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Work is moving home. Today, buildings that previously distinguished productive (paid) from reproductive (domestic/care) labour are being rendered obsolete; sacrosanct boundaries between private and public realms are made ambiguous. While this phenomenon is not new, its historical insignificance arises from architecture’s tendencies to divide these realms, minimising a territorial intersection with multiple social-cultural-economical-ethical-political repercussions. Home-work thus occupies a tenuous position in architectural discourse/design; there is uncertainty in its future, and obscurity in its past.
Scrapping what we can from historical sources, while turning also to theories, op-eds, documentaries, and other forms of text, we study work in the home through three successive ages from the mid-19th century to the present. As ideology, we study the separation of the places of work and home as distinct categories in industrial/early-modern Europe, hinged upon the invention of the working day, marred by gender roles and the construct of the nuclear family. As opportunity, we investigate how informal work organises around forms of informal living, particularly in Asian economies, where lines between what is the private home for rest and the public city for work are not well demarcated. As substitute, we interrogate our present condition where work in the home is a ubiquitous phenomenon at once local and global, in our constant connectedness that exceeds the pandemic’s expiry. Through this narrative, we will trace the instability of the idea of the home and its transformation and upon this, speculate its alternative presents and futures.
Part of Foundations of Home-based Work: A Singapore Study, alternatively titled Making Do, this course is being run in a novel model at NUS that we call the studio-seminar—a seminar run vertically within and alongside a design studio that grounds its research in interdisciplinary modes centred upon design. Conducting fieldwork, archival research, and architectural representation, we will collectively produce written work alongside visual and physical material in drawings, films, models, and more. We will discuss, think, and act around emerging issues about the displacement of work into multiple spaces, mapping networks and speculating opportunities.
This studio-seminar is co-taught with Tan Yi-Ern Samuel. Materials from both the studio and seminar will form the basis of a publication and exhibition under Making Do.
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