Constantinos Marcou – A Society of Mattresses: A Queer Perspective on the Architecture of the Bedroom

This research aims to operate from various interdisciplinary vantage points in order to re-envision the diverse history of domesticity, starting from its most intimate of places: the bedroom. Interestingly, despite its ubiquity, little has been written about the origin of the bedroom. Unprecedented, it appears to have always existed as the atom which cuts across every part of human history. In reality, it is a social and spatial product of modernity, indefinitely detached from its previous kindred room types. While the bed, or any other form of sleeping arrangement, occupied a multifunctional space, from early modernity until this day, the bedroom has closed its doors, becoming the most private part of the household. Its sole purpose is to provide a room for bedding. Ever since its standardization and proliferation, it became obvious that the bedroom should carry the ambitions and responsibilities of representing the ‘totality of romance’ for the nuclear family. The idea of the bedroom continues to be symbolically perceived as sacred, beyond the  an envelope for the body that provides refuge from the pressures of the outside world. However, the idyllic image of the bedroom as the intimate space par excellence is marred with a both violent past and present, constantly scrutinized by social, political and religious reformers. Consequently, it has functioned as an apparatus meant to oppress and control self-pursuits, narratives of family structures, and gender relations. Yet, one thing can not be taken for granted; various paths lead to this room: rest, birth, loss, love, daydreaming, studying, voluntary or involuntary isolation, self-reflection, sickness and religion. The hypothesis explored is that, in defiance of the bedroom’s violent past, one can trace pivotal moments where the spirit of individuality was encouraged, posing a ‘threat’ to society’s foundations. Besides being the epicenter of reproduction and heteronormative aspirations, the bedroom has proven, throughout time, to be a protagonist in the struggles for intimacy and individual life, equality, family values, bonds, and alternative forms of kinships, private property and public life. Under specific historical circumstances, it also emerged as the threshold for the production and accumulation of knowledge, overcoming the imposition of gender roles and norms. Reflecting on the evolution of the bedroom in the form of a genealogy, the work hopes to mobilize critical perspectives on the architecture of singleness and its footprint. Spanning from the Middle Ages until modernity, the research investigates, from a political, non-binary and queer perspective, the capacity of individual autonomy as a phenomenon enabled mutually by the subject, their form of life and the architecture of the bedroom.  So how, and in which ways, did the bedroom shape the subject during these spatial and historic transitions? How, considering the current housing crisis, might the architectural discourse benefit from the evolution of this room type? How does it contribute to the discussions on mass housing types for the marginalized unmarried men and women? In what ways did private and public interests intersect with the desire for an individualized, private space? How did the sleeping arrangements give way to expanded ideas on modern love and intimacy? What was the relationship between class, gender, sexuality and the right to privacy? And how did this claim, departing from the bedroom, manifest on a territorial and urban scale?