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Alberto Pérez-Gómez Dwelling on Heidegger:

Architecture as mimetic techno-poiesis

1Heidegger's essay "Building Dwelling Thinking" is

today one of the most popular and yet often
misunderstood philosophical texts read by architects
in Britain and the USA. Architects' interest in
philosophy is of course not a novelty in the tradition of
Western culture and indeed it could be argued that
architectural theory, until the end of the 18th century,
always contained metaphysical concerns, whether
explicit in the texts, or implicit in the multidisciplinary
nature of architectural thinking and practice. In the
context of the specialized architectural theory and
practice of modernity, however, particularly after the
popularization of the instrumental theories of
Jacques-Nicolas-Louis Durand and his followers at
the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris in the early 19th
century, this philosophical interest became rare, and
whenever it appeared it became a sign of concern
about the poverty of a practice dominated by
technology and "calculative thinking." In the last
decades, coinciding in fact with the broader critique of
European modernism in cultural studies, this concern
has demonstrated a desire on the part of architects to
understand the status of architecture as something
different from "mere" pragmatic building or irrelevant
bourgeois decoration.

2This concern, I believe, is echoed in Heidegger's

text. Heidegger, as we know, fleshes out beautifully
the relationship between building and dwelling as
poetic, in the sense of poiesis, the making that is
particular to humans. He is also very explicit about the
issue that becomes an explicit concern for architects
who, following in the footsteps of Piranesi and
Boullée, understand the difficulty of "building" a poetic
architecture, i.e. a significant architecture, in the "new"
world of science and technology. Humanity should
dwell poetically in order to fulfill its potential, but since
the final installation of the "age of the world-picture"
around the turn of the 19th century, it has rarely done
so. Reciprocally, not every kind of building allows for
dwelling, and even the very possibility of any building
of the technological age allowing for dwelling
becomes a question. The issue, which is of course the
architectural question par excellence, is to
characterize the form of building that may, however
precariously, allow for dwelling, understanding that
dwelling is first and foremost the way human beings
are on earth, the authentic way of being human,
oriented in thought and action vis-a-vis our
inevitable mortality and our capacity to think the
infinite: the limits that make freedom a real

3The question for architecture, we must emphasize

from the start, is inherently fraught with dangers. This
is because together with the instrumental
methodologies of modernity, Durand also introduced a
delusory relation with history, one that misconstrues
our tradition as a material typology of buildings and
offers what seems to be a way out of the dilemma,
one that has been taken by postmodern style
architects and conservative ideologues to align with
Heidegger's concern. While architecture, recognizing
its status as a cultural (rather than "natural") discipline
since the early 19th century, has by necessity
conceptualized its expressive power in terms of
linguistic analogies and its present possibilities though
a relationship to history, the tendency has been to
conceptualize formal strategies in terms of merely
syntactic (stylistic) responses to cultural imperatives
(usually simply dialectical), leading, for example, to
the naive belief that the whole meaning of a medieval
city square or a Corinthian capital may be simply
"recovered" in the practice of contemporary
architecture, disregarding the undeniable reality of our
changing mental landscape and our technological

4In order to qualify how Heidegger's words might be

of interest to architecture in the late 20th century, it is
my contention that the essay should not be read in
isolation. Reading it in isolation usually leads to a
nostalgic and even dangerously mystifying concept of
architecture. This reading, it must be granted, may be
the fault of Heidegger himself as he speaks about
vernacular construction or of a seemingly traditional
understanding of "place," but read in the context of his
other related writings, alternative readings are more
plausible. In Heidegger's favour it must be
remembered that ever since the late 18th century, the
great German Romantics had understood that a
position of resistance to the problems of an
insufficient reason to account for the major questions
of humanity carried with it potential
misunderstandings that nevertheless needed to be
engaged in order to preserve the very possibility of
meaning in our personal existence. I propose that the
meaning of Heidegger's critique in "Building Dwelling
Thinking" as a non-escapist position emerges most
clearly when understood as a piece of an argument
that may be construed through Heidegger's late work,
in particular considering at least four important
essays: "The Question Concerning Technology," "The
Origin of the Work of Art" and "The Age of the World
Picture" and "Art of Space".

5In the Western tradition, before the Enlightenment

and even, precariously, during the 18th century,
architecture had preserved its capacity to convey
knowledge, in the sense of framing and supporting
(ritual) actions that allowed for a radical orientation of
human becoming to a suprasensory Being . Late 18th
century architects complained about a profound crisis
of meaning in their discipline. Once a cosmography
and a mythology disappeared as socially accepted
realities, the referent of architecture became
problematized. This issue is obviously reflected in the
philosophical writings of Heidegger, particularly
thought his diagnosis of our loss of a world given to
experience and substituted by a picture or re-
presentation. This is of course the story of modern
philosophy, starting with Descartes, and the origins of
this problem for architecture may be traced to the late
17th century and the work of Claude Perrault. After
Perrault, architects became increasingly interested in
developing a tactic of architectural expression based
on human culture and institutions, as a mimesis of
history, rather than as a mimesis of nature. The early
diagnosis of the crisis of meaning in architecture
related the form of knowledge conveyed by buildings
to reading, as in the example of the cathedral
understood as the medieval encyclopedia or biblia
pauperum, allowing the individual to understand
himself or herself in relation to an order re-presented
by the architecture itself. It is perhaps significant that
Victor Hugo, in his "Notre-Dame de Paris," declared
the end of architecture and associated it to the advent
of the book. In his novel, the Renaissance book is
made responsible for literally killing the cathedral as a
source of knowledge for society. Although in
retrospect Victor Hugo's argument is partial, he begs
the question, indeed crucial since the early 19th
century, concerning the very capacity of architecture
to orient us and let us dwell. This is no mere literary
fantasy, architecture had fallen into crisis, closely
following the initial crisis of the European sciences as
diagnosed by Husserl, and the last steps of being's
occultation as described by Heidegger. Ever since,
architects have been struggling with the very survival
of the discipline as a legitimate endeavour, distinct
from pragmatic shelter (engineering and technology),
and from a mere aesthetization of shelter to comply
with fashion and the dictates of consumerism or

6Architecture orients, indeed, but its mode of

orientation, i.e. what it says, is inseparable from itself.
It orients the body in action, framing the actions,
traditionally formalized rituals, that allow humans to
participate in the totality, the wholeness of culture.
Precisely because of its status as the frame for
human presence, constituting the space of
intersubjectivity where we appear for the other and
therefore appear as ourselves, architecture is
intricately related to problems of being in the world. It
is for this reason that the issue of architecture as a
clearing for dwelling cannot be restricted to the cabin
in the black forest, or a masonry bridge built by the
Romans... Our world as technology is unavoidable,
the only way to determine the quality of a building
conducive to dwelling must be through technology
itself. While recognizing the distinctions between
traditional techne and technology as modes of action
and the vastly differing relationships they set up
between the imagining self and the world, a building
as dwelling must be construed through technology,
using this critical meditation to disclose the
"mysterious" origins of technology in techne and its
capacity to embody truth, in the mode of "aletheia."
What is at stake is never an overcoming of technology
that might "leave it behind," (Überwindung) but rather
a twisting and healing (Verwindung), a destabilizing
that may show that technology is not absolute truth,
that there are other ways available to humanity for
relating to the world, means that need also result in a
self-transformation that is perhaps related to
Heideggerian Gelassenheit, strategies other than
power and domination.

