Professor Charles Rice and Urtzi Grau
‘House as Museum: Documents of Display’ is focused on the contemporary reconstruction of modernist houses as spaces of exhibition. The thesis examines twentieth-century domesticity as it went on show, specifically looking at experiential shifts in the conflation of the house and museum. In this period interiors became public through the dissemination of images in the mass media. At this same time, the first domestic period rooms left their buildings and entered museums like the MET, thereby broadcasting past ways of living. Today, the modern houses that provided the sets for the dissemination of twentieth-century modern identities have become museums themselves.
With more and more modernist housing icons becoming museums–Chareau’s Maison de Verre, Mackintosh’s Hill House and Neutra’s Miller House to name a few–this topic takes on new urgency. When these houses shift from something that is lived in to a museum there are many architectural questions that arise about how to exhibit not only the house but the lives of its prior inhabitants. This research requires on the one hand attention to the museological apsects of reconstruction and curation of the domestic interior, and on the other an attention to the ways the social histories of houses that are often hidden behind the more iconic image of the house, can be conserved.
The thesis has been carried out through four case studies of house museums. The focus of the study is on the role of representation and media both in the construction of the house and in how the house has been reconstructed as a museum. Each house of the study functions in a different mode of display (museum, display case, tour, Airbnb) and therefore they offer varying suggestions of how to share past architectural histories in our contemporary museum context. The aim of the comparative case study analysis is to generate critical knowledge about the modern house museum.