Rethinking Architecture: the Misplacement of 'Dwelling' in Contemporary Design

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We attain to dwelling, so it seems, only by means of building. The latter, building, has the former, dwelling, as its goal.(Heidegger, 1971)

The aim of this essay is to analyse Martin Heidegger's article 'Building Dwelling Thinking' while at the same time relate it to local examples. In the article Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) a German philosopher explores how the act of building relates to dwelling and also how a building itself allows for dwelling. This article raises questions as to whether humankind has forgotten how to dwell? The nature of dwelling is not something that is tangible. As architects how do we reflect this in terms of design? What factors have influenced our manner of dwelling?

According to Heidegger buildings are as a result of humankind's need to dwell and not the opposite. Building does not mean merely providing shelter it involves a deeper attachment to sense of place. When one dissects the German language the word 'bauen' means to stay in a place in a manner that nurtures and preserves a place (Heidegger, 1971). This means the essence of dwelling is sparing and preserving not only for the present but also for the future.

Humankind's conquest for exploiting the earth by digging deeper into it to extract oil and minerals along with the effects of industrial pollution suggests that the act of preserving has been placed aside in exchange for dominance. The results of this dominance has been global warming, a gradual destruction of the environment as a result of the ozone layer being is strained past its limits.

In order for buildings to allow dwelling they must acknowledge the fourfold: earth, sky, divinities and mortals (Heidegger, 1971). To dwell on the earth means to dwell under the sky. The sky is symbolic of divinities. By acknowledging divinities, we acknowledge the fact that we are mortals, who will die at a given time, and can prepare ourselves for that in such as way as to die (and live)...
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