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On the perception of Building Dwelling Thinking in architecture

Eduard Fhr http://www.tu-cottbus.de/theo/Lehrstuhl/engl/fuehr/BWD1.html Introduction: Since Heideggers invitation to the second Darmstadt Discussion entitled Human Being and Space in 1951, and since the 1952 publication of the lecture he gave there on Building Dwelling Thinking, fifty years have passed. During this time very many but very different scientists (least of all philosophers, interestingly enough) have written about the text and passed on its content and their positions as well as their own interpretation to their readers and students. Following this invitation by architects Heidegger spoke from their point of view about their genuine field: building and dwelling. Ever since then architects have perceived Heidegger as an architectural theorist. Several authors related to architecture used his text as a foundation for a kind of architectural phenomenology. Other architects who refer to themselves as scholars of Heidegger plan and design according to his thinking either directly or mediated through an architecturaltheoretical system. Is Building Dwelling Thinking a philosophical text? Is it a theoretical architectural text? Why does it attract architects?

Let us begin with Ulrich Conrads who back then was a young listener at the Darmstadt Discussion and who in 1991 published the lectures and protocols anew: ``... to be present was all that mattered back then. All of the building or not yet building young Germany(West) had gathered around the feet of four old masters... Having escaped the war, even six years later, we resembled thirsty sponges. Regardless of the down and dirty disillusionment into which we were thrown by the politics of the Adenauer era... our mood was that of a new beginning: already in 1951 a lovely craziness. Feeling free and at the outset of a new beginning, we overlooked, unintentionally for certain, what actual restoration and mind control was going on all around us. And thus it was not only outer circumstance, but also our mindset which in 1951 turned us into awake, keen, critical, and here I have to confess, into grateful, partly enthusiastic, listeners of the second Darmstadt Discussion.` Conrads 1991, page 7f Nevertheless, during the talk following Heideggers lecture it became apparent, that it had been perceived from different perspectives and that the participants referred to different passages. Bartning, who was monitoring the discussion, saw in Heideggers fundamental definition of the human being as a dweller, and in connection with building and dwelling, mostly that

his being on earth implies the task to build (Human Being and Space 1952, page 102). This task has to be executed by ``the building master for his brothers.``(ibid.) It is the building masters second nature to dig up his beloved earth. He sets and resets foundations and constructs with shaping hands buildings out of earthen material. Hands that are talented and driven intuitively, constructing with keen calculations, thoughts and concepts (ibid. page 102f) Hans Schwippert, the second speaker, had a similar view. Building should not be the ordered, policed, billed and paid building of the moment (ibid. page 104), but a high precept. At the same time he pleas for a bright, light and open dwelling and is aware that it does not have to be linked to steel and glass, the technical means of modernism. Sepp Ruf perceived Heideggers text as a plea for overcoming the functional and to advance to the spheres of the pure arts with architectures genuine means of the pure measure, the horizontal and vertical, that is to say ceiling, column and wall, the space engulfing opening(ibid. page 106). The aim of the spiritual should be creation of a worthy space for human beings in free community at home as well as in public buildings (ibid. page 127f). Paul Bonatz sees architectures role in the re-gaining of Being, unlike science, which organizes abstractly and thus is destructive to being, and unlike philosophy, which propagates atomization of thoughts. Figuratively sitting on Heideggers shoulders, he does not miss the chance to criticize a school building by Scharoun as an inhumane laboratory made for constructing a homunculus while mentioning as a positive example the school he himself once attended as a normal primary school in Rapoltsweiler, Alsace, where I sat along with sixty boys in a normal classroom(ibid. page 110). We realize how heterogeneously Heideggers thoughts were received and how quickly they were turned into instruments. This tendency grew even stronger during the next fifty years. Through different perspectives and foci on certain passages as well as theoretical complexes, from an architectural scientific point of view, four basic perceptions of the text emerged which in secondary literature and in the attitudes and concepts of architects have been blended together indeed and have immensely influenced the reading and understanding of Heideggers text: Building Dwelling Thinking as philanthropy In his lecture Heideggers approach does not begin with the art of construction or technology instead he reflects upon building and dwelling, in other words on activities of human beings and their existential destination. That is why the text can be understood as a plea for the humanization of architecture. This is the view of Ulrich Conrads who called the older, complete publication a document of hope for a philanthropic architecture

