In the 1970s, as in the seventeenth century, maintaining the home was a role mainly undertaken by women. There were, however, no longer maids’ rooms in the house. Women were expected to stop their professional careers, or aspirations, as becoming a housewife was put forward as the ultimate dream.1 In reality, however, being a housewife meant that women had to make their own desires subordinate to the welfare of children and husband; it meant a retreat from society. The frustration of the housewife was first voiced in America by the writer Betty Friedan, in The Feminine Mystique in 1963, after she had interviewed women who were housewives, who told her, independently, how dissatisfied they were with their lives.2 The feminist sociologist Anne Oakley articulated the lot of the English housewife, working away in the isolation of her home, a job that was repetitive, boring, undervalued and unpaid.3
From the perspective of a housewife, it is the lack of control that makes cleaning and maintaining so frustrating; the repetitiveness of the actions. Clothes are washed but become dirty again. Dishes get used, personal belongings get left behind, and food gets eaten. Everything about housework is fleeting and repetitive, without a permanent result or any perceptible, or material, rewards. Household tasks have to be executed over and over again and only lack of maintenance is apparent in a home.
The repetitiveness and mindlessness of cleaning, however, are turned around in Zen and the Art of Housekeeping, 2008.4 Its author, Lauren Cassel Brownell, depicts cleaning, housekeeping and mothering in a holistic unity. The process of cleaning, through its rhythms and repetitions, becomes therapeutic according to Cassel Brownell, who likens each cleaning action to a Zen-concept. Housekeeping becomes a path to enlightenment and empowers, rather than destroys, the mind. Cassel Brownell leads the life of the suburban housewife; the life depicted critically in writings and art projects in the 1970s. However, Cassel Brownell made the conscious choice to stay home. Before she became a housewife, she had a full-time job outside the house, and felt she had no time to care for her home and children. She then chose to be a housewife, though did feel the need to share her experiences and opinions with wider society and wrote a book about it.5
The above, however, almost echoes the glorifying role the sisters Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher-Stowe ascribed to the housewife and the scientific management of her tasks in the American Woman’s Home, 1869. The book was an attempt to ‘elevate the honour and remuneration of domestic employment’, as ‘the chief cause of woman’s disabilities and sufferings’ is ‘that woman are not trained, as men are, for their peculiar duties’.6 It gave precise descriptions, not unlike Zen and the Art of Housekeeping, of how to clean and how to stay happy, as the chapter ‘Good Temper in the Housekeeper’ suggests. Whereas the earlier book bases its advice on Christian values, the later bases its wisdom on Buddhist teaching. Both underscore the importance of maintaining the home, not only for family, but also for the wider community. Both rely on a single person, the mother, to look after the home and its inhabitants.
Sarah Pink, in her book Home Truths: Gender, Domestic Objects and Everyday Life, 2004, looks at the art of cleaning and the impact that the practice of cleaning has on people. According to her, the typical housewife is generally portrayed as deeply unhappy; dependent, depressed and obsessed with cleanliness.7 Even though this stereotypical housewife is often referred to as a target of scorn by Pink’s informants, neither Pink nor her informants ever actually met a housewife that answered to the description given above.8 In contrast, she found that the housewives she met and those that are mentioned by her informants are admired for their skills and for their expert knowledge of, for example, laundry.9 Is the typical housewife now a 1960s ghost? In the drawing, three 1960s housewife ghosts are featured doing laundry and tidying up. The landscape is littered with dirt, laundry, folding and sweeping.
1. This was the case in several countries; the Netherlands, the US, and Britain, but the suburban Housewife was predominantly found in the USA.
2. Friedan, 1972; Oakley, 1976.
3. The Housewife, 1974.
4. Lauren Cassel Brownell, 2008.
5. She also found time to write a book about it.
6. Harriet Beecher Stow, 1869, L 6 – 13 [Kindle edition.]. Jacob Cats emphasised the importance of education for women in the 17th century, (De Mare, 2003, pp376-377).
7. Pink, 2004, p. 88.
8. Idem. p. 88.
9. Idem, p. 94.
Ideas — For small and medium stations
The station and station approach are combined in a green pedestrian bridge that crosses the railway line creating a community garden close to the town. The bridge will serve three functions: it will link the station to the towns’ centre (many stations in small towns are outside of the centre). It makes crossing the railway line safe for pedestrians and it allows wildlife and flowers to cross.
The station will be placed underneath the bridge and the remaining space underneath the bridge will be used as offices and community services: just like the space underneath the traditional railway arches has been the home to small businesses and start-ups and a place of urban regeneration. The ends of both sides of the bridge will be used as bicycle storage. In the station hub there is space for amazon pick up points and cash machines together with the ticket selling machines.
The bridge can come in different widths, depending on the size of the town and can have stairs at one or both ends if there is no space for the full bridge at the specific station.
On top of the bridge we propose a series of ‘pavilions’. These can be designed as part of the station, but also by local artists and architects to make the station recognisable for travellers. The pavilions can house community cafés, food distribution centres/offices or consultancy rooms.
The proposal uses the traditional function of the railway arches as places of regeneration while making them as a link between the station and the towns. The proposed structure is a series of timber arches that will support a CLT slab. The CLT would be dimensioned in such a way that it will be easy to expand the bridge and add pavilions to it. Rain water will be collected and reused to water the plants on the bridge which will also use hydroponic technology.
In the traditional dolls’ house objects are assembled in a room, or box. In the dolls’ house of Petronella Oortman, still visible in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam over 700 objects were displayed in nine boxes. All objects were made to scale.
