As the year winds down, we’re looking back on some of our favorite Curbed stories from 2017. Below, we present 13 of our favorite longreads from Curbed.com. These stories range widely within the worlds of architecture, design, urban planning, and home: this year, our writers looked at everything from the anxiety of choosing paint colors, to how gender plays into discussions of gentrification, to the comeback of the conversation pit, to what happens to the soul after 12 hours in Ikea. Ready to dive deep? Read on.
My color story by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
The only decision I had made at that point was that I probably wanted to do a green accent wall (but which wall would be the accent wall?) and a navy and a white. I felt okay about it. I liked Ralph Lauren catalogs. But the next day I went to interview someone at a golf club, which was green and white, and realized I could not spend my life in a Colonial that looked like a golf club. I called my sister up and I told her to abort the preppy palette. I told her not to hate me. I told her it wasn’t anything she did. I told her I was sorry.
Once you start to look at postwar American design through the lens of Japanese-American history, you realize that the two are inextricable. Japanese-American designers gave the country its Twin Towers and its first modern airport, as well as the magazine covers that featured the latest in architecture....
If you are reading this site, you know at least some of these names: Minoru Yamasaki, Gyo Obata, Ray Komai, Larry Shinoda, Willie Ito, S. Neil Fujita, Tomoko Miho, George Nakashima, Kay Sekimachi, Ruth Asawa, Hideo Sasaki, Isamu Noguchi.
Most spent part of their teens and twenties in one of 10 War Relocation Centers, a fact I had failed to find, or failed to focus on, in many previous trips through design history.
16 architects of color speak out about the industry's race problem by Asad Syrkett, Tanay Warerkar, and Patrick Sisson
As the American Institute of Architects turns 160, the profession still has progress to make toward the goal of true inclusiveness. In order to gauge just what it’s like for designers of color working today, we talked to 16 architects—from young designers who’ve recently founded their own businesses to established players with high-profile projects under their belts—about the race-related challenges they have faced over the course of their careers.
All the single homeowners by Britany Robinson
There’s a lot going on in this small space. Admittedly, I’m dissecting her home with a desire to collect evidence in support of my hypothesis: that two cultural movements, within the lives of people like myself and Spillman, are colliding in protest of the traditional “American Dream.” The first movement at play here is minimalism, an obsession that is spider-veining across mainstream consciousness. The second movement is singledom.
Journey into the heart of Ikea by Bethy Squires
I decided to stay at the Burbank Ikea from when the restaurant opened at 8:30 a.m. until they announced over the speakers that the store was closing at 8:30 p.m. and we should take our purchases to checkout. I chose a Saturday, the day the lord set aside for furniture shopping. For a full day, I let Ikea provide for me like the Allfather of Norse mythology, eating and drinking naught but what Ikea provided. I wanted to see all the couch-inspired fights, document every umlaut, and figure out how the parking attendants don't die from smoke inhalation.
Conversation pits make a comeback by Kyle Chayka
In 1963, Time suggested that the unfortunate owners of conversation pits should simply fill them with concrete and lay floorboards on top—“No one will ever know what once lay beneath.”
But today conversation pits are objects of fascination, relics of a time when living space was oriented not around a wall-sized flat screen and portable computers, but around looking at and socializing with other human beings in real life. If we want to get back to some actual face-to-face time, what better way to do it than in a cushioned burrow designed to host an intimate gathering?
What would Wright think of this anniversary, the vast revisiting and reassessment of his career and importance? Most likely, the provocateur would join in. After all, he was one of his favorite subjects. His son Robert Llewellyn Wright, for whom he designed a home in 1957, said that “I think he always did feel that any house he had designed belonged to him.” He said his dad would repeatedly stop by, unannounced, to sweep through the home and rearrange the furniture.
Solving Salk’s mystery by Alissa Walker
The Salk has been responsible for major breakthroughs in neurobiology, genome mapping, and stem cell research. Elements of the design, such as the way natural light illuminates the underground labs through a series of courtyards and the open plan that requires members from different departments to circulate among study towers, have been cited by the Salk’s scientists as influential to their research.
But as the building neared the half-century mark, it was clear that certain aspects needed a more interventionist approach. “A lot of decisions weren’t made right away because Salk had run out of money to complete the project, so parts were unfinished for a long time,” says Ball. With scientists eager to move into their labs, some details of the design, like Kahn’s recommendation to add window flashings, were never implemented, leaving Ball’s team to contend with decades of leaks and water damage.
Mansplaining the city by Alissa Walker
As the “sorry for gentrifying” essay has become a trope through which to examine our changing neighborhoods, four new books out this year use the self-aware gentrifier as a narrator to explore the new brand of inequality in our cities. The books also add another conceit that goes beyond advice: Because the author, as well as the people reading, have been complicit in creating this disparity, now we—author, audience—need to actively do something to fix the problem....
I eagerly consumed these new books, hoping for some insight into how my own city of Los Angeles was changing. But I was about four-fifths of the way through them when I looked at the stack of books on my nightstand and realized I had spent the better part of a month being lectured on gentrification by male gentrifiers.
Mobile homeland by Sarah Baird
My dad, David, spent the better part of his teenage years working on a Clayton Homes lot in Richmond, Kentucky: setting up the new arrivals, hauling the units, getting down into the nuts and bolts of the houses. He was a high school student when he began at the company during the mid-1970s, and continued on as he put himself through Eastern Kentucky University as a first-generation college student. The “Clayton era” is a distinctive epoch in his personal, and our family, history....
Today, as we creep ever deeper into an affordable-housing crisis, my desire to understand this massive housing market seems more pressing than ever: structurally, socially, environmentally, politically.
‘Tiny House Hunters’ and the shrinking American dream by Roxane Gay
On Tiny House Hunters it is painfully transparent that people with tiny house budgets often have McMansion dreams. They too yearn for an open floorplan. They want storage. They want privacy. They want sleek kitchen amenities. They want room to entertain. That desire, to entertain, is the most delusional. In a home built for one, that may, with some dieting and sucking in of the gut, accommodate two, there is no entertaining. When you buy a tiny home, you are also making a commitment to socialize with your friends elsewhere if you hope to keep those friends.
Where is all the good affordable furniture? by Andrew Zaleski
What does it take to successfully produce decent, affordable furniture, and is it difficult to find? The answers, well—they vary.
The average sofa in the U.S. sells for around $1,000. Most sofa manufacturers can estimate how long a sofa will last based solely on the price.
“When I talk to people I constantly tell them you get what you pay for in furniture. When you see a $400 sofa, it’s got $200 worth of materials in it. When you see a $1,000 sofa, it’s got $500 worth of materials in it,” says BenchMade Modern’s Blazona. “I would say a $1,000 sofa is probably a three- to five-year sofa.”
From diverse, booming cities to small towns with outsized personalities, from the neon signs of Austin to the Friday night lights of Allen, Texas has everything—including a wealth of design and development. We sent Curbed’s writers and photographers out to explore it all.
The stories below are about how Texans are living right now: how they build, design, and furnish their homes, and how they are reshaping and preserving their cities to accommodate rising density and an influx of new businesses.
And if you’re new to Texas, we’ve got you covered, too, with a guide to the state’s best architecture and the perfect Texas starter roadtrip.