This is the house I grew up in:
It is a pretty boring, little brick, builder house from the early 1960’s. It sits in St. Matthews, a pretty boring little suburb on the east side of Louisville Kentucky. The entire neighborhood is made up of these houses or the ranch- or tudor-variant. At the time I lived there it was a solidly middle/working class neighborhood full of kids, many around my age, mostly catholic. The only buildings that were not houses were a few churches, a small single-story commercial strip of stores and a few local elementary schools.
So, what about this environment makes a kid want to be an architect? I can never remember wanting to be anything else. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe not.
I have worked a few years in Boston, more in Chicago, and now, yet more in Boulder. In each of these places I have met a number of fellow architects who not only grew up in similar neighborhoods, but actually in St. Matthews. This always slightly stuns me and leaves me wondering that same question. We had no experience in “architecture” in our various public schools, no great local buildings, not even a number of nearby buildings under construction. We did have a strange misstep in planning.
Many parts of this neighborhood were designed to have a continuous alley running behind all the houses, much like a typical city/suburban layout. However, in my St. Matthews, for whatever reason, they did not install the paved alleys. Instead we had a 10-12′ wide, continuous grassy strip that ran behind all the houses. And this strip belonged to us kids. No adults ever ventured back into this area of overgrown grass and honeysuckle, rusting bikes and broken-down sheds. We moved through the neighborhood along this strip, learned to smoke and had fights back there. It linked every house and made an alternate kid-universe to the tidy lawns and neat sidewalks along the street. Maybe that was the place that a little kid could go to make their own kinds of spaces, where boys and girls could dominate space and transform it. It definitely became a place for daydreaming, if not a few budding criminal careers as well.
Probably every neighborhood has that kind of special kid-centered geography. Maybe not so consistently linear and parallel with the streets of the adult world. Does that stir the geometric imagination and begin one down the path of making spaces and making buildings? Maybe it did for a number of us.