Charles Rice proposes the idea of ‘the doubled interior’, a space carrying both spatial existences as well as symbolising an image, an idea, a conceptual representation.
Sitting in a colossal sanctum, a shrine for those lost at war, while waiting for the sun to make an appearance, my mind boggles at the subconscious connotations and emotions associated with interiors that I’d never explored.
Inside the walls of this building, rows of handwritten books listing men fallen in war remind me of lists of interiors, of domestic spaces that created sanctuaries for women and homely desires for deployed men.
Rice suggests that men and women placed in aged care would hoard things from their past domestic spaces: ‘These things belong to them, and taken together they symbolise a kind of home.’ (2004, p. 277.) To men at war carrying something from home, something as simple as a spoon, it was not just its functionality that was important: it represented their domestic space. It represented an interior that encapsulates love, privacy, safety and family: notions all lost when at war.
When Rice cites Perrot and Guerrand, who suggest that, ‘The significance for the Parisian bourgeoisie of decoration as “trimming” or covering lay in its symbolic protection from the violence and danger of the streets of Paris, and as a way of banishing the look of poverty,’ (2004, p. 277), I contemplate the connection between our domestic space as functional and as a sanctuary from everything that exists in its exterior. During war, when men were absent risking their lives, and wives and children were left at home, the domestic interior took on a deeper role. Filled with representations of normality, memories and aspirations held more purpose than just four walls with a roof, it became a constant in a fast-shifting and daunting world.
The idea of an interior being a representation of who we are is still widely prevalent today. According to Rice, during the 19th century, ‘people became obsessed with the desire that no wall or floor be left bare; bare floors became a mark of poverty,’ (2004, p. 279.) This notion of possessions equalling worth is still rampant today. Owning an LED television doesn’t make us smarter, having Foxtel doesn’t make us wealthier, and owning a coffee machine won’t make us healthier nor prolong our lives, yet we strive to own more and we are largely accepting of falling into debt to make it happen. As cited by Rice, Praz notes that, ‘The houses will rise again … just as our primitive ancestor built a shapeless chair with hastily chopped branches, so the last man will save from the rubble a stool or a tree stump on which to rest from his labours; and if his spirit is freed a while from his woes, he will linger another moment and decorate his room.’ (2004, p. 281.)
It seems our interior will always be more to us than just a spatial and functional asset.
Charles Rice, 2004, Rethinking histories of the interior, The Journal of Architecture,
9:3, pp. 275–287