Realist modernism

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Don’t be fooled — dwell is not full of new ideas about modernist architecture. You’ll find the same mouthwatering eye-candy photos of clean lines and loft-like living spaces here that you’ll also find in Wallpaper, Elle Décor or countless other magazines. dwell really has only one new idea: People actually live here, people like you and me. Where a survey of other magazines’ architecture stories about New York or West Coast living spaces might turn up dozens of movie moguls, stockbrokers and Microsoft millionaires, dwell has found people whose efforts to live simply have been structured by need, not affluence.

Two firefighters are building a dream house out of poured earth in Phoenix, Ariz. Their house has a fabric roof, includes salvage material tossed out by the builders of the Bank One Ballpark and absolutely glows at night, its living room suspended above a low desert wash like a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece.

Normal people going to extraordinary lengths to create livable, modernist spaces is the leitmotif of dwell. A bankrupt San Diego architect becomes a small-time developer in order to pursue his unorthodox design projects. Architect Gary Chang used to live with his parents and three sisters in a cramped 330-square-foot Hong Kong apartment before they moved out. Now it’s a sleek, if cramped, bachelor pad. And the woman who bought the smallest house in San Francisco gets her friendly neighborhood architect to rethink her 2-story, 680-square-foot house without tearing out any walls. Yowza!

dwell brings home how people live at the normal, rather than super-rich, end of the spectrum — as well as how they might live, given the drive and opportunity. Watch out suburbia, this might well be for you.

Marc Christensen writes about books and music for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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