To understand what a “Home” is, the books ‘At Home’ by Bill Bryson and ‘At Home: An anthropology of a domestic space’ by Irene Cieraad are referred in the following blog.
After the world wars, western countries had a need of small and cheap mass produced houses. For fast construction, the focus shifted to open plan from closed plan. This era of modernism focused on ease of use, ease of maintenance, and minimal aesthetics. According to Le Corbusier, Modernism and open plan meant liberation of the house from the past. In open plans, designer started merging the functions and spaces to minimize the cost and area. Open plans gave freedom to the users. But accepting this new type of houses was difficult for users. They divided the merged spaces with partition walls to create a closed plan. People struggled to adapt to the change and hence, the phase of transition gave a new meaning to modernism for common people. How people understood modernism was very different from the idea of modernism created by designers. This is one of the reasons of failure of modernism in housing.
This phase of transition also made the designers think what a home means for people. According to an experiment to understand the experience of atmosphere and relationships between psychological and architectural factors of a home, people were asked ‘what is pleasant in their homes?’. The answers were mostly feelings or psychological state but connecting them to architectural factors like arrangement and connections of rooms, size of the room, and physical enclosure of the room suggest the relationship between both. As a designer, one could question how do we determine the size of the activities? There are so many uses of the home that don’t get discourse in the brief. In such cases, creating more space is not important but creating space for multiple uses is.
When we talk about home, it is not just a physical intervention or ‘a machine to live in’. House has its emotional needs too. Most of the households have gender roles and hierarchy that is specific to region and culture. For most of the people, home means family. Conflicts and negotiations among the family make the home a common space for each individual. It’s important to see if each individual has his/her own private space in the home. Women, who are expected to be the in-charge of the house, don’t usually find their own personal space in the home. Home is much more than a physical intervention for the people living in, and that is something we forget when we build the houses.
For construction companies and builders, a house is merely a mode of profit. When they build a house, they build the same layout for everyone. But every house is sold to unique individuals. The only way an individual can customize the house is through furniture and organization. All this customization and changes inside the house suggests a lot about the culture. There is still a difference between what a plan suggests and how society behaves. Designers must ask themselves while proposing post-modern living units if they want to cater the society as a service provider who makes clients happy with grand and attractive brochures or as a professional who understands what is best for the society as a whole and cater to it in best interest.