Project 1: Research, drawing, presentation

We want you to find three examples of historical, architectural scale furniture/components each; specifically designed for different types of social, personal communal behaviour than that which we would see as common now.

Look out specially for things like spaces within spaces, for large components designed to deal with problems to do with energy use (to heat, cool, light specific bits of rooms for specific purposes) and for things which set up social situations which may not be familiar to us or which we would not now think of as normal.

You may find examples of these within ‘high’ architecture — Louis Kahn, the Arts and Crafts, early mediaeval castles — , but you may also find richer vernacular sources which may take more hunting down: think of old and curious houses you may have visited, places you have stayed in other parts of the world, anthropological sources like Paul Oliver’s Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World, as well as books of architectural history.

A wide range of types of examples are open to you: the key thing is to look at the direct relationship between relationship between peoples’ behaviour and comfort and a medium scale architectural object.

Examples might be:

Intimate/Public: Box beds or four poster beds — these both dealt with an environmental issue — making spaces in poorly heated buildings which were warm enough to sleep in, and privacy issues — giving a person or family intimacy within a bigger space. But they also have their own architectural language — ranging from plain or decorated cupboards to sumptuous thrones –and their own social conditions which vary widely — from the box beds in farmhouse kitchens where several families shared a single kitchen (Frijlandsmuseet outside Copenhagen, Wuthering Heights) to Versailles, where the monarchs beds were a public dais for state occasions.

Collective/Social/ functional spaces like inglenook fireplaces in English pubs or farm, used for cooking, for smoking meat etc, and also as a warm seating area in cold weather. Even more extreme versions of this can be founds in inns in the Carnian Alps of Italy where the fireplace forms a whole room.

On the other hand, in hot climates, houses were arranged around tanks for collecting water in open courtyards, often with people sleeping and cooking around these.

Everyday and structurally integrated components like staircases, where the arrangement relates to the social structure of the house (eg hidden servants staircases in buildings like Hardwick Hall ¬– see Decoding Homes and Houses by Juliet Hanson, on Google Books). Or window sets – Georgian sash windows with hanging and shutters which open, close, warm, and screen the in a highly varied and intimate way while forming part of the grand language of the house. Many farmhouse windows and grander window-seats were designed as task working spaces where people could make the most of both daylight and views while sewing, spinning, weaving, writing etc, but they also become key parts of the architectural expression.

DO NOT INVENT COMPONENTS AT THIS STAGE – there will be plenty of time for this later. The real world can offer you far stranger and richer resources to start work from.

When you have selected your three components, you should make three beautiful drawings to describe them to us, one for each element. You will need to present three beautiful drawings, where you should carefully select the mode — perspective, plans, sections, diagrams etc — to suit what you have found. You need to make sure these drawings express both their architectural language and the way in which you have discovered (or imagine) that they worked practically and socially.

If in doubt, stick to fairly conventional drawings like plan, section, perspective or detailed diagram and adapt them to suit your needs. In any case, all three drawings should be utterly beautiful. Remember these will be the first things in your new portfolios.

Kester Rattenbury
Sean Griffiths

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