The British Council will present the exhibition, Home Economics, in the British Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, which will run from 28 May to 27 November 2016. Home Economics responds to Biennale curator Alejandro Aravena’s theme ‘Reporting from the Front’ by tackling the frontline of British architecture: the home. The curatorial team of Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams, chosen following a competition organised by the British Council, has invited established and emerging artists, architects and designers to produce immersive 1:1 environments, which challenge the status quo and propose new futures for the home.
Home Economics asks questions of British society and architectural culture, regarding the changing rhythms and patterns of life. The exhibition unfolds through a series of five architectural propositions, designed around incremental amounts of time: HOURS, DAYS, MONTHS, YEARS and DECADES. Each participant has been asked to propose architectural responses – rather than solutions – to the conditions imposed on domestic life by varying periods of occupancy, and each response will inhabit one of the five rooms in the British Pavilion, with different participants responsible for each space.
HOURS – Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams are co-curators of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2016. Their individual practices run across teaching, planning, developing policy, designing, writing, editing and curating.
The central interior space presents a new kind of shared domestic environment, taking on the current requirements for ‘communal amenity’ in residential development. Cross-referencing research on how contemporary Britons use their homes and policies dictating minimum standards of space, the proposal reimagines sharing as potential luxury, rather than compromise.
DAYS – ÅYR (Fabrizio Ballabio, Alessandro Bava, Luis Ortega Govela & Octave Perrault) is an art collective based in London whose work focusses on interiors, domesticity, internet culture and the city.
The second proposal in the sequence imagines a new type of personal and portable space, responding to the global domestic landscape that has been created by services like Airbnb. Reflecting the increasing engagement with social media, entertainment and virtual consumption, the proposal – more than clothing, but less than architecture – demonstrates an ambivalence towards its short-term physical context.
MONTHS – Dogma is the office of Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara. Aureli has a teaching practice with Maria Scheherazade Giudici (Black Square) in London, across the AA and the RCA, looking at the political relationship between architecture, dwelling and the city.
The third proposal relates to short term residencies, in the context of temporary work contracts, study visas or student semesters. It imagines a new form of rent, where a flat monthly payment includes not only the use of space, but all domestic needs, tackling issues of privacy and domestic labour.
YEARS – Julia King is a British-Venezuelan architect who works as a sole practitioner in the UK and India, whose existing and ongoing research looks at affordable domestic typologies.
The fourth space relates to the period of years, and resists the assumption of home as an asset rather than a place to live. In these circumstances, the cost of purchasing a house is minimised, and thanks to a custom-designed mortgage product, property speculation is opposed: home improvements are made for the purpose of dwelling rather than profiteering.
DECADES – Hesselbrand is an architectural practice based in London and Oslo, founded by Martin Brandsdal, Magnus Casselbrant and Jesper Henriksson.
Very long term occupancies, suggesting intergenerational life and changing conditions of technological and physical capacities, are considered in the fifth and final space. The proposal is for a house that is defined by spatial conditions rather than specific functionality, allowing for a flexible use of space.
Each proposal is realised as a full scale model, allowing visitors to inhabit an idea rather than reading the specialist instruments of the architectural discipline, such as plans or scale drawings. Partnerships with diverse industry partners – from hoteliers to financial institutions, house-builders and planners – have informed each of the proposals, meaning that whilst bold and visionary, they are also grounded in reality. Advisors and collaborators include: Arup, Atelier One, Fergus Henderson, FJORD, Generation Rent, JW Anderson, Naked House Collective Builders, The Collective and PegasusLife. The exhibition design will be executed by the architectural practice Hesselbrand, while London-based design studio OK-RM is responsible for the exhibition navigation and graphic identity. The graphic identity includes a series of artworks accompanying the exhibition, specially commissioned by the curatorial team and produced by OK-RM in collaboration with photographer Matthieu Lavanchy.
Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams said: “Britain is in the grips of a housing crisis. This is not only a failure of supply to meet demand, it is a failure of traditional housing models to accommodate new patterns of domestic life. The way we live is changing radically through time. For the first time, we spend more hours at home looking at screens than we spend sleeping. The security of owning a home for a number of years is now out of reach for well over half of the UK under-40 population, and one in three children born in Britain now will live to 100, meaning they need homes for decades.
Home Economics is not about designing better versions of established housing models that are already broken. It is about designing new ideas of the home, understood through the duration of occupancy. That is why we have chosen participants and partners who are working outside of traditional models, pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo. We believe that British architecture is not responding to the challenges of modern living – life is changing; we must design for it.”
Vicky Richardson, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council, said: “Home Economics is an inspiring attempt to step outside of the confines of the housing debate, and to question the brief. Here, the curators have written a new brief for architects, based on a far-sighted view of what the home is and will become. They may not yet have all the solutions, but I’m convinced that their approach will shift the role architects can play in relation to the housing crisis.
The British Pavilion is a platform for international debate about ideas that can change British architecture. Home Economics continues the recent tradition of using the Venice Biennale as the basis for a research project. Through the Venice Fellowships programme, 50 students from the UK will also be able to contribute their ideas to the discussion about the architecture of the home.”
- Curatorial Team: Shumi Bose, Jack Self, Finn William. British Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. Photo by James O. Jenkins. Courtesy of British Council.
- OK-RM and Matthieu Lavanchy, Home Economics 3, 2016.
- OK-RM and Matthieu Lavanchy, Home Economics 1, 2016.
- OK-RM and Matthieu Lavanchy, Home Economics 2, 2016.