First published: Winter 1997/98
Within each of us there is a strong desire to possess a space of our own; a personal environment that gives expression to the person we feel ourselves to be. Unmistakably, our material surroundings do reveal a good deal about who we are, even when the architectural setting in which we dwell is imposed, and the objects we bring to it are store-bought and commonly available.
However, even in the rare instance where a wealthy individual is able to participate in the design of his own house, and to assemble a personal and unique collection of possessions, it is doubtful that the space and forms which he is able to create really provide much possibility of access to his inner world. Architecture has always been the most tradition bound of the arts, reflecting society more than the individual, class more than psychology.
The objects we acquire usually seem to embody the person we wish to be, rather than any deeper truth, revealing commonly held ideals of the social, educational, and cultural group to which we belong.
It can be argued that the inability to create a truly personal environment is the result of our failure to achieve real identity, and that historically the situation has never been markedly different. What would it take to break the bounds of imposed tradition, and of acquired necessities of class and culture? What unique kinds of space and form would be called into existence if our inner being were allowed to dictate our external surroundings?