7In architectural terms, this would never amount to a

nostalgic return to primitive or classical forms, nor to
the embracing of any a priori mythology or ideology.
Rather the issue is an imaginative "destructuring" that
may endanger our presumed existential safety and
disclose us as truly mortal. It is this aspect of
Heidegger's reading of the work of art, the "earth" that
needs emphasis in our epoch of nihilism. We are
fragile, and life's uncertainty is not merely incidental.
Architecture may open up a space for dwelling if it can
use technology to demystify its presumed hegemonic
power over us, perhaps simply by taking seriously the
capacity of poetic tropes to "unconceal," to frame
institutions that may put into question the
demystification of humanity's spiritual reality, suffered
as a result of positivism and calculative thinking. In
order to accomplish this cultural task, architecture
must be humble as an act, yet recognize that it
emerges from an artistic centre, an imagining self,
ethical and responsible, rather than from the
consensus of "communicative action." Architectural
expression in the space of chora, understood as
cultural space but also the space of human
appearance, the space of the city beyond classical
definitions, may thus gather the fourfold in a non-
escapist way, revealing the mystery of depth that
makes us human (rather than a prosaic third
dimension), the mystery of Merleau-Ponty's "flesh"
(rather than a world split into objective and subjective
realms in which space is objective and time is merely
a subjective effect of repetition or a construction of
absent instants). An architecture to reveal humanity
not in time but made of time, not in space but radically
embodied and existing in a thick, vivid present,
between the earth and the sky, as a unique place in
the universe, always subject to forces larger than
ourselves that in fact make us human, call us to take
measure and yet always lay beyond the reach of
calculation. In order to accomplish this aim,
architecture must understand itself differently. This is,
I believe, the challenge offered by Heidegger: For
architectural theory never to accept its status to be
merely equivalent to applied science; for architecture
never to conceive of itself as a resolution of an
equation that may result in efficient "form," regardless
of the complexity or sophistication of the equation, nor
to understand itself as "aesthetic object," if we
understand this notion in terms of 18th century
categories. Hans-Georg Gadamer, following upon the
insights of Heidegger, has convincingly written about
"the relevance of the beautiful," i.e. beauty as truth.
Extrapolating Gadamer's terminology, architecture
may be relevant as knowledge and recover its
association with "truth" if we understand it in terms of
play, symbol and festival. This involves a recognition
of the temporal dimension of architectural meaning,
and of its narrative connections. As a project of a
potentially poetic way of living on earth, the narrative
architectural "project" becomes a privileged mode of
construing a true architecture for dwelling. Both
"narrative script" and its "formal frame" must issue
from the enlightened imagination of the architect,
oriented through history and grounded in it, as it is
only in this manner, and in the sense of Nietzsche's
seminal essay "On the Uses and Disadvantages of
History for Life," that true and responsible innovation
may come about in our post-cosmological epoch. The
result should never be a pastiche of the past, but the
truly novel, which inspires awe and yet is also
recognizable, respectful of our heritage, yet never an
act of mere historic restoration. We could quote in this
regard the words of Heidegger, who writes without
ambiguity: "The flight into tradition, out of a
combination of humility and presumption, can bring
about nothing in itself other than self-deception and
blindness in relation to the historical moment" ("The
Age of the World Picture" in The Question Concerning
Technology and other Essays" New York, 1977).

8This argument is futher supported if we extrapolate

to architecture the argument Heidegger makes for
sculpture in "Kunst und Raum". The issue is a making
of ´place´ rather than the geometric space of Galilei
and Newton, isomorphic and homogeneous; a ´place´
that is neighter merely ´found´ nor merely ´invented´.
Two excellent examples will serve me by the way of
closing: Le Corbusier´s Convent La Tourette and
Daniel Libeskind´s Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Both are special in a deconstructive or untied way. La
Tourette, a religious building that speaks rather about
an emptiness that is not nothing -a secular or
ecomenic religiousity of nothing. Conversely the
museum is a secular space that is also untied of this
category. It is as if the sacred/profane dychotomy
world is unable to sustain the possibility of dwelling of
postmodern humanity. These two buildings defy those
categories and in so doing stand for authentic
dwelling - neighter aesthetic contemplation nor
instrumental use - Awareness of mortality works but
does not fit like a glove.

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Karsten Harries

In Search of Home

1Heidegger's lecture "Building, Dwelling,

Thinking" invites consideration of that lecture's
context, also of what separates us today from
that context. Given on August 5, 1951, the
lecture, was Heidegger's contribution to the
second Darmstädter Gespräch. The chosen
theme that year was "man and space." The
preamble, carried also by the sign that
introduced the accompanying exhibition
commemorating the Darmstadt artists' colony of
1901, read: "Building is a fundamental activity of
man -- Man builds, by joining spatial figures,
thus shaping space -- Building, he responds to
the spirit of the age -- Our age is the age of
technology -- The plight of our age is
homelessness." (33)1

2The conclusion of Heidegger's lecture called

these propositions, especially the last assertion,
into question. Heidegger invited his listeners to
consider this homelessness. In 1951, to be sure,
the word had an all too timely significance. In the
form of a severe housing shortage the plight of
dwelling was pressing indeed. But Heidegger
would not have been Heidegger, had he
contented himself with the seemingly obvious,
had he not attempted to discover in this all too
timely term an ontological significance: "The real
plight of dwelling," he insisted, "is indeed older
than the world wars with their destruction, older
also than the increase in the world's population
and the condition of the industrial workers. The
real plight lies in this, that mortals ever search
anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must
ever learn to dwell. What if man's homelessness
consisted in this, that man does not even think
the real plight of dwelling as the plight? Yet as
soon as man gives thought to this
homelessness, it is a misery no longer. Rightly
considered and well kept in mind, it is the sole
summons that calls mortals into their dwelling.2

3Heidegger here understands man as ever

again having to seek the nature of dwelling,
having to learn how to dwell. This plight of
dwelling is more worthy of thought than the all
too apparent housing shortage. But can it be the
task of architecture to eliminate this plight,
which, Heidegger here suggests, is bound up
with the very essence of human being? Is the
task not rather to understanding this plight in its
ineliminable necessity? And might such
understanding not lead to the only kind of
homecoming that does not do violence to our
being? Part of such a homecoming would be the
renunciation of anything resembling a secure
possession of home. To find the home which
alone would allow for an authentic dwelling,
must we not first learn that the home of which
we sometimes dream and whose here and there
encountered traces seem to promise some
deeply longed-for happiness must always elude

4The conclusion of Heidegger's lecture should

not have surprised a listener familiar with Being
and Time. There already Heidegger had
opposed to the "tranquilized self-assurance," to
"'Being-at-home', with all its obviousness'' that
the "publicness of the 'they'" carries into "the
average everydayness of Dasein," an anxiety
that lets such self-assured tranquillity
disintegrate, that calls Dasein back into its
essential homelessness, calls it back from the
everyday world to which, first of all and most of
the time, it has always already lost itself.3 In
Being and Time Heidegger understands the call
of conscience as the call in which the essentially
homeless human being calls itself to its own
freedom. Gaston Bachelard later was to
challenge this claim: more primordial, he
insisted, than this anxious sense of having been
cast into an alien world is a sense of being
sheltered by the world; when we return to the
beginnings of our being we encounter cradle,
house, home, paradise.4 In Being and Time,
however, Heidegger places at the origin of
Dasein an uncanny freedom. Freedom and
home call us in opposite directions.

5To be sure, between Being and Time and

"Building, Dwelling, Thinking" lies Heidegger's
much discussed, if still ill understood Kehre or
turning. Much in the lecture seems indeed closer
to Bachelard than to Being and Time: not only
the farmhouse in the Black Forest and the
bridge in Heidelberg remind us of Bachelard's
oneiric house, this metaphor of the lost paradise.
And thus Heidegger and Bachelard are often
joined today as representatives of a
conservative, pre- rather than post-modern
approach to architecture. But such a grouping is
called into question by the just cited conclusion
of Heidegger's lecture, which speaks of a plight
of dwelling rooted in the very essence of the
human being. As Heidegger understands the
human being here, it is essentially underway, in
search of the essence of dwelling, journeying
home. Where are we going? asked Novalis:
always home. We would betray ourselves, were
we to think to have found this true home, to have
finally arrived, to be really at home. Just this
supposed homecoming would mean a more
profound homelessness, for we would not be at
home with what is most our own. A
homesickness that will not be satisfied is part of
our essence.

