Architects may provide the blueprints for the spaces in which we live and work, but artist Stephen Willats demonstrates that the significance of buildings is determined as much by their occupiers as by the vision of their designers. Within the apparent monotony of inner-city estates and street upon street of terraced houses, variety appears as each unit is modified by its inhabitants.
Beyond the Plan is a book about the ways in which we transform our own personal space as an expression of ourselves, whilst still dwelling within structures imposed on us by architects and planners. It centres around a series of interviews carried out by Willats with people living on estates in London, Bath and Berlin between the late 1970s and late 1990s, which led to the creation of interactive and participatory artworks that were often presented in the same buildings in which those people lived. They examine the personalisation of the dwelling space itself, the individualisation of the immediate environment, and the ways in which adjacent spaces such as wastelands and allotments are turned into places of escape. In the accompanying essays, Willats explains why, as an artist, he centred his work on the polemics of modern building, and sets out the conclusions he has drawn from the exchanges he has had with residents - the common attitudes he has discovered across boundaries of age, taste and social background.
Beyond the Plan will appeal to anyone with an interest in the controversial area between people and architecture, made all the more poignant in being perceived by an artist working directly with people in the environment of new residential building.
The book deals with the characteristics of large housing schemes as well as turn-of-the-century houses - in fact a complete range of average housing stock - and examines the alterations people make to reflect their identity. Willats examines people's responses to the architect's design of their homes and the way they alter them to make them their own, he considers how people personalise housing which is often exactly the same as the space next door and therefore in need of individualisation.