The Compromise House

An experimental project which investigates the gulf between ambition and reality: the compromise by Måns Wrange/OMBUD

The history of architecture is filled with visionary projects that seek to solve social problems. Such utopian schemes frequently explore multi-family residences, institutional architecture or urban planning. The single family house has also served as both a spatial and social test-bed for a number of historically significant architects.

Many contemporary architects of single-family houses, however, limit their ambitions to designing for another utopian construct – that of the harmonious nuclear family. Yet when reality confronts unfettered imagination – be it an ideal home or a utopia – another factor swiftly enters the equation: the compromise.

Within the Western cult of the individual (not least within Western art and culture), compromise is generally regarded as being negative – a limitation imposed on individual and artistic freedom. In Sweden, however, compromise has played a key role in the development of the Welfare State since the 1930s. The success, historically, of the so-called ‘Swedish Model’ can even be said to be the result of a number of decisive compromises – for example, between capitalism and socialism, the individual and the collective, private and public.

The Compromise House is an experimental project that draws on this historical use of the compromise in Sweden as an aim in itself. The project explores the concept of the compromise as a positive, productive principle, and accordingly applies it to every aspect of the house: from the design process to its aesthetic, spatial and social solutions.

A compromise, of course, is not necessarily interesting per se – many compromises are simply trivial. However, a compromise can be radical and innovative when intentionally used as a creative method.

The Compromise House initiated a range of case studies and experiments with compromises, bringing together contrary and sometimes conflicting spatial and social ideas and systems. In contrast to consensual modes of thought, such forms of conflict and resistance, as well as practical problems, were viewed not as obstacles, but as creative elements to be integrated within the process itself. From this patient, time consuming process, the most interesting compromises were selected to generate the unexpected, sometimes strange, but always functional design solutions of The Compromise House.

To describe The Compromise House, one might be tempted to apply a new term such as ‘Magic Functionalism’ – a compromise between ‘Functionalism’ (the Scandinavian version of the International Style, which aimed to revolutionize life through function) and the literary style ‘Magic Realism’, which blends realism with elements of the bizarre, surreal and fantastic.







Måns Wrange Website