HOME\SICK: POST-DOMESTIC BLISS explores how our homes might be reconfigured and reimagined as centres of connection in spite of emigration, of intimacy in spite of digital distraction, of food and energy production rather than consumption. Our unhealthy and socially divisive addiction to home ownership and traditional idealisation of home and family are out of date for a mobile, networked and fragmented society. This experience looks at the meanings of home, from rubbish to robots and microbes to micro-dwellings, asking whether the changing nature of home is for better or worse.

Curated by Anne Enright, Anna R. Davies, Ali Grehan, Alexandra Deschamps Sonsino and Lynn Scarff.

Opening hours: Tuesday - Friday 12:00 to 20:00, Saturday & Sunday. 12:00 to 18:00, Closed Monday.

  • Gaston Bachelard, a French philosopher whose work bridged poetics and philosophy of science, wrote extensively about the meaning of home in his seminal text The Poetics of Space. Although multidimensional in nature, The Poetics of Space is fundamentally a reflection on the experiences that houses create; a reflection that considers the relationship between built form and the architecture of the imagination. Despite being written during the 1950s — a period of post-war optimism about a bright new future — Bachelard’s ideas remain just as important today as we see with greater clarity the extent of the impacts humans have on our global environment.

    In part, the houses of the future envisaged in the 1950s have become the childhood homes for many in western societies today and were indeed better built, lighter and larger than those that had gone before. Advances in material technologies, improvements in energy and water provision and increasing regulation of construction have all contributed to the physical manifestation of the 1950s dream home, but at what cost?

    Household consumption of water, energy and food in Europe has increased dramatically  since the 1950s and the environmental impacts of this growing consumption are felt far beyond our homes as global resources are extracted, transported and consumed around the world. We purchase greater numbers of electronic devices than ever before and replace these more often, and while our homes are more energy-efficient, they are larger and house fewer people who expect warmer temperatures in every room of the house. Washing machines have been joined by dishwashers, power showers and jet cleaners to comprise a suite of everyday household appliances that are hugely consumptive of water. Indeed, the increased consumption of resources in our homes has been so dramatic
    that some commentators are prophesising a ‘perfect storm’ of global conflicts driven by increasing demand for water, energy and food by 2030. In making our dreams of an ideal future house real, have we instead made our homes sick?

    As we enter the epoch of the Anthropocene, it is time to reconnect with the metaphorical childhood home of which Bachelard speaks. This means creating homes that provide comfort, security, and stability in ways that are less consumptive of natural resources and more productive of sustainable lived environments. As le Corbusier, a pioneer of modern architecture, once said “The home should be the treasure chest of living”.

    Seeking future-fit homes in this way does not mean that prospective housing will become homogenised. Indeed, reconnecting homes with local environments is likely to mean more diversity rather than less as weather, topography and the relative scarcity or abundance of certain materials begins to play a greater role in shaping the way we live. We need only look at the range of homes emerging in the tiny house movement, constructed in part due to the ‘sickness’ of contemporary living, to get a sense of the rich tapestry of design that such a reconfiguration of desires might create. What both the tiny house movement and many other sustainable household initiatives have in common is their reconsideration, very much in line with Bachelard’s treatise, of what it means to live well in our homes. All seek lifestyles which are prosperous in ways which transcend the treadmill of acquiring more and more stuff. While evidence increasingly suggests that beyond a certain point, having more material goods, products, and even resources themselves, does not lead to proportional increases in feelings of wellbeing, changing the way we live will require more than sensitivity to emotions. The complexity of modern living means we are often locked into unsustainable practices in our homes. From the physical constraints of wastewater disposal systems to the rigidity of heating options, it can be costly to extricate oneself from the legacies of past decisions. Beyond these concrete infrastructures of consumption, transformative change in the way we dwell in our homes will require new supports, new systems of education and new measures of success and fulfilment against which to benchmark the health of our homes.

    In essence, we face an urgent task of transforming our visions of dream houses into a physical reality of more sustainable homes of the future. Such a task will require fundamental reconsideration of what a good life entails and that is a debate in which everyone must have a voice.