What happened to... Home Futures

The Bubble

To mark the Home Futures exhibition, guest authors take stock of some of the changes that the contemporary domestic interior has endured in the last two decades. What happened to the TV, the telephone, the bed? Explore more of these essays in the official exhibition catalogue.

‘A home is not a house’, claimed design critic and architectural historian Reyner Banham in 1965. Instead, he proposed we could dwell in an ‘un-house’ – a transparent bubble inflated by an air-conditioning outlet and centred around a technological core. This powerful image captured the imaginations of avant-garde architects and designers of the time. From 1967 to 1973 experiments with pneumatics proliferated, ranging in scale and form from Ant Farm’s inflatable medical tent at a Rolling Stones concert, to Archigram’s blow-up suit home, to Haus-Rucker-Co’s bubble-shaped Mind Expanders. Coinciding with the worldwide 1968 protests and the rise of the counterculture, the bubble was soon co-opted as a potent symbol of rebellion. In the words of the Austrian trio Haus-Rucker-Co, in the bubble, society found itself in a ‘softly flowing environment … gliding into a different way of thinking on gentle wings’.

The idea of the bubble – transparent, lightweight, temporary and portable – has become an apt metaphor for creating space in a networked world, where communication technologies undermine the solidity of walls and borders. But with our societies more polarised than ever, it’s not the solid walls that are proving the most sinister and divisive.

2017 was (unofficially) dubbed the year of the ‘filter bubble’, a term that describes the state of informational isolation in which we find ourselves due to the internet’s algorhithmic predictions based on our likes, clicks and hovers. Following a series of elections heavily influenced by social media, the bubble swept international news outlets. Articles ranged from pessimistic, 1984-esque predictions of a new era in propaganda and mind control to handy bullet points on how to burst out of one’s web isolation. Today’s social-media bubble ensures that we see the posts that we are more likely to like, hear political views that will not offend us and are offered commodities that we speak about with our friends. It offers comfort and convenience. In your bubble you feel at home.

—Anya Smirnova

Related exhibition

Home Futures

Explore today’s home through the prism of yesterday’s imagination. Are we living in the way that pioneering architects and designers throughout the 20th century predicted, or has our idea of home proved resistant to real change?

Find out more

Home Futures

Alongside original essays by leading voices in the field, this richly illustrated book features more than 200 colour images, organised in six thematic sections exploring privacy, the smart home, compact living, self-sufficiency, nomadic lifestyles and the idea of the home as an idyllic landscape.