“A house is a machine for living in,” wrote architect Le Corbusier in his typically unsentimental way. At October’s home-themed Nicer Tuesdays last night we rounded up three creatives who offered rather less extreme but nonetheless absorbing approaches to the various places we call home. From floating houses to sacrificial smart products to meticulously constructed photomontages inspired by family albums, we heard it all.
First to the stage was Nitipak ‘Dot’ Samsen, a partner at tech-savvy design practice Umbrellium who took us back several years to a project inspired by his self-described obsession with carbon footprints. Dot told us he had calculated that one day of breathing could kill a tree. “But I can’t stop breathing, can I?” he asked. So instead he devised, through methods as strange as microwaving numerous plants and working out their carbon content, a plant pot with a power socket to offset an appliance’s carbon footprint. This he called a “sacrificial device” because, he assured us, “something has to die.” Fast forward eight years to the age of smart products and Natural Fuse, as it is known, is an example of what Dot called Umbrellium’s focus on the smart citizen vs. the smart city.
Next up was visual artist and RCA graduate Liron Kroll, who opened her talk with images from her family photo album. She talked about how as things moved from private to public, Facebook had displaced the family album, and from there she took us on a surreal and slightly eerie journey into her work. Interested in restaging everyday moments in people’s lives and homes, Liron’s process often sees her take apart hundreds of photographs taken in different times and places and reassemble them as disquietingly perfect images. She calls these fake “real” photographs. “Sometimes I remember events that never happened,” read a line in one of her video works High Expectations, a kind of moving photo album which hints at the way our memories these days are, at least visually, quite carefully curated.
Our third and final speaker last night was architect Carl Turner, whose talk delved into ideas of how to build a home rather than a house. Carl told us a major point of difference in his practice as an architect is the idea of thinking through making, and most unusually, he doubled as the contractor on almost all of the projects he spoke about. “Everyone has a different idea of home,” he said. This idea was made all the more apparent when he ran through projects as varied and challenging as converting a four metre-wide garage into a house entirely cast from concrete, outfitting an entire barn with strawboard, experimenting with ideas about pre-fab housing when building his own home, a housing scheme of 250 rental homes, a supermodular floating home whose plans are available for download and a recent project that involved building homes from shipping containers.
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