6The conclusion of Heidegger's lecture thus

moves it in the vicinity of Ortega y Gasset, who
spoke to the very same audience on "The Myth
of the Man Behind Technology," spoke about the
human being as the being that had fallen out of
nature, that had lost its place in nature, the
discontented misfit, the animal that had no home
in nature, ever seeking things it had never had.
This restless discontent Ortega compared to a
love without the beloved, with a "pain, that we
feel in limbs that we never had" (116). And this
discontent Ortega called what is highest in the
human being, just because it is a discontent,
because it desires things it has never had (117).
Technology has its origin in such discontent,
which demands a new world, "because the real
world does not fit us, because it has made us
sick. This new world of technology is for us like a
gigantic orthopedic apparatus, which you [he
was addressing the architects present] want to
create; and all of technology has this wonderful,
but -- as everything about man -- dramatic
dynamism and quality of being a fabulous,
immense orthopedic creation" (117).

7But if there is indeed such a relationship

between Heidegger and Ortega, how then are
we to understand Heidegger's example of an
18th century Black Forest farmhouse, to which,
to be sure -- Heidegger knows and he
underscores this -- we cannot ever return, but
which is yet supposed to show us, how "a
dwelling that has been" once was able to build,
thus showing us how building "receives its
nature from dwelling" (83). Heidegger invites us
to repeat this "dwelling that has been" in a
manner in keeping with our own age, to repeat it
in the sense of Being and Time as a resolute
appropriation of our history. Indebted to our
inheritance, such repetition reveals to us our
destiny and thus points a way into the future.
"Building, Dwelling, Thinking" seeks to give us a
pointer how such a repetition might be thought.
But does Heidegger's backward-looking
determination of essential dwelling "as the
fourfold preservation of the fourfold" not stand in
the way of an understanding of the task of
building in keeping with our age?

8Times have changed. The situation of
Heidegger's lecture is no longer our own. Let us
listen once more to the propositions on the sign
that introduced the exhibition that accompanied
this second Darmstädter Gespräch: "Building is
a fundamental activity of man -- Man builds, by
joining spatial figures, thus shaping space --
Building, he responds to the spirit of the age --
Our age is the age of technology -- The plight of
our age is homelessness." Today such
propositions would read differently, especially
the last three: does our building still respond to
the spirit of the age? Is our building not often
conservative, carries into the age what is past
and no longer belongs to it? For more than a
hundred years modernism has battled such a
conservatism, a battle renewed today by post-
modernism's conservative wing. Not only
technology belongs to this age, but also the
discontent with technology that found in
Heidegger such an eloquent spokesman,
discontent that finds an expression in resistance
to straight lines and right angles, to grid and
enframing (an inadequate translation of
Heidegger's Ge-stell), to a genuinely modern
dwelling. From the very beginning such
discontent with its own essence has
accompanied the modern world. Our task is to
understand this discontent.

9But what does it mean to respond with our

buildings to the essence of our world? Of what
help here is Heidegger's Black Forest
farmhouse? The attempt to meet the plight of
the age by returning to a seemingly more
comfortable past threatens to leave us homeless
in our own age.
The next to last proposition on the Darmstadt
sign sought to determine the nature of the age:
"Our age is the age of technology." That seems
right, seems still right, although today we may
want to speak not just of technology, but more
specifically of, say, information technology. But
our age, and we should not forget this, is not just
the age of technology. The word "technology"
names only one, perhaps dominant theme, but
every identification of the age with technology
threatens to cover up the relevant phenomena
with overly simple constructions.

10More questionable still is the last proposition:

"The plight of our age is homelessness," where
the sequence of the propositions invites us to
link the plight of our age to the way it has
allowed itself to be dominated by technology.
Heidegger, too, suggests such a link in
countless places. Thus he understands the
triumphal progress of science as a process that
threatens to degrade human beings, too, to no
more than material for technological
organization and manipulation, a degradation
that those caught up in this process often neither
see nor comprehend.5 But just the reality of this
threat makes it important to try to understand
what is happening. -- But are we really less at
home in our world than our ancestors were in

11The question had a different ring in 1951. That

homelessness, and that was understood as both
"bodily and spiritual homelessness" (85), should
be overcome was a presupposition of this
conversation. The chosen theme tied this
presupposition to the question: what part can
architecture play in meeting this challenge,
where Heidegger may have been the only one to
think of Black Forest farmhouse. More typical,
more timely at any rate, were the words of Hans
Schwippert, responsible for the 1948
transformation of what in 1930 had been built as
a pedagogical academy into the Bundeshaus in
Bonn: "Is it not remarkable," he observed, "that
instead of building castles to which to retreat,
good architects, all around the world, today build
tents, light, open things; and does not this way
of following an inner commandment stand in
striking opposition to what common sense tends
to demand of us ... If, to follow Heidegger,
building forms itself from a sense of dwelling,
and place forms itself from such building, and
place gives birth to space, then this remarkable
thing has happened to us, that our spaces
demand openness, lightness, not the severe and
hard boundaries of dark caves. It is as if in
another and very genuine way we had
comprehended, that we are underway,' not to
say 'auf Fahrt'. Thus what is spatial determines
itself, in keeping with our dwelling, as something
bright and mobile, as a light and open sequence
of spaces, and this is something that for some
time now and ever more insistently asserts itself
in these times which would really seem to mean
something quite different" (86-87). Schwippert's
rejection of the unyielding boundaries of dark
caves, his invocation of the good tent-building
architect, reminds one of Frank Lloyd Wright,
who opposed to dark, cave-dwelling agrarians
brighter hunters and warriors, dwelling in light
tents, this in turn but a variation on the Biblical
opposition of the dark, city-building Cain and his
light, more mobile brother Abel, an opposition
the American Wright understood as a figure of
the opposition between European city-dwellers,
still imprisoned by the past, by their grey walls,
and democratic Americans, committed to
freedom and open to the future. American
democracy is here linked to a repudiation of the
inherited image of the city.

12Such a repudiation has also been part of the

progress of modernist architecture. From the
very beginning part of modernism have been
dreams, not just of readily moved tents, but of
flying machines, of airships and airplanes,
satellites and rockets, of a liberation of the
human being from his bondage to the earth and
of an architecture in which such liberation would
find its visible expression: Ledoux's design of his
spherical House of the Agricultural Guards and
Montgolfier's first balloon flight in the year 1783
belong together, and not just in time. Both
communicate the modern confidence, that the
human being's path to himself has to free him
ever more decisively from whatever binds him to
the earth. "These balls of air are," as Helmut
Reinicke observes, "the first discovery that is
linked to the concept of a world revolution. The
balloon rise into the sky, -- a sign that reason on
earth is extending its sway. Such a revolution
has this subjective dimension: that human
beings want to find themselves, want to give
themselves a human character; this subjectivity
is the religious element of religion. The attack on
religion is the greatest presumption and thereby
liberation. The airship is such a practical
presumption: the human being has
demonstrated that he can pass over boundaries.
With this he has caught up with the omnipotence
of the world of the gods."6

