Maybe it comes from being a child of the eighties, too many Bond movies, or the fact that Omnibot was one of my best friends growing up, but when I close my eyes and imagine home—my mental image has more in common with the Star Ship Enterprise than with Walden Pond†, or your typical suburban home.
Having studied design in college, and pre-architecture at university, my shelves are filled with interior and design books, from classics like A Pattern Language, to monographs on brilliant architects like Thomas Herzog.
They’re great books, but as Tazim and I were pouring over our shelves, and talking about topics for this blog event, I noticed that one of the most beat up spines on my shelf belonged to a book written (appropriately enough) in 1984— The Media Design Book: Ideas and projects for audio, video, and computer components for the home & office, by Philip Mazzurco.
It’s a strange jewel of a book. A 10″ by 10″ trade paperback printed in high resolution on thick glossy paper. For its time, the layout and typography are amazing. The book still looks contemporary and a little cutting edge. I found it a thrift store years ago, just as I was getting into vinyl all over again, trying to collect all the best funk, punk, classical and jazz.
From the first sentence I was hooked:
The separation of architecture from social practice is an artificial one attributable, perhaps, to the rather occluded way art history has developed in this century.
Dude starts off by calling out the Art Historical establishment—I love it, because it’s a call out to eighties post-modernism, and an attempt to work theory into a fluffy coffee table book. It’s unusual in a book billed as a sort of “how-to” manual on the back, and it isn’t the last surprise. There is an eighties swagger to the text, where the sleek elitist New Yorker interiors are given an ennobling gravitas by thick description. It should be offensive, instead, it’s kind of charming that dude cares so much and takes things so seriously.
The book veers from (an overly Western) history of entertainment in the home, towards a loose thesis about the democratizing effect of technology to write-ups on (then) novel technologies, to great photo spreads.
There’s something about these photos that makes me so wistful for the house of my childhood dreams, just like an old yearbook, that makes you miss old friends. Speaking of friends, this book is just too good not to share.
I’m not just nostalgic for the technology itself, but also for its sense of presence. Today we try and hide all this stuff away, and so there is a delight to seeing the organizing and display of physical media. Integrated stereo components have knobs and heft. The rich plangent sound of vinyl seems to waft from the pages. The electronics look like they might actually last a lifetime. Some of them are tucked away, but others make strong aesthetic statements in plain sight.
Previously, we’ve lived in larger spaces and had on display crates full of records (alphabetical by genre), movies out in their DVD cases, our (literally, I’m afraid) thousands of books covering every shelf on every wall. Now it’s all tidy and hidden, and sadly sometimes out of sight really is out of mind. We took as many of the books as we could part with to the used book or thrift store, buying replacement ebooks which we organize digitally; ripped the things we watch most onto our hard-drive and set the others into labelled binders; and finally put our Technics turntable and the vinyl in storage.Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, as my iPod roars from it’s Tivoli dock, and I switch on my light to read for a while from my Sony eBook Reader—I feel like I’m in the future. But I also realize that most of my optimistic conception of the future has passed me by. I no longer quite want to move into Epcot Center’s World of Tomorrow. Even as I love the technology I do have in my life, it all involves a balancing act. I worry a little over our obsession with all of it. I value the square-footage and weight my ebook reader saves, but sometimes I remember the miserable months I spent working in an electronics factory, from 11pm to 7:30am.
But still I have to admit, I jones for each and every one of these apartments.
I think this first image, with its Artemide Tizio lamps, and perfect bedside stereo are imprinted on my brain. I’m more likely to velcro an iPad to my wall than buy a television, but I know one day those lamps will be mine. And I love the stepped storage unit in this next picture, of a loft apartment similar to out first studio in Vancouver.
Finally, check out these interiors with reel-to-reel tape players, if you were two white out the obsolete technology, they’d still be pretty cutting edge today.
†Alright, as anyone who knows me will protest, I’m pretty granola— so I do picture a cozy cabin in the woods—but it has a solar panel for my laptop, and a killer stereo.