In this lecture, American Framing curators Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner tell the story of an architectural moment that was bored with tradition, chose economy over skill, and accepted a relaxed idea of craft in the pursuit of something useful. They show us that a profound and powerful future for design can be conceived out of an ordinary past.
Originally exhibited at the U.S. pavilion of the 2021 Venice Biennial of Architecture, and on view at Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center from January 12 – July 2, 2023, curators Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner developed the exhibition American Framing to examine wood framing—one of the country’s most overlooked yet common construction systems.
This event is part of Modernism Week
On view January 12-July 2, 2023 at Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center, American Framing was originally shown at the U.S. pavilion of the 2021 Venice Biennial of Architecture and examines the practice of wood framing. Originating in the early 19th century, softwood construction was a pragmatic solution to a need for an accessible building system among settlers with limited wealth, technical skills, and building traditions.
Early examples, like George Washington Snow’s balloon-framed warehouse paved the way for churches, barns, stores, and the most common wood-framed building type: the American house. An abundance of Southern Pine and Douglas Fir forests, simplicity and speed of construction, and an ability to be built by low or un-skilled workers made wood framing a perfect fit for the growing economies and populations of the American Midwest.
It has been the dominant construction system ever since—more than 90% of new homes in the U.S. today are wood framed.
The accessibility that shaped its early development continues to influence contemporary life and reflect democratic ideals in subtle, but powerful ways. No amount of money can buy you a better 2 x 4 than the 2 x 4s in the poorest neighborhood in town. This fundamental sameness paradoxically underlies the American culture of individuality, unifying all superficial differences.
This exhibition, curated by Paul Andersen and Paul Preissner, comes at a time when national cultural practices are struggling with their histories. How do we resolve our past choices? What kinds of futures can we create? In American Framing, “the Pauls” tell the story of an Architectural moment that was bored with tradition, chose economy over skill, and accepted a relaxed idea of craft in the pursuit of something useful. They show us that a profound and powerful future for design can be conceived out of an ordinary past.