1380 years later such hopes were to find striking

expression in this recollection by Victor Hugo: "It
was summer. A balloon that had risen from the
Champ-de-Mars, went its way in the clouds
above us. The setting sun gilded its roundness,
which glowed majestically. I said to Arago [Arago
was one of the great physicists and astronomers
of the 19th century] : 'There floats the egg that
waits for the bird; but the bird is within and will
hatch.' Arago grasped my hands, looked at me
with gleaming eyes and said: 'And from this day
on Geo will be called Demos. The entire world
will be a democracy.'"7 In the same spirit Theo
van Doesburg demanded of modern architecture
a floating, no longer earthbound look, while
Tatlin und Le Corbusier found in the airplane a
model. Part of the human being is this longing
for more openness, greater freedom are dreams
of journeys away from the earth. Today
astronautics and computer technology feed such

14But does this longing for openness and

freedom not run counter to the proposition that
furnished this second Darmstädter Gespräch
with its point of departure: "The plight of our age
is homelessness." Just because this proposition
spoke so readily to the situation of 1951, it
threatened to cover up that essential
homelessness on which Heidegger just touched
towards the end of his lecture. As Dolf
Sternberger said in his contribution to the
symposium, "in an epoch of forced migrations,
resettlements, camps, refugees, expatriations,
displaced persons! In this age, where the
wonderful freedom of movement guaranteed in
our constitutions has almost become a joke, in
view of all the millions that for ten years have
been in transit, not at all because this was what
they wanted, but yielding to force, in view also of
the fact that often where shelter is to be found,
the hunted find neither food nor work, and where
there is work there is no place to live, in view of
this situation the need for peace and security
is ... so overpowering, that it is easy to succumb
to the temptation to surrender this freedom of
movement quite readily as not relevant to the
present situation; and thus the concept of
Heimat that we encountered before may return
just in this desperate situation, namely Heimat
as place of the final settledness of the human
being with himself, the fortification in a home of
one's own, settledness as rootedness in one's
own soil and so forth, however modest the
dimensions. But what I want to say ... is to warn
of such a repetition of the horror moventis and
the horror mobilitatis, and to warn of such an
exaggerated estimation of paradisal bonds,
despite the unfortunate fact that this is the age
of resettlements, refugees, and expulsions, in
which we unfortunately live" (127). With this
Sternberger was thinking especially of what
Heidegger had just said, not quite hearing the
conclusion of his lecture. To Heidegger he
opposed Ortega y Gasset: "The one, the ones --
no doubt there is a group -- think it possible for
human beings to live in a paradise, in an
ontological paradise of meaningful order, in an
ontological paradise with all the Gemütlichkeit
that belongs to it, with the Ur-Gemütlichkeit of
paradise. The others remember and do not
forget that the earth, this garden of Eden, does
not exist, or at least, that one famous day we
real human beings were chased from this
garden" (124). Sternberger counts himself
among the latter, begins with the thesis "that first
of all the earth is -- I don't want to say absolutely
uncomfortable, but at any rate not comfortable
enough" (124).

15Times have changed. Compared with the

situation of 1951 we are doing well, too well
perhaps, terrifyingly, or should I say,
suffocatingly well. I am thus tempted to turn
Sternberger's assertion around: especially
among the younger, has the desire for freedom,
including freedom of movement, not grown in a
way that tempts us to surrender, without giving
the matter much thought, the comforts of home
and Heimat. In his lecture Heidegger suggested
that "Enough will have been gained if dwelling
and building will have become worthy of
questioning and thus have remained worthy of
thought" (83). But has the post-modern
discussion not questioned dwelling and building
so decisively today that at times architecture
itself threatens to drown in a sea of words? --
The still fashionable word "de-construction" has
symptomatic significance, where I am thinking
not just of that word's meaning, but also of the
associated practice, of Tschumi and Eisenman,
also of the rediscovery of Georges Bataille, who
once suspected in every work of architecture a
prison, custodian of an order that had to be
destroyed, even if such destruction threatened
chaos and bestiality.8 At bottom this is the same
patten of thought that let Dostoyevski's Man
From the Underground reject "twice two makes
four" as an impudence and celebrate "twice two
makes five" as refuge of a freedom that dreams
of labyrinth und chaos. This thought pattern
renders suspect all building that would grant us
a sense of place and thus let us dwell, as it
would render suspect the call of home, the call
for home; suspect, too, a thinking that would
edify; also an architecture that would edify. Once
to be sure edification was part of all architecture
worthy of its name. But if so, must freedom not
fear an architecture that would edify?

16It is easy to understand that Sternberger, and

he was not alone, should have paid little
attention to the conclusion of Heidegger's
lecture, that he should have understood him as
another representative of the misguided attempt
to overcome a homelessness that is constitutive
of human being. That conclusion does indeed
seem difficult to reconcile with the general tenor
of his attempt to think the nature of building and
dwelling. Seemingly already at the end of his
lecture, Heidegger adds, almost as an
afterthought, a few remarks to point beyond it:
"The next step on this path would be to question:
what is the state of dwelling in our precarious
age." Briefly Heidegger mentions the existing
housing shortage, but only to insist on the more
fundamental importance of "the real plight of

17The lecture itself had closed with the often

cited, self-consciously untimely and still
disturbing example of a farmhouse in the Black
Forest. It is not too surprising that Heidegger
should have been the only speaker not to be
interrupted by applause, shouts, laughter or
stamping. In respectful silence those present
heard what he had to say. How were they to
respond to the philosopher's invitation, "to bring
dwelling to the fulness of its nature" (84),
expressed in a language that at times bordered
on Kitsch? Many no doubt mistrusted such
claims to fulness. Here once more Heidegger's
often cited words:

18"Let us think for a while of a

farmhouse in the Black Forest which was built
some two hundred years ago by the dwelling of
peasants. Here the self-sufficiency of the power
to let earth and heaven, divinities and mortals
enter in simple oneness into things ordered the
house. It placed the farm on the wind-sheltered
mountain-slope looking south, among the
meadows close to the spring. It gave it the wide
overhanging shingle roof whose proper slope
bears up under the burden of snow, and which,
reaching deep down, shields the chambers
against the storms of the long winter nights. It
did not forget the altar corner behind the
community table; it made room in its chamber
for the hallowed places of childbed and the "tree
of the dead" -- for that is what they call a coffin
here: the Totenbaum -- and in this way it
designed for the different generations under one
roof the character of their journey through time.
A craft which, itself sprung from dwelling, still
uses its tools and frames as things, built the
farmhouse" (83).

19"By a dwelling that has been" Heidegger

wanted to show, "how it was able to build." Not
only does building invite a certain dwelling, but
always already it presupposes such a dwelling.

20How are we to reconcile the task, "to bring

dwelling to the fulness of its nature," with the
statement that introduces Heidegger's
description of his farmhouse in the Black Forest
and is then repeated, providing this description
with a kind of frame: "Only if we are capable of
dwelling, only then can we build (83)". How is
this seemingly so simple statement to be
understood? The lecture gives only an
ambiguous answer: on one hand it invites us to
equate essential dwelling with the human
being's being-in-the-world. Heidegger thus calls
dwelling "the manner in which mortals are on the
earth" (74), or the being of man (75), or "the
basic character of Being in keeping with which
mortals exist" (83). But so understood dwelling
cannot be a task, for the simple reason that we
cannot help but be in accord what is constitutive
of our being. In this sense we cannot help but

21And yet again and again the lecture seems to

call us to an essential dwelling. How else are we
to understand propositions like the following:
"Mortals dwell in so far as they save the earth,"
"receive the sky as sky," "await the divinities as
divinities," are "capable of death as death." "In
saving the earth, in receiving the sky, in awaiting
the divinities, in initiating mortals, dwelling
occurs as the fourfold preservation of the
fourfold" (76). But first of all and most of the time
we do not dwell in this sense; the spirit of this
age of technology would seems to rule out such
a dwelling.9 Heidegger's lecture invites us to
understand it as cultural criticism.

