The concept of home

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Carbon emissions are a major cause of climate change and over 40 percents of them are generated by households. It became decisive to recognize the challenge that is placed upon residential architecture and the implications of major technological developments to meet the environmental demands of the future. The British government has formed a determined plan: UK Low Carbon Transition Plan which requires the United Kingdom to cut carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 34 per cent. In addition the plan requires all new-built houses to reach Level 6 of the Code for Sustainable Houses by 2016. Code for Sustainable Homes is the government's standard for assessing the environmental impact of new homes, where level 6 is what would be considered a' zero carbon' building. Although a detailed definition of a 'zero carbon' house was not defined the paper briefly describes zero carbon as 'meaning that the net carbon emissions over a year will be zero.' (Murray C.2009. 'All new homes to be zero carbon by 2016' ).

The main intention of the dissertation is to establish the implications of modern technology on the conceptual understanding of home, a place that one can identify with and house one's memories. It investigated how the concept of home has changed in relation to its archetype and addresses the dilemmas, presented by juxtaposition of technological requirements and empirical aspects of home. Moreover it attempts to demonstrate how residential architecture may operate in twentieth-first century.

The dissertation first explains the technological and economical requirements which a 'zero carbon' home must fulfil and explores the problems that relate to aesthetics and quality of spaces in a 'zero carbon' home.

Additionally the study explores the image of home in relations to child's drawing and attempts to demonstrate the significance and meaning of each of the elements in the drawing. It expresses the connection between the archetype and house designed by Vanna Venturi, a design which is not known for its unique architectural qualities but for being a symbol of what appears to be particularly meaningful: a home.

Subsequently the dissertation also analysis Bachelard's approach whose observations of different realms lying within its verticality lead to conclusion that elements such as basement and attic, also reflected in aforementioned child's drawings are integral part of home.

Moreover it attempts to demonstrate the significance of the fireplace in the dwelling, also characterised in the child's drawing of a house. It investigates its role in providing warmth, light and felling security for the dweller. Additionally it poses a question about implications of technology and environmental design undermining the role of fireplace which is still a desirable element of the house, although not primarily used for heating purposes.

The next part concentrates on material solutions and evokes the classic childhood story of three little pigs to demonstrate the importance of durability of a building material and the role of the external envelope creating a shelter for a dweller protecting him from dangers of the outside world.

The next chapter discusses previous attempts to challenge the concept of home. It analysis Le Corbusier's five points of architecture in relation to previously described archetype of home. Moreover the dissertation continues with a study of future homes produced by organisation such as: Living Tomorrow which continues ideas of modernism.

Ultimately the dissertation suggests that a future home would not in any way represent the archetype of home and leads to a conclusion that technology would have significant affect on the perception of home.

Carbon Challenge

'The first person to design a gracious zero carbon home will have to be a genius at least as innovative and epochmaking as Brunelleschi.' (Greer G. 2008. 'Germaine Greer on Barratt's Home for Future' The Architects Journal,)

The Carbon Challenge is a testing framework for the deliverability, buildability, and marketability of zero-carbon housing and community projects. The framework was initiated in 2007 by English Partnerships, and is now administered by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) The fundamental problem for the developers is incorporating all technological and environmental requirements and at the same time allowing for the houses to stay affordable. The main lesson to date from the Carbon Challenge is that working to Code Level 6 is unduly restrictive. (Hartman H. 2009. 'Carbon Challenge: How to build level 6 house' The Architects Journal)

What needs to be achieved by 2016 is not in fact a simple plan. A '' zero carbon' building must fulfil multiple requirements dictated by environmental and economical aspects and what is the most fundamental problem it also needs to be attractive as a home: 'The insulated house-box must have no thermal bridges; make good use of sunlight and internal heat gains; be built tight as a drum; and provide adequate ventilation, plus efficient heat recovery. Only when all these demands have been met can we even begin to consider what such a house, as isolated from its environment as an aircraft flying at 35,000 feet, might be like to look at or to live in.' (Greer G. 2008. 'Germaine Greer on Barratt's Home for Future' The Architects Journal)

