Matter of the Manor: everyday actions and imaginative promptings

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As more and more people occupy the city, with over half the world’s population living in urban environments cities have to consider how to adapt and alter their existing structures to grow inward, to reconfigure their interior. Matter of the Manor explores alternative ways to engage with the re-inhabitation of historic places in order to include the forceful emotional affect that these sites elicit in their surrounding communities. The project uses Wymering Manor, a 16th Century house in Cosham, Portsmouth, UK, as a case study to examine the ways in which subjective experiences and emotions can be represented in the future of city making. The work proposes an understanding of architecture that moves beyond the physical form of a building to one that is relational where materials, community, human and non-human actants are enmeshed into its future re-making. Wymering Manor is currently undergoing restoration by a community trust. Until 2006 the manor functioned as a youth hostel, but it is now obsolete and faces an uncertain future which depends on the efforts of the voluntary community trust that now owns it. There is currently no planned programme in place for its restoration and reuse which would otherwise implement a unifying design and conservation scheme aimed at achieving a fixed end point, a completion of the project. The house provides a space of cultural and historical ‘affect’ in the middle of a suburban setting where local people are invited to engage through volunteering or as an audience member to one of its varied events. The volunteers are drawn into the house looking to connect with others, with history and the pleasure of being in a historic building. Through the collective daily actions of hoovering, taking tours, dusting, making tea and decorating they embody the manor; as a result of repetition of these gestures the house becomes part of those that visit it. The richness of its surfaces, the smell of damp, the crumbling timber and dust made by larvae beetle slowly eating away at its core all create an overwhelming sense of affect. The overriding desire from the volunteers for the house is that it is owned by the community and through this handed into the care of generations to come. The house is in a transitional state between ruination and being re-appropriated by the community trust who now own it. This in-between space allows the community to care and to cultivate as Edward Casey discusses in The Fate of Place a “willingness to cultivate, often seemingly endlessly, the inhabitational possibilities of a particular residence. Such willingness shows that we care about how we live in that residence and that we care about it as a place for living well”. In its disassembled state the house invites the community in, as the volunteers give to the house so it gives back them. This process of caring for, offers a possibility of an ongoing future and future legacy whilst also cultivating meaning and connection, a care-fullness where caring could also mean its potential entropy. The ruinous state of the house is generative in forming community relations and local cohesion. The pleasure of the house is the loss of hierarchical relationships and as a space that the community appropriate for events through which they inscribe new pathways of use. The house heads in a new direction without a fixed plan or future but one where the many voices of the volunteers and its non-human inhabitants effect its many potential futures. It creates a vehicle to re-think architectural production and practices and develops a space to include the everyday longings and desires of the communities in the future of cities, to form resilience through actions of care. This paper juxtaposes the everyday actions of the community with LiDAR scans that act as imaginative promptings for its future.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2021
EventMagical Realism and the City - University of Portsmouth
Duration: 9 Jul 20219 Jul 2021


ConferenceMagical Realism and the City


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