The interior of the Perspex dolls’ house can be compared to a theatre. The contents of the house are reduced to a series of tableaux; Furniture, Bathrooms, Kitchens, wallpaper and configurations of prototypical people are composed on strips and slide through the house and are made of Perspex.
A series of etched backdrops depict moods and ideas: movement, thoughts and poems. These drop down through slots in the top of the box.
Personal photographs, which bring together space, actions and personal memories are engraved in timber, perhaps a more living material than Perspex which stands, in this case, for the generic and impersonal. The scale of the components doesn’t correspond with the real scale of the events but of the memory it takes up. So photographs of ‘important, or unimportant events’ are burned on timber cut outs.
A picture of the façade is printed on paper and can be stuck to the front of the box to give the house an address. The façade has not been important for the interior of the dolls house. The early Dutch dolls houses didn’t have a façade. In discussions on the home and the house, activities and content are always spoken of in terms of interior, not the exterior.
The terraced house perhaps shows how many people move through a house over time. Many terraced houses are over 100 years old. In each house people come and go with or without children, furniture and their own rules to occupy the house. What makes the house a home is the combination of the generic, but vital elements of the home so people can create their personal memories. These can take place anywhere in the home, but the event in combination with the place where it took place and what took place create for occupants the geography of the home.
When building a house, it seems nowadays this creates as many choices as there are in a supermarket: you draw what you want and we can build it. The supermarket has at least pre-packaged items. You want potato crisps? Narrow it down to organic, slightly salted, healthy and a few brands remain.
With rainpipes it is different and there are a few routes:
Reinventing the rainpipe. How does the water really flow and would changing the flow of the water shape the rainpipe (Assuming that water hasn’t changed much over the last millennia, is this perhaps a slightly arrogant route: who am I to change the course of water.)
Look at different solutions globally: in Japanese temples the water comes down a chain. This was also used by the architect Aldo van Eijck, but would result in cultural appropriation these days. As the new house is in a coastal area, with a lot of wind this solution may not be so good as the wind will blow the water off the chain.
Look around. This is what I have done. Near Morden, an industrial building, huge brickwall with square rainpipes coming down. In our victorian terraced street: rain pipes coming down in many materials, straight from a gutter, no hoppers. Many services to Victorian houses were applied after the houses were built, so the facades are often decorated with all kinds of pipes and wires which once represented progress.
Examine what the building needs: it is not an isolated problem and should make sense with the rest of the façade.
What if we couldn’t see the building on a site? This could be the task of architects in the country. Let’s make them invisible through dressing them in cloaks of greenery. Like the mirror houses in Sweden, where the green is reflected everywhere and seem invisible and yet are very obviously made of glass when they reflect the sun, or when the birds fly into them (observed by Jennifer Frewen). The house should be the tree perhaps.
The trees should take preference with the landscape, and birds and their nests, since we are treading on their territory, rather than the other way around. Why do we allow nature to be draped around the house as another commodity, just enough to balance it with the square footage of the house itself.
The writer/Architect Adolf Loos wrote: ‘but the architects have the wall.’ In a rant against designers and decorators who obscured the wall with large furniture items and decorations. But now architects have trees? Have architects been afraid too long to rant and take sides and be moralistic, rather than go with the flow? Has innovation and daring taken over everything else?
I first wrote about houses and their place in the landscape in 2015 and we are all moving on: climate crisis has prompted an interest in sustainable building and solar panels and ground source heat pumps and other alternatives to fuel. However, clients are still told to maximise the m2 of the site. Scale, or lack of it is also an environmental issue.
We need more awareness of the impact a building has on its environment visually during the day as well as at night. Before planning permission we encourage clients to check the sight lines around their future home and consider the impact of it on the surrounding landscape. How much space is left around the building for trees and nature? If not much one can reduce the space of the house perhaps: Could people sleep in small guest rooms? Could guestrooms double as a study: does one need to have a large toilet? Or is it more interesting to have a few large spaces that look larger because the surrounding bedrooms and loos are smaller. In the Alhambra in Grenada the Large Patios are connected with small passages: the contrast makes the patios seem larger.
The early modern houses of Le Corbusier, and E1027 by Eileen Gray and the Rietveld Schroeder house were modest in scale. They explored a different use of space: they doubling up functions, and used smaller furniture in order to make the houses seem larger than they were. Eileen Grey used foldable furniture that could change in function. Windows were used as an expansion of the interior as well as to blur distinctions between interior and exterior. The Sonneveld House, for the director of the Van Nelle Factory, built in 1933 by the firm Brinkman and van der Vlugt had all furniture made: the furniture is small and flexible and the house feels therefore larger than it is.
Traditional arts and crafts and cottages were also originally small and are blown up out of proportion to combine modern wishes; large private bathrooms and kitchen islands, with the required arts and crafts look. The two don’t necessarily go together. Cottages are small by nature. Low thatched roofs look just right in a landscape and don’t compete with the surrounding trees. Scaled up, however, they will always look wrong: too high, and oddly proportioned. [ Large country houses were designed with the landscaping around them and there were only a few. traditionally have enough land around them to balance architecture and nature.]
Traditional Cornish Cottage – new build, living in harmony with the surroundings and with traditional materials.
The last impact on the environment is light: make sure the windows have curtains at night. Darkness is nurturing for nature. Glow worms, bats and owls all thrive in the dark.
After the current pandemic, where we had a glimpse of nature we hadn’t enjoyed in almost fifty years, people want to move to the countryside. Please if you move to the country try to not take too much of the city with you and look at the elements of the country you want to preserve and embrace before you commence building.