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DAVID CARR-SMITH - IMPROVISATION / DESIGN / ART / KITSCH / CHANCE

"HOME"  

DEFINING MY LOCATION / MY NEEDS / MYSELF VIA MASS-MARKET PRODUCTS & TASTE

 

INDEX

IMPROVISED ARCHITECTURE IN AMSTERDAM INDUSTRIAL SQUATS & COLLECTIVES  

IMPROVISED VILLAGES: (WANDSWORTH & KEW BRIDGE 'ECO VILLAGES')

ALLOTMENT IMPROVISATIONS - PUBLIC, LEGAL, SOCIALLY INDORSED

IMPROVISED OPEN-SITE: ("THE NOMADIC COMMUNITY GARDEN")

TEMPORARY-ARCHITECTURE: ("FRANK'S CAFE" & "SOUTHWARK LIDO")

VERNACULAR - PRAGMATISM & STYLE: (BERDUN VILLAGE BARNS & HOUSES)

"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - LIV-RM
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - HOUSE

"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA PERSONAL CHOICES   

ART - GOTHIC INTO RENAISSANCE INTO EARLY 20thC

ART - 20thC COLLAGE INTO MASS-MEDIA  
GRAFFITI INTO STREET-ART 
KITSCH
CHANCE & DESIGN

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THE BRITISH MASS-MARKET HOME - pt 2   ... in process

pt 1: "HOME" - THE 'LIVING-ROOM'   

pt 2: "HOME" - THE HOUSE

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THE HOUSE

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INTRODUCTION 

An extraordinary aspect of British culture is that people whose main social/working persona is 'adult' - 'tough' / 'professional' / 'hard-headed' / 'no-nonsense' / 'commonsensical' / 'power-seeking' - can, apparently without embarrassment, expose to the gaze of all who pass their house, even proudly display, a view of a 'private' persona that is dominated by childish fantasies and dreams of homes from childhood stories. 

Most of us grew up in late 18th to early 20thC mass-housing, 'arterial-road' semis, or more recent builder/developer derivatives of these, and for lack of alternatives gleaned from design-education or public examples, we seem to cherish, not desires for spaces and facilities that would free us from the social/experiential restrictions of these outdated forms, but fantasy versions of pre spec-developer domesticity. The british mass-culture dream home is located in a dream-time when country dwellers made their own vernacular cottages and wealthy landowners built with the help of eminent classical designers their dignified mansions. Since these choices are usually unattainable the majority have settled for spec-builder boxes spangled with ethnic and/or snob-historicist evocative motifs.

A basic human desire is surely to creatively co-operate with a designer or improvise for oneself the character and structure of ones own home, rather than simply follow mass-taste and buy commercial products, nevertheless in Britain originality is 'normally' suppressed by neighbours and local-councils. However ignorant/crude/stupid/ugly are the 'designs' of builder-developers, as long as they conform to a list of practical building-standards and to a local-council's aesthetic ideal: which is almost always 'conformity with what already exists' [1], their boorish and potentially antisocial products must be allowed, and the (always at least interesting) results of individualistic inventiveness, as well as the innovative (or at least modern) solutions of designer-architects, will usually - for the sake of the negative 'value' of homogeneity - be denied. In the face of this virtual ban on innovation, for most people an attempt to originate a uniquely personal home is 'unthinkable' [2] and the expense and bureaucracy associated with employing a designer is daunting - thus almost all personal home-origination is reduced to searching the mass-market and buying a house from builder/developers and then perhaps squandering ones small reserves of creativity on embellishing this bought 'shed' with emblems of mass-taste. This outcome is a disease of the roots of our culture - our experientially most influential and generative products are our homes.

It seems in this rather architecturally-unaware country that the only difference between house makers and consumers is that the former have skills in physical building crafts (empirically acquired and thus necessarily 'traditional'); apart from that, builders and buyers apparently share ignorance and lack of curiosity in the structural and economic, let alone experiential possibilities of 'modern' homes (beyond new gadgets for home-entertainment and labour-saving). Supply and demand is thus stuck in a 'closed-loop' and qualitative advancement largely stifled. Because of a lack of basic design education and paucity of public examples, and a consequent lack of critiques applicable to experiencing, choosing, planning homes, plus design-informed consumer-demand financial-incentives bearing on builders' design initiatives, the closed-loop of conception, production and acquisition of british homes will continue to be underpinned by embarrassingly stupid, irrelevant and utterly outdated motivations [3].

