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The English Minimal Home

Part 2 Project 2013
Ben Northover
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK
“There is no display or sign of high living, no outward showmanship or magnificence... The greatest possible solidity and comfort are thought essential.”
- Herman Mutthesius ‘The English House’ (1904)

This is a research-led design project exploring contemporary family life by rethinking the home, drawing also on Herman Mutthesius’ work on the English house at the end of the 19th century. The design of the traditional English House at the end of the 19th century had shaped and been shaped by the domestic practices over generations.

This project is not restricted to a singular site, it has been developed as a set of principles in response to the current condition of the family home as well as drawing on what has been lost or become hidden from the traditional English House. There is a breakdown in communication within the home and between the home and the city. The separation between working and living alongside increasing working hours diminishes the place of the home as the central focus of the family. Our dependence on technology encourages us to speed up every aspect of our daily lives at the expense of meaningful communication.

The English Minimal Home increases potential for communication at the scale of the home and the city. The ambition is to slow down the domestic practices involving the shared production, preparation and consumption of food in order to increase potential communication at both scales. The functional technology and quantity of space are reduced to an extreme minimum to necessitate sharing in the everyday practices of the family rather than relying on the assistance of technology.

The design principles embodied in the project transfer into a construction system that can be applied to any site. The approach is to carve out rooms rather than divide up space, where the surface material of any given area is specific to its function. These volumes are handcrafted in a workshop, reintroducing a lost sense of craftsmanship in production, and craned into the masonry shell on site.

Ben Northover

Prof Andrew Holmes

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