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House for Essex by Grayson Perry and FAT

Jack Hobhouse

Architecture studio FAT Architecture and artist Grayson Perry have completed the House for Essex, an extraordinary work of architecture and art, located close to the Essex coast, United Kingdom.

House For Essex has been conceived as a landmark in the tradition of wayside and pilgrimage chapels. Like a pilgrimage chapel, the house is dedicated to a saint – in this case a secular one by the name of Julie Cope – and gives architectural expression to her life.


The design relates to a number of influences including Stave churches, arts and crafts houses and English baroque architecture. Charles Holland of FAT Architecture has described the building as ”a radical statement about architecture and its capacity for narra- tive and communication. The design embraces decoration, ornament and symbolism in order to tell a rich and complex story. Formally, it is like a Russian doll, a series of archetypal house shapes that step up in scale as the building descends the hill”.


The interior features a number of Grayson Perry’s handmade ceramic pots and tapestries depicting the fictional life of Julie, described by the artist as an ‘Essex Everywoman’. Visitors to the house pass through
 a series of unfolding spaces before entering the chapel, concealed behind two ‘hidden’ doors. The chapel itself is organised around a striking decorative object – part medieval rood screen, part baroque façade – that frames a ceramic statue of Julie herself. Upstairs the two bedrooms – with views to east and west – have walk-through cup- boards that lead to internal balconies overlooking the chapel space.


The exterior, clad in more than 1900 green and white ceramic tiles, are cast from originals made by Perry, depicting Julie as mother and icon, along with symbols associated with her life. She appears again, on the roof in the man- ner of a giant weather vane in addition to a beautifully cast ceramic chimney pot, wheel sculpture and beacon.

House for Essex can be rented here for a short-term holiday, and can sleep up to four people in two bedrooms.

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all images © Jack Hobhouse