A major strand of our research aimed to read contemporary constructions of “home” for Claremont Court current dwellers, through the empirical examination of their “domestic” everyday practices.

The design of the dwellings in Claremont Court addressed the growing ‘cross-class’ desire of a modern and privatised home in the 1960s. But as notions of home are not a natural attribute of dwellings, but constructed, we explored how residents reproduce or contest those notions of home embedded in the original design.

INTERPRETING EVERYDAY DOMESTIC PRACTICES _ The residents’ everyday interactions with their domestic environment communicate information about how they make a sense of home and community. Through contextual mappings and semi-structured interviews, we observed and recorded verbal and non-verbal cues about their sense of “home”.

Contextual mapping of Nicola and David’s maisonette.

Nicola and David _ They own and live in one of the maisonettes. Nicola’s sense of ‘home’ is structured around the upstairs-downstairs distinction: for her, the stair makes the maisonette ‘instantly feel like a home’. For Nicola, upstairs is the ‘chill out zone and downstairs is business’. David also uses the dining room downstairs to work from home, but he prefers to relax upstairs in the evenings.  The furniture layout of the upstairs living room tells that this is a more private room, where Nicola and David spend most of their evenings.





Contaxtual mapping of Fiona’s flat.

Fiona _ Her living room shows the gas fire, which Fiona got fitted in, as the focus of the home. This is a place of particular importance, embellished by rugs from side to side and the lushest of her plants. Fiona also re-opened and enlarged the existing serving hatch, which allows her to watch the gas fire and the television when she is working in the kitchen. At the turn of the 1960s, the serving hatch was a ‘highly coveted innovation’ in home design (Ferry, 2011, p.7). It was not just meant to assist the 1950s housewife in her endless task of cooking and serving meals, but it also allowed her to watch the living room’s television from the kitchen. […]



READING THE THRESHOLD _ During our survey and interviews, we noticed that in Claremont Court the threshold spaces (such as balconies, windows, entrance spaces from open-deck and stairwell etc.) reflect the way the dwellers interrelate with the domestic space and their attitudes toward the community and the surrounding environment. In particular, we recorded original information on key aspects of the contemporary living such as privacy, security, and the fruition of quality time at home.

Using the collage technique, we selected and combined drawings, photo details and relevant interview excerpts to compose a series of non-realistic, out-of-scale images focusing on the representation of the threshold spaces. We named the collages ‘visual narratives’. In our understanding, these can communicate visually a different story, enable the narration from a multiple perspective and help define a sense of belonging to a place. We highlighted key words to express a sense of emotional hierarchy connected to the architectural spaces, as emerged during the interviews and based on the information we gathered during the survey. These images focus primarily on the balconies, seen as filter-spaces between the living-room and the landscape courtyard, telling stories about the individuals and the community they belong to.

Visual narrative: Ewan’s maisonette. Credits: Nadia Bertolino 2017
Visual narrative: Karen, Neil and Mia’s maisonette. Credits: Nadia Bertolino, 2017
Visual narrative: Nicola and David’s maisonette. Credits: Nadia Bertolino, 2017

The visual narratives allowed us to overlay and integrate data from various media (mapping and interviews) in order to test out different hypothesis through an iterative process. In fact, throughout the process of composing these images, some information initially considered significant lost their relevance while others appeared crucial after reading the transcripts of the interviews. The image is seen as a text and used as a critical analytical tool.

Related publications:

Costa Santos, Sandra and Bertolino, Nadia (2017) Claremont Court Housing Scheme: a post-occupancy evaluation of Modernist dwellings supporting current spatial practices. In: Architectonics 2017, 31 May-3 June, Barcelona.