A pragmatically, aesthetically, economically and socially debased house-developer vernacular has consolidated - ruining the outskirts/environs of almost every british city, town and village ... it should not have been allowed to happen - school-level education in design, and especially home design, could have brought the power of consumer choice to bear on the ignorance of home providers.

NOTES :

  1. Their judgment as to what is 'similar' to the predominant local building style is inevitably crude - a simple display of its macro-mnemonic features is sufficient (a feature as visually/'stylistically' striking as 'drainpipes' need not be shown on designs that are submitted to the council for aesthetic judgment!). An original building ('architecture') that fulfills/innovates possibilities of living must often, in order to slip past the planning-dept's attention, be hidden behind facades that resemble their neighbours, however simplistic, outdated, ugly these are, or if it must be a whole in and out structure, it may help acceptance if planned to be built in some unnoticed nook or crann, behind and out of sight of existing roads and 'frontages'. Consequently the public majority rarely sees these demonstrations/exemplars of present domestic needs and possibilities and is mentally, emotionally, physically stuck with the outdated stupidity of spec-developers' mass-market habits.

  2. Its full realisation is attained only in sub-legal squats [ref: IMPROV ARCH and IMPROV VILLAGES]

  3. For a wonderfully apposite demonstration of this paragraph watch BBC "HOMES UNDER THE HAMMER"

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THE FANTASY OF HOME - MODELS

Instructions for and products of an aspirational mass-fantasy ... the vernacular cottage :

'THE COTTAGE' MASS-DREAM: MAGAZINE AD FOR PLATE WITH PAINTING BY A 'FAMOUS ARTIST'
(Recorded 7-11-2002) 
  ... in process
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THE COTTAGE MASS-DREAM: MAGAZINE AD FOR BOOKS WITH PAINTINGS BY "VICTORIAN & EDWARDIAN ARTISTS"
(Recorded 7-11-2002) 
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THE COTTAGE MASS-DREAM: MODEL COTTAGE (PAINTED PLASTER)
(date? - before c 2004) 
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THE COTTAGE MASS-DREAM: 'WENDYHOUSE' - BENBIUCK GARDEN CENTRE, nr RIPLEY, SURREY
(pic 1981) 
  ... in process
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  ... in process

THE COTTAGE MASS-DREAM: BISCUIT BOX (IN GIFT SHOP WINDOW - ISLEWORTH, MIDDLX.)
(pic 1980) 
  ... in process

"An Englishman's home is his castle" (!)
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THE COTTAGE MASS-DREAM: MUG (IN CHARITY WAREHOUSE BRIC-A-BRAC SECTION - W-NORWOOD, LONDON  ... in process
(pic 2018)

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THE FANTASY OF HOME - HOUSES:  BUILDER-VERNACULAR  ... in process

Suburban fantasy fulfillment ... the spec-builder vernacular :

The most obvious characteristic of these spec-builder-vernacular objects is that they are 'models', experientially almost identical, except in size, to the objects shown above. Their size demands that the techniques and materials used to make them are different [1], but the attitude that conceived, designed, made them is similar - their realiser's experience is that of a model-maker and therefore we perceive them thus. Furthermore they are usually lined-up on a location that has no more visible relation to them than a display-shelf in a shop. A selection of functionally similar but differently 'dressed' versions of some basically practical object in a large store, like a row of kettles in Currys.

However, one interesting difference between these 'appliances' and their modern consumer-product cousins is that, compared with the kettles or the cars in a showroom, these developer/builder houses appear weirdly kooky, hand-made and indeed clumsily put together from not-very-securely-joined, separately made parts (roofs, vertical walls, windows and doors, applied decor-patches, trim, and - more mental this - seemingly 'pasted-on' 'picture-skins'). The most significant cultural effect of this 'primitive' hand-madeness and the apparent awkwardness of the fitting-together of parts is its disconnection with all of this society's other practical products. It seems that this product alone must be seen to be not practical, not a tool or appliance, not a product of rationality, not made by industry and machines ... that it must exist primarily as dream or story (both always in the past), as if designed (and even made: so seemingly ephemeral are its techniques) for a theatre production - the scenery of a play about 'home'.

