Research Project
Architects Negotiating Domesticity: Cross-Cultural Explorations of “House” and “Home”

Research Project
Cathelijne Nuijsink, Tom Avermaete
Since 2012

This project studies the paradox inherent in the custom-designed house. A precise translation of the specific domestic arrangements of one particular family, architect-designed houses is often inscribed into wider socio-historical public discourse on modes of domesticity and family life. This research project thus investigates the architect-designed house, which both gives form to intense theoretical examination and is the product of this discourse. The project focuses on “nodes” (publications, exhibitions, lectures, competitions, writings, meetings) in a large network of international architectural encounters where architects (and clients) discuss intensively what makes a good house in a particular time and place, and how these discussions have impacted the design of actual houses.

The methodological approach adopted in this project relies on tracing the role of particular houses in architectural discussions, and demonstrates the generative role that the case-study houses have played in the discursive space of the housing debate. By discursive space, I refer to the ability of house design to trigger an interchange of words among multiple participants. Although the house design may be the work of a single architectural firm, a progressive design for a single house can become a driver for a much broader debate. Secondly, discursive space signifies a body of opinion from a single architectural firm, compressed in this case into a (single) act of building. Studying how the fundamental notions of “house” and “home” have been continuously redefined in response to socio-political and cultural changes, across time and place, this project not only reveals how the ‘house’ has played a pivotal role in the international exchange of architectural ideas, but also investigates the possibilities with regard to domestic space, in global terms.

Academic output of this research project:
  • Cathelijne Nuijsink. What Is a House? Architects Redesigning the Domestic Sphere in Contemporary Japan, 1995–2011. PhD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 2017.
  • Cathelijne Nuijsink. “The Architect-Designed House in Japan: A Tool to Make Discourse, a Device to Intervene in the Urban Context.” European Architectural Historians Network (EAHN), The Tools of the Architect, 2017.
  • Cathelijne Nuijsink. “Tokyo De-Capitalized: Architects Shape Regional Communities as a Critique of Japanese Consumer Culture.” Society for Architectural Historians (SAH) Annual Conference, 2018.
  • Cathelijne Nuijsink. “Challenging Mainstream: The Architect-Designed House in Japan – Criticizing the Postwar Myth of a ‘House for a Nuclear Family’.” In Isabelle Doucet and Janina Gosseye. Activism at Home. Spector Books, Leipzig, forthcoming.

Project funding:
Benjamin Franklin Fellowship
Cecilia Segawa Seigle Grants

Link to project website