22Heidegger's farmhouse so upset Dolf

Sternberger that he changed the tenor of his
remarks. Originally he had wanted to speak of
what had been developed here in Darmstadt at
the tun of the century and to warn of this idea of
the home (125), of Henry van de Velde's vision
of a city of the future, of this attempt "to conquer
homelessness with the idea of home as an
organism," the home that was to offer protection
against the noise and confusion of industrial
society" (125). In 1901, according to
Sternberger, such an overcoming of
homelessness had been literally realized in
Darmstadt. Here "mobility was bound to the firm
and stable. It was as if freedom of movement
was to be abolished all at once ... This curious
idea of an overcoming of homelessness sought
to let human beings be entirely and definitively
at home with themselves by providing them with
the spaces that truly suited them (126). And did
Heidegger not now, fifty years later, promise
comparable protection, did he not call once
again for an overcoming of homelessness
through new bonds and invite the architects
participating in this symposium to let their
building serve such binding? Sternberger was
thinking not just of what happened in Darmstadt
in 1901, but also of National Socialism, well
aware that there are also "very friendly varieties
of totalitarianism." Presumably he was thinking
also of Heidegger's Rectoral Address, of the
philosopher's erstwhile receptivity to ideas of
leader and leadership, of his former readiness to
banish a long treasured "academic freedom"
from the German university, putting in the place
of this merely negative freedom the supposedly
true, triply bound freedom of the German
student: bound to the community of the people,
to the honor and destiny of the nation, and to the
people's spiritual mission. In 1951 such talk had
become impossible. But did Heidegger not retain
the fundamental idea of a bound freedom? To be
sure, Heidegger now was speaking of dwelling.
"Dwelling" (wohnen) , gothic wunian, means,
according to Heidegger, to be at peace, to exist
in it. The word peace (Friede), however means
the free (das Freie, das Frye), "that safeguards
each thing in its nature" (75). Dwelling in this
sense, sparing and conserving the fourfold, the
human being is truly free -- free, however in a
sense very different from what Sternberger had
in mind. In Heidegger's words Sternberger
sensed something like a fear of freedom.

23Fear of freedom means also fear of the

Enlightenment. Today to be sure post-modern
thinkers like Lyotard once again call our
inheritance from the Enlightenment into
question, but in the name of freedom more
radical than what Sternberger had in mind. But
was the task in 1951 not to reclaim the
inheritance of the Enlightenment, not to call it
into question? And here in Darmstadt, did this
not also mean to reclaim the inheritance of
modern architecture?

24Fear of freedom was a presupposition of

National Socialism. Hitler understood this fear
when he promised to free human beings from
the fear weighing on them: "Providence has
destined me to become the greatest liberator of
humanity. I free human beings from the coercion
of a spirit that has taken itself for its end, from
the dirty and humiliating self-tortures inflicted by
a chimera called conscience and morality and
from the demands of a freedom and personal
autonomy only a very few were ever able to
meet."10 Sternberger was afraid of the fear
feeding the desire for home, which now seemed
to find in Heidegger a seductive spokesman. He
felt duty-bound to warn of all appeals to
paradisal bonds: the human being is really at
home with himself only when he makes room for
freedom. And thus Sternberger insisted that
traffic engineering and communications
technology today are part of an overcoming of
homelessness, "no less than the building and
establishment of places to work. For the human
being is no plant and the house no organism,
and in order to see this more clearly even the
luxurious recollection of 1901 may be of some
use" (129).

25If "the house is no organism" was directed

against van de Velde, "the human being is no
plant" may have been directed against
Heidegger, who in these years insisted ever
more decisively on the way technology
threatened to uproot human beings. A few years
later, in his address on the 175th anniversary of
the birth of the composer Conradin Kreutzer,
also from Messkirch, Heidegger was to cite a
line by Johann Peter Hebel: "We are plants,
which -- whether we like to admit it or not -- have
to rise with their roots out of the earth if they are
to flower in the ether and to bear fruit."11
Heidegger repeated the line once more to
conclude his address, finding in these words a
pointer towards a new rootedness, adequate to
this changed age. In similar fashion the
rootedness that had become image in the Black
Forest farmhouse was to point towards a new
rootedness, adequate to this technological age.

26Heidegger knew that we cannot return to such

a farmhouse. What he had said earlier of the
temple in Paestum or the cathedral in Bamberg
remains true in this case: "The world of the work
that stands there has perished. World-
withdrawal and world-decay can never be
undone. The works are no longer what they
once were. It is they themselves to be sure, that
we encounter there, but they themselves are
gone by."12 It would be irresponsible to build
once again such farmhouses.

27But must the same not be said of the bondage

to landscape and home that here has become
image? Heidegger himself poses the question:
"Is there still that quiet dwelling of man between
earth and sky? Does the meditative spirit still
preside over the land? Is the there still home
that nourishes roots, in whose soil the human
being ever stands, i. e., is rooted (bodenständig)
?"13 We may want to ask: should there be such
rootedness? Again and again one senses in
Heidegger a nostalgic longing for something
lost, figured by field-path and bell-tower. Again
and again such nostalgia is accompanied by a
lament over the way things and the earth have
been neglected or, worse, violated by
technology and, connected with it, over the
rootlessness of modern man. More homeless
than those who were driven from home by the
war, according to Heidegger, are those glued to
radio and television -- today we would have to
add the computer. "All the things with which
modern communications technology constantly
stimulates, assaults, and presses human beings
are today already much closer to us than the
field surrounding the farm, the sky over the land,
the hourly passage of night and day, closer then
habit and custom in the village, closer than the
tradition of our native world."14 Today these
sentences seem quite dated: who of us still lives
on a farm, surrounded by its field?
28But suppose we admit that computer and
television, car and airplane are much closer to
us than field-path and bell-tower, that they help
to determine the much more world-open way of
our dwelling -- does this not mean that we
become homeless in our world when we attempt
to keep our distance from technology. More free,
more mobile than our parents and grandparents,
do we not have to embrace technology if we are
to find the "new ground and soil on which we
can stand and endure in this technological
world, unthreatened by it"?15 Do we not have to
agreed with the Frankfurt architect Hermann
Mäckler, when he deplored at the Darmstadt
symposium that so much building "even today,
again and again, tries to create technology-free
reservations, that there is this failure to
recognize the shape of reality and where it is
heading. Is it not in this that is the ground of our
homelessness? Is our discomfort so difficult to
explain? Is it thinkable and can it be justified that
we should live forever in two worlds? Must the
one world, which we ever again attempt to
realize, not remain a phantom, since the other,
the technological world, is reality?" (131)
Mäckler's words recall an old dream, a dream
not unknown to Francis Bacon und Descartes,
these founders of modern science, dream of a
recovery of paradise on the basis of technology.
The conclusion of Heidegger's lecture warned of
all such dreams: what matters is not to return
home, but to long for home. "Is it thinkable and
can it be justified that we should live forever in
two worlds?" asked Mäckler. Heidegger on the
other hand, seeks to understand our twofold life,
divided against itself, in its necessity, a necessity
that finds a first expression already in the
traditional definitions of the human being as
zoon logon echon or animal rationale. And is this
not recognized by Hebel's words: "We are
plants, which have to rise with their roots out of
the earth if they are to flower in the ether and to
bear fruit"? Our science is such a flower, our
technology such a fruit. But what, to remain with
the simile, would fruit and flower be without the
nourishing earth?

