The other day I was driving along with my family in route to Saint Croix Falls, MN and we happened to pass by a new housing development in the early processes of converting a cornfield. That sort of development always astonishes me when completed because of what little thought seems to go into the design of new homes today. So, as I drove along my mind started thinking about why in the world there are not more developments inspired by modern home design instead. That led me to today’s blog regarding Joseph Eichler who was the only merchant builder in America who built modernist style homes on a large scale.
Eichler Homes built more than 10,000 homes in the San Francisco area and nearly a thousand in Southern California between 1949 and 1966. His market tarket was that of the middle class and he wanted to bring them modern style opportunities designed by world class architects at an affordable price. The homes were by definition “tract” housing but their designs and style were wildly different compared to anything else being built at the time or since. Today the homes are fetching incredible amounts of money. In Palo Alto, CA there is an Eichler on the market for $4.5 million with most starting at around $1 million! Not bad considering they were originally built for around $15,000-$30,000.
The houses tended to be single story homes with floor to ceiling glass walls, open spaces and clean, serene lines. They were ideal homes for young families. In fact, Parents Magazine said an Eichler home was the best house in the U.S. for raising children. They often tended to have two wings completely independent of each other but containing living quarters and a toilet for each. Back in the 50’s and 60’s it was much more common to have separation between the adults and children.
Of course the climate in California is way more conducive to open, sunny spaces with walls of glass and outdoor entertaining areas than here in Minnesota. However, developers have the means and the know-how to change design parameters to better meet the needs of our climate. Obviously, it can’t be impossible to build. It just seems that maybe we need the mindset to change here in MN for not only the builders of these developments but also for the middle class in opening their eyes to modern structures and how they can enhance not only your wellbeing, but your family life as well.