In my life, I have been told I resemble a prettier version of Allison Janney; easily passed off as Katharine Hepburn at a Halloween party; most recently been compared to Claire on House of Cards. Which is not to say that we’re doppelgängers by any means, but the concept of resemblance is a notable thing.
In architecture, doppelgängers abound, with East Coast row house architecture an especially relevant case-in-point. Our Baltimore rowhouse looked exactly like the ones next to it and for blocks around, with the only opportunity for variation the design of the front door and paint color of trim.
Which makes me wonder again (for I am always, always wondering) about architecture and how it shapes who we are. As residential architecture traveled West, it became less conforming, more open, more individual: the detached, single family home. Did this building philosophy, in turn, produce the freer, more open, innovative culture that the West is known for?
The culture that basically enabled the majority of modern-day technical and culinary innovation? Or did that spirit come first, influencing the architecture? I argue it was the latter.
The National Journal on the spirit of the West Coast: “This region is richer, has more residents with college degrees, and is more innovative than other areas.”
Only the most fearless – those with guts, drive, and ambition – were brave enough to leave the East Coast traditions and establishment, to venture unfettered and free into the wild, wild, unknown West.
As we build our new house on a hill on a hill, we know that while it will contain recognizable elements of East Coast architecture – the classic proportions and stately grace – the core of our house, via the utilization of local materials and a certain je ne sais quoi, will reflect the beautiful, wild spirit of my home, our home, the birthplace of the Dixon matriarch, the cradle of our joining – to wit, the wonderful, magical, transpiring American West.
“Why did you come West, Will?” I asked. “To remake myself”, he said. “Everyone knows that in order to remake yourself, you go West. It is the mystical pull of the American existence.”