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Frankel & Curtis Architectural Collection Research: Themes

Examining the Frankel and Curtis architectural collection. The research focuses on the years between 1920-1960 and the development of the American relationship with materialism/consumerism.

Themes specific to my research

  • Consumerism/materialism became more prevalent with the increase in advertising.
  • The transforming social culture in 20th century America lessened the income gap.
  • Wealthy families/male figures had most additions/alterations on residences, especially in the 1920s.
  • The 1920s had largest number of projects due to rise in standard of living and use of credit to pay for products/services (contributed to Great Depression).
  • Decrease in use of dining room due to changing role of women and economy; more cost efficient for them to make dinner rather than servants; also, a positive social symbol for women to handle domestic duties personally.
  • Achieving individuality through belongings
  • The U.S. values individualism, being unique, and being innovative.
  • The U.S. values change and hard work because it is a result of creativity and a desire for positive improvement.
  • The U.S. values control; Americans want to control their fate and thusly their surrounding environment because we like the challenge and the secure feeling.
  • Achieving immortality through belongings being passed down to future generations
  • Rise in standard of living contributes to increase in spending.
  • Trickle-down effect where the upper class bought new products (like toasters) before the middle/lower class used them; also, geographically true, because the north became more prosperous through industry/manufacturing before productivity moved to the south where labor was cheaper.
  • Domestic help declined over the decades because it was expensive during the Depression and during war time, and because Americans placed greater importance on building a home on your own time.
  • Storefronts were remodeled often, creating grander display cases and entrances, all in an effort to attract customers/advertise; related to people wanting to be perceived as well-off by showcasing their houses in social gatherings; residence projects often had remodeling of entrance to have more grandeur (columns, cornice details, etc), emphasis on main hall, smoking rooms, servants living in-house to provide service.