Privacy goes out the door in MoMA house exhibit
July 28, 1999
NEW YORK (CNN) -- While some people try to make their homes cozy retreats, others are going in the opposite direction. An exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) titled "The Un-Private House" shows voluminous homes with bedrooms encased in glass, bathrooms built like airy spas and rooms wired for stock trading.
Terence Riley, chief curator of the architecture and design department at MoMA, put together the exhibit. He says many people are inviting the outside world into their abodes nowadays.
"In the 19th century," Riley says, "the private house was perfected. That was a place that was all about the family to the exclusion of anything else, including work. All that has changed. Twenty million Americans work at home now. Half the households in America are without children. That's a huge number. Twenty-five percent of the households are people living alone."
The exhibition showcases photographs, videos and models of 26 homes. Fifteen have been built. See "Related Sites" below for MoMA's Web tour of the projects involved.
"Most of them are free standing houses," Riley says, "although there are some more typically European row houses. There are some apartments and lofts, but for the most part it's the house."
People in glass houses ...
One house in the exhibit has a curtain around its glass exterior to create privacy when drawn and reveal the interior when open. Architect Shigeru Ban, who designed the Curtain Wall House in Tokyo for a Japanese photographer and his family, used traditional Japanese sliding screens as inspiration for the modern curtain.
In the Holley Loft in New York, architects Thomas Hanrahan and Victoria Meyers have worked to keep the space as open as possible, without sacrificing the sense of specified areas. Movable walls are part of the treatment here.
"In this house," Riley says, "the bathroom is almost like a spa. It's more like a bathing space, it's more sensual, it's more attractive, it's more of a room. And it's only very minimally screened from the public areas by a kind of floating sheet of frosted glass. The bedroom -- if the curtains are open, it's actually quite evident from the other living spaces."
Architects Frank Lupo and Daniel Rowen designed the Lipschutz/Jones apartment in Manhattan for two people who don't want to leave their financial careers at the office. "They're both involved in Wall Street," Riley says. "The central room in their loft is a trading room and is visible from various places."
Ticker screens are placed in other parts of the house, too. One hangs over the bathtub. Two more are posted on either side of the bed, so when these two traders wake up, they can check the latest market activity.
While Riley acknowledges the changes revealed in "The Un-Private House" can be unsettling, he says he believes they may become a normal part of living one day.
"I think everyone is going to re-invent their idea of privacy," he says, "and I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I think it'll be a challenge, but certainly to really take advantage of all this new technology, we have to learn how to use it.
"We manage the technology. It doesn't manage us."
"The Un-Private House" is on display through October 5, 1999 at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, NY. For more information, call (212) 708-9400.
CNN Style Correspondent Elsa Klensch contributed to this report.
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