29To be sure, that is only a simile. Why should

technology not offer us a new soil? Is it really, as
Heidegger asserts in his address
commemorating Conradin Kreutzer, technology
that threatens "the rootedness of man today in
its innermost essence"?16 Should we agree with
him, when he invites us to consider "that here,
by means of technology, an attack on the life
and the essence of the human being prepares
itself, compared with which the explosion of the
hydrogen bomb means little."17 Such discomfort
with technology provides Heidegger's Darmstadt
lecture with its background, is presupposed by
the way he ties dwelling to a saving of the earth
that neither wants to master, nor to exploit it, to a
receiving of the sky that lets day be day, night
night -- we sense Heidegger's unhappiness with
the still rising flood of artificial light that makes it
ever more difficult for today's urban crowds to
see the stars.18 Many of those listening to
Heidegger must have felt that he was saying
what needed to be said, so e. g. the architect
Rudolf Schwarz, who had spoken the preceding
evening of the "grid" created by the human spirit
to imprison itself (63). "What is," Schwarz asked,
"the metropolis of the closing nineteenth century
or, let us say, of the eighties or nineties, other
than the completely adequate expression of this
grid and prison?" (63) Despite applause,
Schwarz met with challenge, so by Rudolf
Steinbach, whom the lecture brought a sleepless
night. Was this grid not really a wonderful
inheritance to which we owe our world? "If it
nevertheless can seem a grid that blocks a
deeper understanding, then I," countered
Steinbach, "may be allowed to answer professor
Schwarz with a religious word. St. Augustine had
this to say of the fall into original sin: 'Oh blessed
guilt!' And I, too, would be tempted to say in the
face of this grid we have built ourselves: 'Oh
blessed guilt!' For I believe that the forces that
here originated, while they may pose as danger,
also include the possibility that in the end we will
step before the Godhead higher, enlarged, and
full of pure spaces" (109). Quite in the spirit of
modern architecture the fall into sin is here given
a positive interpretation, valued as a metaphor
of a loss of home that first makes possible
human freedom and responsibility. Not that
human beings do not find such freedom difficult
to bear. And therefore they seek, ever again to
find substitutes for the lost paradise, are
shadowed by the temptation to rid themselves of
their own freedom. This gives the grid
mentioned by Schwarz, related to Heidegger's
Gestell, its essential ambiguity, invites us to
keep it doubly open: open to that home we have
always already lost, but open also to an ever
endangered freedom .

30Once more I return to the words by the poet

Hebel cited by Heidegger: Hebel calls human
beings plants that have to rise out of the earth
into the ether if they are to flower and bear fruit.
The words recall what Heidegger had to say in
his Rectoral Address about the origin of science
in Greek philosophy: "for the first time western
man stands up, empowered by his language,
rising out a nationality, confronting beings in
their entirety, questioning and comprehending
them as the beings they are."19 The desire to
understand things as they really are determines
science. Presupposed by this desire is a
standing up that raises human beings above
whatever binds them to a particular people, a
particular soil. Such understanding demands
freedom from the prejudices bound up with our
rootedness. Only such freedom promises a pure
understanding, promises access to reality as it
is, promises truth. But, and this is the other side,
the purer our understanding, the more the world
becomes a collection of objects, a mere picture
before which the human knower stands, a mute
other that does not claim him and points in no
direction; and the more the human subject
becomes a disinterested spectator. The loss of
meaning requires no comment.

31First of all and most of the time our access to

reality is bound to a particular point of view,
particular perspectives, is in this sense rooted.
How things present themselves to us depends
on our situation, on the place nature, society,
and history have always already assigned to us.
Most of the time these perspectives remain
unquestioned. But as soon as we understand
such a perspective as a perspective, we are, at
least in thought, already beyond its limits. Our
thoughts are free. Freedom is part of
responsible thinking and acting. Again and again
such freedom will demand a freer access to
things, forms of representation less bound to
particular situations, will demand greater
objectivity. What raises our science above its
Aristotelian predecessor is the fact that its form
of representation answers more fully to this
demand. Implicit in the demand for truth,
reflection on perspective and point of view leads
necessarily to the idea of a subject that , free of
all perspectives, sees things as they are. This
idea reduces the reality that presents itself to our
eyes or, more generally, to our senses to the
mere appearance of an objective reality that no
eye, no imagination can grasp, that can be
comprehended only by rational thought. The
understanding of reality as objectivity that is a
presupposition of our science and technology is
supported by the idea of this pure subject with
which the human being raises himself beyond
himself, a self-elevation that alone lets the
human animal become a human being.

32The other side of this objectification of reality,

which means also a derealization of reality, is
that rootlessness of modern man lamented not
only by Heidegger. It is a consequence of the
way reality thus understood presupposes the
idea of a pure subject. Thinking this idea, the
human being inevitably transcends the situation
that binds him to a particular place, a particular
time, transcends whatever in him is still plant or
animal, raises himself into a spirit. But as such
he knows no roots and is homeless in the world.
Not that the concretely existing human being
experiences himself as such a spirit that casts
no shadow. But again and again we measure
our concrete being-in-the-world by the idea of a
truly free subject. This idea lets us experience
our own mode of existence as only possible,
accidental, lets us dream of our never yet seen
true home.

33One thing may not be overlooked here: the

idea of such a subject provides our
understanding with a measure, but we possess
no intuition to correspond to this measure. We
do not see like God. Our experience remains
ever bound to particular situations, particular
perspectives. From this it follows that our
intuition will never satisfy our demand for truth.
As Nietzsche put it, we have organ for the
truth.20 We have to work for the truth. Only in
the constructions of our own spirit does nature
reveal to us her secrets.

34One could object that nature here is being

confused with a mere construction: must that
twofold reduction which I outlined not block
access to the life-wold and thus lose all contact
with what alone deserves to be called real? And
can we not challenge and break this false
hegemony of natural science by exhibiting the
artificiality of its constructions? But when
Descartes promised a practical philosophy that
would allow us to understand nature's make-up
and mode of operation just as a craftsman
understands his own work, this was more than
just an idle promise. To really understand
something here means to be able to produce it.
The model here is not Aristotle's idle spectator
God, but the creator God of the Bible. The
modern understanding of nature thus has to
return to reality in the form of technology. This
return carries also the presupposed loss of
meaning into our reality, informs our work-world,
our life-world, threatening to reduce human
beings to mere human material. "That here" as
Heidegger claims, "with the means of technology
an attack on the life and the essence of the
human being prepares itself," whose full
consequences are impossible to survey, is
difficult to deny. Technology threatens to deny
our dwelling its needed soil.

35But why not simply accept this loss as the

price of freedom, as the price of the greatness of
the human beings, as Ortega y Gasset
understood that greatness when he compared
the new world of technology with a gigantic
orthopedic apparatus that promised far more
than just compensation for some lost home? But
freedom alone is impotent to deliver on that
promise. Without all bonds, freedom loses its
direction and in the end itself. Freedom must be
bound. Descartes thus thought that the spirit
freely subjects itself to what it understands
clearly and distinctly. In such recognition
freedom perfects itself and comes to rest. Kant
similarly sought the perfection of freedom in its
submission to the law of reason.

36But is reason enough? "The rational being,"

so Kant, "must regard himself always as
legislative in a realm of ends possible through
the freedom of the will, whether he belongs to it
as member or as sovereign."21 But the rational
being that must so regard himself should not be
identified with the embodied self in which a more
radical freedom lives that renders even morality
problematic and can refuse to recognize the
authority of the law of reason. Kant would have
called such a refusal evil. But the mere
possibility of evil opens a gulf between freedom
and reason, replaces Kantian autonomy with
Heideggerian authenticity, which no longer
knows a transcendent measure of the human
being, neither God who is said to have created
the human being in his image, nor Kant's
practical reason. Does this more radical freedom
then remain as the only possible ground of value
and meaning? But as Kant recognized, and as
Heidegger too had to acknowledge, unless
bound by something that makes a claim on the
individual, something that is not up to his
freedom, freedom loses itself in arbitrary
spontaneity and disintegrates. Presupposition of
our finite freedom is such openness to what
binds. The possibility of a greater, godlike
freedom may lure us. But this is a temptation.
We are not free to invent values. Otherwise
every loss of meaning could be cureed just by a
strenuous willing. Values cannot be willed, they
must be discovered.