(Conrads1991, page 8). In the 1952 published discussion the notion of philanthropy can be detected among many of the architects indeed. In theory it is nourished by Heideggers reduction from building to dwelling and his portrayal of dwelling as a fundamental destination of human existence. Schwippert, Ruf and Scharoun see the role of their architecture as giving human beings an opportunity for realization, social closeness and an open and free way of life. Bonatz too, wants to improve life but rather in regard to tradition. While everyday life and its successful organization within functionalism is criticized as inhumane, art and the spiritual are exposed as the true domains of the humane. At the same time the architects are cultivating their vanity. When in the 1920s Bruno Taut still involved the occupants in the creation of good architecture (Die neue Wohnung. Die Frau als Schpferin, 1924) it is now the architect guys who claim nobility on basis of the ontological meaning of dwelling, acting as the rescuers of authentic Being from science and philosophy and rising to the rank of high priests of Being. For the art of building requires a surrender to the community in front of God (Bonatz ibid. page 103) Further views of Heideggers text - some philosophically elaborated - emerge in the time that follows. I believe that they can be reduced to three different positions, each represented by a different author. Building Dwelling Thinking as poetry and poetics of architecture In his lecture Building Dwelling Thinking Martin Heidegger describes how architecture can be successful. By using the example of a bridge he outlines how building is not only a question of technology but of the gathered fourfold. In the introductory description of the bridge Heidegger points out how his example, the location remains unidentified, constitutes a successful design of an object because it not only defines the building but the river as well as the landscape in their respective identities, while placing the human being who is using the bridge in an individually defined relation to each aspect of the fourfold. Suggesting and systematically depicting how to design objects well certainly qualifies as poetics (notwithstanding that in his text Heidegger himself does not do so). However, his reference to Trakl or Hlderlin in other texts suggests this classification. The perception of Building Dwelling Thinking as poetics was defined by Bachelards publication La poetique de lespace (1957). At first sight the book seems to present a kind of architectural psychology. It is about architecture as a place of experience and of dreams (Bachelard) 1957, page 33). Bachelard seems to emphasize architectures human aspects against a technological as well as a positivist and against a sociological as well as a matter-of-fact perception. It goes without saying that it is not human subsistence needs which matter. What matters is the sphere of the sublime, the soul and of sensitive images as well as the sphere of dreams reaching into metaphysics. ``In a human beings life the house excludes coincidence. It accumulates a sense of continuity instead. If this was not the case we would be dispersed beings. It keeps us upright. It is

body and soul. It is the first world of human existence. Before being thrown into the world as the swift metaphysics teach, the human being is put into the cradle of the house... Life begins well, it begins enclosed, cared for, quite warm in the lap of the house`` (ibid. page 3). Due to the political and cultural discourse of the 60s the poetry of space is met by architects of that time with great interest (while all other publications by Bachelard awaited translation considerably, La poetique de lespace was already translated into German in 1960 and into English in 1964). In those days authors of almost all countries agreed upon that life as it was then was deeply inhumane, anti social and apolitical. The cause had been the expulsion of sensuality, of aesthetics and art from the personal, social and political life. The base and animalistic rest had been optimized in mechanical functioning. The result was that within this totalitarian uniformity re-realization of the humane became impossible. Because they were influential I would like to name out of a long list of authors of the past just a few, like Wolf Jobst Siedler along with the photographer Elisabeth Niggemeyer and their book Die gemordete Stadt (1961). Alexander Mitscherlich and his book Die Unwirtlichkeit der Stdte (1965) in which he argues for the regaining of a home land (Heimat) as a slice of world wrestled from the eeri`(Mitscherlich 1965, page 136). As well Theodor W. Adorno (1965) who realizes how in a fundamentally wrong society in which human beings are deformed, the functional only exists as a deformation and the practical only as realization of the irrational. Only fantasy, the ornament , the non-rational, the superfluous, the indefinite and the shadow- and dream-like state make overhauling of a false reality possible. Bachelard is read and perceived in this context with great interest; his Poetics of Space were perceived as a grand plea for fantasy. Reading Bachelard with this superficial perception, will turn Heideggers text into a request for poetics in everyday life, at best. Looking back one cant help but realize that taking Bachelard literally, he is producing meaning, dreams and archetypal imagery that are simply the desires of a petit bourgeois for warmth, homeliness and comfort and rarely actual inventive and free fantasies. It has to be emphasized however that occupation with his concrete statements is superfluous and tantamount to fighting mirrors. Such a perception takes literally what should be taken metaphorically and should be read for its philosophical content. At a closer look the Poetics of Space is nothing less than a fundamental philosophical text, a kind of phenomenology (a term that still needs to be defined more precisely). The 10 chapters of this book are literally about architecture but what they present is actually concrete metaphysics (Bachelard 1957, page 236). The chapters I, II and IV through VI (The House..., House and Space, The Nest, The Shell, The Angles) are about a fundamental definition of the subject as well as of objects. Chapter III (The Drawer, The Chests And The Cupboards) is about a revision of classical science theory. Chapters VII through IX (The Miniature, The Immeasurable Inner Self, Dialectics Of Inside And Outside) are about the relationship between subject and world. The last chapter (Phenomenology Of The Circular) is

