Architecture is sensitive to social change, particularly when that change is in the foundational norms and myths upon which our society is constructed. Perhaps most notably, historic and ongoing shifts in ideas of the family and of its importance as a basic social unit can be read through many scales of architecture, from the house to the city. An Extended Family live online lecture series presents historic case studies and moments of key changes in ideas of the family, in relation to emerging types and understandings of families that influence and are expressed in architecture today.
The nineteenth-century saw massive urbanization and the acceptance of the market as the governing system for economic relations. While the bourgeois home epitomized family, morality, and virtue, the changing environment also produced its antithesis: the urban boardinghouse. Homes were private, while the boardinghouse was theoretically public; homes nurtured virtue while boardinghouses supposedly bred vice. The single-family home as we know it emerged as an ideal in relation to boardinghouses and their (much) maligned landladies.
Wendy Gamber is Chair and Byrnes Professor, Department of History at Indiana University, and the author of The Boardinghouse in Nineteenth-Century America (2007) and The Notorious Mrs. Clem (2016). One of her current projects is a history of household hazards.
This series is part of the CCA’s one-year investigation Catching Up with Life.
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