1982, Peable Mill at One. Roald Dahl

Imagination lives in a garden shed. Numerous writers and authors have sought solace in these small, intimate spaces to concentrate and produce their literary works. From Dylan Thomas' bike shed study perched on a cliff in Wales to Roald Dahl's "gipsy hut" nestled in the backyard of his Great Missenden home, the garden shed serves as a sanctuary for creative freedom. Dahl enlisted the assistance of Wally Saunders, a local builder who served as the actual inspiration for the Big Friendly Giant, to construct his hut. It was an escape from a noisy household filled -as he would say- with children and vacuum cleaners. To Dahl, the hut became his haven, a place where he could truly feel at ease and immerse himself in the magic world of his stories. Following a very specific routine that involved sharpening exactly six yellow pencils and carefully dusting off eraser shavings from his portable wooden lap desk, Dahl felt ready for a long day of work just a few steps away from everyday life.
However, it was George Bernard Shaw who revolutionized this concept further by conceiving not merely a primitive hideout, but rather a performative structure intimately connected to its surroundings. His writing hut provided both solitude and a profound closeness to nature, reflecting his ideals of a healthy lifestyle and appreciation for outdoor living. Tucked away behind trees in the garden of his Hertfordshire property, this cubic wooden construction spanned a mere six square meters, accommodating only a daybed and a writing table. Three front-facing windows and one at the back ensured a visual connection with the lush greenery outside. Interestingly, Shaw named the hut "London" so that his wife wouldn't have to fabricate excuses for unexpected visitors, as she could truthfully claim that the author was currently away precisely in London. However, the most distinctive feature of the hut was the ingenious revolving mechanism installed beneath it. Shaw was determined to bask in the perpetual sunlight, so every few hours, he would venture outside and manually rotate the hut to maximize the direct sunlight streaming through the windows. This practice not only allowed for optimal daylight exposure and temperature control but also served as a form of physical exercise to maintain his fitness.
Thus, the writing hut transcends its role as a mere refuge. It serves as a conduit that connects the enclosed realm of creativity with the external world of everyday contingencies. The garden shed becomes a haven for imagination while also functioning as an agency that harmonizes the mind and body, self and nature.

British Pathé, Bernard Shaw 1946

Clara Murado 2018
Originally published in Momentum II, Self, Shell, Shelter
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