In the 1990s, Peter and Alison Smithson coined the term “glut” to refer to the vast amount of objects people collect, and then store, as a result of the plentiful consumerism of the end of the last century 1&2. This project revisits the Smithsons’ study of “glut” by exploring how the proliferation of artefacts puts pressure on space in the home.
Researchers and designers from the University of the West of England’s Department of Architecture and the Built Environment have been examining the changing nature of “stuff” kept in the home, seeking to understand how these ordinary collections are impacting on the way we inhabit our living spaces.
Storage needs are reactive to changing social, economic, technological and demographic drivers. Whilst homes themselves, the “containers”1, are static and sometimes unchangeable, that which is “contained”1 by them (the “glut”) changes through time. In today’s consumer driven society, new objects are acquired and need to be stored. The home needs to expand its storage capacity to accommodate the increase of artefacts. Conversely, in past times of hardship, objects were not frequently acquired or replaced and valuable space in the home was used for more practical uses. In this project, a new perspective on the ordinary is sought by understanding these collections of every day prosaic objects and how they currently occupy space in our homes.
Using a participatory research methodology the project has used photographs sent by contributors as a way of transcribing how the user sees and records these everyday collections within the home, at a particular moment in time. The researchers understand that the photographer or the participant is not an objective recorder but a subjective one. The photographs are a tool through which the participants express their perceptions of the everyday collections of stuff related to their consumerism practices.
This installation systematically presents more than 200 collected photographs of “stuff”, conveying a domestic reality where the home is portrayed as a sanctuary of consumption. The exhibition is constructed around a standardised box frame, like the utilitarian IKEA boxes that aim to apply order to the chaos of our possessions. The result is an overwhelming setting which expresses the reality of the Not-at-present-in-use-maybe-never-again objects: DEAD STORAGE of the home.
The authors aim for the exhibition to become a forum for the viewers to express their opinions about the cluttered domestic reality that overwhelms their lives. The exhibition aims to become a piece that transforms itself through commentary, discussion and visualisation so it becomes a truly transformative performance piece where a domestic reality is unveiled. The viewer, the photographer, the participant becomes the protagonist where a truly hidden reality of the architectural space of the home is revealed.
Researchers: Elena Marco, Sarah Burgess.
Research Assistants: Kevin Woodward, Simon Clements
1 Van Den Heuvel, D., & Risselada, M., 2004, “Alison and Peter Smithson – from the House of the Future to a house of today”, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.
2 Smithson, P., Spellman, C.& Unglaub, K., 2005, “Smithson: conversations with students: a space for our generation”, New York: Princeton Architectural Press.
3 Williams, K., 2009, “Space per person in the UK: A review of densities, trends, experiences and optimum levels”, Land Use Policy, 26S, S83-S92, Elsevier.
4 Whitehead, C., 2004, “The Economic Framework for Housing”, Paper 4, Housing Futures 2024, London: CABE and RIBA.