house or home

For: the Creativist Society, March 2011

House and/or home.

If there is one issue that keeps coming back in discussions among (interior)architects it is that on housing, home, privacy, etc.
If there is one choice in which this is relevant it is the one on the Creativist website: ‘we can be a creativist or we can be a consumer.’
Since this is a choice not completely free of understandable simplification; let me add some ever current complexity but also try to shed some light in this; especially because this discussion will become more important in the rest of his decade, due to some developments.

It was Gaston Bachelard who said: ‘ the house we were born in is more than the embodiment of home, it is also the embodiment of dreams.’
This was – and still is – the perfect illustration of the difference between ‘house’ and ‘home’: the first being a building, a structure: something physical. The latter being something abstract, untouchable; but nevertheless the most important condition to make us feel ‘at home’ .
Being at home is not about technology, not about bricks and tiles: home is about memories, images, smells, sounds, etc. (The actual question now is: do we need a house to have a home? But I will leave that item for another moment)
If we buy or rent a house nowadays we have hardly any choice in this: the housing-market in the Netherlands is largely supply-driven, not demand-driven. Hence the always returning discussion on the variety and amount of houses build; the impossibility to adapt houses to individual (changing) demands, based on changing private circumstances: family-expansion, working at home, hobbies, etc.
Usually the plans of current housing do not allow the realisation of simple changes: we build as if we build for centuries to come, in which demands will not change, as if a society will remain as it has been for years and technology is still something out of the 20th. century. Technology however so far is applied to the building, not to the – personal -environment created by that and attached to that.

Soon there may appear 2 ways to make a paradigm-shift; and therefore become more of a creativist:
1. the increasing demand for a way of building in which the inhabitant is the first important. We do not build anymore for people we do not know: we supply possibilities to create environments where each individual can determine his/her ‘sphere’. That means a significant simplification of the current ‘building’-practise and more importance for other professions.
2. the development of the Internet of Things: in about 5-8 years we will witness the increasing possibilities to identify, recognise and influence our environment and therefore adapt it to our personal needs. Next to that the increasing development and supply of smart materials: materials that react on presence, touch, temperature, sound, light.

Our environment, whether we call this ‘home’ or else, is/should be something that we will be able to determine and shape according to our wishes and needs, with a personal attached privacy-level to fit with it. This should enable us to create spheres, circumstances, to (re)create our experiences, (re)live our imagination.
We all want to add meaning to our (way of) life, and therefore our homes. Basically home has little to do with technology; but technological developments can facilitate the addition and articulation of this meaning.
Then we can, according to Heidegger, feel ‘at home’ , simply because we can ‘build’.