It seems that, apart from its interior appliances and practical services, it must reassuringly refer - unlike a car or kettle - to the authority and associational richness of ancestral-history (distracting attention from its sloppy craft with visual references to quality and/or coziness). Before all, it must evoke the fantasy of a 'family home' in a manner that must appeal to as many people as possible. Without reinforcing and quoting mass-mediated stereotypes associated with 'homes' it cannot evoke the mass-fantasies of family-castle / family-nest / family-inheritance / family-breeding-pen; nor, seen from outside, would it contribute to the ubiquitous social/personal sense and desire for 'security'; nor could it stimulate possessive envy, or so easily stand in as a 'value-counter' in the hierarchical game of social getting. Individualistically invented or pragmatically designed and manufactured houses are like thorns caught in this cuddly tribal swaddling. Developer-builders have little (financial) choice but to model stereotypes and British stereotypes of 'home' mainly consist of sentimental and snobby kitsch.

NOTES :

  1. However, model-makers might wish, for complete verisimilitude, to put together their model building using model building-parts. However, if they acquire a habitual skill at this, and especially if their aim is selling and they begin to repeat a popular model, their attention may drift away from scrupulous concern for physical precision and adopt a somewhat easy attitude towards 'style'. The houses below seem to convey such wanderings ... in a culture of informed experiential values would objects of such imprecision and triviality merit replication! 

HOUSES 'STYLES' - GREEN ST, SUNBURY-ON-THAMES 
(pic c1970s / built c early-1970s) 

Here the spec-builder displays (his?) catalogue of styles and offers us 'choice'. Via this pitiful array of Brit-vernaculars, differentiated through years of media filtration, we may now exercise our 'right to choose' and publically expose our taste. 

They all 'look-out' at the street as if expectant, like a row of eager dogs waiting for their owners. This latter effect has two aspects: 1: windows for looking out of are thus analogues of eyes, 2: it manifests the desire of their 'designer' to attract the attention of a buyer (or indeed, flatter their proximate owner). 

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HOUSE 'MODERN' - GREEN ST, SUNBURY-ON-THAMES
(pic c1970s / built ?) 

 

HOUSE 'COTTAGE' - GREEN ST, SUNBURY-ON-THAMES 
(pic c1970s / built c early-1970s) 

Ref this and the next pic: how many of these silly hutches were built? Separated by at least five miles, yet even the garage, the front walls and gates are the same - they were presumably made by the same building company. However each is displayed as one in a row of differently 'styled' houses and each was probably marketed with a stress on 'individual choice' [see previous pic]. In a culture of informed experiential values would objects of such imprecision and triviality merit replication?! 

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HOUSE 'COTTAGE' - NEAR HERNE-HILL, LONDON 
(pic 1986 / built ?) 

Was this one identical to the last when newly built - were the differences (shutters, porch-roof, door) added by the owners during the decade since the last, or are they initiatives of the building company: 'improvements' on the 'design' or style adjustments thought commensurate with the area's consumers.

 

TERRACE HOUSES - CHESTERFIELD RD, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES, SURREY
(pic 1982)  ... in process

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TERRACE HOUSES - 1 to 9 ALEXANDER RD, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES, SURREY
(pic 1978 / built 1973) 
... in process
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HOUSE SEMI: A "McLEAN QUALITY HOMES" DEMO SEMI -  WESTMINSTER CRESCENT, SHEFFIELD 10
(pic 1981 / built early 1980s)

A horrible pastiche of 'modernised traditional' (eg windows) and tediously habitual motifs, semi-randomly scattered over an absurdly confused and wastefully (practically and financially!) shaped form, apparently precariously perched on the sloping entry corner of a new estate of asphalt-marooned houses in "Westminster Close". 

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HOUSES: "CORNFIELDS ESTATE" - BURNET RD, off BECCLES RD, GREAT YARMOUTH, NORFOLK
(paste-up 2-pics 20-08-2012 / built
late 1980s) ... in process

THREE HOUSES: WEAVERS CROFT (NE END), HARLESTON, NORFOLK, IP20
(paste-up 3-pics 07-11-2018 / built c.2008)
... in process

An extraordinary exhibition of un-competent chaos and ugliness. As far as one can judge from exteriors, intelligence is withheld from every aspect of these house designs, while resources and money are wasted on ridiculous, because pointless and/or ineffectual, structural complexities and silly fittings. For these purblind 'designers' the beauty of harmoniously related and accessible forms of need and use is apparently unknown and unrecognizable. 

