A Hut of One's Own
This small book on small dwellings explores some of the largest questions that can be posed about architecture. What begins where architecture ends? What was before architecture?
The ostensible subject of Ann Cline's inquiry is the primitive hut, a one-room structure built of common or rustic materials. Does the proliferation of these structures in recent times represent escapist architectural fantasy, or deeper cultural impulses? As she addresses this question, Cline gracefully weaves together two stories: one of primitive huts in times of cultural transition, and the other of diminutive structures in our own time of architectural transition. From these narrative strands emerges a deeper inquiry: what are the limits of architecture? What ghosts inhabit its edges? What does it mean to dwell outside it?
Cline's project began twenty-five years ago, when she set out to translate the Japanese tea ritual into an American idiom. First researching the traditional tea practices of Japan, then building and designing huts in the United States, she attempted to make the "translation" from one culture to another through the use of common American building materials and technology. But her investigation eventually led her to look at many nonarchitectural ideas and sources, for the hut exists both at the beginning of and at the farthest edge of architecture, in the margins between what architecture is and what it is not.
In the resulting narrative, she blends autobiography, historical research, and cultural criticism to consider the place that such structures as shacks, teahouses, follies, casitas, and diners—simple, "undesigned" places valued for their timelessness and authenticity—occupy from both a historical and contemporary perspective. This book is an original and imaginative attempt to rethink architecture by studying its boundary conditions and formative structures.
"Ann Cline has succeeded admirably in assessing the crisis of architectural meaning in what seem to me to be the only authentic terms possible . . . It is the way Cline handles [her] themes—the mature personal insight she invests them with—that give her book its originality, its edge, and its profound humanity."
“Ann Cline’s book opens architecture once more to the disheveled and unruly imagination of dreams, that combines the ancient and the immediate, the uncanny and the homely.”
—Frederick Turner, Founders Professor, School of Arts and Humanities, The University of Texas at Dallas
“Cline offers sensitive new insights into the meaning of the ‘primitive hut.’ Drawing on a variety of cultural, historical, and architectural references from past and present, her study is a profoundly original scholarly and philosophical meditation on the importance of the hut in contemporary society as filtered through her own experience as builder and user.”
—Elizabeth A. T. Smith, Curator, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
“Ann Cline offers us a thought-provoking argument: She demonstrates how the deceptively simple act of designing and building a habitable hut can reawaken sensibilities intrinsic to profound architectural experience. Using examples that cut across cultures and time, we see how the humble primitive hut leads to a renewed awareness of architecture’s potential for heightening existential and transcendent meaning, serving ultimately as a critique on the superficial arguments that are used characteristically to justify so much of the celebrated architecture of our time.”
—Norman Crowe, Architect and Professor, University of Notre Dame
“One never knows if a text will achieve a ‘vogue’ success, but this one surely deserves classic status.”
—David B. Stewart, Professor of Architectural History, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Finalist, Architecture/Interior Design Category in the 1999 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs) presented by Independent Publisher Magazine.