He's best-known for his tongue-in-cheek vases, has tried his hand at tapestry and curating, but now Grayson Perry is making a foray into architecture. The Turner Prize winner and YBA cross-dresser has teamed up with architecture firm Fashion Architecture Taste (FAT) and designed a cottage to be built near Harwich, in Essex, in an area listed as "of outstanding natural beauty." The two-bedroom house celebrates Essex everywoman, Julie — a fictional character imagined by the artist as an antidote to The Only Way is Essex's bimbos flaunted on prime time TV.
Julie's shrine is part of philosopher Alain de Botton's Living Architecture scheme, which commissions holiday homes from leading architects and rents them to the general public. Previous projects include "The Balancing Barn" by MVRDV, a boat-shaped cabin on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall by David Kohn and Fiona Banner, and the "Dune House" in Suffolk by Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects.
The new cottage will be decorated with sculptures, furniture, ceramics, and tapestries, all narrating her story: "a difficult childhood, young love, a truncated education, children, divorce and finally fulfilment in her career and love life," explained Perry.
"The idea behind the project relates to buildings put up as memorials to loved ones, to follies, to eccentric home-built structures, to shrines, lighthouses and fairytales," the artist explained.
In Perry's imagination, Julie was born in 1953 and died recently. She was ""one of the women who wear purple," he told the Guardian. "She's in touch with her inner goddess. She probably read 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' but didn't like it."
The artist was born in Chelmsford, and his cottage is conceived as an homage to the county of his youth. That doesn't mean that Living Architecture didn't have to put up a fight to gain planning permission from the Tendring district council — one objector to the project described it as "pseudo-subversive neo-kitsch," another as "more suited to a theme park." Perry's cottage will be available for rent from 2014.