Almost all branches of American art and culture, including music and architecture, experienced a remarkable explosion of creativity from 1965 to 1975. While I can’t explain the causes of these cultural revolutions — I’ll leave that task to sociologists and historians — I’ll briefly mention what happened during those years: LSD, hippies, free love, second-wave feminism, draft resistance, the Stonewall riots, and the back-to-the land movement. And that’s just for starters.
Historians of architecture have looked back on those years as the origin of the design-build movement, and they are remarkably specific about the movement’s point of origin. The physical location is Prickly Mountain in Warren, Vermont; the years are 1965 to 1970; and the catalyst was a Yale architect named David Sellers, along with a group of like-minded Ivy League architects who clustered around him, including Steve Badanes, John Connell, Louis Mackall, Bill Maclay, Jim Sanford, Barry Simpson, and Dick Travers.
The story of Prickly Mountain is an example of how residents of the tiny state of Vermont have played an outsized role in an important architectural movement.
In recent years, as the back-to-the land generation retires, Vermont historians have begun to pay attention to the profound changes wrought by the tens of thousands of back-to-the-landers who invaded the state in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We arrived poor, and were more likely to apply for food stamps than to apply for a 9-to-5 job. But by the 1980s and 1990s, many members of our generation had trimmed our hair, completed our educations, and become pillars of our communities. We turned into teachers, social workers, nurses, and elected officials. And, for better or worse, we ended up changing the state.
Most of the urban refugees who imitated the Prickly Mountain architects — young people who moved to the woods…