisors:
Dianne Harris, Chair
Robert Beauregard
Teddy Cruz
Vittoria Di Palma
Elizabeth Diller
Jeanne Gang
Mark Jarzombek
Phyllis Lambert
Brian Larkin
Mark Wigley
Mabel O. Wilson

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