Presumably these lumbering 'visually-empty' brick boxes with their absurdly voluminous space-wasting roof-lids, needed to be labelled as "Homes". It seems their 'designers' only resource was to add - not domestically practical forms and features but mere signage - socially recognised mnemonic motifs connoting "this is a home, a family cradle". The embarrassingly infantile British illness of 'historical back-projection', the design-resource of idiots - sentimental reminiscences of the hand-crafted practical solutions of pre-mechanised eras when people were obliged to use hand-crafted solutions - fantasy Arcadias of activities performed at the organic speed of bodily skills and thus reminiscent of the leisurely skills of homely living! 

The resulting 'design-solutions' are bizarrely wasteful of space, construction time, and money: 


1: The arbitrary complexities of wall-plans and roof forms and indeed haphazard site-planning, in addition to reminding one of the outdated materials and techniques of the historical rural vernacular, convey (presumably unintentionally) the piecemeal accumulation of village cottages.

2: The desire to see out (and indeed to see in) and the need for natural lighting, is here curtailed by tiny windows (re: the house's energy usage cost-juggling!). Though their positioning seems arbitrary with respect to the building's whole form, of the 19 windows, 12 are in 4 identical 3-window groups (a simplification of planning or price?)

3: The silly front-door porch hats are absurdly inefficient as temporary shelters for windy rain key-search and luggage; far too heavy and expensively complicated, their absence on some of the entry doors advertises their status as merely cute adornments - mnemonic 'features' presumably reminiscent of old country cottages, or some such sentimentalised irrelevance. 

4: The absurd complexities of the roofs (whose meaningless angulations and little window-gables expensively complicate construction, guttering and drainage provide nothing but silly stylistic cuteness). 

5: Apparently no intelligence has been applied to their potential for mediating a satisfying life in a harmonious setting: the estate's planning is a confusing muddle, the provision of services such as car-parking a haphazard mess.

When will houses be provided for grown ups - it's sickening to see such trash perversely substituted for relevant and intelligent practicality, for things/features that would really serve and improve the experience of living here (its no wonder these people, who have very little choice of house types in these small Norfolk towns and villages, buy expensive cars - it looks like an escape from their ugly, rigidly confining, babyishly stupid and historically retarded homes, into the luxury of an efficiently designed modern machine!).
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THE FANTASY OF HOME - HOUSES:  OWNER ENHANCEMENTS   ... in process

Suburban fantasy fulfillment ... house-owner 'individualising' :  

House owners' innate creativity is often invested in 'home-improvement'. However, though their primary motivation may be to individualise their mass-consumer house, their choices of embellishment are often fuelled by boastfulness (or rather 'status communication'), which must (obviously) be mediated via mass-recognisable significations. Thus, in such cases, their individualistic creativity is (ironically) restricted to mass-taste and mass-marketed style-motifs*. The rare examples of truly individual choices are as likely to attract neighbours complaints and/or the local-council's objurgation, as appreciation of their expressiveness, pleasure in novelty, and praise for originality.

* NOTE : In the arena of home re-characterising 'half-timbered Medieval' seems a more popular choice than 'Classical', probably because as a visual image it's more noticeable/identifiable and simpler to stereotype and to build (just stick some wood planks - vertical and angled - on the blank parts of an existing facade - paint them black, and wow = "instant-medieval"!). Also, in the mass-mnemonic culture it seems that 'half-timbered' evokes 'British' more than does 'Classical' - there are still a few of the real ones around, they look old and wonky (their timber warps). Classical style buildings are not obviously "historical" - they don't advertise their age via their materials, or "British" - they remind one of Julius Caesar and "ancient Greece".

HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - VILLIERS RD, KINGSTON-ON-THAMES
(pic late-1970s / built c1920s / restyle c1978) 

A straightforwardly modest council house semi, with ordinary 1920s metal-framed windows, an elegantly minimal porch and door-case, and enduring roughcast, is now eclipsed by the ferocious stylistic mélange of its other half - 'individualised' with a display of mass-taste style-signs: 'Classical' (plastic) door-case (with Lloyds logo'!); 'Elizabethan Baronial' door; 'Baroque Palace' (plastic) parterre vases; 'Cottage' side-gate with lucky-horseshoe and 'hand-wrought' nails; 'International-Modern' white walls with 'picture-windows'. When chosen and installed each motif seems to have been perceived as if alone: there is no sense of irony or awareness of their mutual subject-content tensions - [in contrast here is an example of 'solved' stylistic collage: [ROBERT ADAM - OSTERLEY HOUSE CONVERSION (1761-)]

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HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - GREAT WEST RD, OSTERLY, MDDLX
(pic 1985 / built c1920s / restyle 1980s)   ... in process

