COLD WAR HOTHOUSES
(New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004)
Tailfins, Saran wrap, ball point pens, Slinky toys, Tupperware, highways, aluminum, hula hoops, food blenders, plastics, Barbie dolls, dishwashers, credit cards, office systems, picture windows, bikinis, fast food, TV dinners, drive-in cinemas, play rooms, window air conditioners, satellites, missiles, bomb-shelters, tranquilizers…: the artifacts of Cold War America. By-products of the war effort, they represent the period as if in a constellation, the result of an atomic explosion, each one of them a fragment for detached analysis or speculation, able to bring light into the period; as if an archeological dig where a piece of a jug may help to understand an entire culture, its habits, degree of development, artistic tendencies and so on. By looking closely at some of these remnants we see the cold war period in all its complexity. An archeology of our own period, a time that still haunts us.
This collection of fragments is simply the pieces 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.
Cold War Hothouses is edited by Beatriz Colomina Annmarie Brennan and Jeannie Kim.Contributors include Annmarie Brennan, Jeannie Kim, Branden Hookway, Roy Kozlovsky, Stephen Phillips, Beatriz Preciado, David Snyder, and Tamar Zinguer.