Living Shelter: Handmade Houses in Australia

Living Shelter: Handmade Houses in Australia

ⓑⓞⓞⓚ ⓒⓛⓤⓑ

If you’re ever wondered why Byron Bay suddenly feels so simultaneously fulfilling yet textureless, reading Living Shelter is the perfect antidote to make you feel alive with possibility again.

First published in 1979, Living Shelter presents 18 handmade homes along the east coast. Minute details are meticulously captured, like a close-up shot of a shingled roof or the textures of a rammed-earth wall – descriptions are scarce where the images speak for themselves. 

There is an aesthetic in Living Shelter that millennials seem to be gesturing towards without ever fully achieving. I’m reminded of Kyle Chayka’s seminal piece on the proliferation of “airspace” which describes the generic, “faux-artisanal” aesthetic of every cafe, retail space and airbnb, the world over. 

The logical extension of “airspace” is that we eventually adopted it to reflect our music tastes, our clothing choices, our patterns of speech and the architecture of our homes. Tragically, in attempting to create an Aesthetic of Difference, we are inevitably beholden to the gravitational pull of airspace, because there is no escaping its homogenising sweep.

How can we save ourselves from the airspace aesthetic? Peter, Tony and Pam urge us in the closing words of their introduction to “try to look beyond the forms” of the houses to see their overall spirit. This sentiment struck me as incredibly earnest and bears reminding in an age where spaces exist to be consumed rather than inhabited. 

What makes the homes within Living Shelter feel so unique? Perhaps it’s the realisation within its pages that authenticity cannot be purchased but it can be created. Or perhaps it’s because the houses belonged to a time before airspace – before we were required to consider how instagrammable our living spaces look before considering how liveable they actually feel.

Words by: Kasumi Borczyk
Image by: Layla Cluer