Emily Richardson: House Works

  • Spender House, Film still, Emily Richardson, 2018.f copy

    Spender House, Film still, Emily Richardson, 2018

  • BeachHouse, Film still, Emily Richardson, 2015.c copy

    Beach House, Film still, Emily Richardson, 2015.

  • 3 Church Walk, Film still, Emily Richardson, 2014.a

    3 Church Walk, Film still, Emily Richardson, 2014.

Past Event

This event was on Thu 27 Feb, 7pm


Artist filmmaker Emily Richardson will present the premiere screening of her House Works trilogy (3 Church Walk, Beach House and Spender House) three short films exploring radical domestic spaces in Essex and Suffolk. She will be in conversation with collaborator, writer and curator Jonathan P. Watts after the screening.

House Works

“A house is not a machine to live in” asserted Eileen Gray in defiance of Le Corbusier’s famous declaration. “It is,” she continued, talking nonetheless in gendered terms,  “the shell of a man, his extension, his release, his spiritual emanation.”

A politics of the interior of the house – as both psychological and physical space – is lacking in historical accounts of modern architecture. The overwhelming narrative of the heroic aesthetic icon is in opposition to the quietly radical ways these buildings were inhabited, which offer up alternative readings of space and ways of life that were culturally connected, creative and unconventional.

The narrative of the house is a filmic narrative, the house a collection of objects, memories and images. An archive and in some instances a private museum. It’s these narratives that emerge in this trilogy of films. The stories of each house are embedded in the surfaces, objects and materials found within the domestic interior: reactivating these spaces lost to architectural history, the films express aspects of the potential stories held there.

Thanks to Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Rachel Spender, Humphrey Spender Archive, John Penn Archive, Bruce and Anne Page, Cedric Green, Natalie Wheatley, Simon Limbrick, Jonathan P. Watts and the Cadbury-Brown Estate.


About the films

3 Church Walk, 2014

3 Church Walk is a film made with writer Jonathan P. Watts and sound composer Simon Limbrick about the modernist architect H.T. ‘Jim’ Cadbury-Brown’s Suffolk house that he and his wife Betty Dale designed and built in 1962 on a site originally earmarked by the composer Benjamin Britten for the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts’ first opera stage. Cadbury-Brown was a British architect best known for his contribution to the design of the iconic Brutalist development of the Royal College of Art in London and earlier work on pavilions for the Festival of Britain in the summer of 1951.

3 Church Walk is a journey through the house in its abandoned state as he left it when he died in 2009. The soundtrack is composed from recordings of the objects, surfaces and materials of the house being played as though so many instruments, not unlike the way Britten played car springs or tea cups for his compositions The Burning Fiery Furnace and Noye’s Fludde.

3 Church Walk, HD Video, 23 minutes, 2014
Dir/Prod: Emily Richardson
Camera/Editor: Emily Richardson
Writer: Jonathan P. Watts
Sound composer: Simon Limbrick
Thanks to the Cadbury-Brown Estate
Made with the generous support of Arts Council England
Distributed by Lux, London

Made with the generous support of Arts Council England
Distributed by Lux, London

Beach House, 2015

Beach House is a film about a unique example of rural modernism built on the UK coast of Suffolk by the architect John Penn. As well as an architect, Penn was a painter, musician and poet. Beach House is one of nine houses Penn built across East Suffolk, each of which features designs of uncompromising symmetry, adhering to the points of the compass in their positioning in the landscape. Using a limited language of materials and form, they were influenced by the time Penn spent working in California with Richard Neutra, and might be regarded as Californian modernist pavilions in the Suffolk landscape.

Beach House is John Penn’s most uncompromising design. The film combines an archive 16mm film made by Penn himself on completion of the house with his experimental sound recordings made during the same period and material more recently filmed in the house to explore a convergence of filmic and architectural language. Together, the material invites the viewer to piece together Beach House in its past and present forms.

Beach House, HD Video, 17 minutes, 2015
Producer/Director /Camera/Editor: Emily Richardson
Sound recordings: John Penn
Thanks to the John Penn Estate, Bruce and Anne Page and Cedric Green
Made with the generous support of The Arts & Humanities Research Council at the Royal College of Art, London
Distributed by Lux, London

Spender House, 2018

The Spender House in Essex was designed in 1968 by Richard and Su Rogers for photographer and artist Humphrey Spender. The film is a biographical portrait of both architecture and inhabitant.

Spender died in 2005 but his spirit is still very present in the house and studio. The film explores the unique architectural qualities of the house and studio and provides a glimpse of its former inhabitant’s life and work as a painter, textile designer and photographer of British life in the 1930s for Mass Observation.

Spender House is a temporal exploration of place, an exploded portrait of architecture and inhabitant aided by the use of archival sound recordings of interviews made with Spender for the British Library.

Spender House, 2018, HD Video, 15 min
Producer/Director /Camera/Editor/Sound: Emily Richardson
Special thanks to the Humphrey Spender Archive and Rachel Spender
Made with an Arts and Humanities Research Council Grant at the Royal College of Art, London
Distributed by Lux, London

About Emily Richardson

Emily Richardson is an artist filmmaker and researcher whose films explore the nature of our relationship to personal histories and the spaces we inhabit. Following completion of the three studies of radical domestic spaces in East Anglia she has been working on a film collaboration with designer, Margaret Howell marking fifty years of her design practice, which will be shown in the UK and Japan.

Richardson’s films have been shown in galleries, museums and festivals internationally including Tate Modern and Tate Britain, London, Pompidou Centre, Paris, Barbican Cinema, London; Anthology Film Archives, New York and Venice, Edinburgh, BFI London, Rotterdam and New York Film Festivals.

About Jonathan P. Watts

Jonathan P. Watts is a writer, editor and occasional curator who lives and works in Norwich. He is a Visiting Lecturer at the Royal College of Art, London. Jonathan is one of this year’s recipients of the Joanna Drew Travel Bursary.