Issue 10
ISSUE
STORY TYPE
AUTHOR
10
PERSPECTIVE
June 17, 2024
We Need More Than Fewer, Better Things
by Deb Chachra
10
PERSPECTIVE
June 3, 2024
An Ode to Garages
by Charlie Weak
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 28, 2024
In Search of Domestic Kintsugi
by Edwin Heathcote
10
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 13, 2024
The Perils of the Landscapes We Make
by Karrie Jacobs
10
PERSPECTIVE
May 6, 2024
Using Simple Tools as a Radical Act of Independence
by Jarrett Fuller
9
PERSPECTIVE
April 29, 2024
Why Can’t I Just Go Home?
by Eva Hagberg
9
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 22, 2024
Why Did Our Homes Stop Evolving?
by George Kafka
9
ROUNDTABLE
April 8, 2024
Spaces Where the Body Is a Vital Force
by Tiffany Jow
9
BOOK REVIEW
April 1, 2024
Tracing the Agency of Women as Users and Experts of Architecture
by Mimi Zeiger
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 25, 2024
Are You Sitting in a Non-Place?
by Mzwakhe Ndlovu
9
ROUNDTABLE
March 11, 2024
At Home, Connecting in Place
by Marianela D’Aprile
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 4, 2024
VALIE EXPORT’s Tactical Urbanism
by Alissa Walker
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 26, 2024
What the “Whole Earth Catalog” Taught Me About Building Utopias
by Anjulie Rao
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 19, 2024
How a Run-Down District in London Became a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization
by Ellen Peirson
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 12, 2024
In Brooklyn, Housing That Defies the Status Quo
by Gideon Fink Shapiro
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 5, 2024
That “Net-Zero” Home Is Probably Living a Lie
by Fred A. Bernstein
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 22, 2024
The Virtue of Corporate Architecture Firms
by Kate Wagner
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 16, 2024
How Infrastructure Shapes Us
by Deb Chachra
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 8, 2024
The Defiance of Desire Lines
by Jim Stephenson
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 18, 2023
This House Is Related to You and to Your Nonhuman Relatives
by Sebastián López Cardozo
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 11, 2023
What’s the Point of the Plus Pool?
by Ian Volner
7
BOOK REVIEW
December 4, 2023
The Extraordinary Link Between Aerobics and Architecture
by Jarrett Fuller
7
PERSPECTIVE
November 27, 2023
Architecture That Promotes Healing and Fortifies Us for Action
by Kathryn O’Rourke
7
objects and things
November 6, 2023
How to Design for Experience
by Diana Budds
7
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 30, 2023
The Meaty Objects at Marta
by Jonathan Griffin
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
October 23, 2023
How Oliver Grabes Led Braun Back to Its Roots
by Marianela D’Aprile
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
October 16, 2023
Can Adaptive Reuse Fuel Equitable Revitalization?
by Clayton Page Aldern
6
PERSPECTIVE
October 9, 2023
What’s the Point of a Tiny Home?
by Mimi Zeiger
6
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 2, 2023
A Book Where Torn-Paper Blobs Convey Big Ideas
by Julie Lasky
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
September 24, 2023
The Architecture of Doing Nothing
by Edwin Heathcote
6
BOOK REVIEW
September 18, 2023
What the “Liebes Look” Says About Dorothy Liebes
by Debika Ray
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 11, 2023
Roy McMakin’s Overpowering Simplicity
by Eva Hagberg
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 5, 2023
Minimalism’s Specific Objecthood, Interpreted by Designers of Today
by Glenn Adamson
5
ROUNDTABLE
August 28, 2023
How Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake Navigate Transition
by Siobhan Burke
5
OBJECTS AND THINGS
August 21, 2023
The Future-Proofing Work of Design-Brand Archivists
by Adrian Madlener
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
August 14, 2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?
by Alex Bozikovic
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
August 7, 2023
In Search of Healing, Helen Cammock Confronts the Past
by Jesse Dorris
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
July 31, 2023
What Dead Malls, Office Parks, and Big-Box Stores Can Do for Housing
by Ian Volner
5
PERSPECTIVE
July 24, 2023
A Righteous Way to Solve “Wicked” Problems
by Susan Yelavich
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
July 17, 2023
Making a Mess, with a Higher Purpose
by Andrew Russeth
5
ROUNDTABLE
July 10, 2023
How to Emerge from a Starchitect’s Shadow
by Cynthia Rosenfeld
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 26, 2023
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All in Architecture
by Marianela D’Aprile
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 19, 2023
How Time Shapes Amin Taha’s Unconventionally Handsome Buildings
by George Kafka
4
SHOW AND TELL
June 12, 2023
Seeing and Being Seen in JEB’s Radical Archive of Lesbian Photography
by Svetlana Kitto
4
PERSPECTIVE
June 5, 2023
In Built Environments, Planting Where It Matters Most
by Karrie Jacobs
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 30, 2023
On the Home Front, a Latine Aesthetic’s Ordinary Exuberance
by Anjulie Rao
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 21, 2023
For a Selfie (and Enlightenment), Make a Pilgrimage to Bridge No. 3
by Alexandra Lange
3
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 8, 2023
The Building Materials of the Future Might Be Growing in Your Backyard
by Marianna Janowicz
3
BOOK REVIEW
May 1, 2023
Moving Beyond the “Fetishisation of the Forest”
by Edwin Heathcote
2
ROUNDTABLE
April 24, 2023
Is Craft Still Synonymous with the Hand?
by Tiffany Jow
2
OBJECTS AND THINGS
April 17, 2023
A Historian Debunks Myths About Lacemaking, On LaceTok and IRL
by Julie Lasky
2
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 10, 2023
How AI Helps Architects Design, and Refine, Their Buildings
by Ian Volner
2
SHOW AND TELL
April 3, 2023
Merging Computer and Loom, a Septuagenarian Artist Weaves Her View of the World
by Francesca Perry
1
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
March 27, 2023
Words That Impede Architecture, According to Reinier de Graaf
by Osman Can Yerebakan
1
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
March 20, 2023
Painting With Plaster, Monica Curiel Finds a Release
by Andrew Russeth
1
PERSPECTIVE
March 13, 2023
Rules and Roles in Life, Love, and Architecture
by Eva Hagberg
1
Roundtable
March 6, 2023
A Design Movement That Pushes Beyond Architecture’s Limitations
by Tiffany Jow
0
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 7, 2023
To Improve the Future of Public Housing, This Architecture Firm Looks to the Past
by Ian Volner
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Radical Potential of “Prime Objects”
by Glenn Adamson
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 20, 2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos
by Xin Wang
0
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
February 13, 2023
How Michael J. Love’s Subversive Tap Dancing Steps Forward
by Jesse Dorris
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 7, 2023
Finding Healing and Transformation Through Good Black Art
by Folasade Ologundudu
0
BOOK REVIEW
February 13, 2023
How Stephen Burks “Future-Proofs” Craft
by Francesca Perry
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 27, 2023
Making Use of End Users’ Indispensable Wisdom
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches
by Jonathan Schultz
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Day Architecture Stopped
by Kate Wagner
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The Overlooked Potential of Everyday Objects
by Adrian Madlener
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 7, 2023
A Conversation About Generalists, Velocity, and the Source of Innovation
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure
by Natalia Rachlin
Untapped is published by the design company Henrybuilt.
PERSPECTIVE
04.29.2024
Why Can’t I Just Go Home?

