Sunday, June 17, 2012

The House is a Biography


Our homes are the material biographies of our lives and the livesof past residents. Each day, we make adjustments, large or small toour surroundings. With many large events in our lives, and perhapseven national events, our living places are modified, expanded,insulated, decorated, or even sealed off and abandoned. As we createa home that suits our many needs––for a place to work, entertain,relax, teach, raise children, conduct business, sleep, eat, create,exercise, and so on––what takes shape is an increasingly personalspace. The ways we use our homes are seen, felt, heard, and smelled.To see a house as a set of choices tells a story so detailed that itcould be uncomfortable to let others in. Our homes describe us. Welive in many configurations: individually, with regular guests, withroommates, with friends, and/or as families. Homes are nodes in theseconstellations of lives, sometimes connecting us to past residents oreven ancestors. In a way, past residents become like family, knownintimately because we have traveled the same paths down the stairs,opened the same doors, washed our hands in the same sinks many, manytimes. To let someone in the door of our built biographies is to takea risk. It is intriguing that we have found several welcomers thathave let us in to document their homes, and I am curious about whatthey think we are doing.