This week I teamed up with Philip Singleton in order to set each other a brief to work on during the week. Looking back at my fellow students briefs I do wonder whether I should have been far more prescriptive rather than giving him the option of choosing between two one word options!
However Philip replied with two very brief briefs of his own :-
1 Architecture that shocks
2 Faded Halloween
My initial thoughts were to plump for ‘Faded Halloween’ as this is the Holiday Night which has really been taken to heart by the gay community as a wonderful excuse to dress-up and forget your cares in a frivolous display of campness. I would have liked to find a suitable model to dress in a tattered ripped costume to photograph in a glossy cinematic style collapsed in a drunken heap in some dark alley. Unfortunately I was restrained by cost, time, lack of model & weather so I quickly switched.
Architecture that shocks is an interesting idea to explore in Cornwall as we have very little in the way of any forms of radical or interesting architecture. The only thing I initially thought of was a sculpture that had been recently erected in the city centre of Truro. Depicting a naked drummer cast from Bronze and Tin it raised quite a few eyebrows, partially as the male figure was naked, but mostly because, unlike classical sculpture, he is moderately well endowed. But this is public art & does not really constitute architecture.
There is often a great deal of ‘NIMBY’ outrage whenever any planning application is requested. Whether this is for something like the Eden Project or just someone sub-dividing their garden to build a bungalow. This sub-division brought me round to the thoughts of modern houses and how they seem to cram as many properties onto any building plot without much thought to those who would be potential purchasers or tenants.A survey recently found the UK to have the smallest new build properties in the whole of Europe – this is what I find to be shocking. It seems to be all about the profit & we accept this as no alternative is offered to us. So desperate are we to have a roof over our heads we will happily haggle over the smallest of properties – see this report on ‘Rabbit Hutch Britain’ in the Independent –
So how do I translate this visually? The song ‘Little Boxes’ by Malvina Reynolds soon became an ear-worm so I set out to find some suitable Rabbit Hutch housing. This was not difficult as there is no end of large housing estates filled with tiny houses across the country and one over the other side of my town has some particularly tiny little bungalows. I found it immensely ironic that while doing the shoot one of the property owners asked what I was doing & immediately picked up on ‘Little Boxes’ without even being prompted.
I found it interesting that some of them had been ‘decorated’ in, what to me, seemed like a desperate attempt to bring some individuality or joy to these tiny little soulless prefabricated homes. This put me in mind of the works of Bernd and Hilla Becher whose monochrome topographic displays of buildings brought the eye to their similarities of structure and functionality.
Bernd and Hilla Becher: Fachwerkhäuser Siegener Industriegebiet
(Framework Houses, Industrial district of Siegen from 1959-1973)
Some minor editing in Photoshop enabled me to create the following monochrome grid of dull, low contrast, featureless images which I pray do not mirror the character of their owners.