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  • janenewaudby

A House for Essex

On Monday we dusted off the kayak (my wedding present from Jules). The vague plan was to head up the River Stour to eat a sausage roll at Harkstead Cliffs. Its about four miles up the river on the North bank. When we got there it was a bit cold and blowy, so we decided to row over to the South bank of the river to go and see the House for Essex, which glitters at you from its green hill.

Living Architecture commissioned this house, along with other houses, with the idea that people should have the opportunity to stay in amazing houses. All these houses are rented to the public for short lets. All of the houses are obviously amazing examples of housing design. The House for Essex goes further than that, but you should probably make your own mind up about that. I am biased. It's designer is the famous transvestite artist, Grayson Perry. I love Grayson because he has pushed ceramics into the fine art world. I love him more because he has the ability to see things how they are, and then to produce art which manages to communicate that to ordinary people. Listen to him dissect the art world in his Reith lectures here: . This house is an example of his prolific ability, not just to create, but to say something that all of us can understand. I wish I could let loose like that.

This house is a "Taj Mahal" to "Julie". Julie is a figment of Grayson's imagination. She is drawn from himself and possibly his mother and many other Essex women, and probably women in general. These women are smart but they live their lives around the home and their families. They may make sacrifices to do so. Grayson's Julie married twice, eventually qualified as a social worker and found happiness in later life before she was killed in an accident with a takeaway delivery scooter. So it is that this house was built to commemorate her and it is filled with works of art created by Grayson which pull together the story. Whatever you think about the house, it clicks into place when you understand the narrative. This is not just a house. This house's bonkers design celebrates "ordinary" women. This house says when someone does find happiness, it comes out of ordinary things. Its a powerful message to the "ordinary person". Each of us in our ordinariness are capable of extraordinary happiness with the people we love. This house celebrates each of us, and we should all love it for that.

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