A Time For New Dreams?

Fri 1 Feb 2019
Issue 19 image 2

While government and professionals focus on practical solutions to the housing questions of the day, others are seizing the opportunity to think deeply and differently. The sheer number of housing exhibitions, talks and film shows (including Living with Buildings, Home Futures and Dilapidated Dwelling) bear witness to a rising sensation that a new approach is needed.

What could that approach be? Charting the relationship between health and architecture from the 19th century to the present day: 'To look again at the things that surround us and to think about how our health relates to them,' The Welcome Foundation gives perspective to today’s search for well-being, looking at Dickensian slum housing, post-war development, garden cities and contemporary healthcare building. 

Issue 19 image 2

Image: Patrick Keiller

Perhaps space in a global economy is exemplified, not so much by the airport or the office tower, as by ... the dilapidated dwelling.

What does it mean to live in a culture that finds it so difficult to produce new domestic architecture?

Keiller’s film essay mapped the poor state of homes in Britain, worried about land ownership, housebuilders’ supremacy and heralded offsite construction. Nineteen years on from its release, it is striking how very little has changed. It is a film both prescient and incomplete. Keiller himself now wants to follow paths then suggested by Doreen Massey and Saskia Sassen about reorganising the domestic and nation state and family life.

Some of those paths are followed by Homes Futures, Living in Yesterday’s tomorrow at the Design Museum. The exhibition asks ‘What would the architects and designers of the 20th-century have thought of the home today? How might Le Corbusier have designed a smart home? Would Superstudio have created an Amazon Echo?’. 

Impressive themes to take on in a design exhibition, from whether a life of nomadism is with us now and what it means for home, to whether technology has changed the way we live and designing domestic labour. 

Do the books, films, exhibitions and articles, the almost obsessive pile of solutions, actually tell us the same thing? That the answers may already be with us? That by engaging with the radical future already here, we might finally be able to see? Perhaps it is time to listen to people outside government and housing professionals?

Cover image: Home Futures

Until next week. Please make sure to send in your ideas to info@designnetwork.org.uk
Author: Jane Briginshaw, Design England

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