In domestic spaces, indecision often reigns—and can be harnessed.

Black and white zoomed out illustration of woman standing on winding road with many houses along it
Illustration: Sam Pease


I recently counted the number of places I’ve lived in since I graduated from college, 20 years ago, and the number is 31. The list includes entries like “Park Slope random apartment I forgot about,” “tent,” “Eastern Parkway with ex-husband,” and “Eastern Parkway alone.” The last two are listed separately because they were wildly and incontrovertibly different places, even as they may have shared the same geographic location and the same four walls.

The longest I have lived in any one place since graduation is three years, in my first apartment (technically my second, but I lived in the first one for less than a week), in Berkeley, where I lived from 2010—when I started grad school—until I moved into an Oakland apartment with my soon-to-be-husband (and less-soon-to-be-ex-husband). I have owned and sold about 16 couches, eight desks, and innumerable chairs. I lose furniture the way other people lose umbrellas. When I got divorced, I gave away every single household object. When people ask me, aghast, how I can do this, I always say I’m just not object-oriented.

But that’s not the whole story. The truth is that I’m terrified to own anything, terrified to keep anything, and terrified to commit.

That Oakland apartment marked a pivotal point in my life. I was 28 when I moved into it with my college best friend, with whom I’d lived in “Portland NE Tillamook House,” and 31 when I moved out to live with my new boyfriend, with whom I would live in nine places. By this point, I had been writing professionally about architecture and design for eight years and had published hundreds of articles, many of which, in some way, argued for the importance of design, particularly for the way in which residential design impacted our lives.

My book, Dark Nostalgia, had come out a year before and in it I had explored, among other ideas, the threshold condition between public life and private life, and argued for the ways in which drapery, furniture, and the well-placed rug shifted and indicated to the resident and visitor what kind of a day should be lived. In all of my writing, I was devoted to a singular pursuit: making people care about architecture and design. And yet, deep into a career as a design critic and thinker, I had yet to ever settle in. I had yet to ever feel at home.

For the year I’d lived in “Portland NE Tillamook House” with that best friend, I’d had a mattress on the floor. That was it. No dresser, no nightstand, no lamp. At night, I put myself to sleep by reading a book (we didn’t have iPhones yet) by the light of the one single glaring overhead light, which I had to get out of bed (my floor mattress) to turn off.

I lived that way—while writing evocative articles about home and design, and applying to graduate school with the proposal to study the concept of home—until my mother came to visit and, horrified by what had become of her only daughter, bought me a dresser, a nightstand, and a lamp.