37Freedom must be bound. But what always

already binds freedom is first of all the situated
body which limits our possibilities as it limits our
access to reality. The same is true of our reason:
without the body's mediation its claim remains
impotent. That holds also for Kant's ethics. His
categorical imperative, to act in such a way that
human beings are always treated as ends, never
as means, would be empty and without
application were we not able to recognize
human beings as such. Such recognition is a
presupposition of all moral responsibility. In this
sense responsibility presupposes response-
ability, the ability to respond. This may be a
platitude, but it is sufficient to show that
experience may not be reduced to a free subject
confronted with a world of mute objects which
receives meaning and value only form that
subject. The same freedom that distances us
from things and human beings, that threatens to
replace the world that first of all and most of the
time calls and claims us with the in its essence
mute world of science and technology calls us
back to what has been left behind, calls us back

38I would like to conclude with a few verses by

Hölderlin that Heidegger liked to cite:22

For at home is the spirit

Not in the beginning, not at the source.

Home wears on him.

Colony loves, and brave forgetting the


39To find itself the spirit must leave home, has

to find its home abroad. Thus in his
interpretation of Hölderlin's hymn "Der Ister"
Heidegger calls the law of not being at home the
law of coming to be at home.23 And yet home
wears on us, does not leave us. And thus the
sting of home stays with us, lets us seek, even
abroad, in foreign parts, home. Is this not at
bottom the same insight that let Ortega y Gasset
compare technology with a fabulous orthopedic
apparatus and demand of the architect, too,
similar creations? We should not forget that the
creation of such an orthopedic apparatus
presupposes not only that dissatisfaction with
our in so many ways less than perfect bodies
emphasized by Ortega, but also knows about
the body's indispensability. And similarly the
spirit knows about the many imperfections, but
also about the indispensability of home, knows
about both. This is why it loves home even in the
strange and unfamiliar, why it loves colony, the
repetition of home in the foreign, but loves also
the unexpected and never before seen that he is
encountering in the new world he has now
entered, knows that clinging to home stands in
the way of such love and for this reason loves
also brave forgetting. In this sense Heidegger
can say that it is that home we have left behind
and which yet does not let go of us, which calls
us mortals into our dwelling. Centrifugal and
centripetal tendencies war and compete in us
human beings, in our dwelling -- should war and
compete also in our building. Human beings
would lose themselves were they not to remain
on the way, in search of home.


1 Pagde references in the text are to

Darmstädter Gespräch Mensch und Raum, ed.
Otto Bartning (Darmstadt: Neue Darmstädter
Verlagsanstalt, 1952)
2 English translation of "Building Dwelling
Thinking" by Albert Hofstadter, Poetry,
Language, Thought (New York: Harper & Row,
1979), pp. 143-161.

3 Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit, S. 188.

Trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson,
Being and Time (San Francisco: Harper&Row,

4 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space,

trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon, 1969), p. 7.

5 Martin Heidegger, Hölderlins Hymne "Der

Ister", Gesamtausgabe, Band 54 (Frankfurt am
Main: Klosterman, 1984), p. 54.

6 Ibid. , pp. 76-77.

7 In Helmut Reinicke, Aufstieg und Revolution.

Über die Beförderung irdischer
Freiheitsneigungen durch Ballonfahrt und
Luftschwimmkunst (Berlin: Transit, 1988)

8 See Denis Hollier, Against Architecture: The

Writings of Georges Bataille, trans. Betsy Wing
(Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press,

9 Martin Heidegger, "Gelassenheit,"

Gelassenheit (Pfullingen: Neske, 1959), p. 18.

10 Conversation with Herman Rauschning, cited

in Joseph Wulf, Die Bildenden Künste im Dritten
Reich, Eine Dokumentation (Hamburg: Rowohlt,
1966), p. 12.

11 Martin Heidegger, "Gelassenheit,"

Gelassenheit (Pfullingen: Neske, 1959), p. 17.

12 Martin Heidegger, "Der Ursprung des

Kunstwerkes," Holzwege (Frankfurt:
Klostermann, 1950), p. 30. Trans. Albert
Hofstadter, Poetry, Language, Thouhgt (New
York: Harper & Row, 1979), pp. 17-87.

13 Gelassenheit,p. 17.

14 Ibid., p. 17.

15 Ibid., p. 26.

16 Ibid., p. 18.

17 Ibid., p. 22.
18 Cf. Hans Blumenberg, Die Vollzähligkeit der
Sterne ( Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1997), p.

19 Martin Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der

deutschen Universität und Das Rektorat
1933/34. Tatsachen und Gedanken (Frankfurt
am Main: Klostermann, 1983), p. 11.

20 Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Fröhliche

Wissenschaft, V, 154.

21 Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the

Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Lewis White Beck
(Indianapolis: The Library of Liberal Arts, 19590,
p. 52.

22 Vgl. Martin Heidegger, "Andenken,"

Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung (Frankfurt
am Main: Klosternmann,1971), p. 85-89;
Hölderlins Hymne "Andenken", Gesamtausgabe,
vol. 52 (Frankfurt am Main: Klosterman, 1982),
pp. 189-191; Hölderlins Hymne "Der Ister",
Gesamtausgabe, Band 54 (Frankfurt am Main:
Klosterman, 1984), pp. 156-170.

23 Hölderlins Hymne "Der Ister", p. 166.

Zvetozar Zavarihin
Wohnen als Daseinsweise
Martin Heidegger ist in Russland als
Existenzialphilosoph weit bekannt. Heute wird
das Interesse an seinen Arbeiten immer größer,
viele wurden ins Russische übersetzt. Der
Aufsatz «Bauen, Wohnen, Denken.» ist bis jetzt
noch nicht veröffentlicht, aber an der St.
Petersburger Universitaet hat die Arbeit an der
Übersetzung des Aufsatzes schon begonnen.

Die fundamentale Ontologie von Heidegger hat

als Hauptfrage den Sinn des Daseins und
bestimmt den Menschen als organische
Ganzheit des Geistigen und des Materiellen, des
Subjekts und des Objekts, des Vergangenen ,
des Heutigen und des Zukünftigen. Heidegger
deutet Existenz als Sorge um die Existenz
mittels des Bauens einer Wohnung. Dabei
versteht er unter der Wohnung im weiteren
Sinne einen Ort in der Welt. Dementsprechend
hat auch das Fachwort «Bauen» eine weite

Diese Thesen von Heidegger scheinen an und

für sich unbestreitbar zu sein, aber ihre
konkreten Deutungen können sich
unterscheiden, was einen fruchtbaren Konflikt
der Interpretationen bewirkt. Aber jede
Interpretation muß davon ausgehen, daß
Ganzheit, Unteilbarkeit des Menschen und der
Welt, eine unvermeidliche Vergeistigung aller
menschlichen Tätigkeiten und Ergebnisse und
auch des Lebensraums zur Folge hat. Eben
darum ist Bauen als Tätigkeit und Ergebnis nicht
nur die Umbildung der Materie, sondern das
Leben selbst in seiner geistig-materiellen Fülle.
Heidegger beweist in seinem Aufsatz diese
Grundlage auch mittels der Etymologie der
Wörter «bauen» und «wohnen». In der
russischen Sprache haben die Woerter «shit`»
und «shilice» auch eine gemeinsame Wurzel.

