A house is for life, not just for Christmas. That’s what Deborah Sarnoff and Robert Gotkin must have been thinking when they bought Robert Venturi’s 1969 Lieb House, an asbestos-shingled box emblazoned with a Pop Art number 9 beside the door. The house was earmarked for demolition when the couple acquired it for a dollar in 2009. They spent another $100,000 having it peeled off its site in New Jersey and shipped up the East River on the back of a barge, to its new resting place in Glen Cove, NY. The whole caper was recorded for posterity by Venturi’s son, Jim, in the film Saving Lieb House.
Not all houses have been bestowed with such benefaction. But maybe there’s another way in which architecture can help fend off the wrecking ball: what if the design of a house allows it to grow and change in conjunction with the needs of its occupants? The UK’s Lifetime Homes Standards encourage precisely such a principle, setting out a list of guidelines that have been adopted into the building regulations. The focus is on design features that make the home flexible enough to meet whatever comes along in life: a teenager with a broken leg, a grandfather with a serious illness, or parents dealing with an unwieldy Bugaboo.