The first prize winner of the Reimagined Living & Working Space Competition has been awarded to The Millennial Home by Ciaran Magee. The Millennial Home conveys a sense of mystique and familiarity through its ethereal quality and elegant use of clean lines and simple forms - drawing the observer in to reveal an honest and incredibly powerful story that raises questions around several issues, not just the global pandemic. Paying homage to the celebrated art of Escher, the fantastical graphic composition of the artwork steers focus towards the artists thoughtful proposal for a reimagined live-work space.
Jack is a millennial.
Jack has been made redundant twice in two years. First in 2019 because of uncertainty around Brexit, and subsequently in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Jack has £40,000 of student debt.
Jack lives in London, with half of their wages paying for a room in a flat with no living room. Jack had previously been employed as a part II architectural assistant, but for six months has been working freelance on a zero-hours contract. Since the United Kingdom locked down, Jack works, rests, eats, and sleeps in one room, leading to problems with insomnia and a declining mental health. To facilitate a better work life balance in the new WFH normal, Jack has developed a proposal to subdivide their 12m2 room into four distinct but connected areas for sleeping, relaxing, working, and activity. As Jack is renting, the intervention is envisioned as a piece of furniture at the scale of the room. Drawing from Escher, Antonello da Messina’s St Jerome in his Study, and Brodsky and Utkin’s ‘columbariums’ via Enzo Mari’s concept of autoprogettazione, the proposal is constructed from plywood and is fully demountable.
This is Jack’s millennial home.
FAT Q&A WITH
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR BACKGROUND?
I grew up in Kilclief, Northern Ireland before moving to Belfast to study architecture at Queen's University. I then worked as a part 1 with the charity Groundwork on community buildings in 'interface areas' across NI before joining Hall Black Douglas Architects. I returned to QUB for my masters, during which I was a fellow of the British Council at the 2017 Venice Art Biennale. I then moved to London, where I worked for Allies and Morrison and Reed Watts Architects. More recently, I have been working as a freelance part 2, carrying out design competitions in my downtime.
CAN YOU EXPAND ON WHAT WE CAN HOPE TO FIND IN THE GLOBE?
The sphere presents the reflected image of a room, distorted by its curvature to reveal more than would be visible in a typical perspectival rendering. Within this Foucauldian heterotopia, the millennial character of 'Jack' has designed and built a non-destructive piece of plywood furniture at the scale of the room to subdivide it into four areas, traversing them throughout the day and breaking up the monotony home work/living. Each subdivision is set at different levels that are connected visually in the spirit of raumplan, while the temporal nature of the intervention reflects Jack's situation as a renter in a flat with no communal living space. Rather than furniture which conceals, this piece exhibits Jack's possessions as a reflection of their personality and interests.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO DRAW FROM VARIOUS ARTISTS AND DESIGNERS SUCH AS ESCHER & ANTONELLO DA MESSINA IN YOUR ARTWORK?
From the outset, I was thinking about both design and representation concurrently. Once It became clear that the end result would be around the size of a typical bedroom, the challenge was to figure out a way to illustrate a compact design comprehensively. I had originally considered ideas around Spherical Environment Mapping to achieve this, the outcomes of which reminded me of MC Escher's 1935 work, 'Hand with Reflecting Sphere'. I chose to make the final piece a direct reference to this work due to the gesture of Escher's outstretched hand bearing similarities to the act of taking a selfie, millennials having been dubbed the 'selfie generation'.
Having read the book Brodsky and Utkin at the beginning of lockdown, I was inspired by the aesthetic of their Columbaria, where all vertical surfaces become a space of exhibition/memorialisation. This operates along a similar vein as the Sir John Soane Museum, where the assemblage of possessions is a curated representation of the occupant. Additionally, the approach of 'rooms within a room' led me to 'St Jerome in his Study', a recurring figure in my own work.
I had only discovered Enzo Mari's work after his recent passing, with Autoprogettazione being an influence in this project with regards to an individual taking control over their own environment and sharing those ideas for others to interrogate/elaborate on.
WHAT DREW YOU TO THE COMPETITION & HOW DOES IT FEEL BEING AWARDED FIRST PRIZE?
I am very grateful to the judges for awarding my work first prize. The shortlist was full of very strong, engaging work and I am delighted just to be in their company.
What drew me to the competition was the very clear yet open brief, giving participants opportunity to explore ideas on both design and representation. By limiting the submission to a single image, a focus was placed on how to present a position concisely, which is reflected in the wide variety of work on the shortlist.
WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY LOVE ABOUT ARCHITECTURE AND WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE PROFESSION?
What I enjoy most about the profession is the direct consequence it can have on people's lives. From the scale of the domestic to civic interventions, you are helping to shape the world of those who inhabit your designs. I also enjoy the rich discourse among the profession, with conversations constantly occurring that are unpacking and rethinking how we shape the environment around us.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE ARCHITECT/DESIGNER OR ARTIST WHOSE WORK INSPIRES YOU?
I try to pull ideas from a broad range of disparate and often contradictory sources, depending on the brief and context in which I am working. For some recent projects, I have been looking at Enzo Mari, Allison and Peter Smithson, Adolf Loos, Yasmeen Lari, and Lacaton and Vassal among others. I am particularly interested in notions of economy in architecture, building efficiently while retaining a sense of poetry.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN PERSONAL ARTISTIC/DESIGN STYLE?
I try not to be dogmatic with regards to styles in architecture. I am primarily interested in textural compositions and simple forms within the framework of multi-sensory design. As previously mentioned, I am interested in spatial and material efficiency, achieving more with less.
Anna Liu of Tonkin Liu, Victoria Whenray of Conran + Partners, Jas Bhalla of Jas Bhalla Architects, Ross Hutchinson of Hutchinson & Partners, Marcos Rosello of aLL Design & Roger Ashman of Ashman Architects
Architects Journal Competition Call: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/competitions/reimagined-living-and-working-space
Architects Journal Shortlisted Entries: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/architects-art-shortlisted-in-contest-to-rethink-live-work-spaces