Accepted Paper:

Playing with wood: an anthropological study of dens  


Jo Vergunst (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Making dens in forests or woods is both a practice of architecture and an encounter with the landscape. In this session participants are invited to model their own dens and join a conversation about vernacular architecture, materials and landscape.

Paper long abstract:

Exploring architecture carried out by people who are not architects, and who have no training in design or building, may nonetheless offer some reflections on architecture. This contribution is about dens that are made mostly by children in forests and woods. The research explores the significance of practical involvement with woods along with the ways of knowing that both underpin and emerge from it. Den-making provides an alternative to the sanitised and commodified rural landscapes that young people often encounter. As a form of vernacular architecture dens also help us imagine a close relationship between the materials that comprise our environment and those that we use for our dwellings. In Scotland, a recent interest in dens as artistic projects suggests a radical agenda that connects with land ownership, human-animal relations, and environmental aesthetics. For this panel I will host a conversation about these themes through a small den-making exercise. Participants will be provided with twigs and other materials and asked to try some model den building using photos from my research and other guides. The purpose will be to explore the qualities of the materials through building with them and to share stories on dens, woods and landscape. We will conclude by considering the ways in which our dens might or might not be understood as architecture.

Panel P086
A Museum of Architecture: Challenging Representation(s)