Thinking about Dwelling and Building

In Hiedegger’s article Building, Dwelling, Thinking he explores the question of what it means to dwell and how buildings relate to dwelling. His approach to understanding these concepts was multi-faceted, using linguistic root words and a concept he called the fourfold.

I found the linguistic avenue of inquiry to be troubling. Hiedegger asserts that “language tells us about a nature of thing” and that “language is the master of man”.  I am not comfortable with attributing that much power to human language. Also, he stays within German in analyzing the word “building”, which he claims has the same root as to the word “dwell”. With hundreds and hundreds of human language throughout time, it seems improbable that the words build and dwell always share this connection.

Another concern is whether dwelling really means to build. I am concerned that is a European-centric view that ignores how other cultures and societies have dwelt throughout time. In researching tradition Australian Aboriginal building practices for my paper on Murcutt’s Marika-Alderton House, I found it interesting how different dwelling was for pre-colonial Aboriginals. The primarily dwelt in the world as they found it with buildings being an impermanent accessory to their lives as opposed to the center of their existence. Much more went into developing the cultural, social, and religious aspects of their lives and formed the center of how they dwelt.

PhenomologyIt is in his concept of the fourfold that I can see the aboriginal framework fitting more easily. Hiedegger makes the case that humans exist simultaneously in four different realms: on the “earth”, underneath and in the “sky”, among “mortals”, and striving toward the “divine”. The connection between the fourfold and building seemed tenuous to me, but I do think this framework describes the concept of dwelling in a way that accommodates more of the human experience.

I’m not sure, based upon this reading, that building and dwelling are that strongly linked of concepts. However, I do think that it is valuable to be concerned about whether our buildings are dwell-able and what it means to dwell.


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