Rhodes examines the ways in which gender, race, security, isolation, and issues of property and ownership are treated in cinematic portrayals of the house.
produces certain kinds of cinematic effects in its architecture,” Rhodes said. He senses what he describes in the book as “a kind of inherent cinematicity at work in the house,” which was designed to facilitate views of the landscape and of the architecture itself, so that “it seems as much a viewfinder, or framer of views, as a space to be inhabited.” A characteristic feature of the house is Neutra’s curving aluminum wall, which affords privacy to a patio. On the other hand, the upstairs bedroom and bathroom were only enclosed by glass rather than by curtains, which could yield “almost something of a drive-in movie theater
he writes Neutra once wrote that shelter is only the most basic virtue of human habitat: “It is the fulfillment of the search — in space — for happiness and emotional equilibrium.” One of his architectural gestures that may primarily have been enacted to confuse inside and outside (along with, Rhodes believes, the very nature of private property) also seems simply playful: spider-leg outrigging. The author presents Neutra’s Chuey House, where this feature is displayed in a steel beam that extends far beyond the plate-glass wall it supports (or pretends to support), ending at a joint with a steel column planted in the middle of a garden. Rhodes commented, “That weird ambivalence — is it part of the structure or not? — resonated with the views of the world that that kind of architecture gives you, that strange fluctuating sense of the inside and the outside.”
The old, perhaps paranoid-about-nature barricade between inside and outside spaces went out of style along with the strict compartmentalization of the residential space. Today’s new, contemporary homes in Santa Fe often have huge glass pocket doors that, when open, virtually dissolve that barrier. Contrast that with the little front door on the Victorian house. When you go in and close it, you’re in an entirely different place. “A lot of it has to do with the technological sense of mastery over nature, and therefore it’s okay to let it in,” Hughes said. “Modernist architecture may be impressive, but I was interested in kicking at its desire to either extend out into space or drag the outside world in, which is a perfectly pleasurable scenographic and sensorial effect — but it speaks to a desire to possess and to enclose the land.”
“Spectacle of Property: The House in American Film” by John David Rhodes is published by University of Minnesota Press.