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Mass Market Consumerism vs. the Designer


There is an interesting article I found at Newsday's website about Levittown in New York.  Levittown was the blueprint for the subdivision development we know today. 

"It was 1936, and every day for 10 months, Levitt would head to the Great Neck site where the designer was building publisher Ben Rehbuhn's house, a sweeping horizontal brick-and-glass structure that echoed Wright's earlier Prairie School designs. Alfred drank in the details, riveted by the foppish Wright's utopian theories (he believed form follows esthetics) yet repulsed by his profligacy (nine out of 10 bricks delivered to the Rehbuhn site were rejected as imperfect). Alfred loved the openness of the plan. The unity between interior and landscape. The signature fireplace, which served as the focal point of the house.

Thirteen years later, when Alfred, his brother, Bill, and their father, Abraham, turned out the first Levittown ranch -- the house that would so embody suburbia that the Smithsonian Institution is still hunting for a pristine version for the museum -- it was clear that Alfred had adapted many of Wright's ideals to his own, less affluent audience, all the while defying Wright's sense of elitism. Alfred, the self-taught student of architecture, explained, ``There's no point in trying to do something unless it can be handed out to the great masses of people as a cultural increase.''

If the Levittown house was one of well thought out and innovative architecture, does mass-market consumerism kill the artistry in it? 

Why is Frank Lloyd Wright more well known than the Levit brothers?  

Are designers like Philippe Starck, who pedal well designed utopian wares at Target, be discredited because they want to bring an idea or artistic product to the masses?

Arts - Design  History  
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Good ideas (like some of Wright's) seem to manifest themselves in the popular culture. Bad ideas have a way of discrediting themselves. Is something cheapened by mass appeal? This is why Radiohead and Nirvana hate(d) their own fame...10/16/2003 6:31:09 PM
That is a horribly unknown question to me anymore (it seemed so much easier when I was younger).

I don't buy that bad ideas have a way of dsicrediting themselves (always, at least). I had a brief discussion with someone at the university I attend about how ironic it is that the first things to get cut financially recently have ben education and IT. Or, in a broader sense, education and infrastructure. That's almost always a bad idea, yet it sells like no other, since people don't see immediate returns. I think anything that can wow or amaze in less than 30 seconds is considered a 'good idea' these days.

But that's just me being bitter.
10/16/2003 9:34:17 PM
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I think that we have defined "good" ideas as a culture as ideas that have some sort of populist appeal. Whether they are actually good ideas or not does not depend on this, just like good design is not always widely acceptable.10/18/2003 9:59:26 AM
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