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Home Rules by Denis Wood

Home Rules by Denis Wood

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Book review

In "Home Rules" Wood and Beck undertake a remarkable exploration of the "built environment" and our relationship to it. Their objective is to explore and understand a specific room-the living room at 435 Cutler Street, the home of Denis and Ingrid Wood and their children, Randall and Chandler. But ultimately their search is for an understanding of every room as an institution, a cultural creation centered on fundamental human needs, activities, and beliefs. This work is a case study of a particular family's life in a particular room. Based on Beck's interviews with each member of the Wood family, the book identifies 223 rules addressing safety, behaviour, and treatment of the room's 70 objects. A tour of the room proceeds object by object - screen door, door, doorframe, window in the door - with each object presented first in its physical form with a photograph and description, then in terms of the rules that govern its use or treatment, and finally in light of the values and meanings that surround it. In their description and analysis, Wood and Beck show how every room we inhabit is much more than an architectural construct. As the manifestation of meanings and values - conveyed to children as spoken rules - the room is part of the larger network of rules and customs that exist for au people in their domestic environments. By "living the room" with our children, we introduce them to a way of life, a system of beliefs, and a manner of dealing with any environment or place. Ultimately, the authors conclude, a room is a memory. It stores in the arrangement of its parts how we sit together and interact. It holds for children the memory of rooms in which their parents grew up, which in turn were memories of other, more distant rooms, and so on across the generations.

Denis Wood
Johns Hopkins University Press
Date of release


Home Rules

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