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Susan Doubilet & Daralice Boles: Contemporary Houses in the United States and Europe

When I was real little, my mom and dad took me to a new subdivision, way out by the river where nobody else lived, called “Concept 70s.” I don’t remember going there or coming home. But I do recall that the model house we toured looked basically like your typical ranch deal, except it had all these big glass walls and the interiors had 7 UP and leopard-skin wallpaper and what resembled polar-bear fur for carpeting. It must have seemed so bold and liberating back then. But in retrospect, the place could as easily have been a head shop as a home. Of course, the way-out neighborhood was surrounded by dozens of others by the ’80s, and I doubt the decor endures. Nothing dates like visions of the future. Same goes for the sparkling, highly machined houses in Susan Doubilet and Daralice Boles’ European House Now and American House Now—trim modernist abodes by leading boutique architects such as the Dutch team Van Berkel & Bos and Germany’s Bolles + Wilson. (Bolles + Wilson’s Suzuki House is pictured.) They too shout a “progressive” credo, tweaking form, toying with new building technologies and materials, and supposedly responding to ecological worries. But they’re the domestic equivalent of Comme des Garcons on the Paris runway: They’re hothouses, and the fashions and fleeting ideologies behind them will never trickle down to the average consumer. Ask Doubilet and Boles why House Now is destined to become House Then when the two authors speak and sign copies of their books at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $12. For reservations call (202) 272-2448. (Bradford McKee)