First they came for the architecture? Where the "take back America" crowd lives

September 1, 2010

I had an idle thought this week while watching clips of‚ talk show host Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington D.C.: If a political or social movement stays around long enough, it will‚ sometimes begin to express itself in graphics, language, art, fashion -- -and architecture. If so‚ what might be the architectural vernacular of the "take back America" crowd?

The movement is too young -- -if it's movement at all- -- to show its influence on public buildings, but I did wonder what the custom-built homes of its principals looked like. The photo above is that of Beck's house in New Canaan, CT.‚  Am I wrong to say I'm not surprised Beck's house looks like this? What with all the flag-waving Apple Pieism that shapes his persona, I had trouble thinking he'd come home to an edgy Midcentury modern house, or a Tadao Ando residential masterpiece. Located in the same town as Philip Johnson's modernist Glass House, Beck presents a Past House; a recreated‚ New England Colonial complete with gables, dormers, shutters and a long front porch. And in this photo, the 8700 sq ft‚ house‚ sits behind‚ a 4ft stone wall.

I was curious to see the Alaska home‚ of Sarah Palin, Beck's special guest star‚  at the rally:

The maroon home on the left is the Palin home, while the structure on‚ the right, built by the Palins,‚ was the subject of some debate when this photo was taken earlier this year. It looks like a house, but there was speculation it could also have other uses- -- maybe a studio. Either way, both are newer houses take in elements of the old.‚  The home on the left has‚ Colonial influences and proportions. For kicks and giggles: Sean Hannity's‚  Huntington, NY house"

It's a newer traditional home -- -Georgian? -- -with what appears to be colonnaded ‚ entrance.

Of course. The architecture‚ these folks self-selected makes it plain:‚ The leaders and spokespersons of this movement are backward-looking individuals who are telegraphing their intents by building homes for themselves that are cloaked in the architecture of the past. It's an architectural‚ Rorschach.‚ Beck's house, in particular, is a lawn-jockey and a mint julep away from being a plantation.  Palin's home looks as if it were built just before the 1976‚ Bicentennial with an architecture that matches that of thousands of‚ trustworthy-looking savings & loans of the same period. And we learned about many of those S&Ls later, didn't we?

Ah, but where do the prominent progressives live? Contemporary places- -- no doubt. Forward-looking dwellings that embrace the owners' ideals that America's best days are in front of us--not behind--separated by the cordon of time from the darker days‚ of the past.

For instance, just look at the New York Magazine photo of talk show host Rachel Maddow's home in Massachusetts:

Uhm..wait"... clapboard siding, dormers and shrubbery as dense as Elliot Gould's mustache, circa 1973?

Ok, what about the New Jersey home of Jon Stewart, he of‚  "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central (courtesy of the real estate website Zillow):

An 1891 Victorian? Jon Stewart? Really? For goodness' sake, Keith Olbermann? He lives in the tallest building on New York's Upper East Side. Or at least he did in 2008. And‚ the building was built a century after Stewart's at least:

Well, it's Trump Palace Condominiums. But it's still a modern building. Just look inside the lobby:

Oh, I give up.