If one asks a child, say a five-year-old to draw their dream home, one can expect a house with a river and a garden with mango trees. A large room is full of toys. A closet with a computer that selects clothes. Something like a playground and a swimming pool. Lots to eat in a beautiful room. All against the backdrop of rolling hills or a beach. Perhaps it is made out of crystal. Perhaps it is like something where Winnie the Pooh lives. Perhaps it is underground.
The architecture of a child’s imagination is detached from the expectations and precedents of adult life. It is not without its references but it refers to a reality that is constructed purely out of imagination unadulterated by architecture’s strictness or stinginess. It is a dream house.
This nascent architectural imagination lays the foundation of one of architecture’s cornerstones: the building or the imagining of our dream home. Since the Agricultural revolution some 7000 years ago, humans have settled and built houses for themselves and their families. This constitutes what architecture truly represents and embodies — human inhabitation… a dream home.
As children, there is a certain joy to how we want to live and how architecture can quite literally mould itself into a fantasy, but as we are exposed to more and more of building and architecture, these fantasies become stagnant with grids and columns or walls of concrete and brick. As students or practitioners of architecture, it is almost impossible for someone to think like this child again: imagining a house made in swimming pools of chocolate. The constructed reality of the adult mind is to catch up by checking structural integrity and maintaining cost estimates to think of fantastical ideas, whereas for the child’s mind the architecture may run wild.
Ceilings need not be flat. Floors need to be curvaceous to become sofas. Beds ought to be approached by a flight of stairs and the entire landscape surrounding the building ought to smell of an orchard. The fantastical expectations are nightmares for a contractor perhaps but they inform an architecture that can rekindle the joy of building itself. Eating a dessert often brings out a child in adults and perhaps climbing a winding flight of pink steps might too. Building a fantastical reality as imagined by a child might offer the key to re-excite people about architecture and building. Reinvigorate those so used to living in monotonous landscapes and working in glass towers without a single remarkable building. This could be achieved by something like a pavilion, like that of SO-IL with flexible columns or perhaps by realising a child’s sketch that seems illogical but has more architectural ambition than entire cities.
Not only limited to constructional limitations, but children also fantasize or rather expect houses and cities to be perfect. The urban expectation is informed by utopian cartoons and images of houses on the beach or the hills. The harsh reality of housing in repetitive flats or monotonous row houses does not seem to bother the child that continues to draw the hills in the background. This expectation of the house in a setting that is both calming and serves one’s wellness does not bode well with adults who are all too familiar with the housing crisis and find themselves simply grateful with a stable roof above their heads.
Thus, it is imperative that we who are bound by imagination clouded in reality, reimagine the architecture of a child’s imagination to build our dream house.