The Human House - Bob Harvey

ImageIn some senses this book is a catalogue of a man railing against a bureaucratic system that seems to make less and less sense as the years pass.


It is such a simple conception: to be able to take charge of your own land and your own building of your own house and to do to it what you will without constant interference. It's also a world away from the boom-bust cycle of real estate capitalism that we have seen over the past decade. Tony Watkins still writes with an innate faith in the sensible-ness of ordinary people to make straight decisions.

It's also a meditation, with illustrations and aphorisms to guide any weary soul. It tells you to pay attention to the place that you are in, pay attention to how you turn a shack into a dwelling. The built qualities that make a house a home. At every turn he encourages us to make things ourselves. To make mistakes and to really turn against the alientation of professionalisation that comes with hiring squds of builders, engineeers, architects and the like.

I am going through the full house-building process myself. It is truly hideously over-professionalised. There has got to be no point in history in which modern humans are more alienated from our own capacity to make something our own way in our own time and exactly the way our hands made it.

You don't have to read this book all at once. In fact I recommend that you wait until you are ready to address a change in where you live. Think again about whether you really need to go into debt about it, hire consultants, rack up tens of thousands of professional fees. Pull your own autonomy back to yourself. Recycle more. Make the finished textures under your own hands precisely the way you want them. You don't have to put up with the temporary, the quick, the shiny and impenetrable. Your house should be the favourite jacket that you wear.

If it isn't, read this book again.

Bob Harvey


The Human House
Tony Watkins
215 pages
Karaka Bay Press


First published in Bob Harvey's webpage on the Waitakere City web site.