“The Place of Houses” was not an accidental choice for yesterday’s blog. It’s actually the title of a book by architect Charles Moore, published in 1974, shortly after I began teaching. I note that it was reprinted in 2001 and hope that it’s still around.
Two aspects of Moore’s approach were useful (to me in the design studio and, I suspect, to laypeople intent on building a home of their own). First, there is the notion of “ordering systems” as a way of structuring or grouping typical program elements of a single-family residence: Moore suggests the ordering of rooms, machines, and dreams, that is, from the practical and pragmatic to the poetic and metaphysical.
The other component consists of a questionnaire at the back of the book, a chapter titled “Yours.” Here Moore challenges our notion of rooms, the gerunds we use to label spaces and pin narrowly defined functions to them. Ask a client, for example, about the required size of their dining room and you’ll get a number of chairs related to how many people seated at Thanksgiving for the turkey and dressing. Rather, Moore asks the far more fundamental question: Where do you eat? If we are thoughtfully honest, the answers are 1) standing in the kitchen, 2) lying down in bed, 3) sitting on the floor in the family room, or 4) walking out the door for the morning commute. What, then, do we actually do in the dining room? you ask. Likely answers might include: monthly bill paying; tax preparation on April 14th; jigsaw puzzles on rainy days; sewing projects; and (in more libertarian households) having sex.
How the citizens of Agincourt occupy their homes is none of my business. What they live in, however, is of particular concern and may drive my thinking during the holidays between semesters.