Adam hosts the ABC TV series Who’s Been Sleeping in My House? (Joined Up Films 2010-15 20 x 30 min episodes (3 series)) where he explores the lives lived in old homes across Australia.
Of all the monuments that have been built by humans, the house is both the most numerous and the most personal.
Over the millennia they have evolved from little more than crude shelters into complex structures divided into numerous activity areas and using cutting edge technology and futuristic materials. Houses represent the greatest investment of energy and money that that we will make in our lives.
Over time they have come to be more than just protection from the elements and the big bad wolf. They define who we are, where we fit in society, our wealth, success and aspirations, our characters and even our beliefs.
Developments in technology and our changing attitudes have changed the layout of the house. Cooking fires were harnessed in ranges and brought into a new space, the kitchen. Concepts of privacy and comfort caused the dissection of the cavernous great halls to form buildings with separate bedrooms, parlours and dressing rooms. Plumbing brought water and toilets and baths into the house. Electricity and natural gas brought greater safety and allowed for internal spaces, previously devoid of natural light, to be created and used.
On the outside, the architecture grew from being utilitarian, dictated by the naturally available materials, to being visible statements of the owners’ status. In medieval Britain, for instance, a homeowner would perhaps show their wealth and status by building their house close to the seats of power – the manor or the church – and by displaying expensive building materials such as window glass and timber (those beautiful black and white tudor homes show their timber frames for prestige not practicality).
The history of the Australian house, until very recently, is intimately linked to the traditions of northern Europe and particularly Britain. Newcomers faithfully reproduced Georgian and Victorian architecture even though they were woefully unsuited to the Australian climates.
But one aspect was different. Early immigrants, most from British inner cities, wanted more than the back to backs and tenements that they had left behind. They wanted space, and Australia embraced the concept of the suburb where each house had a front and back garden.
But the house is so much more than bricks and mortar and architectural style. It’s about people. Many of the most important events of our lives occur within our houses. In the past people were born, gave birth, died in their houses. To attempt to understand a people one could do worse than explore where they live.
The past is the sum of all we have learnt and all that we have done and so much of our past is reflected in the ever-evolving form and function of our houses.
Home is where the heart is but it is also where our history lives.