Legibility and inscrutibility

Weavers' houses and artists' studio-houses are maybe the most visible historic European workhomes. In both cases the work function required big volumes and high levels of natural light, so the buildings' dual-use was often imprinted on its exterior.

The vast areas of glass in Le Corbusier's Atelier for the painter and sculptor Ozenfant, juxtaposed against the lower two floor's domestic-scale volumes and windows, tell us this building has two uses. The dual-use of Cash's cottage factory in Coventry, its  extended upper storey built to accommodate the very tall Jaquard loom and large areas of glass to maximise natural light, can also be read from outside the building.

The  traditional Japanese workhome ['machiya'] takes a different approach, however, described by Bruno Taut in 1937 in 'People and Houses of Japan:

“Looking at the bustle of the town, we also got used to its way of life and the many stores and workshops that lined its streets in an unbroken chain… The displays of every kind of merchandise, as well as the entire interior life of the store and workshop were open to the eyes of the passers-by… A little way back the matted living-part adjoined the shop… When the paper sliding doors were pulled apart one could often see the family at their meal or the children at their studies.  Sometimes you could see right through these rooms into the garden beyond.  One night we drove home very late and all the houses that at daytime were so free and open had been shut up like wooden boxes.  Without exception all the wooden shutters had been drawn close…”

The machiya front elevation features wooden latices called 'koshi'. We have developed something called an 'inscrutibility screen' from this.  When one looks at it, it appears to be neither dwelling nor workplace; it opens up during the day, and closes down at night. In addition, 'noren' curtains, slit from the bottom almost to the top and often carrying the logo of the business operating inside, are hung at the entrance as a sign that the business is open. They are always taken down at night. Without the bright signage, a busy commercial street transforms into quiet residential neighbourhood. 

There are many hidden workhomes, all around us in our cities, towns and villages. In general their covert nature is a response to outdated governance systems [planning/property taxation/capital gains tax/leases/tenancy agreements] that are, in many cases, punitive to the home-based worker. This issue is addressed in the Policy and Governance section. For obvious reasons we have not included any images of these, however they include dwellings of all sorts and many [apparently] conventional workplaces.


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