Saturday, November 01, 2008

School for life

“A home is more than an economic unit to be traded. At best, it can be a school for life”


Homeowners forced to put down roots after postponing a house move indefinitely. Cash-strapped families compelled to generate their own entertainment. Even unplanned career breaks allowing a newly-redundant parent to devote themselves to full-time home-building.
There is a brighter side to the credit crunch if you believe the importance of hearth and home has been overlooked during the boom years.
The galvanizing effect of recession on family life will be one of the topics debated by delegates to an international gathering of entrepreneurs and town planners at the QEII conference centre next month.
Champions of traditional home economics like Prue Leith have helped organize the event. Its organizers, the Home Renaissance Foundation, argue that rarely has there been a better time for struggling families to learn the lessons of domestic thrift.
The HRF is chaired by Bryan Sanderson CBE, the former BUPA chairman appointed earlier this year to help save Northern Rock.
Sir Brian said: “Nobody would wish to be entering a recession. However, there may be positive unforeseen consequences. A thriving economy sometimes means that houses become little more than hotel rooms as society becomes more atomized. In reality a home is more than an economic unit to be traded. At best, it can be a school for life.”
Speakers at the conference - entitled ‘From House to Home’ - include some of Europe’s best-known architects and urban designers, including Piers Gough. He will argue that too much new-build in Britain is driven by the mathematics of property speculation, rather than the needs of residents.
The conference will hear that evidence for his argument can be seen in the current glut of unsold city centre apartments. Delegates will also ask whether thwarted sellers sometimes learn to love their unwanted houses. Those who choose to add a kitchen extension, for example, might find that their desire to move evaporates. The longer they remain in the area, even unwillingly, the stronger bonds with neighbors, school and community become.
And although recession brings grim tidings for restaurateurs, enforced eating-in might be an opportunity to learn how to cook, just as fewer visits to the cinema or theatre put an emphasis on the home as the focus of entertainment.

* From House to Home, Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, November 20/21. Further details: www.homerenaissancefoundation.org