November 12, 2007
Steve Baer, designer. House of Steve Baer, Corrales, New Mexico, 1971.
Photography © Jon Naar, 1975/ 2007.
High on my list of things to do is pay a visit to Montreal to see the new exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1973: Sorry, Out of Gas. It’s a major survey of the architectural and technological innovation that emerged in response to the gas shortage of the early 1970s. The parallels between that moment and the present are obvious, although the OPEC embargo that caused the 1970s gas shortage seems like a minor political glitch compared to the intertwined problems of dwindling oil supply, surging demand, the ongoing war(s) in the Middle East, the meltdown of the (US) dollar and, of course, global warming.
I’ve actually written a bit about the architectural rebellion that began in the 1970s in places like Vermont, California and the desert Southwest, both in Metropolis and in The Perfect $100,000 House. It’s a period that interests me in part because we tend to write it off as bad time economically, culturally, and especially aesthetically. Here in the US, the Watergate scandal and Jimmy Carter’s age of “malaise” were methodically scrubbed away by Ronald Reagan’s “morning in America” and history was rewritten. CCA director and exhibition curator Mirko Zardini’s timing couldn’t be better; this is precisely the right moment to reopen the book on the 1970s and reacquaint ourselves what actually happened back then.