By reimagining the British Pavilion as a house, our proposal grapples with British identity and the cult of the house within it which we find manifested in Britain’s obsession with property ownership, country houses and house renovation TV shows, and politicised by Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme. Specifically, A House for Britain plays on the idea of the neoclassical British Country House, a typology that shares a common language with the Palladian structure of the British Pavilion.
Country Houses have long been an iconic signifier of British national identity, power and refinement, however those constructed in the neo-classical style of 19C hold a darker history, one inseparable from colonialism and enslaved African labour. This was reflected in images of subjugation in the very fabric of their interior decoration and the objects that filled their grand rooms.
The commonwealth and empire has left its mark on the nation and now Britain is a multi-cultural place full of the descendants of colonialism. While the private interiors of homes and houses reflect this plurality, architecture as a profession still does not. A House for Britain celebrates this cultural richness and, by occupying the British Pavilion, places it at the centre of architectural discourse.
Since architecture is slower than other disciplines to demonstrate a responsiveness to cultural change, our house is filled with carefully curated objects drawn from other forms of culture – like music and fashion - that offer architecture inspiration for a more pluralistic approach. In this way, A House for Britain is a live archive of curiosities that point towards an alternative future of architecture in Britain.
Befitting of a grand house, A House for Britain is divided into the The Hall, The Chapel, The Conservatory and finally The Long Gallery. Traditionally domestic spaces whose contemporary equivalent play an active role in civic society – our house being a metaphor for the city. It is a fun house to visit - a place where contemporary installation is juxtaposed by tropes that play off the neo-Palladian style of building itself. Throughout the exhibition, the country house elements are re-imagined and subverted.
In collaboration with Jayden Ali and Priya Khanchandani.
Wider team included Tim & Barry (Digital Installation), Lotty Sanna (Set Designer) and Sumitra Upham (Public Programme).