Home Economics

Five new models for domestic life
Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Life is changing; we must design for it

For the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, curator Alejandro Aravena set the theme, Reporting from the Front. Home Economics, the British Council's exhibition at the British Pavilion, responded by tackling the front line of British architecture today: the home.

Home Economics proposes five new models for living, through five periods of time: Hours, Days, Months, Years and Decades.

What does it mean to design first with time instead of space?

The curators, Shumi Bose, Jack Self and Finn Williams invited artists, architects and designers to produce five immersive rooms which challenge the status quo of the home.

Curatorial team, British Pavilion 2016, Shumi Bose, Jack Self, Finn Williams © James O Jenkins

Curatorial team, British Pavilion 2016, Shumi Bose, Jack Self, Finn Williams © James O Jenkins

Watch the film and explore Home Economics:

Over the last decades our patterns of life have changed profoundly: family structures, gender roles, rising wealth inequality, mass migration and an ageing population. New technologies have displaced how, where and when we work, while prompting questions about surveillance and privacy in the home.

Home Economics was opened in May 2016 by Sandi Toksvig, comedian and co-founder of the Women's Equality Party. We welcomed over 145,000 people into the pavilion that year.

"We urgently need to change housework because it's boring" @sanditoksvig opening #HomeEconomics #Venice2016

@British_Design Twitter

Gain insight into the ideas behind the exhibition and explore the lives of five people pioneering new ways of living in our five films, created in partnership with the Guardian.

Take an audio tour of Home Economics with Will Self as you continue your journey through the exhibition below:

Scroll down to experience the exhibition yourself, room by room:


By Jack Self with Finn Williams and Shumi Bose

Own nothing, share everything

Welcome to your communal living room, which you share with a number of other apartments on your floor. You normally spend a couple of hours here each day entertaining friends, socialising with neighbours, working or relaxing. Sharing can be a luxury, not a compromise.

In 2014 the bed overtook the sofa for the first time as the most used piece of furniture in British homes.

The daybeds allow you to tailor the space for different forms of labour, rest and play. You describe it as your own private living space; it feels like a shared home, but not a public room.

You share a number of common objects with your neighbours and keep them in a 'garderobe', or communal wardrobe.

British fashion designer J.W. Anderson has curated the clothes of a common wardrobe shared between households.

Even though you live in the centre of the city, your rent is not expensive. You use your savings to invest in shares of the company that owns and manages your building.

- Jack Self on Hours for Home Economics


Home is where the wi-fi is

You’re constantly on the move, from city to city around the world. It doesn’t matter where you are, you can always climb inside your inflatable retreat whenever you need – this is your portable and personalised space.

To feel at home here you only need a wi-fi connection, which you use to flit between your social media feeds, entertainment and virtual and commercial consumption.

80% of smartphone owners check their email or social media accounts within 10 minutes of going to sleep or waking up.

Now this personalised inflatable sphere offers a new type of space that responds to your global mobility and is just as unique as you. No two are the same.

- åyr on Days for Home Economics


By Dogma & Black Square

A house without housework

When you first heard your new home was modelled on a boarding house you had doubts... but after living here for a few months you can’t imagine a better form of life.

The number of temporary workers in the UK has increased by 20% over the last six years.

Everything you need is provided – your personal two-storey totem contains your private spaces for sleeping, washing and preparing food. The open-plan areas between you and your neighbours are shared, and you spend the days here working and socialising.

You feel liberated in your totem: you don’t need to buy furniture, sign up for utilities or get internet installed. It’s all as easy as booking a room. Most of all, there is no housework as it's all included in your rent. This home makes all that labour history.

- Dogma & Black Square on Months for Home Economics


By Julia King

Space for living, not speculation

When looking to buy a new home, you suspected you were being taken for a ride. The tacky countertops, ugly lights and built-in ovens – the finishes and fittings were so expensive, and not at all your style. That’s where the developers make most of their money, and you simply refused to pay.

The average age of a first-time mortgage applicant in the UK is now 39.

Your home is designed from the bank’s perspective, stripping out every cost not required by your mortgage. It’s called “shell” construction – just a roof over your head, running water, electricity, a toilet and basin. Nothing else. Not even a kitchen sink!

Some people thought it looked bare, but you saw a blank canvas. You saved a lot of money and, over time, created a space that reflects the way you choose to live.

If you moved into rented accommodation in London today, you would spend about £91,500 on rent before buying your first home.


By Hesselbrand

A room without functions

Your home is functionless, but that’s not a bad thing. Instead of cramming everything into the smallest area possible, it is designed to provide you with generous, adaptable, useful spaces. You occupy two spaces – one inside the structural core and one outside it.

Most building materials used in new housing in the UK have a warranty period of around 30 years. Yet over half of the existing homes in London are over 70 years old.

There are no predetermined rooms with predetermined activities – no 'kitchens' or 'bedrooms' or 'bathrooms'. Your home has a diverse range of spaces that suggest different activities.

Your square bed captures the essence of your home: it doesn’t dictate which way you should sleep, or even how many people can rest here together.

1 in 3 children born in Britain now will live to 100.

Over the decades your life has changed from youth to old age and from singleton to parent, but your home has always accommodated your needs.

- Hesselbrand on Decades for Home Economics

More about the exhibition

Take a full Twitter tour of the exhibition.

Listen to the panel discussion on Home Economics, with Guardian architecture critic Olly Wainwright:

Read interviews with the curators:
- Finn Williams on Home Economics
- Shumi Bose on the Collaborators for Home Economics

And listen to the 'disruptive developers' discuss the future of housing:

Follow us on the British Council's Architecture Design Fashion website, Twitter and Instagram.

"Home Economics challenges architects to re-think the way we design our homes – it's exciting to see that the research and ideas from these collaborations has already had an impact beyond the exhibition.”

Gwen Webber, Project Manager British Pavilion 2016

Exhibition partners:
J.W. Anderson, The Collective, Fjord, Fergus Henderson, Naked House, PegasusLife, Royal Bank of Scotland

Exhibition sponsors:
Arup, eldoLED, Forbo, iGuzzini, The Spaces, The Vinyl Factory

Image credits:
Exhibition images © Cristiano Corte
Exhibition graphics © OK-RM