Björn Rust (he/him) is a post-industrial designer cum researcher, innovator and educator, developing context-sensitive innovation practices for people, planet and beyond.

Recent writings

  1. Opportunity hoarding
  2. Doing away with bullshit
  3. The course of my life, so far

Rise of the commune

As a millennial (albeit an old one), the notion of home ownership is a distant one. In Australia, those seeking affordable housing must, for the most part, choose between a woeful owner-biased rental system or a suite of poorly constructed, highly compromised developments designed to deliver maximum profit over the cost of finish and liveability.

Fortunately, young socially minded designers are responding to this problem by developing for a collective of owners. Principle among them is Breathe Architecture with its Nightingale project. But as important as these projects are, they are not unrepresented.

In 1944, a few of Frank Lloyd Wright’s disciples from Taliesin, sought out similarly-minded people who would invest in and join a community build to Usonian principals (Introduced in Reporting Fives—Week Three) This project was unique for a number of reasons, from its circular plots to its communal mortgage. Radically, in the first decades of Usonia, members of the commune didn’t own their homes.

In the language of our time, we would call Wright’s Usonian houses open source. A vast number of houses identified as Usonian are not designed by Wright. In the same way that not every Nightingale project will be designed by Breathe.

The similarities are not limited to the openness of the design, but extend to the restrictions placed on the owners, restrictions designed to stimulate a new paradigm. The Nightingale buildings reject air-conditioning, second bathrooms and basement car-parking. These could be seen to mirror the small kitchens, open plan or carports of the lifestyle-shaping Usonian homes, each one intended to improve the lives of its occupants.

Roland Reisley, was one of the rare few whose home was designed by Wright himself. He recalls the words the great architect spoke during a trip to Taliesin:

You’re my client. I’m your architect. I’ll redesign you house as many times as I have to until I’ve satisfied all your needs. You have to speak up, if you don’t you’ll take what you get.

Wright believed he could change the United States by changing its architecture. I believe we can change the world, so long as we speak up, otherwise, we’ll take what we get.

Inspired by: 99% Invisible: Usonia the Beautiful


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