Since the dawn of time, humans have been rearranging their stuff. Stonehenge, Easter Island, the Great Pyramids, can all be seen as the results of people deciding to move their things around. As soon as couch cushions, chairs, and blankets were available, someone was probably combining these pieces in ways that they were never intended to be combined. People (of all ages) use furniture and fabric to make forts within their homes for a lot of reasons, but most of these boil down to a need find some temporary refuge from everyday life. If the home is a shelter, then the pillow fort is a shelter within the shelter, an interior within the interior. The pillow fort is defensible space, but it is not made of hard warlike materials. Instead it is soft, the comfortable, inviting ordinary stuff of the home is rearranged into new configurations to make new kinds of space. The pillow fort has a whimsical legibility, it reads as both the castle and the couch at the same time, and it invites us to engage with it, to use it, and to remake it. This making and remaking is extra fun with company. Just like in full size home-building (or Stonehenge building), the creation of the pillow fort needs extra hands present, if only to balance the couch cushions while the blanket is draped over the top.
A sketch of the BMA’s pillow fort activity
The pillow fort uses many of the same construction methods present in domestic architectural history. First a site must be chosen and prepared. Low heavy space can be made by stacking things, and higher, lighter space is defined by adaptable frames. Modular textiles can wrap around all of this and create enclosure, with openings back to the outside world. No pillow fort, or house, is complete without something like a hearth. People need light, entertainment, and the social space that’s created around an active center like a fireplace, ipad, or flashlight…
For The Baltimore Museum of Art’s first Art After Hours event, come join us in the collaborative construction of a giant pillow fort in the Museum’s East Lobby. The event will include live music, local food and beer, and other activities in conjunction with the Imagining Home exhibition. Baltimore is our home, and the BMA invites you to come and make yourself at home here for the evening. We’ll make a temporary home within the lobby, come participate in person, and follow along with the hashtag #BMApillowfort on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The pillow fort will be up over the weekend, but we hope you’ll be comfortable and cozy enough to come back anytime!
– Fred Scharmen and Marian April Glebes