about exclusion, unity and identity and about the transformation from being-there to being. The Poetics Of Space are for Bachelard in line with philosophical works about theoretic cognitive questions regarding reality, science, imagination and fantasy. Already in his first larger publication (1928) he points out that reality does not side with the objective but with the terminological framework, which is independent of the object. Reality develops out of the transformation of old terms, which again happens by application of new methods (like the invention of the electronic microscope) or through an instinct of the mind. For Bachelard recognition is a kind of induction; and induction for Bachelard means construction or invention. By this Bachelard turns the classical method of recognition upside down. At first there is no longer reality which has to be recognized but the rational, the term and its definition by which reality is produced. Bachelards concern is an aesthetic of the rational (Bachelard 1938, page 43) Meaning that recognition is an activity of the rational mind of a person as well as a subjective desire. Thinking is not a formal and pure procedure of the rational mind. It is an actual recognizing process linked to interests, interest meaning a subjective psychological will. For Bachelard thinking contains a self inducing psychological dimension that is why every science theory is psychoanalysis too, psychoanalysis meaning analysis of the psychological constellation as well as analysis of the tangible thought. In this early phase Bachelard is conducting a critical phenomenology; he is concerned with primary images and sure knowledge, both of which he exposes as hindrances of recognition: in the destruction of images one recognizes despite an (earlier) knowledge and despite the immediate sense of evidence. In the late phase of his theory he is not so much concerned with the overcoming of pre-existing images through destruction, but rather with by-passing them through invention. This becomes especially clear in his last book (La flamme dune chandelle, 1961). There he points out that one can only engrave the own self in solitary dreams, "to see all, to think all, to say all and to write all in the state of natural existence" (Bachelard 1961, page 107) Bachelard distinguishes between metaphors and images. Metaphors are cold. They are diversions, hindrances (to return to his language and concepts of the pre-war era) which make recognition impossible. Images on the other hand are "natural life in an imaginary world" (ibd. page 8)

The goal being a concrete aesthetic (ibid. page 10) which will not lose its poetic power prematurely in the process of rationalization. Images are sensitive night visions (ibid. page 13) that will be destroyed by pure thinking. Only "when the thoughts are at rest will the images be awake" (ibid. page 13). For Bachelard The Poetics of Space signifies a phenomenology. He understands the term as an aesthetic of the superficial nature of objects as well as the subject (Bachelard 1957, page 185).

"The phenomenology of poetic imagination allows us to explore the existence of human beings as a creature which has a surface. A surface separating ones own region from that of the other. Let us not forget that speaking precedes being. ...Out of poetic language run waves of novelty over the surface of being." (ibid. page 220) The aim of his book is to elaborate the fathomless depth of the surface of things as well as the subject. The Poetics of Space are about the spatial concept of the subject, about the art of fabrication (poetics) of a deep superficial existential space and about the resolution of the difference between subject and world and between being and fantasy. In order to create this space Bachelard needs to distance himself from the preexisting Being. One can only dream in the clairobscure (Bachelard 1961, page 12f) when things lose their abundance, their identity, their material substance and their being. When they no longer gather themselves but empty out. Bachelards relation to classical phenomenology becomes apparent in the chapter on miniature. The miniature is important for him because within it object-like reality is minimized while at the same time containing great images "The miniature is a source of greatness" (Bachelard 1957, page 162). "The formulas: being in the world, being of the world are too majestic for me; I do not succeed in experiencing them. I feel better in the world of miniature. For me it is a well- defined world...truthfully experienced miniature...relieves me from the muddled environment and helps me resist its dissolving force" (ibid. page 166). Reading Heidegger with this perception of Bachelard, will turn Heideggers ontology into an existential- psychology. Let me remark that it is often overlooked how explicitly Bachelard distances himself from Heidegger; this is especially apparent in the translation of the word Dasein as etre-la. The word la is rather understood as over there (dort) than there (da). As an attached word to etre(Dasein) it points to an over there- being there (Dort-Dasein). "Acoustically the attached la in French is strong enough to order etre-la, signifying being (Sein) with raised finger from inwardness to a place outside" (ibid, page 213). Aside from differences in German between da(there) as being in a place and dort(over there) as something one directs the finger at, for Heidegger the prefix da in Da- sein in not so much spatial as it is temporal. It signifies a presence of being. Da signifies the here and now and does not tie a dichotomy between here and there. Building Dwelling Thinking as social psychology In the final chapters of Building Dwelling Thinking Martin Heidegger lists the now no longer existing Black Forest Farm as an example for successful dwelling. In addition he questions the momentary state of dwelling amidst all the destruction of the immediate aftermath of war, the population explosion and the miserable situation of the industrial worker. But he also clarifies

