sqm – the quantified home, edited by Space Caviar (Joseph Grima, Andrea Bagnato, Tamar Shafrir), Lars Müller Publishers, 2014
The quantity is in the title and continues inside. 29 contributors, 19 articles, 3 interviews, 7 short fictions, 13 original illustrations, 7 data charts, 3 chronologies, 43 countries, 23 “wallpaper covers”, and more. It seems impossible yet it all fit in about 300 airy pages, very well laid out and highly readable. If not for the book weighting in my hands I would think of an illusionistic ruse, like the one that turned our homes and our lives into manageable quantities, inhabitable investments and fields for the harvesting of information.
The irruption on the urban and architectural scene of almighty financial instruments and pervasive communication networks, and the relentless shift toward immaterial labour and unstable socio-economic relationships, is fostering a silent and overwhelming revolution. The quantification of the home, the reduction of the symbolic dimension of inhabiting to manageable numbers, is giving shape to new forms of housing, to the material dimension of living. Today what counts are numbers, form doesn’t matter. From this perspective the dissolution of the architect’s role in envisioning and designing our urban future shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Yet, the seemingly inexorable character of this fall is partly due to the lack of conceptual tools and categories through which investigate and fully understand the contemporary housing condition and possibly construct an alternative. sqm – the quantified home tackles this gap, embracing the overwhelming challenge of stating the problem of the home, and positioning itself in the exciting and promising territory between academic research and architecture, urban design and curatorial practices.
The book is designed as a frame, loose enough to allow detours yet precise enough to offer guidance. Sticking randomly your finger between the pages you’ll be surprised by something new and unexpected; an open view, an imaginary link, a protecting closure or a dirty corner of this multifaceted Home. Alternatively you can adopt an quasi-subversive strategy and read the entire book in one breath, cover to back. A mighty exercise that would require a long dedicated chunk of time, a real luxury in this age of continuous domestic distraction. Yet the effort will pay back with the inebriating sensation of walking through a long kaleidoscopic corridor where articles follow one another at the incessant rhythm of 1500–2000 dense words each. In this labyrinth of data and reflections the elegant and precise set of infografics and axonometric views, masterly drawn by Folder with the collaboration of U67 will offer thread; a coherent graphic structure that allows to read, compare and recompose the variety of spatial, quantitative and conceptual issues.
Showing exquisite curatorial skills Space Caviar provides a accurate and rich set of educated reflections and journalistic accounts, precise data and suspended atmospheres, meticulous descriptions and poetic intervals, sandy Middle-East deserts and cold Northern cities. The absence of South America and Far East is certainly a gap to be filled, and possibly the chance to prepare a second volume. Yet the marked inclination toward the Anglo-Saxon and North-American context contributes to define a common critical register through which the voices of architects, scholars, artists, developers, writers and many hybrid figures, reveal relationships, expose facts, construct narratives.
A book to problematize rather than solve, once again, the problem of the Home.