Departmental Papers (Architecture)

The Idea of a House

Richard Wesley, University of Pennsylvania

Document Type Journal Article

Reprinted from Res, Volume 34, Autumn 1998, pages 119-128.


"Le plan classique est renversé."

"When one uses the word home," wrote Ray L. Hart in the Dialectic of Home and Homelessness, "he gives to it a valorization almost as unique as his own body odor. In its unstudied utterance there is an idiosyncratic variation in which the cradle of the body rocks all sound. The catch in the throat, the sigh which carves the breath, give to home its tonality, its sonority. It is one of the few words left in our language in which the memory and the imagination of the body interdict all calculation" (Hartt, Hart, and Scharlemann 1986:41). Few words so immediately conjure up private images or cause such emotional and personal reflection as the word home. "Home is where one starts from," wrote Joseph Rykwert in "House and Home." "That much is obvious. A home is not the same as a house, which is why we need two different words. "Home" does not require any building, even if a house always does. House means shelter, and implies edges, walls, doors, and roofs-and the whole repertory of the fabric. Yet almost always home is at the centrifugal hearth, the fire burning at the center of my awareness, as its light once spread like a stain in the hostile night" (Rykwert 1991 :51).


Date Posted: 07 February 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.