that the actual need behind this misery is that human beings will have to learn how to dwell and to consider their uprooted state at first. Since antiquity the architectural discourse has been concentrated on building. Only in the last two centuries has dwelling taken center stage of the theoretical architectural, cultural and social discussions, dwelling understood as the necessity of a fundamental improvement of dwelling as well as the creation of a home and of comfort. Considerations by paternalistic entrepreneurs of the nineteenth century as well as the far reaching activities of the modernist movement of the 1920s play a role in this, so does the Darmstadt Discusssion itself and publications of the 1960s and 70s by the above mentioned authors Wolf Jobst Siedler and Alexander Mitscherlich. I would like to add a few other names as Serge Chermayeff and Christopher Alexander or Jane Jacobs and her book on adequate dwelling. During the last two decades of the twentieth century the discourse has been not so much about dwelling or the home and the suburb but about the city. Heideggers thoughts have been well received during the past fifty years. Especially Bollnow picks up where Heidegger left in his book Human Being and Space and through analysis of different concepts of space and the spatiality of human life he tries to gain insights for the true dwelling. For the perception of Bollnows position it is helpful to realize that he quotes for the first time from Heideggers text Building Dwelling Thinking in the middle of his book. There he speaks about the house and dwelling, about the natural axial system, about horizon and perspective, about vastness, distance, strangeness as well as the road, the street and the path, after having made statements about the fundamental difference between mathematical and experienced space. Bollnow defines dwelling as "the way a person lives in its house" (Bollnow 1963, page 125).He then extends the term dwelling and speaks about how one could also dwell in a city; how dwelling should be understood as a fundamental human condition. Still, for Bollnow dwelling is not an ontological but rather an anthropological condition depending essentially on the comfort of a place, on establishing a home country. "In order to remain and to fulfill ones tasks in the world we need a space of comfort and peace to withdraw to, to relax and to return to oneself after having battled with the outside world... Only as a dweller, only through ownership of a house, only through accessibility to such a private realm separate from the public can we fulfill our nature and be human to the full extent. To even begin to live we need such an realm of comfort." (ibid, page 128) For Bollnow the enclosure - the protecting walls, the sheltering roof is essential. For him dwelling means gaining a solid place in space where one belongs and grows roots and where one puts "claws in the ground" (ibid. page 128). A living space should be livable, of comforting nature; exuding comfort and wellbeing. That is why the interior of a church cannot be livable but rather should inspire devotion. Bollnow even turns into a furnishing consultant giving nine steps of how to achieve a livable space: a home has to be enclosed, it has to be warm, well-lit and friendly,

cared for with love. It neither should show too much order nor disorder. The furniture too should have been chosen with love and well cared for. It should not all be bought at once, but should be the expression of a lifes story and show traces of use in order to demonstrate permanence and consequently a sure steadiness of life. Most of all a home should be a place for the family. A bachelors home can never be livable and a widower will never succeed in maintaining a livable home. The community of the harmoniously living family is as much part of it as the enclosure of the walls and the roof" (ibid. page 153). Based on this definition Bollnow analyzes the qualities and socio-psychological functions of building elements as well as pieces of furniture like doors, windows and tables and those of particular situations like lying in bed or awakening. "Let us begin at the door. One of its basic definitions results from its semi-permeable nature. ...the inhabitant may pass through the door in and out freely and part of the freedom of dwelling is that he may open the locked door on the inside to pass through freely while the stranger is excluded and first would have to be asked in. ...whoever is free to lock their door keeps the option to unlock it again when seeing fit to do so... by locking ones house to the others one wins inner independence." (ibid. page 155) Bollnow writes in detail about space and only at the end of his book he returns to writing about dwelling. Despite calling on Merleau-Ponty to emphasize the physical mediation of space, dwelling to him remains "a special intimacy of relations..., in which something of the soul or spirit is literally melted into a space" (ibid. page 281) Whereas it is Heideggers concern that one dwells, Bollnows concern is how to dwell. For Bollnow dwelling is an everyday activity that has to take into account the socio-psychological needs of an anthropologically defined human being. He perceives human being as a given entity who will have to find itself through architecture and dwelling rather than a fragile, ephemeral and transitory projection of itself, able to and therefore overcoming its anthropological conditions. In his anthropology Bollnow has firm concept of the human being finally derived from the socially committed philanthropists of the late nineteenth century. This includes understanding the human being as a social being whose social nature, in Bollnows view, is not the competency of designing social relations but rather social selfdetermination within the nuclear family. With Bollnows view Heidegger becomes reactionary. For Heidegger it is peace within the enclosure (in association with freedom) that one aims at, by setting aside an area in which peace rules. For Bollnow the enclosure means exclusion of the evil other. (tentative translation by Ralf Jaeger)