Unless you’re a developer, most people talk about new housing in jaded tones. Given the way homes go up in a matter of minutes, built in a range of styles you can count on one hand, who can get excited about the idea of new construction? The spark of energy that should emanate from folks on the verge of purchasing their own place seems to have dimmed with their options: Their imagination is limited by feeling their only choices in home design are between the developer’s ranch home or his stately brick mini-mansion.
But remember the days when your family would field trip to the conceptual home of the future? At Disney World’s EPCOT Center, an animatronic narrator would excitedly tell us how all homes would soon be round or tubular, that dirty dishes would be cleaned by robotic hands, that conveyor belts would move us from room to room. How excited we got over those promises; those concept homes encouraged wild flights of imagination.
But the dream of a truly futuristic middle-class home seems to have been left behind. The focus of technology has turned away from the robot-managed homes aimed at making our domestic lives easier to computer science to make our work lives easier. In the age of the microchip, where are our Homes of the Future? Bypassing deadlines set by George Orwell (1984–Big Brother becomes a constant living companion) and Arthur C. Clarke (2001–live in outer space and chat with your kids via videophone) for when we’d all join the über-future, we’ve instead reverted back to ideas of the past. But the Victorian and Colonial eras, as charming as those times were, are not now, nor will they be our future.
In this issue of Casa, we dip back into the past to try to recapture former generations’ inventive spirit and provide some cultural context for their imaginings about domestic life. We’ll also present a prediction of what the homes in our future may look like, given our current cultural and sociological climate. Matt Jones highlights some Triangle homes that looked to a future that never quite came into being. Angie Carlson ruminates about those elements of our pop culture that seem to fight progress. And finally, instead of complaining about our apparent lack of future fever, Raleigh architect and professor Gail Borden lays out his plans for a home that may seem futuristic, but could plant the seeds for a new revolution in home design today.