The Books

Domesticity at War

Beatriz Colomina, Domesticity at War (MIT Press, 2007)

When American architects, designers, and cultural institutions converted wartime strategies to new ends, the aggressive promotion of postwar domestic bliss became another kind of weapon.

In the years immediately following World War II, America embraced modern architecture—not as something imported from Europe, but as an entirely new mode of operation, with original and captivating designs made in the USA. In Domesticity at War, Beatriz Colomina shows how postwar American architecture adapted the techniques and materials that were developed for military applications to domestic use. Just as manufacturers were turning wartime industry to peacetime productivity—going from missiles to washing machines—American architects and cultural institutions were, in Buckminster Fuller's words, turning "weaponry into livingry."This new form of domesticity itself turned out to be a powerful weapon. Images of American domestic bliss—suburban homes, manicured lawns, kitchen accessories—went around the world as an effective propaganda campaign. Cold War anxieties were masked by endlessly repeated images of a picture-perfect domestic environment. Even the popular conception of the architect became domesticated, changing from that of an austere modernist to a plaid-shirt wearing homebody.

Colomina examines, with interlocking case studies and an army of images, the embattled and obsessive domesticity of postwar America. She reports on, among other things, MOMA's exhibition of a Dymaxion Deployment Unit (DDU), a corrugated steel house suitable for use as a bomb shelter, barracks, or housing; Charles and Ray Eames's vigorous domestic life and their idea of architecture as a flexible stage for the theatrical spectacle of everyday life; and the American lawn as patriotic site and inalienable right.Domesticity at War itself has a distinctive architecture. Housed within the case are two units: one book of text, and one book of illustrations—most of them in color, including advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles, architectural photographs, and more.

Clip Stamp Fold

Beatriz Colomina and Craig Buckley (eds.), Clip, Stamp, Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines, 196X to 197X (ACTAR Publishers, 2006)

An explosion of little architectural magazines in the 1960s and 1970s instigated a radical transformation in architectural culture, as the magazines acted as a site of innovation and debate. Clip/Stamp/Fold takes stock of seventy little magazines from this period that were published in over a dozen cities. Coined in the early twentieth century to designate progressive literary journals, the term little magazine was remobilized during the 1960s to grapple with the contemporary proliferation of independent architectural periodicals. The terms little and magazine are not taken at face value. In addition to short-lived radical magazines, Clip/Stamp/Fold includes pamphlets and building instruction manuals along with professional magazines that experienced moments of littleness, influenced by the graphics and intellectual concerns of their self-published contemporaries.

Cold War

Beatriz Colomina, Annmarie Brennan, Jeannie Kim (eds.) old War Hothouses: Inventing Postwar Culture, from Cockpit to Playboy (Princeton Architectural Press, 2004)

Cold War Hothouses: Inventing Postwar Culture, from Cockpit to Playboy is an assemblage of pieces picked up for analysis by a group of PhD candidates at a series of seminars and workshops at the School of Architecture at Princeton University conducted between 2000 and 2002. The theme of the seminar was postwar America, a subject neglected in architectural research until recent years, when several conferences, exhibitions, and articles started to open up the field. Instead of talking about designers, buildings, architectural details, designer furniture, master plans, professional publications, and the like, the research paid close attention to popular magazines and books, advertisements, movies and TV programs, governmental initiatives and developers schemes. The seminar tested the idea that the postwar period no longer celebrated the heroic figure of the architect transforming the spatial order, even though most architects were still modeling themselves as heroic. The real changes were going on elsewhere. Objects of everyday life involved more radical transformations of space than the most extreme architectural proposals. Indeed, the most radical architects were those who were able to understand and respond to these cultural and technological shifts. In that sense the cold war itself was a hothouse, breeding new species of space, a new organizational matrix. Hence the title Cold War Hothouses, meaning not simply the effect of the Cold War on house design but all the new forms of domesticity that emerged during the period and that in many ways we still occupy today. This beautifully illustrated collection of essays is based on a series of seminars focusing on the impact of the Cold War on the built environment, which was conducted at Princeton University by Beatriz Colomina.