John Pawson’s Tŷ Bywyd, or ‘Life House’, is a secluded Welsh retreat designed and built with living architecture in mind. Remote and refined, ascetically designed and furnished for a short period of restorative contemplation, it is the ultimate aspirational modern retreat.
House of Life: a contemporary ‘meditation space’
In addition to a dedicated “meditation space,” Living Architecture notes that “the bedrooms in the Life House have been carefully designed to promote a feeling of relaxation and immersion in the pleasures of real life,” with specially curated libraries of books and music, along with a bathtub. Overlooking the wild Welsh landscape. Opened in 2016, it is a popular destination in the organisation’s portfolio of seven stunning architecturally designed homes.
However, the House of Life also has a sinister side. The project has emerged as a crucial backdrop for not one, but two contemporary horror films, You should have left (2020) and Eid (2021). In every film, the location and architecture are the same – especially in the film You should have left – A rich source of the dread and danger that a classic haunted house movie brings to the setting.
Houses in “Halloween Architecture”
The haunted house trope is as old as the houses themselves, giving writers and directors the freedom to explore the myriad ways in which an architectural space can be made unsettling and frightening. The stereotypical haunted house is made up of cobwebbed hallways, dark corners, dark basements, dusty attics and locked doors.
Even when films used distinctly modern buildings – such as William Castle’s Vincent Price classic House on the Haunted Hill (1959) – The interiors still linger on the spider-filled dread of traditional Victoriana, rather than the striking concrete walls that actually defined Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House, inside and out.
from Haunted by spirits (1963), even The Amityville Horror (1979), What lies beneath (2000), the others (2001) and even Mike Flanagan’s Netflix series Haunting Bly Manor (2020), each generation has managed its own twist on the Halloween architecture, with the house typically playing center stage, an uncredited character in the drama.
That’s very much the case in the first film, which infuses a ghostly menace into Pawson’s elegantly rural tale. In David Koepp You should have left (2000), starring Kevin Bacon and Amanda Seyfried, the house is a scene of psychological collapse, its very fabric seeming to shift and shift around the characters. Koepp (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Daniel Kellman) takes the liberty of digitally expanding Pawson’s design, adding an additional floor, while also manipulating interior volumes and reflections as part of the plot. There are allusions to Mark Z.’s novel. Danielowski’s acclaimed 2000 release House of Leaves , which plays similarly quirky games with time and space.
in Eid, a 2021 Welsh-language film directed by Lee Haven Jones, Life House plays a quieter role in the background. The dark tale of a dinner party that spirals out of control via a turbulent descent into folk horror. Pawson’s polished, neutral color palette and meticulous attention to detail provide a distracting neutral backdrop for Big doll The climax, made all the more unsettling by its incursion into this delicious world.
What brings filmmakers to the house of life? Practicalities such as aesthetic isolation and ample shooting space were undoubtedly high in the minds of location managers (although… You should have left A studio set was used as well as location filming). As the scale, detail and atmosphere of traditional architecture recedes into the past, we can expect writers and directors to draw more and more horror from the modernist present.
The Life House can be booked for a (hopefully) peaceful stay Living-Architecture.co.uk