Vol. 3, No. 2,
June 1998

Architecture and Home
A discussion of
Heidegger´s essay 'Building Dwelling Thinking' (1951)

The text



(The original text, published with the kind permission of Klett-Cotta publishing house.)

About this text



Heidegger´s talk ´Building Dwelling Thinking´ - A Way of Thought to the Other Beginning of Dwelling

Architectural debates in particular usually silently presume the meaning of dwelling as to be well known. But if dwelling was discussed sufficently, the built architecture would look different. Based on this thesis and following Heidegger I tried in my dissertation ´Laying a Lead towards Dwelling. An Outline of a Philosophy of Dwelling with Heidegger and beyond´ to develop a structure of dwelling by criticizing a purely rational approach.
In his texts, Heidegger mainly talks about dwelling after the so-called turn, especially in his talk ´Building Dwelling Thinking´ held at the "Darmstädter Gespräche" 1951. The interpretation of this text will be the focus of my talk in Cottbus where I will try to outline relations of everyday life´s architecture and dwelling - also visually recorded. Thus this talk can be seen in the context of the work mentioned before.


(New Haven)

In Search of Home

Heidegger´s lecture "Building Dwelling Thinking" invites consideration of that lecture´s context, also of what separates us today from that context. The theme of this Darmstädter Gespräch was "man and space"; its preamble concluded with the words: "the plight of our age is homelessness." Heidegger called this assertion into question, invited those present to consider the meaning of home and homelessness. To find that home which alone would allow for an authentic dwelling, must we not first learn that the home of which we sometimes dream and whose here and there encountered traces seem to promise some deeply longed-for happiness must always elude us? Dreams of home and homecoming haunt us, let us seek out even abroad, in unfamiliar surroundings, what reminds us of home. But if we love in what is strange traces of home, we also love the unexpected and new, where the former love wars with latter: centrifugal and centripetal tendencies conflict in us, confict in our dwelling -- should conflict in our building. We would lose ourselves were we to arrive at home of which we dream were we not to remain underway, in search of home.


(St. Petersburg)

Dwelling as one Expression of Existence

A basic interpretation of the term ´existence´ should take as a starting point that as a consequence of man and world being whole and indivisibile, every action and its outcome as well as the environment are filled with man´s intellect. In this sense building as both action and outcome is not only considered as transformation of material but as life itself in its full intellectual and material diversity. The term ´Home´ and ´Building´ are thus deeply interconnected with life.
Outside of this environment, which is created by a constant interaction of intellect and material, no other potential for human life can be realized. Its creation process can therefore be considered an expression of existence.
This article will discuss three metatypes of architectural language – place, transcendence, and passage - expressing the basic structure of the meaning and language of existence and environment.



Building, Dwelling, Reflection

The title requires a preliminary remark: The ranging of these three terms reminds the title of the famous talk by Martin Heidegger, held 1951 in the context of the "Darmstädter Gespräche" on the topic of "Man and Space". His title then was "Building Dwelling Thinking". The now obvious change in this title is stressing the alternative term "reflection". Reflection instead of thinking. Why? I want to point out my intention with this correction:
The innermost history, that we are all connected to and that we all must consider us of participants, if we want to understand ourselves – this innermost history is recently ending the epoch of thinking and yet introducing the epoch of reflection. Where once thinking had the power, now reflection is taking over – with actually considerable changes in its claim to power. Like modern architecture in its expression being determined by the thoughts of Modernity, a post-modern architecture will be determined by an expression of "re-thinking" or re-flection. An alternative title for this paper could as well be "Meditative Architecture".


Georg Christoph

The Place of Space. Heidegger´s Reading of Kant and its Topicality

Following Kant the recognition of objects is based on two forms of sensual perception: Space and Time. How do Kant and Heidegger, in consideration of Kant, think about the premises of space?



Dwelling on Heidegger: Architecture as Mimetic techno-poiesis

Heidegger's essay "Building Dwelling Thinking" is one of the most popular and yet misunderstood philosophical texts read by architects. This essay will attempt to interpret Heidegger's essay paying close attention to the historical situation of late 20th century architecture. Only a closer historical awareness of the history of architectural theory in the European tradition can avoid dangerous misreadings. In order to infer from Heidegger's words potential tactics for the architecture of the new millennium, "Building Dwelling Thinking" must be read in context with three other important texts by Heidegger on technology, art, and representation. Also contributing to my reading of these pertinent issues, I profit from more contemporary interpretations of Heidegger by Hans-Georg Gadamer and Gianni Vattimo.



