I hope you have a good home or better yet a loving home life. Sadly, many cannot boast of that – either a home or a positive home life. Nevertheless, most of us, who would be reading a blog online, most likely have somewhere to call home and in some respects a place that is somewhat pleasant, or at least keeps out the rain. What makes that place of shelter a home? Don’t answer that, because there’s no definitive answer, nor is that necessary right now. Except…
Can an architect aid in that process? I know we design houses (physical objects – not family relationships), but can our work, can our contributions, can our experience assist in making that house more of a home? Perhaps I am projecting an air of hubris, but let me explore this avenue with you.
Several weeks ago, I was somewhat responsible for putting my family through the frustration from minor renovation projects in our home of which painting was the primary culprit. We had a painter paint most of our first-floor walls and ceilings. Ten years went by and it needed a change – one I had pondered for the past nine years. There’s more to the story, but the relevant part is for two weeks, we lived among drop cloths, moved furniture and plastic taped to the walls, knowing that the next morning the painters would return. This left a feeling of impermanence with us that grew quite unpleasant. Once it was complete, we were able to go back to our routines and regained our sense of permanence, an ingredient I believe, in a sense of home. We love the changes we made (Ok, our son didn’t, but that’s another story).
Statistics tell us that people move frequently. Some sources state that we will move six or move times in our lifetime (the Census bureau reported 11.7 times in our lifetime actually). I can boast of a dozen times if I count my college years. Regardless of the specific number, we can all agree it is many times. What if that could be reduced? Should that be reduced? What if you chose not to ever move again or do you enjoy that process?
I wonder, just wonder if we (architects) were given more influence over a person’s home, would they be less apt to move? Audacious you say? If we eliminated the variables beyond a person’s control that force them to move (i.e. job change, divorce, family structure change, unemployment, natural disaster), what could cause a person to want to stay in their current house – indefinitely? What would give them the sense of permanence, comfort, sentimentality, and I’ll say it – love for their house, for their home or even where they live? What if one couldn’t even make them move?
No one needs an architect to have a home (or even a house for that matter). People have had homes for thousands of years without us pesky architects, and we may me more mobile now than we have ever (history or anthropology majors can set me straight if I’m wrong). I believe, from my limited narrow experience that people do not love their homes, nor do they feel a sense of permanence in them. “Once the kids leave, we plan to move to…” “As soon as <<insert event>>, we are out of here.” “I don’t want to <<insert change>>, because we don’t know how long we are going to live here.”
I designed our house, my family makes it a home, but I believe the thoughtful, deliberate decisions Amy and I made in the planning contribute to it or facilitate it being a home more so than other places we lived. In fact, I wrote about that earlier this year. I believe that, and we’re not moving if we can help it. We love it.
This is nebulous territory, but I love the warm water of ambiguity. I will just end it here and let you share what you think.
(psst…this is the part where you talk…)