Our contemporary condition, governed by the abstract capitalist market, demands a critical reading of the distribution, ownership, and use of common resources such as land. This is especially true in Britain with its long history of privatization stemming from land enclosure. The latest research campaign of Laboratory Basel (laba), a satellite studio of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, investigated the English manor house and how it can serve as a testing ground to reassess Britain’s complex and ongoing relationship with the countryside. Southwest England is the most rural region of one of the more densely populated countries in Europe. It reflects all the absurdities of a globalized country under pressure to develop economically, physically, and environmentally. Highly protected landscapes, both natural and composed, form the backdrop to historic seats of political power and wealth, while sites of intense modern productivity are neatly concealed behind natural veils.
Manor Lessons, the concluding volume of laba’s Teaching and Research in Architecture series, explores the lessons that can be learned from the history of the manorial system, whose forgotten feudalistic origins were once rooted in the idea of the land not as private property, but as common ground.