Houses Fit for People is a new installation made by Tessa Lynch for Edinburgh Printmakers
which promotes alternative building techniques inspired by play and the natural world. Considering her installation an expanded print, the artist responds to the history of the Castle Mills building and the regeneration taking place across Fountainbridge in the present.
Much of the imagery and sound for the exhibition has been developed following a childrens workshop that Lynch ran in April with Glasgow Sculpture Studios, where she holds a studio and is a regular contributor to the education programme. Lynch worked with a group of children from the Queens Cross Housing Association to imagine and build their ideal homes with building materials donated by GSS studio members.
The exhibition consists of a collaged mural that wraps around the space to the height of a building sites temporary hoardings. An accompanying sound work comes from the captured audio as the children took part in the building workshop. In addition, sculptural works reflect a community garden which hosted part of the workshop and saw a little used basketball court transformed into a collective space for growing and congregation.
Taking its title from a 1986 BBC documentary series which looked at the failures of the modern movements social housing Houses fit for People is a continuation of Lynchs practice that offers feminist readings of the city, highlighting issues of social reproduction that are often at odds with contemporary art and life.
Researching the significance of Edinburgh Printmakers site at Castle Mills and its role as a former North British Rubber Company factory, Lynch explored the archives. There she discovered the story of the companys expansion to Dumfries and the resultant need for new housing in the 1950s to encourage workers to settle in the area. As a continuation of the artists ongoing research into the changing landscapes of UK cities this raised questions around how housing is planned and how we can completely re-imagine how a city might operate and is built.
Speaking ahead of the exhibition opening Tessa Lynch said: The whole exhibition elevates the creative status of the child. I have plundered childish techniques such as pasta printing, crayon rubbing and collage to emphasise the alternative thinking of the young enquiring brain. Harnessing this creative power I have worked with children to re imagine how we might go about planning/building a city of today. I've been interested in the methods of thinking, how we can re-imagine how houses are built. Highlighting how children go about things, how non-planners plan - e.g. how a community garden starts rather than how a city planner uses a blueprint. I was also inspired by the 1960s promotional materials at the North British Rubber archives - the illustrative imagery and punchy colours promoting modern ways of living and Im taking inspiration from those designs for the installation.
The exhibition production has been supported by the Edinburgh College of Art John Florent Stone Residency Award, the duration of which was disrupted by the pandemic. Instead this residency time was spent at home with Lynch developing a series of more lo-fi print techniques alongside her young daughter.