Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The house of the future

In high school RT and I were friends. Neither of us had our license. My Dad would drive me out to visit her or sometimes I took a two hour bus ride that required two transfers to go see her over the summer. We used to sing and walk from her house to various parts of town and see stuff, shop, hang out, and of course talk. Talk a lot.

She lived in this groovy metal house that reminded me of a toaster. Her neighborhood was full of them. And now I know a little bit more about her house. It was a Lustron.

I watched a documentary this weekend called "Lustron" The House America's Been Waiting For." It was the house of the future. The idea was to make a prefab house out of metal and delivery it to people who needed housing at low cost. Folks got pretty jazzed about the idea. 2700 of them were shipped out and installed. Large orders started to come in for them but by this time the company was out of cash and went bankrupt.

The documentary makers believe that Lustron was destroyed by politics and greed. That the trouble with Lustron is that its founder trusted the wrong people in Washington D.C. and got screwed in the end.

You can get a minitour of a Lustron house here
There are pictures on flickr.
You can vacation in a Lustron in Chautauqua, NY. It's superstylin' but it ain't cheap.

And apparently there some Lustrons for the taking in Quantico, VA that are available to people who can pay to have them dismantled and relocated. I cannot find a date on the website so I don't know if it's over yet.

There are people who love Lustrons. There was a Lustron preservation convention. And there is a registry of them. There is a locator. The locator along with other sites like www.recentpast.org document efforts to preserve Lustrons. Historical societies have dismantled and moved them to new locations. The locator also keeps track of ones that have been demolished. Because not everyone is a fan.

There's folks who just see an ugly metal house that occupies land with more value as scrap metal. They march on eager to tear them down to build a home that by our standards is gorgeous, now and wow. Eye of the beholder, friends, eye of the beholder.

I am, clearly, a bit obsessed with this house. I have been asking myself why. After all they come from that period after the war which led to a way of life in conflict with the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the environmental movement. I grew up aware of and indirectly exposed to "the counter culture."

So why exactly am I so enamored of this metal house? Firstly, I like the look of them. They are cute and they look so distinctive in amongst all the other kinds of housing out there right now. More than that, they represent an optimism that existed back after the war. Where science and technology were going to take us into a bigger, brighter more prosperous future. Where we would find new ways to doing things that would change everything for the better for everyone. It was such a beautiful vision full of confidence and naivete. They had no idea what they were doing. They thought that you could duck under a table to protect yourself from a nuclear blast.

The reality is darker and the future is much more complicated and emperiled. I envy that innocence and optimism and the sense that the sky was the limit.

Unlike the Bush administration and the legislature of Missouri I don't wish life was still like that. And even if I did, you can never really go back. You can slam the lid back down on Pandora's box but there's nothing left inside.

There were reasons for the country to move away from that life. The solutions to our current challenges lie ahead of us. But y'know, I wouldn't mind working them out while living in "The House America's Been Waiting For."


Sassy said...

Ergo, I like that I always learn something new from your posts.

fishlamp said...

Was going to say something similar to Sassy's comment. Learning is fun!

ergo said...

Aww, thanks, guys.