About the Giant Dolls’ House Project

The Giant Dolls’ house project is an inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tive arts project. It engages local com­mu­ni­ties 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.’ 
Gas­ton Bachelard, Poet­ics of Space 

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.

180309 17 Edenton Kipshaw black copy copy
Peanut Factory, Edenton, North Carolina USA. Photo by Kip Shaw

Installations, lectures and workshops

November 2019 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

June 2019 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

April 2019 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)

June 2018 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)

October 2017 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)

October 2017 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

June 2017 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

January 2017 The jamjardubai, Dubai as part of al Quoz Arts Festival

Visitors to the two day workshop with a contribution from Syrian artist Sylva Karakit

November 2016 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

October 2016 UAL Chelsea College of Arts, School of Interior Design

Students and staff made dolls’ houses (with Shibboleth Shechter and Colin Priest)

June 2016 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

October 2015 Workshop Fun Palace Event, Raynes Park School with Shelter

Two hour long workshop made dolls’ houses

October 2015 AUB, Bournemouth

Student from the department of architecture, led by Simon Beeson and Dr. Willem de Bruyn

July 2015 Workshop #Transacting: Exploring the dolls’ housing market, organised by #Critical Practice, House Guard Parade Arts market

Day-long workshop filled the existing dolls’ houses

June 2015 Installation 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)

April 2015 Installation Day-long workshop, The Gallery in Richmond, run by Mhairi Hindle

(with Artescape)

October 2014 Installation TESTBED01, Battersea

Students from Tower House School and Artescape (with Artescape)