Moreover the 'zero carbon' house does not use gas. The Solar photovoltaic cells on the roof produce electricity which then powers the air source heat pump. Water is mainly heated by the solar panels on the roof, however in winter the air source heat pump is used as an additional source of energy. (Seager A. 2008 'Barrat reveals the house that doesn't cost the earth' The Guardian) The 'zero carbon' homes manufactured by Barrat have new kind of concrete walls and floors which combined with super insulation and triple glazed windows create airtight building with minimal heat requirements. Fresh air is brought into the building through a heat exchanger, which extracts the heat from outgoing stale air and puts it back into the house. (Seager A. 2008 'Barrat reveals the house that doesn't cost the earth' The Guardian)

The questions arise: Will a 'zero carbon' home appeal to consumers? Although the aesthetics of environmentally friendly house will be so different from traditional archetype of home will it still have a potential to be perceived as a home for its dwellers? The next chapter is an attempt to demonstrate the significance of the particular elements reflected in the conceptual understanding of home in relation to technological improvements in residential architecture.

The image of home

The word 'home' has a broad definition and history. It is describes a building but also a sociological concept. Home is the first place we experience architecture and it influences the idea of a dwelling. There is usually only one place that we associate with home and it is an integral part of our identity. In the English language unlike in most of other European languages appears a word home which has a more empirical meaning than the word house. The contemporary definition form Cambridge Dictionary incorporates physical meaning as well as empirical meaning:

In European children's drawings of houses there is generally a door in the centre of a pitched roof building with symmetrical windows and chimney at the top. Each of the elements appears to symbolise different aspects of home: warmth, light, comfort, security and privacy. Although in different parts of the world the image of home changes the main idea is still the same: from a bamboo hut, clay wall and straw roof to a brick house with slate roof. There is always a roof, walls with openings and solid floor or even a basement. That same image is evoked in the most famous work of North American architect, Vanna Venturi's house. Originally designed for his mother the small residence comprises all the described elements which appear in a child's drawing. A pitched roof, a chimney, windows placed symmetrically in elevation. This building represents an exceptional approach to single-family housing design. Venturi created a house which translates the basic image of home and what appears to be an archetype of a home in understanding of the architect. The architect comments on the building. 'I have written of the house as modern but also as referential/imageful - as a generic/iconic house - as not striving to be original as architecture, but to be good.' (Interview with Vanna Venturi. 2005. Available: [ 16/10/2009] )

The Attic and the Basement: Bachelard's Observations

The fundamental feature of a home is its verticality. Basement and attic, also represented in the abovementioned child's drawings and are considered be and integral part of a house. The environmental demands of the future and its technological implications will significantly change the appearance of home. A 'zero carbon' house must be well insulated, air-tight and designed to maximise heat gain from the external environment. A house which comprises basement and attic ultimately has more uncommonly used space that causes heat loss for the whole building as well as disables heat gain in warmer periods. Eventually all new- build houses will be deprived of those characteristic elements.

The significance attic and basement is reflected in observations of Gaston Bachelard described in his book 'The Poetics of Space'. The writer expresses the importance of basement and attic as a shelter for fears, memories and dreams. He demonstrates the significance of the height in a dwelling suggesting that the basement is a place where the fears and bad memories are accumulated whereas the attic is where good memories and dreams lie: 'The house is one of the greatest powers of integration for the thoughts, memories and reams of man kind memories are housed embodiment of home embodiment of dreams'. (Bachelard, 1994:6).

Moreover studying Bachelard empirical approach it could be assumed that home is probably the most personal and intimate idea, a shelter and extremely sensitive element of our lives. Each person has its own way of understanding buildings. It is based on our personal experiences of various spaces since the day we were born and ability to observe the world with our eyes and emotions. There is usually only one place that we associate with home and it is an integral part of our identity: 'There is ground for taking the house as a tool for analysis of the human soul.' (Bachelard, 1994:5) Attic and basement are essential elements in the process of creating our identity and memories.

