Updated: May 18
Extract from Red Eyed Vireo
Yet on the branch or on the fly
He’s not a bird to strike the eye:
A workaholic looking drained,
Overtired and overstrained;
For he siestas not at all;
And though at night he doesn’t call,
I for one would have to think
He’s too obsessed to catch a wink
By all he has to build and borrow
To have enough to say tomorrow.
I fear that’s why his eyes are shot—
His eyes whose red is hard to spot.
I’d add the toll is quite the shame:
His wife and kids look much the same.
After reading this poem by Francis Stella, one wonders if the Vireo is a personified metaphor of the present-day urban man. Its relentless songs, its workaholic strives, its need to have a nest merely as a shelter for breeding, useful only when it has its young ones to raise. Its nest is not its home. Its locality is. Likewise, we humans of today are more at home outside rather than in our houses.
We may feel ‘at home’ in different surroundings, but there is a vast psychological difference between feeling at home and being home. A home can be the familiar tastes and smell of the place, the sights, and sounds around your house, as familiar as the sun rising and setting every day. It can be the community the neighbourhood bestows and deep talks with your loved ones. A home is a place with sentimental values. A locality with a sense of belonging.
Anthropologist and globalisation theorist Arjun Appadurai in his book, Modernity at Large (1996), redefines the ‘production of locality’ in a globalising world. He views locality as relational and contextual, rather than spatial or scalar. This is especially true of urban life, where new technologies offer remarkable social proximity at all times. In traditional societies, the creation of shelter was a constant effort to counter the forces of nature whereas in our contemporary society it is driven by political boundaries, commodification, and mass media. An alternative built environment has emerged in the last few decades constantly aiming at making all feel ‘at home’.
In the Stone Age, man made use of the natural environment for shelter. Although the earliest forms of shelter were in trees – that provided minimal protection against animals and the weather, the first man-made shelter was constructed with stones and branches. As humans evolved, they learned to make simple tools that helped them to build better shelters that gradually evolved in shape and form. Other materials such as stone slabs, bones, and animal hide were used in construction until the earth was dug up and dried in the sun to form clay blocks, leading to the usage of bricks as the basic material of construction.
The Middle Ages witnessed fortified castles with thick stone walls, water-filled moats, and drawbridges. The advent of Renaissance glorified classical Roman architectural principles into expressions of wealth and prosperity through decorations and ornamentation.
In all of the above instances though, the essence of the built architecture was driven by construction methodologies, either availability of resources or symbolism of status in society. There is minimal or no evidence of personal expression or reflection of individuality of the end-user.
Only after the Industrial Revolution, the construction industry witnessed houses that were more personalized with the psychology of the individual integrated within the design. Architecture became a dynamic reflection of an individual’s personality, his dreams, and his stories untold.
Winston Churchill says “we shape our buildings and afterward our buildings shape us,”. In a similar light, William S. Sax writes, "people and the places where they reside are engaged in a continuing set of exchanges; they have determinate, mutual effects upon each other because they are part of a single, interactive system." As technology advances, the sentimental value of a house has been largely diminishing. In the contemporary era, the simple structures replaced by high-rise buildings have evolved into co-living spaces, service apartments, pods, and rental homes.
Nevertheless, nature has a funny way to get us back to our roots. With the Covid-19 pandemic hovering over us, home is no longer just a physiological need. In these extraordinary circumstances, our homes have served us as a safe haven,haven; the physical concrete boxes have become our fortresses, our habitat. Locality has shrunk to our four walls. Living in lockdown, we have probably now noticed the one faded streak created by the morning sunlight on the otherwise bright wall covering of our dining room wall. Our houses have become our home again.
Post-Pandemic-Personalised living spatial configurations, catering to our self-esteem, and enunciating our freedom in society are the way ahead.Co-working spaces now going virtual and work from home dynamism taking the frontline, the need to design living environments that act as muses to our entity has become apparent. Innovative adaptations are required to conventional interior design resulting in a metamorphic dwelling mirroring the variants of our dynamic lifestyles. Future Designing is now ann apparentorganic collaboration between an architect and an artisan in unison Full poem available here: https://www.francisstellapoems.com/vireo-poem