Listen to part of a lecture in an architecture class. The professor has been discussing housing designs.
Alright, in our last class we began our discussion of housing designs in the United States from the 1940s.
You'll remember, for example, that we looked at some photos and discussed an apartment complex in Chicago from that decade.
Now today let's talk about housing design in the suburbs.
The demand for low-cost housing outside the cities increased in the late 1940s after World War II as a whole generation of young families needed affordable housing.
And a firm, called Levitt & Sons, strove to meet this demand in some pretty innovative ways.
They designed buildings based on the demands of the public, not so much their own artistic vision, and created a residential community in the state of New York that became known as Levittown.
Levittown was the first suburb of its kind, and it started out with 2,000 homes.
They were called Cape Cod houses-the Cape Cod model- and they were designed to look like the historical cottages in the New England states, in the northeastern United States.
The original floor plan was very simple.
The living room was in the front of the house, with windows looking out towards the street.
You also had two bedrooms, um, a bathroom, and a kitchen.
Everything was on one floor.
The bathroom was right next to the kitchen, which was a way of keeping building costs down, since the two rooms could rely on just one plumbing system.
Another feature of this Cape Cod house is that it could be expanded, as families grew and needed more space.
You had the downstairs, but up the stairs, the house actually had unfinished attic space as well.
Levitt & Sons promoted their houses saying this attic space could easily be converted into another bedroom, or even two.
And then there was always the possibility of building additional rooms onto the house later.
Each house was built the same way and with the same materials-all parts were standardized-so houses could be built economically.
This was important because it meant that they were affordable for young families who wanted to live outside of the city.
As a result, what you had was a whole community of houses that, except for the color of their roof and walls, were [hesitates] identical.
So, eventually there's going to be a demand for some variety, right?
After a couple of years, Levitt & Sons came out with a second design- [doubtful] well, they called it a second design, because it had a slightly different roof.
Plus the exterior had a more modern look.
This model was called a ranch house.
Now, I'm guessing it wasn't too expensive or time consuming for Levitt to come up with this idea- but it was certainly efficient and hugely popular with families.
The ranch is like the Cape Cod, except that the living room is in the back of the house instead of the front.
And on this ranch model, there's one more important feature that's not present in the Cape Cod.
It has a large window in the living room, called a picture window, which gives you kind of a framed view of the outside.
The way the ranch is set up, when you look out this picture window, from the living room, you're looking out from the back of the house instead of from the front; parents could watch their children playing in the back yard- the grassy area behind the house-rather than a view of the street.
So here was a way for families to disconnect the home-their house, their private lives-from the outside world, which was represented by the street that led to work, ah, and school.
Which, really, seems like the thing they'd been looking for all along.
But the floor plan was just like the Cape Cod, only, you know, turned 90 degrees.
Levitt & Sons offered their ranch houses for sale at a low price.
They could do that because they were using these simple, and therefore cost-saving building methods.
Um, another way they kept construction prices down was to train workers who went from house to house doing a specific task.
Sort of like an assembly line.
For example, um, you might have a painter whose job was to paint the doors of each house, and then it'd be someone else's job to, ah, install the doors.
This way, houses went up quickly, saving time and money.
And the Levitts' ideas caught on: in the early 1950s their designs became a model for suburb construction throughout the country.