Objectives, HDM No. 43

Objectives:  The Architectural Potentials of Storage in Shelf Life Harvard Design Magazine No. 43, Fall/Winter 2016

An essay extending the history of western spaces of collection and storage, and the spatial and cultural potentials thereof, to the contemporary moment. This published piece was initiated through the design research of A Living Archive, and was written in tandem with the design of current projects:  Stowaway House & STS+

Self-storage is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. It now occupies 2.63 billion square feet of space in the country, 4.25 Manhattans in size, and a figure that translates to 8.32 square feet of self-storage for every US resident.These spaces contain a portion of the country’s contemporary personal archive—our amassed but oft-forgotten objects. The numbers illustrate that physical storage space is in high demand (ironic in our digitally dominated world) and also reveal an urge to separate the space of storage from the space of life. Part product of cultural patterns of consumption, much of which are based on credit, and part material measure of the phrase “out of sight, out of mind,” self-storage spaces house the collected but disregarded stuff of life.

But storage was not always marginalized to the urban periphery.  In the 16th century, an elite class lived with—even within—their collections.  If activated through specific details—namely open display and regular engagement in the interactive laboratory of the home—the contents of storage have the power to engage in the production of cultural meaning as a museological expression. Storage contains the potential to jump from the private domestic realm to that of the civic institution.

cover image:  Tom Burr, The Storage Project, 1991

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