Imagination lives in garden shed. Many writers and authors have sought for a small intimate space to concentrate and produce their work. From Dylan Thomas’ bike shed study over a cliff in Wales, to Roald Dahl’s “gipsy hut” in the backyard of his house in Great Missenden, the garden shed is a shelter for creative freedom. Dahl built his hut with the help of Wally Saunders -a local builder and the actual inspiration for the BFG- to escape, in his own words, from a noisy house full of kids and vacuum cleaners. He would refer to the hut as his nest, a place to truly feel comfortable and get lost inside the magic world of the stories he was creating. Following a very specific routine that involved sharpening exactly six yellow pencils and brushing off the eraser shavings from his portable wooden lap desk, Dahl felt ready for a long working day, just a few steps away from everyday life. But it was George Bernard Shaw who took a innovative step further in this typology by conceiving not only a primitive hideout, but also a performative building connected to the surroundings. His writing hut was able to provide him both intimacy and closeness to Nature, a condition very akin with his ideals of healthy life and outdoor living. The building is a cubic construction hidden behind trees in the garden of his property in Hertfordshire. Inside the barely 6 square meters wooden structure there is room just for a daybed and a writing table. Three windows on the front and one on the back ensure the visual connection with the surrounding greenery. Interestingly enough, he would name the hut “London” so that his wife wouldn’t have to lie to the unexpected visitors when she told them the author was at the moment away, precisely in London. But the most characteristic feature of the hut was the revolving mechanism placed underneath. Bernard Shaw was determined to keep the sun shining on him constantly. Every few hours, he would go out of the shed and push it around to get direct sunlight through the windows. He considered this not only as a way to maximize daylight and temperature comfort, but also an effective physical exercise to keep fit. Hence the writing hut becomes much more than a hideout. It works as a device to relate the enclosed space of creativity with the exterior world of contingencies. The garden shed is a shelter for imagination but also a complete agency connecting mind and body, self and nature.
Clara Murado 2018
Originally published in Momentum II, Self, Shell, Shelter

George Bernard Shaw 1929

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