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Kaegh Allen. 08071392. May 2010. U30025

Kaegh Allen. 08071392. May 2010. U30025


Huts hut |hət| noun a small single-story building of simple or crude construction, serving as a poor, rough, or temporary house or shelter.

Sofa cushions, stacked. Chair Backs leaning together. Bed sheet draped.

The den takes shape.

Private hut in the living room.

Every boy has sought this primal experience, even if it’s a tent in the back garden or a forest clearing with tarpaulin, tied overhead. This isolation, however simple is a phenomenon that can only be attained from the hut. These huts transport us away from our normal lives, into the world of explorers, of primitive man, of fairy tales. The most basic shelter man can construct. Protection from the elements, from society, provides an escapist, sheltered hide away to observe and dream from. This is living without architecture; this is shelter free of superfluous intellectualism. At it’s most organic and primitive.

‘Are such follies and pavilions merely the whimsical product of client or architect escapism? Or do they serve other, deeper impulses of curiosity, pleasure, experimentation, or discipline?’ (Cline, 1997) Whether intellectually sought or conceived from pure necessity – the hut provides an escape. It provides a choice, an opportunity for reclusion and isolation – the reasons for this may be self-inflicted or not – but the hut provides a possible solution. Adults playing at being children, just as children played at being adults. The hut has many manifestations, from the ancient tea houses of Japan, to the mud huts of African tribes, to the patchwork constructions of homeless people in the margins of all our comfortable cities. To choose to live in a hut is to give up all ties to contemporary consumer society. Or simply contemporary society. It is self exclusion at it’s most basic.

‘Even if this hut is only one’s normal abode inhabited in a different way, here in a hut of one’s own, a person may find one’s very own self, the source of humanity’s song.’ (Cline, 1997)

1. Construction Diagram for Living Modular System

2. My Housemate Jack, reading in his Self Made ‘Sleeping Cave’

Joseph Rykwert, in ‘On Adam’s House in Paradise’ raises the age-old debate about ritual and purpose or architectural construction, focusing on the hut.

‘Inhabited by god or hero; most commonly it is a rite of building huts which in some way resembled or commemorated those which ancestors or heroes had built at some remote and important time in the life of the tribe. And in every case they incarnate some shadow or memory of that perfect building which was before time began: when man was quite at home in his house, and his houses as right as nature itself.’ (Rykwert, 1972) The hut seems an instinctive expression of a memory, recalling primitive ideas of shelter, caves or even the maternal womb. The womb of mother earth. There have and always will be examples of hut living. In recent times they have breached into mainstream culture, the psychedelic 60’s saw a wave of alternative shelter solutions and a move to be closer to nature, breaking from tradition and ‘being free’. These hand-made, trippy, hippie huts were juxtaposed with modular, organized living solutions. People were trying to define the hut in a way that could relate to contemporary culture. These mass produced and manufactured huts proved less successful in their poetry and resonance to the essence of hut living. Similarly many escapist holiday resort offer hut living, creating an artificially simple hotel to free you from the stresses of modern life. But they lack what a self-built hut offer. Only through a knowledge of its construction. Investment of time and emotion. Imagination and luck. Can a simple hut, become a kingdom of solitude, inspiration and satisfaction. These avant-garde pioneers that decide to choose a life of eremitism do so from the desire to improve the way they live and how they inhabited space. To improve their relationship with nature and in turn life more fulfilling lives. In the 60’s this came at a time of sexual and psychedelic revolution so may have been washed away as hippy ideals. But In this era of retrospective analysis and environmental hysteria – the common hut can serve as a valuable example and lesson on what we actually require to live, if not comfortably the adequately. Even Le Corbusier, the master Architects of 20th century built himself a hut. It was the only building he ever built for himself. This hut he built in Cap-Martin on the French Riviera in 1952. Designed in less than an hour and coming in at a mere 16 square meters. Corbusier referred to his ‘Cabanon’ as both "my castle on the Riviera" and "my smallest machine for living in"…"where not a square cm of space was wasted". I1 This style of efficient, economic living is especially relevant today in our world where most of its people live in cities, and there is not enough space to house them.


4. Le Corbusier’s Cabanon and him inside it, devoid of his famour bow tie. He only ever wore espadrilles and shorts whilst in his hut. It offered him the ultimate retreat.

