March 5, 2013 | CASE STUDY - DESIGNING

The Cardiff/Miller House


Concept: Domesticity in the Art World, Sustainable Architecture (and Living,) Community/Collaborative Aspects, and the Pleasure of Tiny

I live in a suite in a house owned by the artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures-Miller in Lethbridge. At one time, they lived here, as have a slew of other Canadian artists who invited people in, made their work, and were a part of the arts community over the years. People brought their stuff, and sometimes left it in the basement. A painting belonging to my partner, Rodney Sayers, and abandoned in his studio in Halifax, was left in a closet here by artists we knew who lived here two tenants before us. To our surprise and horror we found it the day we moved into the middle suite six years later. Throughout the house there is a collection of ‘artist repairs,’ slightly left of center solutions to problems. Because of this, the house has started to establish somewhat of a mythic quality for itself; locals are curious about who is living in the suites; everyone has an opinion about how it should be repaired. It’s a place that’s right on the brink of a certain history—someday it could become a significant art site. Then again, it could be sold and renovated by someone who wants to take advantage of its large footprint and strategic location. I am interested in this tipping point in the building’s history.

Meanwhile, the tiny house movement presents a radical notion of sustainability: that of living in a carefully crafted, thoughtfully designed, very small space. Less living space means less material objects, less energy consumption, and a greater emphasis on the outside world.

The Cardiff-Miller House is a miniaturized, inhabitable replica of the house on 6A in Lethbridge, combining the idea of the art life with the tiny house movement. It is built on an 8 x 16 foot trailer, furnished with objects and artworks created by the Lethbridge arts community, and designed to be low-impact while entirely comfortable, indeed a pleasure, to stay in. It makes its debut at the Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art in January, 2013.

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