The Fireplace

Typically, in the aforementioned children's drawings of houses there is a chimney emitting smoke which in the drawings is symbolized by a curved line. Those elements represent what is still considered to be the heart of the house: the fireplace and the hearth framed by it. However one of the fundamental problems which need to be addressed is the inevitable consequence of the environmental approach to residential architecture: dematerialisation of the fireplace.

Before the world adapted alternative heating systems, the fireplace was an integral part and a centrepiece of each room within the house. The hearth in the house was a source of heat and light. It provided warmth, means of cooking, illumination and most importantly it gave sense of security and intimacy to the occupants gathered around the hearth. In many languages the word 'hearth' is still synonymous with the word 'home'; indeed in some languages such as Swedish and French the same word is used for both. (Hills, 1985:11) The mantel of the fireplace was used to display treasured possessions and trophies. Often the most significant painting or a mirror would be placed above the fireplace and generally the fireplace would act as a focus of the house. (Hills, 1985:14)

Moreover fire always had spiritual meaning, used to worship gods and to honour religious events. Today the blazing hearth in the fireplace is particularly associated with Christmas time and this celebration is often associated with an image of a family gathered around the decorated fireplace. Furthermore there are certain traditional beliefs associated with Santa Claus which state that he enters dwellings through the chimney and leaves the gifts in the stockings attached to mantel of a fireplace.

'The hearth is psychological centre of the home' F.L.Wright

The fireplace was an integral and central part in houses designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In the centre of Wright's open plan was a fireplace: a general masonry mass with a broad low chimney above. The fireplace together with the kitchen formed a central core around which the house was built. (Pfeiffer, 2005:44) Although central heating and modern kitchens were well established in American homes by 1930's Wright still centred his designs on the hearth. His houses expressed Wright's ideas on family values and his belief in the centrality of the fireplace in the home. The fireplace and its nook symbolized the comfort centre of the house which the family and their friends would gather. (Pfeiffer, 2005:44)

Although in modern houses a fireplace in not primarily used for heating purposes it is still a desirable element in a new-built house. It continues to provide a focus for a family-life and feeling of warmth and is an essential element of residential architecture. Ultimately due to development of modern technology and environmental design the fireplace will no longer be an element of a new-built house and this could lead to dehumanisation in our building habitat.

Materiality of home: The story of three little pigs

'Home is the place where we hide our secrets and express our private selves. Home is our place of resting and dreaming in safety.' Juhani Pallasma

A house is our shelter that protects as and our intimate space. The external walls of the house act as a shell. A shell needs to be durable and robust therefore not all the materials can be used to ensure that the building would withstand dangers of the outside world.

The importance of durability of materials is clearly represented in a classic childhood story: 'The Story of three little pigs'. The story begins with the three characters leaving their home to start their own independent life. The first little pig builds a house of straw, but a wolf blows it down and the pig runs to his brother's. The second pig builds a house of sticks and lets his brother in, but the wolf comes again and blows the house down. The third pig builds a house of hard bricks and lets his brothers in. The wolf fails to destroy the durable house of the third little pig. He attempts to trick the three little pigs and enter the house through the chimney but the three little pigs lit a fire in the fireplace and boiled a large kettle of water. Eventually when the wolf crawls down the chimney he falls directly into the boiling water.

The building materials determine the outward and inward expression of the building. A brick or stone wall will have an appearance of heaviness and solidity whereas glass or plastic is light and easily destructible. Moreover this accords with the previous observations, which described the important role of the fireplace in the house as another element ensuring the security of the dwelling. Paradoxically the new building standards will dictate materials used in construction: sustainable materials, mostly timber whereas masonry and concrete construction would be an improbable alternative.

