Ruth DaltonNov 22, 2023
Living in Houses
A Personal History English Domestic Architecture
Lund Humphries Publishers 2022
In Living in Houses: A Personal History of English Domestic Architecture (Lund Humphries, 2022), Dr. Ruth Dalton presents a rich and rewarding history of houses in England through the stories of nine houses, dating from the 1600s to the 1980s, which have been inhabited by the author, an architect and academic. Chronologically ordered, the book covers rural vernacular houses from the 17th Century, Georgian and Victorian townhouses, villas and converted industrial buildings, Edwardian semis and 20th-century council housing and mixed tenure new developments.
Firstly reflecting on the author’s own experience of the house, each chapter then examines its historical context, before making a detailed analysis of the buildings design and layout, usefully illustrated with architectural drawings. Each chapter concludes with a useful discussion of lessons learnt from each house/historic period and compares them with contemporary houses which use similar materials, construction techniques or ideas. It not only details the evolution of the design and construction of houses through the centuries, but also includes concise but highly informative sections on the history of various types of construction and materiality, such as brickmaking and timber and steel frame; sections on conversion and adaptive reuse and what works and what doesn't; the evolution of styles; housing density; ownership; and the three broad waves of council/social housing etc.
On reflecting on her own experiences, the author provides useful insights into how we relate to our homes, how they shape and affect us and the value and meaning of the home.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.