The Machine for Living

One of my guilty pleasures has been watching Downton Abbey on DVD. Watching the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era made me think about the role of servants in the Victorian age and how at one point the house was to be an echo of the machines of the industrial revolution that was to be modern and efficient. Servants had back stairs and even cubbies or niches to duck into on front stairways if the lords and lady’s of the house were coming up or downstairs. The thought was that the house was a thing unto itself, that managed itself without the need for human intervention a machine for living in. Beds were made, dishes removed by invisible hands like clockwork later described by Le Corbusier as a “Machine for Living In” This idea of mechanized perfection came from the technology of the time, that machines would set us free and give us all machines for living a mechanized life. If that was the effect of the Industrial Revolution and beyond I wonder what futuristic this computer age will bring us? Will be begin to see ourselves moving at the speed of information, giving our corporal bodies over to an electric dance of code or have we become too much of the earth to be optimistic?

A lovely piece by Rachel Whiteread- if you don’t know her work you really should google her…


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