Apparently ones first encounter (with a somewhat ordinary house) must if possible inspire awe. These gate-pillars of this example are perches for lions 

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HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - 3 STANSFIELD RD, BRIXTON, LONDON, SW9
(pic 20-07-2005 / built late-19C)   ... in process

In a road bordered with anonymous developer terraces of large 3-level house-units for the burgeoning 19thC bourgeoisie, a modern owner (probably during the period of low Brixton house-values) reveals their manic desperation to re-identify and individualise their property!  [Ref: road view]

  

HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - 64 COVERTON RD, LONDON, SW17
(pic 15-11-2014 / built 19## / restyle c20##)(to EEN)    ... in process

The desire to stand out in a crowd and to assert unique (psudo-historical) value

.timber-frame

HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - 64 COVERTON RD, LONDON, SW17
(pic 15-11-2014 / built 19## / restyle c20##)(to EEN)    ... in process

HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - MAYALL RD, BRIXTON, LONDON
(pic 1986 / built c1860s / restyle 1980s)

This house in a mid 19C terrace has been 'personalised' with added motifs.

The front has been divided into two separate visual zones - the lower zone is 'medievalised': its neo-classical porch has gone and the whole portion rendered. Black on white patterning is quintessentially kitsch-medieval: black = structural timber-framing, white = plastered (brick or wattle/daub) infill. Apart from the strip of quasi 'timber-frame' (which - especially as a railway viaduct backs the house - seems in its geometric regularity to weirdly resemble a 20C industrial steel bridge truss) there seems some confusion re these stereotypical colour designations - it's as if area below the 'truss', confused by window and door, was too complex too visualise in terms of structural timbering, and has simply been blocked-in - framing the door and flanking the newly widened window (jumping across its bayed black top) like a (quite visually dynamic, though spoiled by the big builders' board leaning under it) example of 1960s 'abstraction'. The white 'infill' seems to signify rough-textured hand-applied 'daub' technique, the black parts are smooth. [Compare this, plus the next 2 examples, with some original timber-frame buildings].

The 19C door and sash windows are replaced with ones whose multi panes obscure light and view but evoke an earlier technology (an inability to make large panes) which has acquired a kitsch charm; the ground-floor window is hugely widened and is now a 'Queen Anne' bay. The originally simple brick front-garden wall was probably already elaborated.
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HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE PLUS ROW - MAYALL RD, BRIXTON, LONDON
(pic 16-08-2012 / built c1860s / 2nd restyle ?)

Sometime in the last 26 years the house was changed again. The absurd lower half is simplified, re-rendered smooth and whitened. 

Note that the original visual harmony of these terraced, but nevertheless paired houses, whose flanking doors bestowed a shared centre that afforded them an illusory dignity of doubled size and visual symmetry, is now - via silly 'individualising' by more moneyed but no less purblind owners - on the verge of irretrievable loss.

pic

HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - HINDSLEY'S PL., LONDON, SE23
(pic 12-08-2015
/ built 19## / restyle c2014)(to S)   ... in process

An attempt at a huge jump in difference, via a thin veneer of incompetent pretence.

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HOUSE PLUS OWNER-RESTYLE - HINDSLEY'S PL., LONDON, SE23
(pic 12-08-2015 / built 19## / restyle c2014)
(to SW)  ... in process

 


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INDEX

IMPROVISED ARCHITECTURE IN AMSTERDAM INDUSTRIAL SQUATS & COLLECTIVES  

IMPROVISED VILLAGES: (WANDSWORTH & KEW BRIDGE 'ECO VILLAGES')

ALLOTMENT IMPROVISATIONS - PUBLIC, LEGAL, SOCIALLY INDORSED

IMPROVISED OPEN-SITE: ("THE NOMADIC COMMUNITY GARDEN")

TEMPORARY-ARCHITECTURE: ("FRANK'S CAFE" & "SOUTHWARK LIDO")

VERNACULAR - PRAGMATISM & STYLE: (BERDUN VILLAGE BARNS & HOUSES)

"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - LIV-RM
"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA MASS-PRODUCTS & TASTE - HOUSE

"HOME" - MY LOCATION VIA PERSONAL CHOICES   

ART - GOTHIC INTO RENAISSANCE INTO EARLY 20thC

ART - 20thC COLLAGE INTO MASS-MEDIA  
GRAFFITI INTO STREET-ART 
KITSCH
CHANCE & DESIGN