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The rise of ‘shedism’: The garden shed is the perfect piece of ‘introtecture’

Thursday 30th, July 2015 / 01:54
By Manny Blair
A shed in Las Vegas. Photo: Courtesy of ReaderSheds.co.uk

A shed in Las Vegas.
Photo: Courtesy of ReaderSheds.co.uk

CALGARY — Our lives are consumed with stuff. Whether it be things that fill the spaces in our house, activities that fill our present or lists which fill our future, very rarely do we have quality time to ourselves.

As an introvert, I am acutely aware of the need to find a space to recharge in readiness for the next round of events. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really enjoy being busy, but business for me is as much about being mentally occupied as it is about physical exertion, being in the company of others or going somewhere. I find that more and more, I crave a space that I can be alone in, surrounded by my stuff, arranged in way that suits me, doing things at my speed without fear of interruption. I’m not talking about hours at a time, but short periods that allow me to reset myself and pursue interests which take my fancy.

Think of a space that you and you alone have access to. A space in which you set the rules, act as gatekeeper and is arranged purely for the pleasure and convenience of you. There’s a fair chance that you may already have access to this space or have room to create that monument to self-indulgence.

I’m referring to the garden shed, architecture’s own introvert.

I am proposing the notion that the shed is the most important, yet under-appreciated piece of architecture ever conceived.

Writer and designer Manny Blair.

Writer and designer Manny Blair.

Sheds occupy an unusually insular position within the world of architecture. They are very private, unassuming, selfish and essential. Their function is limited, as is their size. They serve one, possibly two people (at an extreme stretch) and have a fortress like quality – access is permitted on a strict invite-only basis and those selected for entry must unquestioningly obey the rules of the owner.

The shed’s small scale is also its strength. The limited physical space only allows certain types of activities and amounts of ‘stuff’ to be housed. It is an uncompromising space that forces the owner to carefully select what they can and cannot do. It is clear, concise and unwavering in its range of uses, which in turn has the benefit of removing the temptation to dither by the owner. Its confines already remove choice, which in turn provides simple clarity.

Sheds are truly the architecture of the individual. Each shed is unique and no two sheds are ever the same. They are completely androgynous, cross-cultural and multi-generational. They are a pure form of equality and democracy. It is their innate scale and simplicity that makes them attainable and to beautifully fulfil the need for quiet reflection.

A shed’s sole purpose is to serve the owner, yet the relationship is symbiotic. The shed’s limitations remove clutter, confusion and ambiguity and afford an unusual experience of efficiency and productivity. Sheds force the user to focus. Going into your shed is a purposeful exercise. You don’t accidentally find yourself in a shed.

Sheds give permission, privacy and freedom to create, experiment or indulge in any activity without the fear of intrusion, interruption, criticism or embarrassment. They are truly liberating environments and are the embodiment of individual architecture – buildings on a ‘human scale.’ They are small enough for people to realistically be able to design and build themselves. Their ‘analogue’ nature encourages individuals to dream, but please do not think that sheds are lonely places – they are crammed with ideas, visions, ambitions, plans and energy.

In a world where resources are becoming ever more precious, no other architecture possesses the eco-credentials that a shed has. Sheds can operate completely independently of public utility hook-ups. They are viable stand-alone structures. In addition, they can be transported from one location to another, often occupying awkward ‘dead space’ whilst still faithfully providing instant, familiar personal space.

A shed has the malleability to go through numerous iterations during its lifespan, without the need for huge time or financial commitments. The owner can make these changes quickly and easily without the reliance on skilled tradesmen.

What other architecture can make that claim?

Sheds are intentionally private. They are not permeable to other family members or friends like a ‘Man-Cave,’ ‘She-Shed’ or garage. It is my view that ‘Man-Caves’ or ‘She Sheds’ are porous, pseudo-private, uncouth manifestations, which are fuelled by the shallow desire to keep up with the Joneses, but I am certain others would disagree with me.

Sheds are at the vanguard of Remodernist architecture. They provide an unashamedly personal setting in which the occupant has space for themselves, thus providing an entirely bespoke environment to recharge and reset both mentally and physically.

Sheds are unapologetically selfish and antisocial. That is their purpose and that is what makes them the perfect introvert architecture. 

Manny Blair grew up in Lancashire, toiled through a dreaded BFA in Northern England, found his guiding light with a BA in Landscape Architecture from Manchester and then an MA in Public Art. He resides in Calgary and with his partner, Sue. Together they run SMOL Design (smoldesign.ca) and create all kinds of wonderful furniture products and designs for outdoor spaces. They also generate some very modernist ideas.  

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