in praise of the handmade

As I often tell my clients, a custom, architect-designed house is the last handmade, large object left in the world.  It is unique for its location, client, and time.  And like all beautiful, handmade objects, you should be able to discern the marks left by its making.

There are a number of museums around the world that are likewise dedicated to the handmade and they are architecturally interesting in their own right.

Museum fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, Germany by Richard Meier.

Ironically, even though is has a very nice, modern contrast to the old villa it engages, this museum for applied arts, the handmade essentially, is the epitome of machine-age design.

Museum fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt, Germay

SirJohn Soane’s house museum, London, UK

This is a collection of art, of objects found and sought, by Soane, a museum of the handwork of fine artists:

Sir John Soane House and Museum, London, UK

Soane’s museum is not so much a museum in modern parlance, as a collection, as early museums were more akin to an obsessive collector’s cabinet of wonders.  This place is as much about collecting as it is the objects contained.

Mercer Museum, Doylestown, Pennsylvannia.

A collection of everyday, pre-industrial handmade objects, a museum of  the handwork of the worker:

Mercer Museum, Doylestown, PA

This museum, suggested by a client, is not only full of handmade objects, but as an early example of poured, reinforced concrete, is manifestly a handmade object of its right.

Mercer Museum, Doylestown, PA

City Museum, St. Louis, Missouri.

More of a kid’s funhouse than a collection, a museum of the handwork of the anarchic artist:

City Museum, St. Louis, MO

If you haven’t been to the City Museum in St. Louis, you really should.   Installed in an old shoe factory, it is if anything a museum of a kind of anarchic artist spirit in the joy of making and experiencing.  It is about as far as one can get from Meier’s ethereal temple as you can imagine.  And, about as dangerous of a playground as you would want.


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