Separator, opus IV & III, “Carelia”

Separator, Opus IV & III, Helsinki-joensuu, 2012-13

After the war (1939–1945), more than 400 000 Finns were left homeless, and the housing problem called for an efficient solution. In single-family housing both in rural and urban areas, the answer was the type-planned veteran house, the one-and-a-half-story building that remained the dominant type of single-family house until the 1960s. Attitudes towards veteran houses have changed drastically in the course of time: ”Our fragmentary time and culture and, on the other hand, the immense emotional significance of common reconstruction for the nation recovering from the burdens of war have created a sharp distinction between the old and the new: our idea of the veteran house has transformed from a practical mass product into an almost mythical phenomenon representing the traditional values of Finnish identity, masculinity, happy family and proper house-building.”

Separator IV at the Kunsthalle Helsinki in the 2013

The veteran house can also be seen as the element unifying the family. ”The heating wall surrounded by stoves that keep the house warm room by room was a functional idea borrowed from old building heritage. The circular arrangement of rooms around a single core emphasizes the idea of the house as the hearth around which the family gathers for warmth, protection and safety.”

Similar themes of protection, safety, rooms and the interior are evident also in slum houses built without government control all over the world. The slum house and the colossal buildings erected in all big cities of the world are two distant polar opposites, whereas the veteran house resides in the chasm between these two, acting as a sort of separator. What veteran houses and slum houses have in common is their corporeal and material collectivity: the way a building can act as crystallization or a controlling factor for a private physical and emotional experience – a nest, a womb, a source of protection, simultaneously defining limits and separating us from others.

The series ”Separator, Opus 1, Peking” illustrates these themes. The images show three veteran houses sized 1.7 x 2 metres, cast in coloured concrete and located in the outskirts of the Eight Home -slum area in Beijing.

 Separator III, at the Joensuu Art Museum in 2012

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