Today, it’s all about Obama.
And thinking of Obama makes me reflect on that most fundamental of architectural ideas: domesticity. To malappropriate Heidegger, it’s about building, dwelling, thinking.
Here is a photo of them printed in the New Yorker back in 1996, when Michelle said quaintly that, “There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it’s unclear.” One of the things that strikes me about the Obamas is how much more of a true couple they seem than any other presidential candidate in our generation. In Barack’s relatively unmoored life (absent father, single mother, raised in Indonesia and Hawaii), it has seemed as if Michelle has been the anchor to which he has found his bearings. It is hard to imagine Barack where he is today if it weren’t for the strength that Michelle and Michelle’s family has provided Barack. For it is Michelle’s mother who is moving in to the White House with the Obama family, and it was her (Marian Robinson) who took care of their kids while they were out campaigning; Barack’s mother and grandmother have all passed away recently, and his father passed away a longer while ago. In fact, I think one of the many memorable photographs of this campaign was the photograph of Barack and Marian Robinson watching the results on election night.
I think that relationship between politics and architecture is a fairly complex one, and I’m not really going to get into that now. It has to do with the issue of scale, which I think is the most important sense that an architect can develop. In essense, what can you and can’t you influence? What is the scale of the problem that you are trying to solve with the tools that you have available to you? Nevertheless, today, with the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, here’s to that most fundamental of architectural scales: the family. And in particular, to strong women.