Time and Place and (dis)location for everything

Wow, I can’t believe my last post was October 2017. I didn’t really intend on stopping that long, but the truth is that between my job, daily life, and general amount of time spent in front of the computer, the will just wasn’t there to keep writing on top of it all.

However, writing is something I enjoy and I intend to get this ship back sailing again.

I seem to spend a lot of time either building, renovating, or talking about houses too. It’s interesting stuff, which makes for an easy writing re-launchpad. I’ll have to work on writing about all the boring shit too. Otherwise, I’ll run out of road (again). Or tell myself as much.

This summer I have been involved in a great project in the North West of my native Ireland. We’re even bringing it to Waterford for one event. Myself and a friend convinced our friend Peter Cowman from the Living Architecture Centre to run some workshops on the journey that is involved in a process we ended up terming ‘Sheltermaking’. By Sheltermaking we simply mean the process of creating a shelter within which we are free to realize a project or dream. The shelter itself could be the dream, the use of the shelter (e.g as a studio, or house) could be the end dream, or the process of creation of the shelter could be the dream. I think for me it has always been the latter.

Contrast that with the manner in which property/real estate is discussed today. The roller-coasting housing market on which Ireland floats has approached religious significance here. It’s painfully obvious that a significant chunk of the housing stock in Ireland is pretty shit too. Anyone who has spent a moment in most other European countries must realize the extent to which we’ve been let down in Ireland with what was allowed to be constructed. Everyone from renters, to landlords, to ordinary property owners have felt and continue to feel the effects of recent decades of mismanagement, and a continuing trend in that direction. I own property myself, and have seen the market from all angles.

Ask Irish people to describe renovating a home, if they’ve done it before, often they’ll approximate a home improvement catalogue giving an elevator pitch. I’ve heard it tumble from my own mouth, warbling on about IKEA kitchens, like I give a crap about them. We are currently in the middle of fixing up an old terraced city property. It’s hard to avoid the cookie-cutter. Two planks of white deal went up as shelves instead of the IKEA stuff. MUCH CHEAPER. Done.

The so-called ‘Housing crisis’ in Ireland today is very real, as it increasingly is in many parts of the world. To someone struggling to afford housing, the market is a lonely and alienating force. All metrics, and transactions, clients, and landlords, and status.

Many people in Ireland can’t afford basic shelter and living conditions as a result of a toxic mix of historic housing market circumstance. The forces that place such shelter out of reach for many are not grounded in any natural scarcity, they are legislative and market-driven. There is no shortage of $20,000 Tiny Houses that could be built to solve any given homeless crisis, only a legislative/legal and market framework and to some extent, social fabric that would simply not bear any wide-scale introduction of such a solution. In time that will change.

I guess that’s a large part of what attracted me to the Sheltermaking project this summer, and continues to attract me to certain ideals I share with the co-participants. Sheltermaking has at its heart a certain magic to it that is separate from all the modern connotations of housing. The chance to reclaim an element of, ‘Yeah, I can build/create that’ and sharing that feeling with others. Connecting with others who are interested in developing and creating projects of their own. Extracting the word ‘shelter’ from the likes of mortgage, estate agent, Celtic Tiger, NAMA, overpriced, market, and all the others we are sick of hearing about when it comes to a roof and four walls in Ireland.

Some people meditate, some people turn to religion, others to drugs or music, however, the single most instructive force I have found for contemplating my life’s direction over the years has been in the creation/consideration of shelter either here in Ireland or elsewhere, and the people and experiences surrounding same. That shelter should play a central functional role in life is a given, however, such a deeply instructional and educational role is not something I would ever have forseen.

But it has, and here it is, forcing me back to write something on a path to somewhere.

Our workshop pitch:

The workshop takes the form of a journey that can be viewed as a conscious encounter with one’s dream-self. This experience allows an inner dream to venture outwards so that it can be nurtured in the physical world. This process stimulates the desire to ‘live the dream’, a task requiring that it be sensitively sheltered as it is birthed in the outer world. The external self-view gained by making the dream visible in this way offers unparalleled insight into a direction one’s life wishes to take

The workshop consists of four interconnected elements beginning with an exploration of the vital visible and invisible ingredients from which the shelter will be made. This sets the context for the ensuing design process after which one arrives at the realisation stage when a design can be constructed and inhabited.

Check out the artwork that resulted from our ideas, courtesy of the very talented David Gascoigne. When I first saw it, it made me feel like I was opening the pages of the Hobbit again for the very first time. Our next workshop is on Sat 25th August.

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