Living Architecture’s aim is to shift the perceptions of modern architecture by allowing people to eat, sleep and live in spaces designed by outstanding architectural practices. With many properties dotted throughout the UK, there is a selection of unique buildings to stay in but no project has been quite as attention grabbing as Grayson Perry’s & FAT Architecture’s A House for Essex which is the architectural embodiment of the noted artist’s daring talent.
Born in Chelmsford, Grayson Perry is one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists and was winner of the coveted Turner Prize in 2003. Going on to achieve huge critical and popular acclaim, he specializes in ceramic pots, tapestries and sculptures and has also curated a series of high profile exhibitions around the globe. An icon in popular culture due to his eccentric attire, Grayson Perry is celebrated by art lovers and critics alike and his project for Living Architecture enables fans to immerse themselves in his art. FAT Architecture have been one of the most challenging and provocative voices in the UK architecture industry in the last two decades and embrace decoration, ornament and explicit communication in their designs, making them the perfect pairing for the artist on this project.
Conceived as a landmark in the tradition of wayside and pilgrimage chapels, A House for Essex is dedicated to a saint of Perry’s creation, Julie Cope, and gives architectural expression to her life. Described by the artist as an ‘Essex Everywoman’, Julie’s image is visible throughout the house and the artist’s handmade pots and tapestries depict her colorful life. Charles Holland of FAT Architecture describes the space as a radical statement about architecture and its capacity for narrative and communication to tell a rich and complex story.
The house itself is reminiscent of a Russian doll with a series of archetypal house shapes that step up in scale as it descends the hill. Built around a striking decorative object which is part medieval rood screen, part baroque façade, it frames a ceramic statue of Julie Cope. The two bedrooms include walk through cupboards leading to internal balconies overlooking the chapel space below and benefit from views to both the east and west. The exterior of the property is the building’s tour de force clad with more than 1900 green and white ceramic tiles cast from originals made by Perry depicting Julie as a mother and icon, along with symbols associated with her life.
One of the most unique properties to stay in the UK, Grayson Perry had this to say on the architectural masterpiece:
‘When Living Architecture offered me the opportunity to collaborate with FAT it was a golden chance to realise a long held ambition to build a secular chapel. Charles Holland and I batted ideas back and forth until a bonkers yet dignified design emerged glistening. The resulting building is a total artwork, a fiction in which you can live, a digital age shrine and a homage to Charles’ and my home county. I hope the people who stay in the House for Essex find it playful yet monumental, cosy and maybe slightly disturbing. It is a three dimensional musing on religion, local history, feminism, happiness and death.’
A House for Essex is available to rent on a short term holiday basis and can sleep up to four people. Due to the extremely high demand of this property, holidays are sold via a ballot open at various points throughout the year offering the chance to purchase a 2-3 night stay. The current ballot is open until midnight Tuesday 19th January for stays from March to June 2016 and you can enter via the Living Architecture website.