The Architects' Small House Service Bureau and the American Institute of Architects


  • Lisa M. Tucker
    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Vol. 6 No. 2 (2009)
Research Articles
December 7, 2009


A group of Minnesota architects created the ASHSB in 1914 to provide a solution for theshortage of middle class housing in the U.S. By 1919, the bureau had offices throughout the U.S. and received the endorsement of both the American Institute of Architects and the Department of Commerce. During this time, the members of the Bureau produced hundreds of plan sets and monthly bulletins to assist homeowners with their housing choices. The monthly magazine The Small Home, in conjunction with the published plan books--Your Future Home and How to Plan, Finance, and BuildYour Home--dispensed valuable information to potential homebuyers across the nation. To date, one master's thesis (Lisa Schrenk, University of Virginia 1990) and an article (Thomas Harvey, 1991) have been written about the ASHSB. Neither one discussed the relationship of this group with the AIA, a keyendorsement agency.This research involved extensive archival research at the AIA. Records from the early 20th century were analyzed to determine the relationship between the AIA and the ASHSB in the early 20th century. This relationship provides insight into the current lack of architectural involvement in single-family house design today. The single most prevalent building type in the U.S. is the single-family house, yet architects are little involved in the design of most of them. Architects have the ability and training to create sustainable, affordable, and well-design single-family houses and yet they do not. This paper seeks to provide one explanation through the interpretation of the historic relationship of the AIA to the ASHSB.