‘A house is not a machine to live in’ asserted Eileen Gray in defiance of Le Corbusier’s famous declaration. ‘It is,’ she continued, talking nonetheless in gendered terms, ‘the shell of a man, his extension, his release, his spiritual emanation.’
Gray alerts us to a blindspot of heroic modernism. The politics of the interior of the house – as both psychological and physical space – is lacking in historical accounts of modern architecture.
In the trilogy of films that I made over a period of four years between 2014 and 2018 about three modernist homes in East Anglia – two of which were lived in by their architects – I have tried to counter the overwhelming narrative of the heroic aesthetic icon by attending to the quietly radical ways these buildings were inhabited. In my films of H.T. ‘Jim’ and Betty Cadbury-Brown’s 3 Church Walk in Aldeburgh, Suffolk (1962), John Penn’s Beach House in Shingle Street, Suffolk (1969) and Richard and Su Rogers’ Spender House and Studio, near Maldon, Essex (1968) I have constructed alternative readings of space and ways of life that were culturally connected, creative and unconventional. With each of the films a house is reconstructed as a film, reactivating the architectural space as filmic space.