Friday, 20 January 2012

Shoe Shelves & Geographies of Home

Not a lot happening at the moment - although there are claims to much going on behind the scenes...we're hoping to pay an invoice for our triple glazed windows and doors pretty soon and the design-builder is finishing all the drawings in a rush to get started a week on Monday. Here's hoping.

In the meantime I'm reading a lot about geographies of home, this morning was Jacobs and Merriman's 2011 "Practicing architectures" and Mallet's 1991 sociology review article on the literature of home. The first made a case for the prefix 'practising' as something capable of animating architecture - attention to activity and embodiment versus the accomplishment of a (or set of) human(s). In doing so the authors make room for a number of different particpants in design and architecure: the obvious being the architect and the occupier or user, others being visitors, animals, maintenance, fungi, and the weather. Jacobs and Merriman also therefore allow for differing forms of inhabitation - living (eating, sleeping and other specific or combined activities), working, visiting, fixing, passing by - of the same form of architecture.

The Mallet article spans a range of methods and approaches to the idea of 'home', few of which deal with the building of homes and houses (although there is a very brief mention of Heidegger's "Building, dwelling, thinking" and his idea of an inherent 'building' involved in 'dwelling' and approaches drawing upon it from Merleau-Ponty, Ginsberg, & Ingold). Mallet's description of the phenomenologist approach - one of doing and feeling home, rather than thinking about it (so involving ethnographic and indepth interviews as methodologies) as opposed to a social constructivist conception of the home, was a new binary to me...perhaps the traditions have been quite separate but (perhaps with 20 years of further study) they surely aren't incompatible?

Anway - it made me think about the porch in our place.

I once house and dog sat a house in Truckee, California. It was May and hot enough to sunbathe one morning and high enough to be covered in snow the next. The house was lovely, designed for movement it seemed, with cleverly placed windows and fluidly public and private spaces. The architect was a friend of the owners and a cafe's paper napkin with the first drawing on was framed on the wall. Other than Emma, the labrador, my favourite bit was the porch, or entrance really. It was a three sided room covered in coat hooks and I suspect one long bench going around all three walls (in my head I see the bench as also having boxes for shoes and boots but these may have just gone underneath and I have superimposed them on - see below!) It seemed so emminently practical but also, more unusually, terribly up front. And ever since I have liked the idea of the everyday being sort of plainly beautiful.

Since then I have lived in a number a little flats with one and then two dogs and have always managed to make over the entrance to a space where boots, mud, and dog food are somewhat welcome - in porches, stairwells, and landings. Building a big (comparatively speaking) house it was assumed by architects we spoke to that all this action would be for the back door with the front providing the occasional visitor with a clean, impressive encounter with our home. Obviously we have had none of that. We have had to move the entrance to the side because of the size of the plot (and the dominance of car parking in planning new houses) but it will, I hope, be a place that our practice (twice a day) of getting ten legs in and out of the house when excited about walking or imminent breakfast/dinner (human legs included), muddy, sandy, wet, cold, or hot, will be welcomed. In my head I have dark, worn wood that doesn't mind if splattered. And I've managed somehow to describe to Rob a set of squarish dark wood shelves that every pair of shoes and boots can be stored in. Both because I will take a perverse pleausure in seeing that many pairs of shoes in their own place (imagine! in my head it is like those shoes selves at a bowling alley) and because then perhaps our ten legs won't trip and stumble and I can towel a muddy meg and rupert on our own bench, in the proper entrance to our house.

This is the one bit of the house I can see, and have been insistent about. The only other space that has come close is the office which I want to have a sofa in as well as a desk...knowing how I work! Rob is much better at thinking through practice - especially since he works at home. He can visualise and think through the kitchen and the storage spaces and doors and light and floorspace where he works. He works often with very large pieces of art so it is a good job he can think ahead! I know if I hadn't seen the entrance in Truckee I wouldn't have had anything to go on the one hand it feels like I know this need through the 'doing' of dog walking everyday and on the other I have had to employ someone else's idea, a different but still socially constituted idea of the out door lifestyle of a place very far away from west Wales but part of our cultural self identifying as outdoorsy people.

I know there will be pleasant and unpleasant surprises not sure what I'll blame these on.

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