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Holland on Julie's house: 'It is the ultimate decorated shed'


FAT’s final project – a collaboration with artist Grayson Perry for Living Architecture – has finally completed

The two-bedroom holiday home which overlooks the Stour Estuary in Wrabness, Essex, provides a setting for a number of specially-commissioned works by Grayson Perry.

Clad in more than 1,900 green and white ceramic tiles, the 190m² whimsical home was designed as a ‘secular chapel’ dedicated to a fictional saint – Essex ‘everywoman’ Julie Cope.

The design relates to a number of influences including Stave churches, arts and crafts houses and English baroque architecture.

The interior features handmade ceramic pots and tapestries by Turner Prize-winner Perry which depict the fictional life of Julie.

FAT’s Charles Holland described the project as ‘a radical statement about architecture and its capacity for narrative and communication’.

Speaking to the AJ, Holland said: ‘How do you decorate a house no one lives in? This house comments on the idea of domesticity. All my favourite houses do that. Loos for example dramatizes domestic houses. There was a freedom to do that here.’

He added: ‘If the two parts of art and architecture are the tomb and the monument. It’s here.’

Holland concluded: ‘This house is a fitting finale for FAT. And seen as a pair with Clockwork Jerusalem [the Venice Biennale show now at the AA], the projects show two different strands of the practice’s work.

‘Clockwork Jerusalem shows us reappraising British modernism. And here is our obsession with decroation and storytelling and being architects.

‘If you think about the decorated shed, this is the ultimate decorated shed.’ 

Perry commented: ‘When Living Architecture offered me the opportunity to collaborate with FAT it was a golden chance to realise a long held ambition to build a secular chapel. Charles Holland and I batted ideas back and forth until a bonkers yet dignified design emerged glistening.

‘The resulting building is a total art work, a fiction in which you can live, a digital age shrine and a homage to Charles’ and my home county.

‘I hope the people who stay in the House for Essex find it playful yet monumental, cosy and maybe slightly disturbing. It is a three dimensional musing on religion, local history, feminism, happiness and death.’

FAT and Grayson Perry's House for Essex


Project data

Location Wrabness, Essex
Type of project holiday home
Client Living Architecture 
Architect FAT
Artist Grayson Perry
Landscape design: Deakin Lock
Structural engineer Jane Wernick Associates
M&E consultant Atelier Ten
Quantity surveyor KMdimensions
Main contractor Rose Builders 
Funding orivate 
Tender date May 2013 
Start on site date August 2013
Completion date April 2015
Contract duration 1
6 months 
Gross internal floor area 190m² 
Form of contract and/or procurement
 Standard JCT
Total cost confidential 


Readers' comments (2)

  • This house is truly unique, and rich in detail and a lesson in the use of colour and texture. Most buildings could be called decorated sheds, (maybe modernist ones - undecorated sheds?). Would I like to go on holiday here? It would be a revelation! Another fusion of art and architecture.

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  • Paul McGrath

    An abomination of a "house". Totally indulgent. Whimsical in the extreme. Built for a cultural elite obsessed with their own self importance and aggrandisement. An insult to the autonomy of architecture. (But I'm glad it got built.)

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