Home #1

2008. Foamcore and Balsa 10” x 10” x 10”.

2008. Foamcore and Balsa 10” x 10” x 10”.

From the series “Home”, a multi-piece and evolving reflection upon our relationships, as individuals to the communities of which we are a part, and as humans to the natural ecosystems of which we are a part.

“Home #1” is a reflection upon humankind’s complex relationship with nature and technology. The little house has two explicit models, the first and most obvious being the birdhouse, and the second being the computer icon that denotes the first web page a user sees each time he or she opens their browser to search the web, otherwise known as Home. [The home-as-internet-icon model is made explicit in “Home circa 1995”, the first piece in the “Home” series].

The birdhouse is itself, of course, modeled on a generic house of the kind that a child might draw. Birds really don’t need our help in building residences. They live more freely than we, traveling through three dimensions far more dynamically and fully. Only the human occupant of a high-rise apartment or office block experiences anything remotely like the vertical domain of the birds, and then only behind a sheet of glass or a wall of concrete. Birds build nests only when they need to, although the bower bird appears to take some pride in building and decorating its home.  But we believe a bird house created by humans is a superior dwelling space to that which nature herself can provide and we congratulate ourselves on our act of kindness and generosity.

The birdhouse is often decorated on the outside, sometimes taking on the appearance of a barn, or a schoolhouse, a cottage or church. Other times it may be made to resemble something other than a dwelling, and may be adorned with whimsical or humorous touches. These adornments are for human consumption and pleasure of course. The inside of the house is rarely if ever similarly bedecked. No need to amuse or delight the occupants. They are, after all, just birds. Birds, we assume, like all other creatures except us live a life only of necessity. They make no choices and thus they have no individual character, for what else differentiates one individual from another if not the choices they make? No need to peer through the circular hole to see what they’re up to.

For humans, however, home is where the heart is.  Or at least it used to be. Since the mid 1990’s it has been co-opted by computing to mean the first web page that is presented to you each time you open your web browser.  And If you get lost somewhere in the vast pile of documents that we lovingly call the internet, you can quickly get back to the first document with a single (or double) click of your mouse/cursor on the “Home” icon, a diminutive house with no windows and only a darkened doorway. “Home #1”, and all subsequent pieces in the “Home” series, is modeled on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) interpretation of the icon, using  the same white for its walls, orange for its roof, and red for the chimney. Even the Perspex case is intended to recall the two dimensional frame of the icon

Home #1 is, and is not, an architectural product. It shuns arbitrariness. Every dimension, angle, colour, material, and cut is the result of a conscious design decision. Its dimensions reflect architecture’s place at the intersection of mathematics and nature, and man’s complex relationship with both. The height and width (5” and 8” respectively) are taken from the Fibonacci sequence and their ratio follows the golden mean, a ratio seen throughout nature. The triangular aspects of the walls covered by the roof – the gable - describe triangles of 3:4:5 ratio, a classic Pythagorean triple. In addition, each of the four single-digit prime numbers are embedded within the piece; the height of the chimney is 2”, that of the gable is 3”, that of the wall is 5”, and the length, or depth, of the house is 7”.

It is hyper-rational. But on the other hand the materials of which it is made would not withstand even the slightest wind or rainfall. It is a fragile piece and its Perspex case is there to protect it, like a specimen or a fossil in a natural history museum. Like a fossil, Home #1 refers to – and preserves - an architectural style that is now largely extinct. At the time of writing, the latest version of Internet Explorer (IE7), the most widely used browser in the world, has replaced the IE6 icon lovingly modeled by Home #1 with a smaller, darker, less approachable style. Home, it seems, is less inviting and less homelike than ever. Home is not now, nor truthfully ever was, an appropriate metaphor for our online experiences. In pre-internet days we might well leave home to discover the world. Now, we don’t need to.