My friend had witnessed all this, and, as we signed the Oakland lease and faced the roommate bedroom choice, knew that if someone—in this case, he—didn’t intervene, I’d do the same thing again. In a profound act of friendship, he made me an offer: I could take the bigger of the two bedrooms, but only if I furnished it. I accepted immediately, not quite understanding what I was signing up for, and how difficult it would be.

A day later we were in an Emeryville IKEA, and I was crying. I was standing in the home office section, trying to pick a desk. Did I want a curved wooden desk, or a straight metal one? Did I want one with storage, or without? My friend passed me by, his cart full of things he instinctively knew he wanted. “I can’t decide,” I told him. “I really can’t.” I just had to pick something, he said. We needed to leave in 20 minutes.

So I picked the blankest desk I could find, a plain white LINNMON/ADILS, the desk with the fewest features. After that, we went to a vintage furniture store in downtown Oakland and I got a dresser for $200. Slowly, I added a poster. A chair. And yet.

The divide between what I was saying and what I was living was only getting bigger. I was just starting a graduate degree, for which I had professed my intention to spend six to eight years studying the concept of home from an architectural perspective. As I read book after book about the emotions of home and the construction of place, and as I developed a thesis about love and intimacy, I would spend the next eight years living in 12 other places. Even now, I’m writing this from an apartment in Los Angeles while waiting to see if we got the other place we just applied for. I hope we can break our lease. And we’ll definitely need a new couch.

I know some therapists. One of them, my friend Hannah, sent me a few thoughts after I asked her to theorize about what might be going on. “Even if we on some level dislike the idea of impermanence, we tend to, at least subconsciously, lean on what is familiar,” she says. “You can say, ‘I hated moving around growing up,’ and mean it, but still feel the most comfortable with it. It’s the devil we know, and that’s psychologically safer than something we don’t know—even if it’s more promising.”

This sounds right to me. I grew up across cities and countries, attended 12 schools by the time I started college, and felt like I was always starting over, like I should always actually be somewhere else.

But what, I ask Hannah, about this feeling that I’m an imposter in my field, and that this is the biggest lie of all? “The choice to make it your career is a way to engage with the ambivalence without fully committing to a foreign life,” she says. “It’s a foot in. It could even serve as a way to be a voyeur into a life that is unknown.”

What about architects? Do they deal with this ambivalence via their clients? A friend of mine, Robin Donaldson, just built a house for a couple who know that they will never leave it, who have committed to every curve of concrete, every expanse of glass. The house is extraordinary, of course, and it seems to me a commitment beyond marriage—even beyond having a child, in some ways.

I wonder if it was easy for them, or for Robin’s other clients, most of whom, following his vision, build large and unusual homes. “This is where my psychiatry fee comes in,” he jokes at first. But then: “It’s a very common issue.” He says people start thinking about a project as their forever home; some might even realize they’re thinking about where (if all goes well) they’ll die. And that’s when they—like me, at the IKEA—get freaked about every decision. Every breakfast nook feels like the only breakfast nook. Every chair feels like an eternity.

So how does he deal? “I focus on the pragmatics of the project,” he says. “I have to take people out of the dark corner that they work themselves into, and take it back to a more pragmatic place.” Instead of highlighting that this is the bedroom is where it might go down, no take-backs, Donaldson highlights that this is the situationally best place for the kitchen, the objectively ideal moment for the sun.

It usually works. Or maybe, I think, it’s just easier for rich people to commit without panicking because they actually can make sure they have everything they need materially, that they’ve covered all the bases.

Maybe part of my fear is that I’ll miss out. That I’ll make the wrong choice, with disastrous and unfixable consequences that I could only have prevented with a different standing desk. But, as we all know, some of the richest people are also some of the most miserable. And maybe without an architect guiding them, they’d be like me: standing in a field, wondering where their living room should go, paralyzed with indecision. It’s not that they’ve solved the problem any more than I have. They’ve just outsourced it.

In some ways, lucky for me, architectural historians are newly interested in the history of emotions. “It’s a foot in,” as my friend Hannah said. One of my graduate school professors, Greg Castillo, has done work in this world, but I don’t want to call him: He was involved in my most emotional graduate school situation.

But thinking about tracking him down leads me to Sara Honarmand Ebrahimi, who writes that the key to understanding the relationship between architecture and emotions is to begin with acknowledging that “emotions themselves have a history as complex as the history of the buildings in which they are felt and expressed.” And maybe that’s where I should start: by thinking less about the buildings, and more about the emotional history. And so.

I have been trained as a historian to look through the evidence and to follow the archive. And the evidence here is clear: This is not a series of accidents of life, not a pattern of unfortunate and unavoidable events that have led me to this world of material instability and chaotic residency, of tenuous connection to home. It’s not constant circumstances beyond my control, as I have always believed it is, or something that will change tomorrow, once I end up somewhere different, once I really find the right house. In the words of Taylor Swift: “Hi, it’s me. I’m the problem.” And until I want to change, I won’t.

I really hope I get that apartment. It might really be the one.