London's Isokon Building (1934), designed by architect Wells Coates, was conceived as an experiment in minimalist urban living
We’ve noticed some of these iconic dwellings have even become alternative for hotels and regular Airbnb listings. How so?
It’s almost impossible to make a regular house museum out of every house that has played a significant role in architectural history. Because these dwellings can't be run from their entrance fees alone, they need to raise extra budget for restorations, maintenance and programming. This results in different strategies to assure the maintenance and care for many of the projects that did not become a museum, and one of them is that the house is still lived in and that you can visit the house and the owner by appointment. This way, the house has no other costs than a regular owner would need to make, and it becomes a hybrid between a public and a private space.
Another solution is, as you mention, keeping a house in mint condition by making it available for holiday rentals or overnight stays. , for instance, is one of the rentable places on our site. This is not only important for budgetary matters, but also very important for conceptual reason: the basic idea of staying in an iconic house is that this is the ultimate way to really taste and understand its design and architecture by using and thus experiencing it to the fullest.
The short but exciting journey you make in these time capsules is something that a hotel can hardly compete with
To stay and live in an architectural masterpiece for a few days gives you the time and space to discover it all by yourself and experience it with all your senses: you see how the light changes over the course of the day, you hear the sounds of its location, feel the humidity if it’s in a tropical climate, smell whether floors are treated with wax, and your bare feet feel either the cold concrete or the soft and warm carpet when walking through the house.
From my own experience staying in some of these rentals, I can recommend the brutalist by Juliaan Lampens in Belgium and the by Hans Scharoun in Germany. The short but exciting journey you make in these time capsules is something that a hotel can hardly compete with.
has garnered much attention in the past decade, not just due to the home’s renovation but also due to the need for a historical revision of female representation in the industry. From the current roster of iconic houses, how many were conceived by women? Do you foresee a change in that percentage in the newer additions to the directory?
Women are indeed underrepresented. You have and Lina Bo Bardi, two female architects that designed houses for themselves, and Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe and Dora Gordine as examples of artists who designed their own studios. But the fact is that, in the 20th century, even if women played an important role in the design phase – Lilly Reich for the furniture of Mies van der Rohe, Charlotte Perriand for the furniture of Le Corbusier – their names are often not mentioned.
But that might change in the 21st century. Ray Eames’ name was added to Charles’; Truus Schröder’s name was added to Gerrit Rietveld’s and Denise Scott Brown to Robert Venturi’s, at least in the discussion about the Pritzker Prize. They all played an important role in their husbands’ careers or as clients – there was Aline Barnsdall for the , Edith Farnsworth for the and Helene Kröller Müller for the . But nowadays, husband-and-wife collaborations are part of a broad trend that is changing the traditional definition of architecture partnerships: you have duos like Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio, and Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, who work as collaborative teams.
And there are also many women in conservation. Our International Advisory Board, many working as house museum directors, consists of women: there’s Lynda Waggoner, the director emerita of , Iveta Černá from and Janice Lyle from .
The Iconic Houses team is also made up of women: I’m the founder, Willie van Burgsteden is the designer of the website and the identity, Jane Szita is the editor and Els Zweerink is the photographer. And on the listings side, for example, we are working on adding to the network a studio designed by Charlotte Perriand in Les Arcs.
The MHA Site Office in Los Angeles was developed on a private initiative by a group of artist, African-Americans, gay men and Jewish community members who could not obtain a housing loan in 1940s Los Angeles. Today, 30 of architect A. Quincy Jones' houses remain.
Speaking of broad trends, you’ve said hope to see a patchwork-family house on the list further down the line. Do you see that feature as something that will be reserved for the custom-made market, or something that can permeate to the ready-made market?
So far, I have no examples of this kind of house yet. [Ed’s note: We just featured one by Danish studio Spacon & X here.] The innovation then needs to happen in such a way that the house allows for communal activities and separate activities, so as to provide ultimate flexibility for a home – something along the lines of the (W)ego project by MVRDV.
What other type of dwellings do you see as representative of today?
We are keeping an eye on off-the-grid houses, tiny houses and housing solutions for refugees.
Have you seen the makings of a future icon in a current home?
We’re interested to see what will happen with the world’s first 3D-printed concrete houses in Eindhoven.