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REDESIGNING THE AMERICAN DREAM: The Future of Housing, Work, and Family Life by Dolores Hayden Kirkus Star

REDESIGNING THE AMERICAN DREAM: The Future of Housing, Work, and Family Life


Pub Date: March 12th, 1984
Publisher: Norton

What we have is not merely a housing shortage,"" Hayden contends with reason, ""but a broad set of unmet needs caused by the efforts of the entire society to fit into a housing pattern""--the detached, single-family suburban house--""that reflects the dreams of the mid-nineteenth century better than the realities of the late twentieth century."" In The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities (1981), Prof. Hayden (Architecture and Urban Planning, UCLA) can be said to have revived ""a lost intellectual tradition"": who had heard of Melusina Peirce and her neighborhood workplaces for paid domestic labor? Here, Hayden seeks to extend that tradition--in some respects, successfully. Part I combines a critical history of American housing, ""From Ideal City to Dream House,"" and an evaluation of present-day criticism, ""Awakening from the Dream"": the limited environmental and feminist challenges, the opportune economic crisis. In Part II, ""Rethinking Private Life,"" Hayden traces the development of three 19th-century models of home life--the haven (elevating domestic labor, denying women pay), the industrial (abolishing women's domestic sphere, substituting factory work and paid services), and the ""neighborhood"" (or Peircian)--and three corresponding building forms: the detached, single-family suburban house; high-rise mass housing; low-rise, multi-family housing. The first two models, Hayden notes, eventuated in a ""double day"" for women in both capitalist and socialist societies; the third had restricted but lasting, checkered influence (in the Garden Cities movement, in today's developer condos and ""urban villages""). In Part II, Hayden also raises the economic equity question: ""how can society organize a building process to insure women's economic development as well as men's?"" She makes convincing reference to Vanport City, Oregon, quickly and ideally built by Kaiser in WW II (because of a pressing economic incentive) and inspirational reference, at least, to other foreign and recent-American initiatives. Part III, ""Rethinking Public Life,"" then brings us to the here-and-now specifics of Hayden's argument for ""a new neighborhood strategy connecting nurturing and paid work in one space, connecting private housing units with collective services,"" etc.--by planned conversion of one-family houses (the current, mostly-illegal trend) and relandscaping blocks to create common land. By comparison with the diagnosis, the solutions are less-than-galvanizing--but Hayden's historical knowledge stands her in good stead: brownstones and other row-houses became multiple dwellings from economic pressures; we have too much one-family housing stock to start over. Despite some peripheral feminist decrying and much to-the-point urging: a description that, per se, calls out for correction.