The Time House

Ioannidou, Ersi (2016) The Time House. In: Design History Society Conference 2016; 8-10 September 2016, Middlesex University London. (Unpublished)


The Time House In the second half of the 20thcentury, the modernist house was considered a main culprit for the increasing feeling of ‘homelessness’. Among other failings, it simply did not offer the opportunity to inscribe time and identity and thus allow its inhabitant to construct personal meaning within the domestic interior. Projects such as Martin Pawley’s The Time House (1968) tried to enable the house to become a tool for the experience of the home by reinstating these possibilities. In The Time House, Pawley imagines the house as a recording machine. This house-machine has the form of a heavy concrete circular bunker with three levels: the domed roof shelters ‘a silently rotating boom [which] carries camera, microphone and sensor complex’, continuously recording the activities of the inhabitants; the ground floor contains the living area; and the basement accommodates the memory mechanisms. These mechanisms have a storage capacity of centuries and thus are able to accumulate all evidence of living; any entry can be instantly recalled by the inhabitant. The house records the evidence of time and change in order to establish a continuum between each successive configuration and occupation of the domestic interior and all its predecessors. Thus, the house is no longer a finite object, but accommodates the lifelong sequence of existence. Pawley focuses his argument for The Time House on the notion of territoriality; that is, the private territory as a source of identity, stimulation and security. According to Pawley, territoriality in relation to permanence of settlement and occupation and identification with place and objects are important attributes to the act of dwelling. Pawley believes that an individual feels and observes simultaneously, thus he is situated between the ‘experience of being and the evidence of being: the relationship between behaviour, objects and time.’ The Time House reveals and facilitates this relationship through recording and playing-back the evidence of occupation within the domestic interior. It is an electro-mechanical self-writing document, with entries stored in immaterial form; a house-robot constructed to record time. The Time House proposes a realisation of the house as a tool for the experience of the home for the Second Machine Age. Pawley equips the house with ‘mechanisms capable of absorbing the evidence of time and change in order to mitigate the horror of change itself.’ He aims to dispel the feeling of ‘homelessness’ created by the impossibility of permanence of settlement and occupation through a continuous accumulation of data. The layers of references that construct the experience of the home in Pawley’s future house would be only immaterial – a digital repository of personal history.

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