"The Iconic House," Dominic Bradbury (with photos by Richard Powers), Thames & Hudson, 376 pages, $35.
At first it may seem like a book for aficionados, one more attractive coffee table book. But “The Iconic House: Architectural Masterworks Since 1900” is also for people who know little about architecture and want to learn about it from an approachable instructor.
It’s in their differences that houses act like prisms. Through them, we see philosophical movements, the progression of technology and the values held by the architects and homeowners. Which is why the updated version of “The Iconic House” is worth picking up.
Inside are more than 100 case studies — spanning globe and genre — from Victor Horta’s Hotel Solvay in Brussels, Belgium, to Tom Kundig’s Studhorse in Winthrop, Wash. Many establish a new architectural paradigm. All provide benchmarks for architects’ careers.
These architectural representatives show how houses — just like music and literature — reflect changes in the cultural winds and often make those winds blow faster.
Bradbury explains, for example, that Frank Gehry’s namesake house in Santa Monica, Calif., was only possible with “the rise of computers in architects’ offices.” It is a two-story, “timber-framed” and “pink-painted” structure that Gehry bought and clad in layers of corrugated metal sheeting “at irregular angles and tilts” in 1978.
Importantly, it foreshadowed the landmark Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, finished 19 years later. This inspired the “Bilbao effect,” in which world-renowned “starchitects” were hired globally to design show-shopping buildings to draw tourists.