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USING OWN HOME in an A844 exercise - relating to images on Open Studio (course use only)

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Wednesday, 30 Jan 2019, 21:51

Using our home to discuss the 5 qualities of architecture A844 Ex 4.2.2

Image 1 here. All images on (restricted access) https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/studio/slotedit.php?id=1312146&sid=0&type=110&ssid=608643

Image 2 here

Image 3 here

Basic exterior description

·        Form: symmetric from front elevation and based on rectangular forms under a pitched and tiled roof. Standing off the road up a short drive. Built in the 1930s of red-brick and ash-mortar (usual in homes of this era in mining country). Asymmetrically developed to back with extension (1960s?) (seen looking from the non-extended end to include scullery, downstairs toilet and over it, extending to original wall a bathroom on the first floor. A symmetrical flat-roof

·        Space: the exterior expresses the organisation of interior spaces through basic symmetry of equal-size (roughly) rooms to either side of a passage and staircase. The dominance of the passage is now concealed by conservatory across the front of the house, which is flat-roofed but has been adapted following rain entry. Space is organised as small, discrete units, with no or limited visual interconnections; no significant variation in spatial experience beyond the functional.

·        Design: theory of design ultimately derived from the modern movement’s priority of function (long, multipurpose living room). The house built on elevated ground above ground but surrounded by mature trees. All windows have been replaced by wood-effect PVC French windows and door with brass door furniture. There is a simple stained glass design in top windows of French panels. Utilitarian design veneered by effects aiming unsuccessfully at aged appearance.

·        Order: modular, in the sense that the ground plan is generated by three rectangles (living room, kitchen, dining room), which probably dictate the form.

·        Structure: load-bearing walls, red-brick with ash mortar construction.


Start with the fact that the boundary between exterior and interior is constantly compromised. There is immediate visual access to conservatory, serving as a rather cluttered art-library. From outside we see bookcases and free-standing book-piles with busts to the front (Dickens Centenary Bust and a garden ‘classical’ but of once Roman style in alabaster but strongly weathered and lichened. This stands on a ‘garden-centre’ mock classical plinth. The intention is clearly to disturn signs of exterior/interior placement in fitting with flagged flooring. Reproduction picture are there and about – an anoymous collage, reproduction Picasso & Degas.

This theme is there in visual access to back porch containing large AlastaIR Gray designed poster for his own version of Lanark as a play in the 1970s.

See conservatory from within

Image 4 here

Here ‘statuary maintain outward gaze, The conservatory has been divided at front main door by free-standing bookcases (reproduction, antiquarian and IKEA mix) and are cluttered, although the mix of outdoor / indoor continues with plant arrangement around it. Dickens squats on a plinth made to look like a pile of books. Clutter is totally embraced here, even in disposition of smaller busts of writers, artist and musicians (as well a Cretan Runner head (tourist-Crete). The dog is an essential interior feature and part of the clutter of living. Movable steps show that library is functional.

To the Passage

Image 5 here

The passage from the top of the staircase from where you get the view of the bathroom by turnind to your left (on the way down). The passage has a dog-bed near the radiator, a dog, and busts (a phrenology head) and lithographs (these are by miners who were and are also painters. You can see ‘The Nature Walk’ (of Murton Village in the East Coast of Durham) but not ‘The Pantry’ (a picture of a storage shed nearly Gothic in its conception. The section of the living roo has faux pottery, more art books and a reproduction bust of Dante wearing a rainbow gay-liberation bow-tie.


Image 6 here

Image 7 here

From Dante looking to the opposite corner note TV controls a large pouffe and a reproduction fireplace surrounded by busts of a mummy (Museum copy) and  a classical bust. The fire is pretend-natural fuelled by gas. Further busts to table with books which are being used cluttered on the table (and unseen in the pouffe). Tennyson is there but busts are otherwise classical. The other side of the sofa is bookcase with a collection of Carroll (my husband) and Hugh MacDiarmid (me) next to a reproduction Titian and topped with classical copies – including a plaster ‘satyr’ head the seller of which claimed to be one of the BM’s old reproductions. You can’t see Milton but he’s there too. The paintings are an Ashley Jackson print (from the town where I was born of Holme Moss) and an original North-East  painter’s sea painting of the North Easst coast. Little statuettes around are, of course Discobulus, Hygeia (from Athens museum) and the Boy removing a thorn.

My husband didn’t let me show the dining-room.


This is a duel idea in the literature. Queer was reclaimed by the male gay movement as a word once used negatively against ‘homosexuals’ and in this usage is positive – it blazens a desire not to be thought to be the ‘norm’. But it is also a marker of any transgression of the normation whether that be heteronormative or homonormative. In the literature, even when both senses are simultaneously used it can be important to distinguish the usesa to look at nuanced meanings. This is particularly the arena of the USA art-historian, John Potvin. I’ll use Potvin (2014). [1]

Applying this theory to the case above is a work in progress and for another time. Potvin’s (2014:23) analysis quotes a Law Society memorandum in the 1950s stated, ‘male persons living together do not constitute domestic life’. This is one context of alienation of gay men from the notion of the domestic. The second is binary gender categories which identify the feminine as if it represent a real unseen essence (identifiable in the end as the presence or absence of ‘balls’ – a less material issue that people think) that could inhabit persons of either gender. The enemy of such views are ones that see masculinity and femininity playing off against and within each other and terribly named for things so playfully interchangeable, liminal and non-essential. The third is the sexualisation of the ‘homosexual’ such that it is the primary marker of the ‘category’. Potvin’s queer interiors stress the way domesticity is marginalised in accounts of the queer, sometimes militantly since it smells of stereotyping. Potvin using literary and evidence from art carves a space for a ‘queer interior’ that situates the domestic in difference. To do this Potvin (2014:12) uses Charles Rice’s view that ‘the interior emerged in a domestic sense as a new topos of subjective interiority and … practices of self-representation in domestic life’. I hope he goes further though than ‘self-fashioning’ into redefinitions of even more sacred concepts than interiors – hearths, homes, families and communal support. Obviously this might be more hard-nosed than Kate Millett’s versions for which she paid a high price for just a bit of naivety. Its politics are radical and pedagogical. As he says (p. 29) this may surprise precisely because, ‘it is within spaces of the modern interior, rather than the alienating public sphere, that culture of this nature could actually take place’.


[1] Potvin, J. (2014) Batchelors Of A Different Sort: Queer Aesthetics, Material Culture and the Modern Interior in Britain Manchester, Manchester University Press.

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