Thursday 1 July 2010

Living Architecture

Last night I went to a talk about Living Architecture; which is a new, not for profit, business set up to challenge our ideas about modern architecture through giving the opportunity to try living and sleeping in modern spaces as holiday homes.

Living Architecture's Creative Director is the Writer and Philosopher Alain De Botton whose work I find really interested- and he spoke about the inspiration for the project yesterday. He and the organisation want to challenge the idea that houses built post World War Two are somehow second rate and that modern architecture is just for public spaces. He made the very good point that while we might admire buildings like the Gherkin or the hall at the British Museum we never get to sleep in innovative buildings like this and therefore to understand what a positive effect they can have on us.

The project seems to be an extension in part of his book The Architecture of Happiness which is how I first found his work. I actually saw his BBC2 programme based on the book before knowing his writing and remembered being extremely interested in the idea that psychologically houses with lots of light, glass and proximity to nature tend to encourage a happier outlook and more productivity in most people (and the most not all is import I would think).

I am fascinated by architecture and as a little girl I wanted to be architect, to design spaces where people lived and made and did and that had a creative life of their own almost, nurturing and loving generations, seemed fascinating to me. I loved the permanence of buildings. I don't think I could express all that very well but I knew I loved going to different rooms and places (I hate the word space, it's pretentious but that's really what I mean).

Clearly as a British person I am destined to cherish older architecture and I do- I really do. The happiness it gives me to walk around the Royal Crescent in Bath or to see a tiny Queen Anne cottage is quite silly because they are just buildings of course- but I do think they are more than just bricks. Even the rows of Victorian terraces in London, I love every single one. However this doesn't mean I don't like modern buildings. I particularly seek out and follow Art Deco buildings and think it's a really great shame that we don't have more and also that they weren't better preserved. Thankfully those that are left are now being lovingly cared for and if they cannot continue life as a cinema or factory being converted to housing.

Caring about older styles of building doesn't mean I don't have enthusiasm for modern architecture though and I think the two styles can work well together. I think the problem, as Alain De Botton said last night, is that when people build housing now especially at the cheaper end of the scale we do not ask for anything more challenging or interesting than a box. We are all so desperate to get our own space that we will buy whatever beige hutch they will sell us and just be glad and grateful- which is tragic really but where the modern world and economy has left us.

The equivalent of modern blocks of flats was once railway cottages or those rows of houses I referred to before. They weren't homes for the rich, often they weren't even homes to own, they were homes to rent from the Council or a trust- but they had a soul and a desire to make lives comfortable in small ways.

So I very much look forward to following the Living Architecture Project and hopefully trying spending a night in some of these really amazing buildings. You can read more about all the houses (not all are pictured here) and book here.

You can also read more about the project in the FT here.


The Secular Retreat

The Dune House

The Shingle House


Isabel said...

Dear Rose,
I have been following your blog for a while now and I love it so much. You are a wonderful writer and I always look forward to your posts. :-)


Rose said...

Hi Isabel, well thank- you. Your blog looks really cool- I like all the pictures of Seoul, I'd love to go there- and to Japan. One day!

Laura said...

This project sounds so interesting. I completely agree, it's so sad that today affordable housing = a repetitive soul-less building.

I love Alain De Botton, have yet to read Architecture of happiness but may grab it from the library today.

Rose said...

Hi Babypicturethis- completely, we are just given boxes. Me too, he's wonderful, I haven't read his latest about work though I want to- the consolations of philosophy has proved very consoling at some times in my life