At the same time every year architecture schools graduate more students than there are architects in practice. These graduates then go from an academy that cares only about architecture’s ideals into a world that cares about them very little.

‘The fact is that architects, although relentlessly trained to do so, do not make our world.’ (Cline, 1997) From Brazilian favellas, to Honk Kong tower blocks the idea of the hut is repeated infinitesimally all over the outskirts of our ever-growing cities, but unlike Le Corbusier’s efficient and elegant summer retreat. These huts are tacked together with little time and desperate resources. By people with little or no design training. Ninety Eight percent of the world’s housing is built without the direct involvement of an Architect. These huts, shelters, shanties are temporal and makeshift. They are not destined to last. They provide human beings with the most basic of shelters and are under constant threat from the elements. As architects I think the most valuable thing we can do is implement simple systems that can allow these people to safely and elegantly construct their own shelters, their huts. Various architects are taking this on board and trying to implement solutions to solve this slum condition. ‘A new generation of architect is demonstrating that we should stop and think before trying to solve a problem with a building.’ M1 So huts can be an intellectual escape, to muse and consider oneself and escape the wasteland of ‘anxiety and hyped values, a world clinging to remote controls of meaningless choice’ (Cline, 1997). Or a shelter, to hide in, after a days begging and foraging – somewhere to lie in peace. Each serves a similar purpose, the situations and choices to inhabit the hut are drastically different. But it is still a retreat.

5. The ‘Mole People’ of ‘Dark Days’ live amongst their vermin neighbours. Here in the subterranean mazes of New York’s Subway system is where these homeless people have chosen to build their huts, their houses, their homes.

‘You’ll be surprised what the human mind, and the human body can adjust to’ (Singer, 2000) explains Greg. ‘At first, I took it as a camp. But then this fucker became like home’.

Greg like many of the homeless living underground was forced to find this extreme shelter, to build their hut underground. Desperate times led to desperate measures, many of these people are drug addicts, ostracized by their addiction. And moved underground for protection ‘Crack fucked me up man, crack got me down here. Or crack helped me get down here’ explains Ralph. Their huts are their protection, their crack house, their shelter, and their home.

‘I don’t consider myself homeless, ‘cos a homeless man don’t got a home’ (Singer, 2000) says Tommy, a twenty something blonde white kid. His young face looks more alive, and hopeful than most down there – he is one of the few who are not addicted to crack. ‘If you don’t consider yourself homeless, then you ain’t ready to deal with this then’ replies Henry. An old Black man, with a tired drawling voice. He has been here for 25 years. ‘Well what was the purpose of me building this place then?’ asks Tommy ‘It’s to stop you from being helpless, that don’t stop you from being homeless’. (Singer, 2000) This helplessness was brought on by addiction of unsolvable personal problems, and the hut provided a simple solution. But it was the best out of a bad bunch. These underground huts although safer than other alternatives and considered home by many of their inhabitants were small victories in an altogether lost battle.


7. Ann Cline’s Library Hut became a frequent rendezvous - studio partners comparing ideas or couples catching private moments.

In ‘A Hut of One’s Own’, Anne Cline, an Architectural Professor built a Hut in the back garden of her Californian House. Inspired by Kakuzo Okakura's The Book of Tea, she wanted to create a self made shelter. As much for architectural investigation as for spiritual enlightenment.

‘As my dwelling took shape, it began to shape my life as well. And when I sat inside reading the recluse poets, the terse simplicity of their record framed my own perception, one I likened to a camera recording a world of pure experience.’ (Cline, 1997) Cline also had the opportunity to install a Hut inside the library of a small, college town. ‘Unnoticed at first, the hut soon became the object of curiosity. Gradually, I detected a kind of underground life emerging around the hut and a lore of habitation connected to it’ (Cline, 1997) The hut had a sense of immediacy and connection to the outside that no room-filled building could achieve. The hut invited its users to focus on the meaningfulness or existence and actions "I had found the commodity of my dwelling through the poetry of its use," Cline concludes. Just as many intellectuals before and after her had, Cline felt the need to remove herself from her conditioned state and alter her perceptions, view her existence and its effects from a fresh, primal and instinctive perspective. That which can be found from a hut.