External space

Technological improvements- Richard Hamilton's collage

Richard Hamilton's collage titled 'Just what is it that makes our houses so different, so appalling?' is an affirmation of his observations on technology affecting our homes. The technological improvements are not only derived by demands of environmental design but also by an ambition to constantly improve quality of our lives. The collage presents an interior image of home crammed by popular and mass-produced gadgets. All those everyday objects eventually dominate our life environments disrupting our intimacy and secluded safety of home life. Although the created in 1956, the collage could still applies to twentieth-first century image of home where television is a central element of living room. (Livingstone, 2000:24)

Challenging the concept of home

The new building regulations are enforcing architects and house builders to challenge the concept of home and incorporate innovative technologies and materials into residential architecture. The concept of a dwelling was previously challenged by revolutionary architect. Following the philosophy of the functionalism Le Corbusier identified his ideas as 'The five Points of Architecture' and characterised a very diverse approach to modern house design. It was Villa Savoye that most succinctly represented Corbusier's five points of architecture. (Curtis, 1994:77) The Villa not only had no basement but it was lifted off the ground by pilotis: reinforced concrete columns. The pilotis provided structural support for the house and allowed for non-lead bearing facade walls as well as long openings in the external wall, providing a direct contact with the surrounding landscape. Another characteristic of Le Corbusier's doctrine was an open floor plan, meaning that the floors were no longer superimposed by partition walls and the space within the house was flexible. Moreover another important feature of Le Corbusier's villas was a roof garden that compensated for the green area consumed by the building. (Curtis, 1994:77)

Le Corbusier formed revolutionary ideas which undermined the traditional characteristics of home. The intimate value of verticality disappeared as the building was detached from the ground and was only supported by pilotis. Since the heat could be provided by electricity and remote boiler open hearth was outdated. Cooking could be performed in efficiently clean oven the fireplace was no longer needed instead the accommodation in Corbusier's villa was placed around central open terrace.

Another famous architect who expressed similar approach to residential architecture was Mies Van der Rohe...Farnsworth House...

The image of home in future- Continuing Modernist's Ideas

The technology rapidly improves and contemporary residential architecture creates a wide field for research and testing of technological innovations. The modernist's ideas are continued resulting in many attempts to create comfortable future home.

'Living tomorrow' is an organisation which groups innovative companies and introduces consumers to products and services that can improve the quality of living and working in near future. Social, economic and technological developments are observed and are converted into realistic and recognisable applications in the complex. ('About Living Tomorrow'

The organisation opened its first 'House of the Future' in 1995, which immediately attracted attention. After a second successful project in Belgium, in which the concept evolved into the 'House and Office of the Future', the first international complex was opened in Amsterdam in 2003. The house uses innovative construction techniques, appliances, and ideas that could change our lifestyle. The house is mainly controlled electrical equipment including the hot water and window shutters. External envelope of the building is constructed from stucco and concrete blocks, load-bearing concrete panels, corrugated metal and glass panels.

Moreover investigating the possible vision of home in future, it has been suggested that there might be a significant decrease in use of water in future homes and it could be replaced with sound waves. Future homes will be equipped with robots, computers and multifunctional electrical appliances.


  • Home is probably the most personal and intimate idea, a shelter and extremely sensitive element of our lives.
  • An inevitable consequence of the abovementioned approach would be resulting in small, poorly ventilated buildings and their internal and external appearance would not have any of the elements mentioned in previously described archetypes of home.
  • Technology would have significant affect on the perception of home.
  • The technological improvements are not only derived by demands of environmental design but also by an ambition to constantly improve quality of our lives.
  • The demands of environmental design undermine traditional 'values' of home and will lead to change of the conceptual understanding of home


  1. Bachelard, Gaston. 1994. The Poetics of Space: The classic look at how we experience intimate places. Boston: Beacon Press.
  2. Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2008. Identity, Intimacy and Domicile: Notes on the Phenomenology of Home. Available:
  3. Thiis-Evensen, Thomas. 1987. Archetypes in Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Definition of home. Available: [10/10/2009]
  6. Interview with Vanna Venturi.2005.Available: [16/10/2009]
  7. BBC News.UK. 2005. 'Imagining home of future'. Available: [16/10//2009]
  8. Greer G. 2008. 'Germaine Greer on Barratt's Home for Future' The Architects Journal. Available:
  9. Murray C.2009. 'All new homes to be zero carbon by 2016' The Architects Journal. Available:
  10. Hartman H. 2009. 'Carbon Challenge: How to build level 6 house' The Architects Journal. Available: