Saturday, 1 November 2008

The sheer scale of stately homes

Big: to wander through the rooms and halls of a stately home is to be struck by the scale of the architecture: ceilings twice as high as a normal house; corridors three times the length and so on. I used to think that this was a simple matter of using stone to brag: 'I am considerably wealthier than thou ... see, I can afford to build bigger.' But recently I've come to doubt this: size doesn't correlate simply to wealth (aircraft hangers; tesco; farmer's barns); indeed, increasingly it is location rather than size that connotes wealth. So I have a new theory: the point of these huge rooms is precisely to make the person inside them feel small ... which is to say, to feel like a child. It is architecture as a sort of time machine; not back through the ages but back to a happier, simpler, smaller time. Me, now, in the hall of Syon House = me, age six, in the front hall of my parents' home.


Simon said...

That's an interesting thought. Yet the owners of these houses would, as children, have lived in these houses and would, then, have felt them to be even more massive. Consequently the vastness of the room they had around them would be ameliorated.

Simon said...

That should be 'the vastness of the room they had around them as adults would be ameliorated'.

(Repeat after me: Preview before posting)

Adam Roberts Project said...

Good point. Maybe the idea is not so much to recreate childhood for the owners as to interpellate visitors into a state of childishness: to intimidate, like CJ in his ofice ('1234 keep them waiting at the door, 5678 always pays to make em wait') with his whoopee cushions. You visit my house, plebs? See, I turn you symbolically into children!'

CJ, eh? God that dates me.