My Home is not my Castle
has been selected for The Open 100 by Artangel amongst more than 1,500 submissions, the proposal lays open for public scrutiny the dire compromises of new housing in the UK, the ‘Ruins of the Newly Built’.
A floor plan of the precise dimensions of an average new-build two bedroom house is illustrated in scale 1:1 by a single layer of breeze blocks for walls, with internal furniture highlighted in white paint. We all have difficulty reading scaled plans, and buying a property off the shelf is even harder, as it is often impossible for the buyer to understand exactly what they are buying, as they obviously cannot visit the property. They are buying blind and this plays into the hands of commercially minded developers, who can sell a property on the strength of drawings that mask the poor quality of architechture on offer. With only a floorplan and some glossy rendered photographs to go on, the buyer is left in the dark about the amount of light and space available in the property. Even so-called ‘show houses’ are misleading, as they are kitted out with ‘luxurious décor’ and mask the rationalised and joyless living space residents are signing up for.
This sculpture shows the cramped spaces in actual dimension, which can be experienced by exploring the internal layout set beside the scaled plans shown below deliberately dramatic, polemical signs, such as ‘Warning – Harmful Housing’ and ‘DO enter. New planning laws allow countryside to be built over.’
This ‘ruin of the newly built’ thus offers an interactive experience up close, of the absurdity and shortcomings of contemporary housing.
Research at the Future Homes Commission and RIBA’s Case for Space report shows that there is not enough space in the rooms, not enough storage and not enough natural light. Insufficient flexible spaces are provided for communal and private living or changes in the household over time. New homes are not built for the needs of modern families and they are shrinking: Average new homes in the UK are 15% smaller than in Ireland, 53% smaller than in Denmark and 80% smaller than in Germany. This is a national scandal. Just as we have enjoyed the legacy of generous Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian architecture for the last two hundred years - spaces which mostly still function brilliantly for families across the UK - so we will similarly be lumbered with the current bad architecture for many decades to come too.
The UK needs a change of mentality, designing long-term homes of our dreams, playing to our fantasies, feeding our imagination, and aiming to deliver pleasure, joy and community spirit. Crucially it is the task of artists to show alternative ways for our mass housing market to go. We need housing, but it has to be delivered with vision and a generosity of spirit, as whatever is built is here to stay. On site workshops would be organised to develop such dreams with potential first time buyers and communities, which would be published in a dedicated website and brochure.
Set in the green backdrop of Finsbury Park, the site reflects the fact that green site developments are now preferred over brown site developments, even though there are now more available than ever due to deindustrialisation. New planning laws will accelerate this development for potential building as 60% of England's land area is unprotected countryside - only designated national parks will be fully safeguarded - a historic moment with an impact which is permanent and irreversible. Developments need to add value to our future and not destroy our country for short term profit.
50,000 such properties are built every year and an estimated 330,000 homes are needed to meet housing demand. This proposal brings the issues into the heart of the city. The countryside is up for sale and we will all pay the price.