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No One Home

blog by Liesbeth Doornbosch – 07 November 2018
Mijn goede vriend A., een knorrige halfbakken intellectueel raadde me aan het juist wel te doen.
Voor degenen die hem nog niet kennen, als architect heeft hij een studio in Nederland en op Vancouver Island, Canada. Hij verslonst zijn beider architectenbureaus en kan feitelijk zijn beroep al jarenlang niet meer uitoefenen. Dit verdoezelt hij met grootse handigheid door zijn zoon te gebruiken en in te zetten om projecten vlot te trekken. Zijn grillige persoonlijkheid drijft me vaak tot onbeschrijflijke ergernissen en tegelijkertijd is hij mijn meest trouwe en beste vriend en delen we vooral elkaars bijzondere gevoel voor humor.

De reden dat hij me adviseerde wel op het verzoek in te gaan was zijn recollectie van de dag dat we samen voor één van de laatste keren mijn ouderlijk huis bezochten. En, dat toen ik de sleutel in het slot stak en we over de drempel stapten, hij droog maar plechtig de woorden: “No One Home” uitsprak. Hij had goede herinneringen aan die luttele uren in de woning en meende dat ik met het delen van onze gezamenlijke ervaring niet alleen mijzelf maar ook anderen helderheid zou kunnen verschaffen. Wie wilde dat nu niet, opperde hij monter. De frons in mijn voorhoofd bij zijn nogal vage uitspraken, dwong hem tot nadere uitleg.

“In elke hoek van dat huis lag iets opgeslagen: verhalen, belevenissen en ja, ook herinneringen.
Ik weet het, aan dat woord hebben we een broertje dood, dus laat die dan buiten beschouwing.
Maar juist door onze gesprekken van die dag op die plek, te noteren en vervolgens te delen, geef je de buitenwereld inzicht in je achtergrond maar ook in je huidige bestaan.”
Mijn cynische oogopslag en opmerking ‘dit is niet iets om over naar huis te schrijven’ deed hem wijselijk zwijgen.

Nog geen week later gaf hij mij inzage in zijn eigen rommelige en chaotische archief, althans in een deel ervan. Hij gaf me de opdracht ermee proef te draaien. Ik zou als zijn geweten kunnen fungeren en een deel van zijn (werkbare) leven in kaart kunnen brengen maar vooral mogen en kunnen becommentariëren. Hij zou me carte blanche geven en beloofde op geen enkele manier zich te bemoeien met de inhoud ervan.
Vooralsnog ben ik niet veel verder gekomen dan het lezen van een aantal, soms Engelstalige, brieven van zijn hand.

Dear D.,
Thank you for your warm welcome on your estate. Oh, and again I apologise for my basic writing skills in English. My son recently noticed even my Dutch speech went down the drain because of our frequent travelling between the two continents. After so many years I sincerely wish my English skills still to improve.

How is your grandson K. doing? I am hoping he is enjoying his recent rebuild and converted studio. It was a grand surprise meeting him in person, and we highly appreciated him sharing some of his artworks with us.

Both my son and I photographed and explored some of the Case Study Houses and arrived home safe in our studio on Vancouver Island just two days ago.
I am happy to see everything worked out fine with replacing and installing all the furniture including the bookshelves. What happened to all tools and equipment, did you already manage to find any storage? I still doubt if you are capable of sharing the large spaces with others. Last time I noticed your temper talking to my son and one of his fellow students. Your attitude slightly surprised me. Wouldn’t it just be better if you keep those spaces to yourself? Though, I agree the spaciousness is too much to handle for only one person.

Don’t mind me asking but what happened to your sense of proportion, the benches are so harmoniously sized, but the working and living areas feel on the contrary somehow spooky because of size and scope.
I will send you a few copies of some of the correspondence I had with C., you met him as well back then, right? In a way, your loss in space reminds me of his stubbornness towards any sense of scale. Most of the time he entirely ignored the inhabitants need for proportional dimensions and any practical solutions. Speaking of, I also found one of the letters by E. – I still miss her weird but loving personality – it’s the one she had to send to C. after his brutal action in the South of France. Remember we talked about this? The envelope includes some collages and drawings as well. I made these for her, but she returned all of the material to me in her last year in Paris. I would love to show them to you one day.

Because of us travelling so much the past months I am currently breaking my head over this idea how to come up with a proper design for a house in the sense that such a concept immediately turns into a suitable home. I miss feeling at home, I guess. I can’t figure out whether I feel like this because of being away from home so often or because of missing my dwelling. In German, they have two different words for both perceptions: Fernweh and Heimweh. It is like not knowing where the home’s reality in the house is; do you get what I mean? Either the ‘feeling at home’ awareness or even only the interior itself is controlling the space or the other way around, it doesn’t seem to offer any in-between solution.

My first thought for figuring out this issue is buying all furnishings of any home in an auction or even directly from a family to research its history and at the same time draw and categorise all specifics. In the next step reuse all of it for a new design.
Guessing I am only then capable of casting anything in a way it makes one feel immediately comfortable in an entirely changed or brand-new environment.

However, then again, many questions and doubts pop up: am I the craftsman having an emotional issue with their or any home or is this search for precision a weird and dangerous condition that can burn any house or home down, metaphorically speaking? How to redeem the previous home of its personal touch? What are we left with, only its residue? I want to come up with any surroundings where we can see ourselves reflected in or even imagine ourselves as a personage walking in a scenario and bringing the place alive.

My second thought for dealing with this matter of emotional sustainability is getting all my old scale models from the storage and mould sculptures out of it to get rid of all specific developmental needs and end up with an improved or changed perception on designing one’s domicile.
In the end, I would like to orchestrate the whole place but end up in unrealities that seem intensely real. I could use some help here and will ask my son for advice.

Oh, last but not least I forgot to mention I spoke to our German friend Bernhard Mörtenböck, he rang to tell me all about his recent projects and specifically asked about your wellbeing, and he sends you his warm regards. We ended up stating German words trying to find new One-Liners for our One Liner Notebook. Of course, we ended up quarrelling, for example about the meaning of the German word Einraumhaus. In his opinion, it is a household or room for just one person.

Of course, I know it is, but I started pushing him by persistently explaining it is a house that still needs to be furnished. My doggedness annoyed him so much that I needed to cheer him up with some of my latest crazy One-Liners: Home Beat(s) Home instead of Home Sweet Home or Home is the place to Tree or even the one No Home Made Home.

Anyway, speak soon and take care, my very best, A.
Lost Shrine, Mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm, Liesbeth Doornbosch, 2017
Fernweh, Mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm, Liesbeth Doornbosch, 2017
A Sunday Morning Modernist, Mixed media on paper, 29,7 x 42 cm, Liesbeth Doornbosch, 2017
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