Portrait of Mathew Arthur by Cheena Normadin


A Man in A Van

Mathew Arthur

January 2013
Mathew Arthur is a man in a van. A designer living and working in Vancouver, he decided ‘I needed to shake up my life, and get interested – connected to what was happening around me. I packed up my home and, for under a thousand dollars, found a passenger van and built myself a small apartment. I found a lot, and made plans to park there for a year; I made some decisions, like choosing the internet over running water…Here, in my van, on a damp city street with my family and friends close by I feel more at home than ever before.’
With 45sq ft to live in, Mathew’s blog of the experience is both a personal story and a sort of index:’I didn’t set out to live in a van with a message in mind. But I was curious. What if I lived with just the things I needed? In a small-scale space, everything in my life seems like it’s right in front of me. Daily routines like brushing my teeth and getting dressed take on an intensified meaning. I’m seeing just how many things we take for granted. I’m also starting to see how much garbage I take out and water I bring in. I’m relying on my family, my friends and the kindness of strangers…The places we live change us – we take on the joy and sadness of the circumstances that surround us. Cities change us... small towns change us... our homes change us. And... my van will change me. Over one year’s seasons from winter to summer and winter again, I’ll be parked in an alleyway asking, ‘What is home’.
Noting Vancouver’s above average homeless population and rising housing costs, for this van-dweller ‘architecture, in a basic sense, is a means of mitigating social, environmental and political factors…’ And with the blog and website connecting him to others who choose for an indoor-outdoor life, Mathew’s home ‘tells a story of balancing privilege and discomfort in a culture where bigger is often better and the common chant is ‘more, more, more!’ Warm wishes to you Mathew in your quest for a sense of scale.
Interior of the van © Mathew Arthur
The van's interior © Cheena Normandin
The parking lot where Mathew's van is stationed © Natasha Wheatley