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Tyranny of time, messy rooms and indoor freedom.

I was talking with my wife over the w/e. She mentioned that she is making a discipline of not knowing the time – whenever possible and not wearing a watch, particularly at the weekends or on holiday. Looking at your watch disrupts flow – that feeling of total engagement with what you are doing as defined by psychologists such as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Being able to engage with life and activity is when you feel happiest.

How can we as designers and householders make that happen more in our homes? Having spaces to withdraw is important, to be sociable too but also to make a mess. Home workshop rooms, spaces where mess is actively catered for – and I don’t mean just male sheds. A wild garden big enough to get lost in but also one that gets you out there, actively engaging in keeping it flourishing. Learning to allow it to be slightly out of control and enjoying nature having its way. Applying this to inside the home is possible too. It means spaces that kids can play in, boys can muck about making pretend camps on rainy days, fixing things with tools; the girls and the Mums should be able to do their stuff from with paint, clothes making Wendy houses or dolls house gear.

The philosopher Bergson (early 20th century) distinguishes between time and duration. Roger Scruton, the British Philosopher, talks about living well in the present. John Locke talks about time as a process. The fundamental entities in time are not substances but occasions – continuous process with the real, actual and remembering juggling away. During home time, particularly during leisure periods but also when one is in full action/function mode too, we can facilitate this by backing up these behaviours with spatial opportunities. Cooking spaces that overlap with sociability, withdrawal space that are really quiet (high value sound insulation), getting people involved with maintenance of their homes by providing a workshop. Building our houses out of materials that can allow us to enjoy maintenance would help. Goodbye to UPVC window frames & plastic floors, hello to wooden windows and floors, rendered, brick or timber walls that can painted would be a start.

What is important is to stop controlling ourselves with our house planning, our obsessions with rooms and activities. Less control means more creativity, more relaxation, more fun at home, more release of fantasy and of our imaginative life, Maybe it might result in better relationships too and ultimately more enjoyment of our environment.

What does being in a space mean? Kant looks at orientation as being over and above spatial relations. The notion of occupying space is far harder to understand than we think. We can describe things in terms of being (Hilbertian) geometry of points but things in space are more than that. Mathematical theory is only of limited help. Physical concepts such as solidity, rigidity and cohesion are necessary but so also is the complicated visceral world of perception, feeling, and concentration – general human senses related to being connected.

Time and space are mysteriously connected. In philosophical terms in terms of physical theory they are both dimensions according to Roger Scruton. They are structure by the between-ness relation – they have an orientation because time has an arrow, ie it can only move forwards although you can get swept through space you can’t hurry time. (See P366 A short History of Modern Philosophy).


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