From Homemaking to Placemaking

“Architecture that doesn’t respect the past is not respecting the present, because it is not respecting peoples’ primary need from architecture, which is to build a long standing home.” – Roger Scruton

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I have a lot of baggage in regards to architecture. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be an architect. But when I finally got the chance to study architecture, I failed… dropping out in my third year of study. What I was being taught in college had no bearing whatsoever on what I considered to be architecture, so I turned my back on my studies and instead worked in archaeology over the past 20 years as a surveyor.

However in more recent years I began to become interested in architecture again. This came about mainly by being offered more work carrying out historical building surveys and by discovering INTBAU.

Although my interest in architecture was growing once more, it still felt like a risk to attend the INTBAU/ Ax:son Johnson Foundation European Summer School in Classical Architecture (ESSCA) in Sweden this summer. My love of architecture had been spoiled once before and I was somewhat defensive and sceptical of all architectural education. Thankfully I need not have worried. ESSCA exceeded my expectations in every way; in terms of experience, knowledge, tutors, projects and colleagues. I can say without any doubt that my ESSCA experience was exceptional.

It was odd then to find myself struggling somewhat halfway through the month long course; during my first design project. For some inexplicable reason I felt incredibly homesick. It did not take me long to realise that there was more going on here than simply learning about architecture.

The first design brief was very broad; to design a house to fit into a 12m x 12m x 12m cube. It was clear from early on that most people took a very personal approach to their designs. It was incredible to see how each project was not just a reflection of each student’s ideas about architecture, but also a reflection of their personal background and experience. We were not just designing buildings, we were all creating homes; and homes are the very essence of architecture.

Although this was my first proper architectural design, I think that I can say that I know a thing or two about making a home, spending much of the past 6 years as a stay-at-home dad with my young son. On an unconscious level, my time as a homemaker was being expressed through my architectural design and it felt difficult to not to share that experience without my family close to me. It’s also no coincidence that my resurgent interest in architecture came about after the birth of my son. Architecture is essentially about creating homes; homes for families, communities, cities or nations; homes for congregations, businesses, civil institutions and for entertainment. This simple little design project crystallised for me why I was doing what I was doing, and it tore away the shackles that I had felt for so long. From that point on I felt myself being able to completely invest myself in the work and develop in a way that I did not realise was possible.

To all involved in ESSCA 2016, from tutors, organisers, sponsors and my classmates, I thank you. But most of all I would like to thank my family, the real reason why home is important to me.

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3 thoughts on “From Homemaking to Placemaking

  1. Reblogged this on CARTA at CU Denver and commented:
    We’re delighted to re-blog Hugh Kavanaugh’s experience on the inaugural European Summer School in Classical Architecture sponsored by the International Network of Traditional Building, Architecture, and Urbanism and the Ax:son Johnson Foundation. Home and place are indeed critical issues today in architecture, urban design, landscape, and planning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Christine for all your support.

      As I type this I can look across at my drawing board to an emerging Tuscan order taken from R.A. Cordingley’s “Orders of Architecture”. I’m determined to keep educating myself and with the solid foundation of ESSCA to work from I am putting together a curriculum to follow. Now at least I know where to start and putting an order (pardon the pun) on all this scattered knowledge is proving to be a joy.

      Best of luck in all your future endeavors

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Summer School in Sweden is a Solid Foundation for rediscovering our Architectural Roots – Scrawling from the wreckage

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