In 1993 I collaborated with architect, playwright and professor Keller Easterling to make Call It Home: The House That Private Enterprise Built, a history of suburbia and suburban planning in the U.S. The project took the form of an interactive archival documentary on laserdisc that held some 55 minutes of historical footage, 2,800 still images, a narration and contextual soundtrack, and two tracks of archival audio. The disc was accompanied by a lengthy booklet of program notes that contained an index to the collection and a comparative atlas of suburban town designs. The disc was published by The Voyager Company, whom many of you will know as the partner and joint parent of the Criterion Collection.
From Easterling's description:
The material resets the story of suburbia in the US by focusing on its origins in the depression rather than the post war era. Originally conceived as an economic instrument to stabilize banks and a flagship industry capable of providing jobs, the early suburban house was poised to become both the germ of explosive post war exurban growth and the economic indicator that it remains today. Call it Home provides evidence of suburbia’s DNA in: New Deal planning, federal promotion of home ownership, FHA protocols for community, prefabrication experiments, new construction technologies, the Interstate Highway, early marketing techniques, and the styling of domestic interiors among many other things. Viewers can navigate the DVD as either a continuous set of footage sequences or as a more contemplative document that moves between clips and stills. The ten major topics that organize this two-disc set serve as a base from which to create many branching explorations through the collection.
Laserdiscs have been difficult to play for some years now, and the disc has been all but unobtainable except for occasional eBay auctions. But aided by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Keller Easterling and producer Tal Schori have reformatted the disc's contents as a two-DVD set. I'm delighted to announce that the collection is now available through Amazon as a three-piece set, each piece of which must be ordered separately.