The Giant Dolls’ house project is a social arts project. It engages participants in thinking about their home and environment and raises awareness for homelessness and refugees. The aim of the project is to make people aware of the importance of a home and community for all and to celebrate a united diversity.
Since its start in October 2014 the project has been to Dubai, North Carolina, Goa, Jordan, Bournemouth and has been part of the London Festival of Architecture for five consecutive years. The installations created can be used as conversation pieces, to tell stories, or just to look at. Each installation is very dependent on the different collaborators over the years and demonstrates the diversity of groups involved in the project. We found that the dolls’ house can be used to explore ideas of identity, both shared as well as personal, and that the dolls’ house project is always a good reflection of the different people who have created it.
Furthermore, the idea of ‘just making’ has been a great success. What could be called casual craft; finding out by making, tinkering, using your hands and everyday materials, has been an important theme in the different installations. Thinking through craft and making has resonated with the wide range of participants who have participated in the project.
The project is the initiative of Catja de Haas who has conducted research into miniature and the home as part of her PhD by design. The project is run as part of her architectural practice.
‘The world is my imagination. The cleverer I am at miniaturising the world, the better I am at possessing it. Through imagination only, we can change the world.’
Dolls’ houses and miniature have been part of life since the Egyptians, who used miniature statues to communicate with the gods and who made miniature houses. By making their ware in miniature, traveling salesmen could travel light and show samples. Artisans to this day show their skills by making their wares in miniature. Think of the art of writing one’s name on a grain of rice.
In the Netherlands in the 17th century women made dolls’ houses so beautiful that people from other countries; scientists, kings and queens came to visit them to learn about the way the Dutch people should live. The most famous of these was the house of Petronella Oortman and can still be visited in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Through miniaturising (making things small) you can see the world differently. If you shrink, everything around you becomes bigger: chairs turn into buildings and a rat can become as big as a monster. But if you shrink the world around you, you become a giant and the houses around you become dolls’ houses. In such a miniature world we can imagine what happens. Through the project we can tell these stories and share our ideas. Whatever you can think of, you can make it happen in your dolls’ house.
The making of the giant dolls’ house is always an event: in a room, an art gallery, a shopping centre or any space where there is a wall to hang the installation. At the venue we, from the Giant Dolls’ House, collate all the boxes onto a black canvas and with your help, connect them with ropes, ramps and ladders so all the boxes are connected and come together to create a giant dolls’ house.
The Giant Dolls’ House is a patchwork of the identities, ideas and feelings expressed by all its makers. The individual dolls’ houses are pieces of art, joined to one another with ropes and ladders becoming a collective installation. Can you tell a story about the houses you see? How would you travel through the dolls’ houses? Follow the ladders.
Installations, lectures and workshops
LFA2020, Alone Together - Virtual Giant Dolls' House Installation with Oxfam
Contributions came from the UK and internationally including the USA, Australia, Netherlands, Greece, India, Spain and Thailand. Companies who participated included Ali Warner Photography, City Planista, Feista4u, Lee Evans Partnership, McCloy + Muchemwa Architects, Peanut Factory, Stavropoulou Architects. Schools and organisations who participated included 1st Lewisham Park Scouts, Archimake, Bootham School, Cragside C of E Primary, King’s Lynn School, Manchester Libraries, Messy Church St Andrews, Mount Stuart Primary School, North Ealing Primary School, Northbridge House Senior School, Poole Museum, Scotts Park Primary School, Shamble Hurst School, Share Community, St Osmund's School, STAR Student Action group, Valley Invicta Kings Hill School, Welsh House Farm Primary School. Thank you to everyone involved!
At Home in Sheffield,Yorkshire Artspace
Installation with my Fav Spaces, Sheffield Foodhall, Sheffield University Second year and participants from drop in workshop with Jennifer Booth
LFA 2019 Stand as One,V&A Museum of Childhood with Oxfam
Contributions from workshops in Za’atari Refugee Camp, New Horizon Youth Centre, Colne Engaine Church of England Primary School, Valley Invicta Primary School at Kings Hill, Starks Field Primary School, Woodside High School, Upton-by-Chester High School, Bootham School, Qatari School, Za’atari, Jennifer Frewin (architect), Rob Chivers (urban green) and participants to the V&A Museum of Childhood workshop
Giant Dolls’ House for Goa,Museum of Goa
Hosted by Museum of Goa. Contributions from Goa College of Architecture Students, [email protected], Green Meadows School, Indiranagar Bookworm Library, Mezbo Artists, Cacara Bookworm Library, Chaitali Morajkar Art Class and participants to the MOG workshops (with Louise Ten Bosch, Noreen van Holstein and the MOG Team)
LFA 2018,Downstairs at The Department Store
Hosted by Squire and Partners Architects. Contributions from Squire and Partners, Sudbourne Primary School, Clapham Youth Centre and participants of the one day workshop (with Lala Thorpe from Artescape, Shelter, Sophie ten Bosch and Charlotte Fisher)
Peanut Factory Edenton, North Carolina (run by Julia Townsend and Lincoln Adams)
Visitors to the workshop made dolls’ houses, children from the Gates Country High School, the John A Holmes High School, the Studio 551 arts club and the Boys and Girls Club Edenton, Professional Dolls’house makers (Beverly Kirchmeir and Vero Brentjes) with Louise ten Bosch
The Doodle Bar with UAL Chelsea School of Art, Interior Design
First year students of Shibboleth Shechter and Colin Priest made dolls’ houses on their first day in London about where they are from and participants in the day long workshop (with Ellidth Watson, Sophie Walker and Victor ten Bosch)
LFA2017 (partner event) in JW3 (Will Jennings)
Children from Fitzjohn’s Primary School Nursery Class (Silva Latoracca), from Artescape (Lala Thorpe and Lorraine McCourt), from Swiss Cottage School (Nicole Marks) and Chigwell Primary School, Holmes Miller Architects, Spark, Modelshop of MAKE architects and Erika Suzuki
The jamjardubai,Dubai as part of al Quoz Arts Festival
Visitors to the two day workshop with a contribution from Syrian artist Sylva Karakit
AUD,American University Dubai, Arts Department
Staff and students of Professor Julia Townsend, Professor Saba Qizilbash, Professor Annemaria Lambri and Professor Nadine Bitar Chadine, Dr Bilal Wajid, children from International School of Art and Science, students from Gizela Van Der Sandt, among others
UAL Chelsea College of Arts,School of Interior Design
Students and staff made dolls’ houses (with Shibboleth Shechter and Colin Priest)
LFA 2016,Maestro Arts Gallery with Shelter
Children from St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, the Roche School (Susi Pruce) and Tower House School (Jon Wolf), Beneficiaries of the Red Cross Destitution Centre in Dalston (with Cindy Hanegraaf), Diony Karpaiou, and Takero Shimazaki Architects
Student from the department of architecture, led by Simon Beeson and Dr. Willem de Bruyn
Fun Palace Event,Raynes Park School with Shelter
Two hour long workshop made dolls’ houses
#Transacting: Exploring the dolls’ housing market, organised by #Critical Practice,House Guard Parade Arts market
Day-long workshop filled the existing dolls’ houses
LFA 2015,Headquarters of Shelter, a housing and homelessness charit
Children from Duncombe Primary School, office of ALL-design and Ana Aruaujo (with Artescape and Shelter)
Day-long workshop,The Gallery in Richmond, run by Mhairi Hindle
Students from Tower House School and Artescape (with Artescape)