Historical Conceptions of Place

Jean Robert

This five-part seminar series explored the experiences of place and habitation from antiquity to modernity. The first session was devoted to examining the distinction between housing and dwelling. Houses, as the consequence of planning by architects, often inhibit dwelling. The act of dwelling engenders home instead of house, and the second session investigates the relation between house and home. Both these sessions pay attention to the autonomous powers of dwelling that are threatened or destroyed by housing. Oikos and domus are strong Greek and Latin words that historically relate to the acts of dwelling, of creating places. Both have given birth to numerous English words: e.g. ecology, economy, domestic, domesticity.

The third and fourth sessions were historical hunts on the track of these words and of the concepts they convey in architectural theory and practice. The sessions attempted to recover the deep meanings of these terms beneath their ideological uses. The last session suggested that it is the technology of transportation that transforms perception and makes a space of the places we want to inhabit. The seminar ended with a question: did a special historical relation between writing and architecture not already prepare the ultimate spatialization of the dwelling experience?


(A complete bibliography is available for participants on request)

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