The following text was first published in Edition 1 of a printed paper that is being made as part of the Home on the Grange public art project. It was published in October 2016.
If you are reading this paper, you might be getting your hair cut or blow dried, having your beard trimmed, or are sitting waiting your turn for a space to be free in a barbers or salon. Initially, the Home on the Grange newspapers are being distributed in hair salons and barbers right across the neighbourhood of Grangegorman as part of a larger public art project of the same name. Salons and barbers in this part of Dublin act as vibrant community hubs and the support of the owners of these hair-rooms has been essential to the project because it has enabled the artists involved to connect directly with the community. Connecting directly to you, the inhabitants of the Grangegorman neighbourhood is vital to this project, because while the subject of Home on the Grange is architecture it is not the kind of architecture made by professional architects.
Rather the focus of Home on the Grange is the architecture made by you, every day, at home.
Architects are, of course, the creative professionals who are usually charged with designing the buildings that make up some of our towns and cities. Architects design our schools, hospitals, and theatres and even some of the housing in which we live. While professional training and experience make architects experts in some aspects of architecture they do not exclusively own architecture— architecture belongs to us all. Someone else may have designed the building you currently live in and organised the layout of the rooms you use, but once you are inside, your architecture work begins. In fact, the main products of the architectural profession— the buildings and all rooms within them—remain inert and static unless people occupy and use them, no matter how brilliant the original architectural design, no matter how many awards that building may have won, or how long ago those rooms were built.
When you move in, you bring things with you. You put these things in the room or rooms you use, you arrange, rearrange, sometimes paint and repaint. You find a place for an heirloom or a photograph that means a lot, one that you brought from another home or that was given to you as a child or by a loved one. These things are not always economically valuable but have value in that they connect you to your own life story and to other people and other places. From time to time you have to solve pragmatic things like where to store the bikes or the buggy. Ikea makes a storage unit that fits that gap under the stairs perfectly, so in it goes. Time passes, you might get a roommate, a boyfriend, children and then maybe you need more space, you have to add a room or rearrange the rooms or the furniture to suit this altered, dynamic, unpredictable home-life. You may have to work from home, that spare bedroom gets converted into an office. You might try to make a new place feel like an old home by making the room feel familiar, remembering and hosting the memories of past-homes in order to secure the future.
All kinds of people make all kinds of homes in all kinds of places and a home is not tied to legal ownership of a house or an apartment, even if this might be commonly assumed or sometimes even promoted by those that really ought to know better.
Home and the desire for one is something we have in common. How we make home does seem to vary depending on our age, gender, ethnicity, ideology and economic capacity and this means our homes are as individual as we are. Within these pages, we hope to acknowledge this. For even if an identical row of houses looks the same, you can be sure, once inside, things are radically different. The reason you are reading this paper in a barbershop or hair salon is that we have our hair and our need to manage it, in common too. No matter where we come from or where we live we all, usually, get our hair done or cut at some stage and while we all (mostly) have hair our hairstyles also vary from person to person. In Home on the Grange, inhabitant-participants are being invited to share and acknowledge that the designing part of architecture is complemented by the using part. Both are, in fact, distinct creative practices, different yes, of course, but equal. Homes are as individual as your hair and, although your stylist or barber ensures you look fantastic as you leave her or his hair-room, every other day, your hair is up to you.
In this first edition of Home on the Grange we begin telling some of these home stories of the neighbourhood and if there is a loose theme that has emerged it is one of appropriation—how people make home by finding the ways and means to take over, take control and take individual and collective ownership of a place. We present two visual essays with photographs taken by Aisling McCoy of two homes on the grange. Between these two visual stories is a written story. Nathan O’ Donnell, a local author, was invited to contribute a short story, Plague, inspired by the centerfold photograph made by McCoy, imagining a home story that may or may not exist. Rónán Atkins literally draws our attention to some characters of the neighbourhood over on Aberdeen Street, on the most eastern edge of the neighbourhood. Here the inhabitants have enthusiastically and warmly appropriated the streets to make gardens and places to use, proving the case that design does not stop when the building is finished, things are only really beginning. We conclude with a letter to the editor, noting the absurdity of the requirement for a reference to rent an apartment, a reference that could never possibly admit to the desire or creative abilities of someone to appropriate a room to make it home, as this would surely be considered a negative attribute in a prospective tenant.
If you are interested in learning more about the project as it develops, you can visit our site at www.homeonthegrange.ie. If you want to read the next newspaper, due out later in the autumn be sure to get your haircut again and pick up a copy. If you wish to participate in the project, would like to show us and talk to us about your home or make a contribution to the next paper, the details of how to get in touch are at the back. We are curious about all homes on the grange.
Home on the Grange Paper 2 will be published on October 18th, 2017 and is a limited edition poster and booklet.