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A Re-Telling Of The Hotel Room

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Heidi Svenningsen
University of East London London | UK
Once again I am writing in displacement. This time from the other side of the world, the home of my other half. I have already now lived in so many rooms, that each of their characters has merged into one spatial memory similar to that of a hotel room. I am carrying my domesticity with me rather than relating it to a particular place. And I am one of many, who repeatedly have to re-invent, re-inhabit, re-tell our domesticity in displacement. We are made to move due to social, economical, political and romantic circumstances.

"A Re-telling of the Hotel Room" is a spatial case study of ephemeral domesticity. I am writing in a continuous process of domestic inhabitation through narratives, registrations of the infra-ordinary and reflective analyses. The process of writing aims to be suggestive of methods of involvement with disintegrated and repetitive spaces.

When I enter a new room and introduce my domesticity as an extra layer upon the palimpsest of inhabitations the room has held before me, it is as if I, for a moment, become another merging with this process of inhabitations. I seem to be spying on myself, similar to the characters in the narratives by Sophie Calle, and each time a new method of inhabitation is revealed. The exposure of the domestic narratives in the hotel room suggests degrees of involvement between us and spaces.

Georges Perec’s registrations of the infra-ordinary comprehend physical environments over time. On my holiday here I can only glance at this other side of the world, though the superficiality experienced when away, helps me to improve skills as a contextual tourist and as an infra-ordinary detective each time I return to home. The knowledge from the displacement increases the contextual belonging in the neighbourhoods of my repetitive domesticity.

The desire to perceive and understand the unknown is a necessity for the unwillingly displaced. The domestic narratives and the infra-ordinary suggests spatial relations that encourages involvement.

Heidi Svenningsen

In ‘A Re-telling of the Hotel Room’ Heidi Svenningsen scrutinises a week spent in a Paris hotel room with an extraordinary intensity and imagination: thinking her experience through theoretical and art works, through invention, play, meditation and sustained attention. The dissertation is one part of a two years’ work looking at displacement, and uses an extreme example of ephemeral inhabitation to the explore the broad question of how we re-invent domesticity. Svenningsen approaches the domestic through the way it is practiced and carried with the inhabitant, rather than as a quality of the place inhabited. Unlike the rooted notion of dwelling, this domesticity is mobile, adaptive, with connections made through memories, narratives, objects, exchanges and attention to the infra-ordinary. The process of reading the dissertation engages us in some of the practices she identifies. Undoing the ribbon, trying to see the face of the author in the tiny photographs of the room, rifling through the envelope of documents from her former housemates, re-tells for example what ‘intimate curiosity’ might be.

The work is unashamedly personal, and Svenningsen sees her written research as an opportunity for this, when her design work must address the collective. But the practices she uncovers here become tactics for her outstanding studio project at Stepney’s Ocean Estate (inhabited predominantly by immigrants). The theorised ‘shared object’, say, becomes a reality when she exchanges gifts with residents, and a proposes a furniture workshop at the heart of her scheme.

This is a remarkable and provocative meditation on the domestic, but it also is that rare achievement – part of a holistic architectural inquiry through writing and design that utilises and understands the different potentials of each – exemplary of the creative role (amongst many) the dissertation can play within architectural education as both theory and practice.

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