Olivia Erlanger, Luis Ortega Govela
The MIT Press, October 2018

Hardcover | 6 x 8-1/2 inches | 224 pages | 52 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0262038348 | $21.95

Publisher Description:
Frank Lloyd Wright invented the garage when he moved the automobile out of the stable into a room of its own. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (allegedly) started Apple Computer in a garage. Suburban men turned garages into man caves to escape from family life. Nirvana and No Doubt played their first chords as garage bands. What began as an architectural construct became a cultural construct. In this provocative history and deconstruction of an American icon, Olivia Erlanger and Luis Ortega Govela use the garage as a lens through which to view the advent of suburbia, the myth of the perfect family, and the degradation of the American dream.

The stories of what happened in these garages became self-fulfilling prophecies the more they were repeated. Hewlett-Packard was founded in a garage that now bears a plaque: The Birthplace of Silicon Valley. Google followed suit, dreamed up in a Menlo Park garage a few decades later. Also conceived in a garage: the toy company Mattel, creator of Barbie, the postwar, posthuman representation of American women. Garages became guest rooms, game rooms, home gyms, wine cellars, and secret bondage lairs, a no-commute destination for makers and DIYers—surfboard designers, ski makers, pet keepers, flannel-wearing musicians, weed-growing nuns. The garage was an aboveground underground, offering both a safe space for withdrawal and a stage for participation—opportunities for isolation or empowerment.
dDAB Commentary:
When I think of architecture titles from MIT Press, I think of scholarly tomes with voluminous footnotes. But a flip to the back of Garage, a "history and deconstruction of an American icon" by artist Olivia Erlanger and architect Luis Ortega Govela, reveals, alas, no footnotes. How does a book that explores Frank Lloyd Wright's apparent invention of the attached garage in his Robie House and the garage as a setting for businessmen to start companies and punks to start bands, among other things, not credit any sources? Because, it seems to me, Erlanger and Ortega Govela are more interested in the "deconstruction" than the "history." Their book is more art than scholarship, a bound volume that balances the blended words of the two authors with visual artworks by each (as well as photos of garage doors by John Divola). The result is more a rumination than a serious study of that important yet under-appreciated room that fronts suburban houses.

From paragraphs about Wright's design of carports and garages in his Prairie and Usonia houses to the belief that Steve Jobs invented Apple in his garage, from Joseph Eichler's success in building thousands of postwar suburban houses in California to Kurt Cobain's suicide in the room over his garage, the authors hone in on the garage as a symbol of the "outdated but persistent myth of the solitary male genius." In turn, they want to do their part in the "crumbling" of the myth that, they assert, would also involve the fall of the garage. I'm not entirely convinced of this "conspiracy," as they call it, as expressed through Garage's mixture of words and images. Erlanger and Ortega Govela may have better success if their plans for a documentary film on the garage come to fruition: the medium of film should (I hope) better connect the myriad ideas in their book into a more cohesive message.

Author Bio:
Olivia Erlanger is an artist and writer based in Los Angeles. Luis Ortega Govela is a Mexican architect based in London and Los Angeles. Ortega Govela is a founder of the arts collective ÅYR. Erlanger and Ortega are at work on a documentary film on the garage.
Purchase Links:
(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)

  Support Independent Bookstores - Visit