Tract housing is like boring factory specialized machine work, where the only thing that changes is the color and possibly the make up of the folks living inside it. Blah. But you havent seen an Eichler neighborhood because it is what I would term as the California Modern Atomic Ranch homes. I think about these homes as being part of the Nuclear Bomb era. Designed for the very snaazy, super modern age heralded by the Atomic size explosions that were revolutionizing the world. The United States decided that it would promote world peace by exporting Atomic energy and Japan ate that shit up by opening up 22 Nuclear power plants since 1954 when the nuclear agency was created as a nation wide strategy to gain energy independence. These homes were designed for that era but in all honesty for me they are timeless architectural gems. When I dream of home ownership, I dream about my first home being an Eichler because they sum up my world perspective.
Think the Incredibles when you want to imagine an Eichler home. What precisely is this Eichler? Well its not so much a “what”, as it is a “WHO” and the “WHO” being Joseph Eichler a real estate developer here in California. The sad truth is that if there were more of Eichler architecture in Southern California we would have less desperate housewives, fewer unhinged from society teenagers and probably way more intellectually stimulated genius to fill up a half dozen Stanfords.
What Eichler did was amazing because he brought to the general middle class public accesibility to modern architecture. He stripped away the high falouting hoity toity nature of custom made modern homes and high rise office buildings along with the high-end furniture and interior designs by creating tract housing communities- 9 of them to be exact- that incorporated the best of modern architecture with a reasonable price range for the average consumer during the 1950’s and 60’s.
All those things we now take for granted in architectural features in homes were Eichler’s doing- the exposed beams, the unfinished floors, natural elements like stones and wood tongue-groove exposed joints, metal ducts and lots and lots of windows, but most importantly incorporating the outside natural world within the home to create a indoor-outdoor flow that was in sync with the living style of folks in the house. This is what Eichler represented, this is why I dream of buying an Eichler as my first home.
So it was not a big surprise that when there was a neighborhood open house event this past Sunday, yours truly rolled out of my sofa and into the random houses of the lucky bastards that owned those homes- well it helped that one of them happened to be a really good lawyer friend who was the daughter of the recent owners of this particular house that was open to the public. It was weird, but these houses invited the public- largely the neighbors- to enjoy snacks and drinks and conversation all over the “open house”. You got to snoop into the owners rooms and see the bathrooms and go lounge in the backyard and kick it at the dining room table. I mean the only thing missing was the “HELLO STALKERS COME INSIDE” sign, but that was made up for by the nicely placed pink flamingo’s in front of the houses that were inviting folks on in for the freebies.
The sad reality is that Eichlers, like many other architectural gems that are frozen in an era, are not cheap or easy to maintain and that sadly has led to many of the homes and the yards, since Eichler’s Atomic style was all about indoor/outdoor feng shui, have fallen into bad repair. Unfortunately there is a bastardized neighborhood in the city of Orange where people have not appreciated Eichler’s vision and turned the homes, along with the neighborhood, into an architectural Dante’s hell where each home progressively gets worse, taking you into the various stages and depths of hell that is not humanly imaginable. So the people who had the open houses deserve a very special appreciation because they took Eichlers vision and made it their own, pain stakenly maintaining the homes, repairing and updating them to also leave a special mark that is unique to them on the larger vision that was the California Modern Atomic Ranch house architecture as curated by the development efforts of Joseph Eichler.