‘That was like a nightmare, and I woke up out of it and I’m staying awake.’ The residents of Dark Days, destroyed their huts and moved into social housing


This condition of self-sought isolation may seem pretensions and self indulgent when compared to the toils of the homeless or dedication of monks or hermits. But every situation requires a different response. Every experience may be different, but there are lessons to be learnt from each. The hut can be a tool; it removes what Freud called ‘Auxiliary Constructions’ and allows one to get closer to ones self, to god or further from society and its problems. When viewed casually how man lives today, especially in the developed world he could be mistaken for a ‘fragile, soft and pampered organisms that could not survive a week in the wilds on his own’. If fact he is one of the most advanced and adaptable creature on earth. ‘You

come out of the womb equipped to live in

nature…It’s possible to do anything that you want’. (Gordon, 2008)

But we are constantly protected and convinced against this.

We wake in a safe heated house, enter a plush air conditioned car, work in a decibel regulated office, eat perfect temperature micro waved food, live controlled lives. Live stagnant lives. The hut offers a release from this. It offers a primal connection to nature, a challenge for man’s great and inventive brain. I think that this idea of a hut is especially relevant for architects, who as designers can all to easily over intellectualize everything to the point of the ridiculous. And also as designers it is very easy to get overly concerned with aesthetics, and the luxuries of educated and privileged lives.

Wearing only black to be mysterious, monotonous and cool.

10. Free from the worries of western world, tourists can experience hut life. For 2 months, this Thai beach hut was my friends home.


‘He’s always working on his house’ - even in their dyar conditions the resident of these huts took care and pride over their home.

Huts lie at the two extremes on society, ‘They can quickly change from a place of harmony, linked to pleasure of childhood, to a place of poverty, need and sadness’ (Boyer, 1998). They can teach us about the benefits of simple, harmonious and ecological living. They can also be negative symbols brought on by emotional and economic problems. But they always provide a choice, a choice of making your own shelter and home.

An upturned beer crate: a table.

A wine box: a stool.

A glazed sewer tile: a hearth.

All of this represents a triumph of the imagination, and a reminder of human beings ingenuity. Although potentially depressing and humbling. Still valuable, as the characters of Dark Days said when they managed to get out above ground ‘Definitely gonna miss it…not bad enough to come back though’ (Singer, 2000) Huts provide the most basic boundary between us and our surroundings. They allow us enough space to look inside ourselves whilst staying aware of the vast, open starry sky. This importance of self-reflection, and the magic and understanding that can be gained from it is invaluable and will forever be a necessity of man. The hut will survive as long as we do.

Bibliography Films: Marc Singer. (2000). Dark Days. Picture Farm. USA Books: Marie – France Boyer. (1993). Cabin Fever. Thames and Hudson. London Ann Cline. (1997). A Hut of One’s Own : Life outside the Circle of Architecture. MIT Press. USA Joseph Rykwert. (1972). On Adam’s House in Paradise. MIT Press. USA Jon Lang. (1974). Designing For Human Behavior: Architecture and the Behavioral Sciences. Dowden, Huchinson & Ross, Inc. USA James Cowan. (2004). Desert Father: In the Desert with Saint Anthony. Shambhala. Ken Isaacs. (1974). How to build your own living structures. Harmony Books. Alistain Gordon. (2008). Spaced Out : Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties. Rizzoli. NYC Magazines: M1. ICON. Activist Architects. November 2008. (2008). Websites: I1. Images: 1. Ken Isaacs. (1974). Pg 38. How to build your own living structures.Harmony Books. 2. Authors Own. (2010). Jack Kase in his Module. 3. http-_www.aroots.org_IMG_jpg_cabanon.jpg 4. http-_www.treehugger.com_lecorb-at-cabanon 5. Marc Singer. (2000). Dark Days. Picture Farm. USA 6. Ann Cline. (1997). Pg. 66. A Hut of One’s Own : Life outside the Circle of Architecture. MIT Press. USA 7. Ann Cline. (1997). Pg 66. A Hut of One’s Own : Life outside the Circle of Architecture. MIT Press. USA 8. Marc Singer. (2000). Dark Days. Picture Farm. USA 9. Marc Singer. (2000). Dark Days. Picture Farm. USA 10. Authors Own. (2008). Eddie’s Beach Hut in Thailand. 11. Marc Singer. (2000). Dark Days. Picture Farm. USA

History & Theory of Architecture - Huts  

A short essay on huts, their different manifestations and their places in society.

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