United States

United States
34 records
“Democratic design” was the term commonly used around 1900 for simple, good-quality objects made for a broad audience. This is what Europeans perceived as America’s contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement, as did Americans themselves. Design reformers on both sides of the Atlantic saw the country’s triumph as one of technological innovation and the rational use of the machine, particularly in companies such as Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops and the many furniture factories in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The movement in America, however, shared other manifestations of the British Arts and Crafts movement as well: efforts to improve the lot of urban immigrants and the rural poor through craft; design schools that emphasized manual training rather than rote copying; groups of socialists committed to the creation of truly oppositional production methods; and utopian art colonies.

If American Arts and Crafts ideology is most distinguished by efforts to make design more democratic, then its aesthetic is most distinctive in regional expression. The Midwestern architects of the Prairie School held the conviction that a building must respond to its surroundings: it must be horizontal, like the prairie, and tied to the earth through low-hipped roofs, broad eaves, and extensions. California was also associated with particular design characteristics. As in the Midwest, terraces and pergolas were common unifying features, but California could make especially full use of indoor-outdoor elements like sleeping porches, since the mild climate and lush vegetation were most conducive to the Arts and Crafts ideal of living close to nature.

- Wendy Kaplan (2005)

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