For the first time ever the bed has become the most used piece of furniture within the British household. The British ‘Home Economics’ Pavilion responds to Alejandro Aravena’s theme Reporting from the Front through the lens of Britain’s housing crisis. The curators Jack Self, Shumi Bose, and Finn Williams claim the problem is not one of numbers, yet of design, where concepts of ownership, domesticity and privacy need to be challenged.
“As a place of production and reproduction, [the bed] has become a place where people work and relax, socialize and sleep”
Located along the main pathway of the Giardini and minimal in design, the first room of the British Pavilion encourages an immediate interaction with a series of modular daybeds scattered throughout the room. With lounging or napping visitors taking a break from the exhibits, the curators intended to present a new kind of reconfigurable communal living and shared space.
The central wardrobe is the first to shed light on this concept, depicting it as “a luxury, not a compromise”. With a sequence of five 1:1 immersive models of the household, the pavilion features them in relation to different time frames of occupancy: the hours, days, months, years sand decades rooms.
The second room, ‘day’s’, designed by London based art collective åyr, offers insight on portable living spaces. Filled by two large inflatable pod-like spheres it is one of the most interactive rooms, with people taking turns to climb into each of these playful pods.
The “Months’ room designed by Dogma and Black Square expands on the idea of shared living. Neither a hotel, nor a rented apartment – this intimate two level totem represents private quarters within a communal household. Intended as one of many totems located on a single level, it sparingly contains the necessary private activities separate from the more social spaces surrounding it. Such private spaces include a bathroom on the ground level and a secluded sleeping area on a raised level, whereas the communal spaces include a kitchenette area in the back.
The ‘years’ room, designed by British-Venezuelan architect Julia King, depicts a home stripped down to its bare minimum. Resembling Aravena’s firm, Elemental’s low-cost ‘incremental’ housing scheme, where only half of a house is constructed, leaving the other portion to be built by residents; King’s model similarly adopts a carte blanche approach. Designed from the point of view of the bank, it is intended to cut down mortgage costs, giving owners a greater flexibility to build, recycle or resell.
Finally the ‘decades’ room, designed by the architecture practice Hasselbrand considers long-term occupancies. Devoid of predetermined rooms or activities, it offers flexibility in use and programs, where space is divided by its qualities, whether it be light and dark, open and closed or public and private.
Overall, the ‘Home Economics’ exhibition provides reflections rather than final solutions to the British housing crisis. Today’s front in Britain lies in an ongoing separation from Europe, where the fate of the housing market remains scarred by doubt and instability. With an uncertain future ahead, these five models of ownership, financing, and the home provide the stepping-stones for what is needed to cope with a constantly changing status quo.
“Life is changing: we must design for it.”
Home Economics is open to the public throughout the 15th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia
From 28 May to 27 November 2016