Retreats and Escapes
Varieties of Dwelling _ Douglas Murphy
The recent Venice Biennale attempted to ask ethical questions about contemporary architectural practice, and as ever, one of the main problems is that of housing. In a world of refugee crises, informal settlements and housing crises in the advanced economies, the future of housing, and architecture’s role in it, is politically vital.
At different times, architecture has asked challenging questions about what it means to live, or to dwell. The twentieth century industrialised the provision of housing, but fundamentally the house remains a stationary, place-held object, for all intents and purposes an eternal part of the human landscape. Attempts have been made to dislodge this permanence, but the home is a remarkably enduring political object.
But architecture is frequently called upon to create living spaces that are not permanent, that are inhabited infrequently, or that can be moved and relocated if necessary. Spaces at the edge of dwelling, such as hotels, hostels, cabins and retreats, can give an impression of how the architecture of the home is in flux, and how it might change over time.
From Burial Mounds to Secular Chapels _ Douglas Murphy
Most functions in architecture are a matter of cost and efficiency – the cheapest and most simple method is usually best, and it is vitally important that users of a building are not slowed down, confused or distracted as they go about their tasks. But throughout the history of architecture, the discipline has been called upon to create spatial effects that are beyond the everyday, and that encourage meditative or spiritual states of mind in the user.
The tools at an architect’s disposal include the ways in which space is moved through, the size and shape of the building, and the cultural meanings within its structural and decorative system. But furthermore, the basic senses of the user – the quality of light, the type and texture of material, sounds and smells can all be manipulated by the architect in order to bring the user out of their sense of everyday experience.
In this article we will examine some recent structures that use various strategies to provide meditative and spiritual spaces. The designs may be small, and contemporary, but they all bring timeless manipulations of basic natural effects into play as part of their architectural methodology.