The Room of One’s Own
Our research into the architecture of the room is part of an ongoing exploration into domestic space that we have been pursuing since 2012 through various design projects and publications. The room is perhaps the most obvious form of architecture, and yet it is the least investigated. It seems that the room has always been there, and that as dwellers, and then as architects, we have had no choice but to live in and design rooms. If the purpose of architecture is to make space, then the room is the most direct architectural form that responds to those intentions. While architect Louis Kahn considered the room as the essential origin of architecture, writer Virginia Woolf argued that to have ‘a room of one’s own’ was for a woman of her time a challenge to the patriarchal logic of domestic space. Far from being a timeless form, the room is a product of specific historical circumstances that are related to one of the most controversial and problematic issues of human history: the domestication of society. The architecture of the room expresses subtly and yet directly the way in which households, families, and individuals have been individuated as subjects with distinct gender and class connotations. More specifically the private room has contributed to such individuation by staging and celebrating notions of privacy as the possibility of freedom from the burden and pressures of the social world. It is not by chance that the modern private room has its typological and ideological roots in both the monastic cell and the study, or ‘studiolo’, in which the pater familias was granted the privilege to retreat from both public and domestic life. Evolving from the closet, boudoir, bedchamber and sleeping cubicle, the private room eventually became the bedroom, a place where each dweller is designated a specific position within the household. Yet ‘The Room of One’s Own’ also describes the struggle against this logic of individuation. It shows how in certain situations dwellers have used and abused the private room as a space of rest, solitude and concentration in direct relationship with a common dwelling space, often overcoming the idea of private property as in the case of boarding houses, residential hotels and communal houses.
The book is comprised of three parts: a critical introduction to the idea of the room followed by a chronological atlas of the floor plans of exemplary rooms – from the Epipaleolithic period to the present – and 48 perspectival drawings of historically significant rooms. We have focused not only on the room but on the process of subdivision that has produced the room as an enclosed ‘sub-home’ within a domestic space. Indeed rooms are never autonomous spaces but always the result of a process of subdivision and individuation that organizes domestic life. The implicit yet unfulfilled promise of ‘the room of one’s own’ is in the reclaiming of this process, not for domestication but for the possibility of a better life.
The Room of One’s own was exhibited at the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennale ‘Make New History’ and at VAI, Antwerpen and it was published in 2018 by Black Square.
The Room of One’s Own
Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara, with Ian Lowrie, Laura Bruder, Matteo Novarino, Lilian Pala, Antonio Paolillo, Luciano Aletta, Ezio Melchiorre, Tommaso Mola Meregalli, Ophélie Dozat, Hubert Holewik, Lorenz Adriaens
Chicago Architecture Biennale, VAI Antwerpen