Crafty- in Architecture as a Craft

Note: This is part of the group series called #Architalks led by Bob Borson ( This month’s theme is “crafty”

“crafty [kraf-tee, krahf-]
skillful in underhand or evil schemes; cunning; deceitful; sly. ”

With the powers vested in me by Google to scour and search the world wide web for all information available on the topic, I started the journey of distraction and digressional reading of other interesting topics before I decided to focus on focusing, and begin the brainstorm about the topics of “craftiness and architecture. If Bob Borson had said “Crafty Realtor” or “Crafty Developer” I would have probably pieced together what would have been know as the world’s fastest non fiction. But alas, we write for ArchiTalks, and trust me, we Architects (the licensed-the wannabe licensed) in architecture are anything but cunning, deceitful, sly, dishonest, any negative connotation you can think of. Crafty for us is simply doing what we do best.

Crafty for us is listening intently to the requirements, wants and needs and ideas, and other subtle hints the client drops – making their vision your combined vision to design and execute the project to their liking- whether it’s a bathroom remodel, or the skyscraper. Crafty is developing a skill to stay attached to the project, and yet be detached. As much as we try, sometimes we get more attached than we intended to. The sort of attachment that transcends the typical attachment with a certain portion of the design – getting a permit – emotional attachment with the client- saving the neighborhood and the world- saving the environment. Sometimes the big picture is bigger than the safety and well being of inhabitants and a planned cultural integration on the facade design. It’s social. It’s political. It’s advocating your vision of a society through your design as an Architect and a Developer – that’s when being crafty is a necessity.

Joseph Eichler.

Recently, Troy Kudlac (Real Estate Broker and Developer in Palm Springs, CA -specializes in Mid-Century Modern homes) built and listed the first “Desert Eichler”- a modernized and code conforming redraw of the traditional Eichler home to suit modern lifestyle. Tongue and groove ceiling – post and beam design – glass atrium – vibrant colors – open floor plan : The five bedroom house listed for a $1,290,000, and news has that it went into contract to sell the same day it was listed. Tract housing is nothing new these days, especially if you live in planned cities like Irvine.

But, when Joseph Eichler built the Eichlers, he built them with a different vision.

It started in 1942 – Joseph Eichler lived in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and developed an admiration and appreciation for Wright’s architecture. The light filled rooms and well planned spaces, the connection between the outdoors and indoors – Eichler was impressed by the creative self expression Wrights’s design brought to spaces. Little did he know that the influence would stay in his mind long enough to launch his own housing business. After second world war, the population in California grew exponentially, and the demand for housing grew more than ever. It was a good time, to be in the business of housing.

Also, after the Second World War, Los Angeles was booming with automobile, rubber and steel industries. The racial violence in South coupled with the job opportunities in California led to what was later termed as “The Second Great Migration”. The ethnic minorities moved in with a dream of new life, but things were done differently then. Real Estate Planning Boards and Developers supported racially restrictive covenants. It was a very different time and era. Deeds of home were written to maintain “Respectability of the Home” , meaning, discrimination was a normal part of real estate transaction. New tracts were never opened to all ethnicities. Supreme court declared in 1948 that restrictive covenants could no longer be enforced, but the discrimination continued.

Joseph Eichler was one of the first Developers with a vision of social integration. His vision of architecture as a craft transcended the general definition of floor and walls, and punched out openings. His ideals were bigger and beyond maximizing the use of natural sunlight with the courtyard floor plans Robert Anshen created for the tract housing. Eichler homes were radical in design, and sophisticated in execution – but Joseph Eichler saw them as a tool to change the warp and weft of the fabric of housing by opening up the tract for everyone, irrespective of their ethnicity or race. During the times of segregated housing, Eichler’s bold step of integrating different ethnicities in one tract was visionary, and the thinking was ahead of the times. Long before the Government identified a social issue, and acted to resolve it, Eichler had the ball rolling in the right direction for equal rights to housing with his non-discrimination policy.

“If you don’t like your neighbors, I will buy the house back from you”

It might be a rumor, or it might be true, but according to the internet, those were the words of Joseph Eichler who had complete faith in his vision, and knew he would succeed in making it reality. In the 1950s, Eichler homes were one of the first new homes in a tract to be sold to Asian Americans. But it was when he built a house for Franklin Williams in 1951, Eichler got crafty. If he sold one of his tract homes to an African American, it would risk FHA financing of the project. Franklin Williams was the Director of the western region of the National Association for teh Advancement of Colored People. Eichler bought a single parcel outside his larger tract, and built a house for Franklin Williams. But a few years down the lane, Eichler himself successful and in a better position in business, maintained a policy to sell 30 to 40 houses to racial and ethnic minorities every year. He didn’t go above that limit, because that would again lead to segregation.

Positively Crafty.

As it is with all the Architects, Joseph Eichler today is known for his Mid-Century Modern homes, but not so much for the idea he had behind the homes – he doesn’t get his due credit by the society for his efforts towards social-economic integration through architecture.  Things have changed today. Extensively racially segregated communities do not exist thanks to the Government policy and awareness of the community, but we still continue to be economically segregated, and sometimes culturally segregated. Architects and Developers, along with Civic authorities continue to craft the art and science of architecture to integrate all members of the society into the greater design – policies are in place to empower all disabilities- social, economic or physical. AIA Advocacy Network has declared 2015 the year of advocacy by promoting and organizing grassroots advocacy network to connect architects with the elected members of Congress.

Hopefully Architecture will get it’s due credit from the society for thinking beyond the four walls and ceilings.

What is your craftiness in the craft?
What social issue is close to you?
Read the links below for different takes on the same topic from other architects:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect
Architects are Crafty

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture
On the Craft of Drafting: A Lament

Marica McKeel – Studio MM
Why I Love My Craft: Residential Architecture

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet
Master Your Craft – A Tale of Architecture and Beer

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect
panel craft

Mark R. LePage – Entrepreneur Architect
How to Craft an Effective Blog Post in 90 Minutes or Less

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC
Oh, you crafty!

Rosa Sheng – Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project
Which Craft?

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC
Crafty-in Architecture as a Craft

Ghost Lab

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect
Underhanded Evil Schemes

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture

Cindy Black – Rick & Cindy Black Architects
merging architecture and craftiness

Tara Imani, AIA, CSI – Indigo Architec
Crafting A twitter Sabbatical


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s