I’m speaking at tonight’s Turncoats an evening of architecture debates. I’ve been asked to talk about the nuclear home so here are my five minutes for and five against.
The nuclear home helps people develop a variety of skills like picking things up when they’re done with them, cook an egg for a loved one, share their pain and sorrows without fear, care for a loved one who has the flu, a mental health issue, or a chronic condition. It helps socialise people from a young age, much like school does, it teaches you how to live, compromise and love others even in trying situations.
They create a sense of place and self. A base to refer to later on in life. An anchor for emotional comfort and identity. ‘I am from Norwich, I am from Liverpool, I am from a small village in Tyneside, I am from Montreal’. When we say this, we have a house in mind, not a city.
It can help us expand physically and economically, as a partner joins us, a friend crashes on our couch. We use the second bedroom to run our Instagram videos before converting it into the baby’s room. Our kid moves away and our mum moves in in her last year. She dies and we Airbnb that room which helps us meet people from around the world. There’s enough space for different things to happen to us and our multiple societal identities to be performed.
It individualises behaviours which could be collective and more ecological. A laundromat will wash an enormous load in 20 minutes for £3 instead of representing the highest energy load for families (see UK Government report from 2012.)
It isolates people later in life into a sense of comfort which, when they are older can lead to higher NHS costs. Almost 20% of a pensioner’s energy load will be used by their television.
It creates work that needs to get done, areas that need to be kept clean, shelves that need to be filled. That job will often fall to the female partner who will associate a feeling a self-worth with completing those activities. The bulk of FMCG is targeted at women who will continue to spend more time thinking about and managing a household while being paid 30% less than their male counterpart in the workplace. A double taxation system. And let’s not talk about the pink tax.
It creates work for people with zero-hour contracts or even involved in human trafficking through anonymised services addressing those tasks when we don’t want to do them (Deliveroo, TaskRabbit, etc).
It ties people into a very specific sense of family, instead of pushing people to think about their community as a more heterogenous set of people they could help or support.
For more about this, read my book!