´genius loci´. Phenomenon or Phantom?

This contribution will critically discuss the concept of ´genius loci´, actually going back to the Garden Theory of the 18th century, yet nowadays being forcefully made appreciated by Christian Norberg-Schulz in reference to Heidegger. Based on Heidegger´s text ´Building Dwelling Thinking´ this reference will be investigated, the aim being a redefinition of this concept.

Architectural Theory

Gunter A.


Architecture as Dwelling and Building - Design as Ontological Act

Heidegger’s essay "Building Dwelling Thinking" is now almost fifty years old. Yet, inspite of its fame, it has had little impact on architecture and architectural theory. The reason is the shift our view of the world has undergone since the Renaissance: from a focus on the subject and its destiny, to the emphasis and exploration of the object and the object world.
It is the thesis of this paper that this world view and paradigm is not only anathetical to the world view delineated by Heidegger in his essay, but is inherently in conflict with the nature of architecture and its thought and design process. This paradigm is responsible for the increasing difficulties architecture faces concerning its relevance and societal acceptance, and its identity and legitimacy as a discipline.
Heidegger’s essay, rather than an anachronism as it is often seen, actually might help architecture overcome its difficulties and point a way to the future.



Heidegger´s Architectural Theory and Modernity

The impact of Heidegger´s philosophy on architectural theory has been claimed since the lecture on ´Building Dwelling Thinking´ at the "Darmstädter Gepräche" 1951. Several architects and critics referred to this lecture. Yet they mostly argued on the level of a positive misunderstanding. With this article I´d like to contribute to a clarification of the meaning of Heidegger´s architectural theory in the history of architectural theory in the 20th century. In comparison with LeCorbusier´s approach will be argued, that Heidegger´s position though not associated with the self-understanding of Modernism can be discussed in a productive contrast-relationship with Modernism.



Concretizing Heidegger´s Notion of Dwelling:
The Contributions of Thomas Thiis-Evensen and Christopher Alexander

In „Building Dwelling Thinking," Martin Heidegger discusses his notion of dwelling and contends that „only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build" (Heidegger, 1971, p. 160). A major problem with dwelling as an idea is that it is general and difficult to convert into specific design significance. This article argues that the work of two architectural theorists-Thomas Thiis-Evensen and Christopher Alexander—indicates two important but different ways in which Heidegger’s dwelling can be translated into more grounded architectural meaning.


Joseph A.


Philosophical Differences in the Thoughts of Louis I. Kahn and Martin Heidegger

Christian Norberg-Schulz , Heinrich Klotz and John W. Cook are architectural historians who have noted similarities in the thought of Kahn with Heidegger. The crucial difference in the two world views, no matter their similar romantic interests in subjectivity, feeling, imagination and individual freedom, is that Heidegger argues "existence not essence" and Kahn argues "existence AND essence". Heidegger´s existentialist position is grounded in an abyss of meaningslessness while Kahn´s mystical cosmos is rooted in a world soul that he called "Psyche". Kahn´s architectural expression of physical existence romantically extends beyond itself into a metaphysical, occult poetry where the subjective, non-corporal existence romantically extends beyond itself into a metaphysical, occult poetry where the subjective, non-corporal experience of Psyche is made sensible through the metaphor of sunlight.



The Spirit of the Wor(l)d

In suggesting that architecture can make reality more real and let truths appear, architects like Mario Botta, Frank Lloyd Wright or Alvar Aalto can be connected to Heidegger. In the essay 'Building Dwelling Thinking', Heidegger derives the Greek word for ‘art’ which he translates as ‘making something appear´. In this sense, then, art or architecture can bring about an unveiling of truth.
Heidegger's formulation uncovers a certain antinomy within the contextualist position. A bridge for example makes the river into a place and reveals its true essence by letting the two banks appear as opposits, thereby thematizing the crossing: the unveiling of the truth about the place becomes an attack against its essential characteristics.
From this point of view it becomes possible to postulate that the specificity of a place, its genius loci, may in fact be radically secondary or even parasitical. In order to respond to the uniqueness of a site, an architect needs to insert universal, alien elements that function as a normalizing grid recording and celebrating particularities and idiosyncracies.

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Issue 1/96:Architecture in the Realm between Art and Everyday life
Issue 1/97: Modernity of Architecture. A Critical Recognition
Issue 2/97: Architecture - Language
Issue 1/98: Architectonics and Aesthetics of Artificial Worlds