Philosophisch gesehen hilft die weite Auslegung

der Woerter «bauen» und «wohnen» verstehen,
wie eng sie mit dem eigentlichen Prozeß des
Lebens verbunden sind. Der Aufenthalt des
Menschen an einem beliebigen Ort formt diesen
Ort um, da der Mensch jeden beliebigen Raum
einschätzt, symbolisiert, mythologisiert. Die
Bautätigkeit verstärkt die umgestalterische
Funktion des Menschen. Gleichzeitig ist diese
Tätigkeit eine Form des für das Leben nötigen
schöpferischen «Energieumtausches» zwischen
dem Menschen und dem Ort. Auf solche Weise
wird ununterbrochen der Lebensraum gebildet ,
das heißt Substanz, ohne die keine
Lebensfunktionen und Potenzen des Menschen
realisiert werden können. Darum kann man behaupten, daß der
Prozess des Schaffens des Lebensraums eine Form des Daseins ist.

Diese These fordert eine nähere Erklärung.

Das Bedürfnis und die Fähigkeit des Menschen, die Tätigkeit und ihre Ergebnisse zu
vergeistigen, ist das Grundmerkmal des Bewußtseins, das den Menschen gegenüber der Welt
der Natur auszeichnet. Die Versuche der Apologeten des Funktionalismus, den neuen
Lebensraum von den traditionellen Mythen, Symbolen und Sakralität zu befreien, endeten im
Schaffen neuer Mythen. Funktionalismus als Schaffensmethode verwandelte sich schnell in einen
Stil mit einer eigenen Struktur der Symbole, Zeichensysteme und Mythen. Die ähnliche
«Angleichung» betraf auch die gegenseitige Tendenz der äußerlich forcierten Versinnbildlichung ,
die der Postmodernismus verwirklichte. Die mannigfaltige historische Symbolik dieser Architektur
konnte jedoch nicht die Rahmen des gewöhnlichen Zeichensystems sprengen.

Diese zwei Beispiele zeigen, daß es zwischen dem Menschen und dem von ihm geschaffenen
Lebensraum die Wechselwirkungsfelder von einem gewissen «energetischen» Umfang gibt. Das
Übertreten dieser Felder endet immer mit der kompensierenden Angleichung der geistigen
Potenzen sowohl des Lebensraums als auch des Daseins.

Die existenziale Deutung, die Interpretation der Realien der Welt der Architektur und Bautätigkeit,
die neue Wissenschaft - die architektonische Hermeneutik (der belorussische Gelehrte I.
Morozov u.a. befassen sich intensiv damit) - erlauben in der Sprache der Architektur drei
grundlegende Metatypen hervorzuheben: Ort, Übergang und Weg. Analogisch vom linguistischen
Standpunkt aus gesehen, kann man Ort und Übergang als Substantiv und Verb interpretieren.

Der Ort hat physische Merkmale, die den Aufenthalt ermöglichen - in materieller oder virtueller
Hinsicht. Jeder Ort hat ein Zentrum, wo sich existenziale Raum - Zeit bündelt, es gibt eine
Grenze und einen Namen. Jeder Ort wird von den Menschen in den Formen des Hauses, des
Tempels, der Utopie vergeistigt. Die Gesamtheit der Orte bildet den Raum, in dem die Welt der
Architektur geschaffen wird. Als Architypen des Ortes können eine Kreuzung, eine Wand, eine
Insel, eine Nische usw. auftreten.

Der Metatyp Übergang, der von Heidegger als Brücke bezeichnet wurde, verkörpert die Idee der
Bewegung, der Veränderung, der Verbindung der Orte. Unter den allgemeinmenschlichen Werten
ist oft die Idee der Veränderung wichtiger, als die Veränderung selbst. Die Archetypen Übergang -
Aufstieg, Abstieg, Öffnung, Brücke poetisieren die Welt der Architektur, indem sie fast adäquat
das geistige Wesen des Daseins zum Ausdruck bringen.

Unter dem Metatyp Weg , der die bestimmten Orte verbindet, versteht man das Vorhandensein
physischer Werte, des Anfangs und des Endes, des Ziels, der Reihenfolge der Struktur. Seine
Archetypen sind Tunnel, Labyrinth, Treppe. Jedes Objekt der Architektur hat seinen Weg, seine
Geschichte und Entwicklungsetappen und unterzieht sich einer Deutung. Dabei kann die Größe
der Objekte verschieden sein - von einer möglichst kleinen Größe bis zur globalen Größe ganzer
Zivilisationen. Es ist zum Beispiel offensichtlich, daß die Architektur der westlichen Zivilisationen
in ihrer Entwicklung mehr die Neigung zu dem «Erschaffen des Ortes», zu einer gewissen
positiven Endgültigkeit hat; die Architektur des Ostens , die auf Eindeutigkeit und Endgültigkeit

Gunter A. Dittmar
Architecture as Dwelling and Building
Design as Ontological Act

1It has been almost fifty years since Martin Heidegger presented his seminal lecture, "Building
Dwelling Thinking" 1 to a group of leading architects in Darmstadt, Germany. Although the essay
has meanwhile become famous within architectural circles, and is often cited by authors and
architects as relevant to their work, it is curious that it has had very little impact on either the
practice, or the theory of architecture.
Why is this the case?
The answer is at once simple and complex. It is the thesis of this paper, that the reason for this
situation is that the world view and paradigm which underlies and informs architecture’s mode of
thought, and even more so its mode of operation, is anathetical to the notions delineated in
Heidegger’s essay, and, thus, makes these practically impossible to incorporate. Furthermore,
that this paradigm is in conflict with the nature of architecture and, thus, is responsible for the
increasing difficulties architecture faces concerning its social relevance, and its identity and
legitimacy as a discipline. And, finally, that this condition is the result of a serious failure of
architectural theory which, rather than concentrating on what architecture is, focuses on what
form it should take.

2The roots of these developments can be traced back several centuries. Beginning with the
Renaissance, the beginning of modern time, and culminating in the Twentieth Century, our world
view has been undergoing a major shift: from a focus on the subject and its destiny to the
emphasis and investigation of the object and object world ; from the exploration of meaning to the
search for truth; from metaphysics to physics.
The consequences of this shift in world view were profound. It radically changed the way we see,
analyze and try to understand our world. It gave birth to modern science, and derived from it,
technology and modern engineering. But, more important, it gave rise to a powerful mode of
thinking without which neither would have been possible. As the paradigmatic mode of thought of
the Twentieth Century it underlies almost everything we do, the way we think, and how we
approach a problem, to such a degree that it has become second nature to us and we are not
even aware of this anymore.

3Known as scientific method, or more commonly as reductive problem-solving, it was most

clearly formalized first in the Seventeenth Century by René Descartes, the father of modern
philosophy, in his "Discourse on Method" 2. Among its fundamental premises, besides his famous
dictum "cogito, ergo sum", were the following:

· our world and its order is knowable, and to acquire this knowledge is to gain control over it.

· to arrive at true knowledge with certainty demands total objectivity, i.e. the divorce of one’s
personality and, thus, the potential for preconceptions, from any investigation; or, to say it
differently, it requires the complete elimination of the subject.

· the manner in which to solve any problem, or in Descartes’ words "difficulties", was to divide it
into as many parts as possible, and then proceed solving the problem by beginning with the
simplest and easiest and then advance gradually and in logical order to the more complex,
composite ones; in purely methodological terms, it is now commonly known and used as the
process of analysis/synthesis: breaking a problem down into its parts and then synthesizing these
into a whole.

4Beyond its methodological significance, though related to it, Descartes’ philosophy continued
and reenforced the dualism that underlies much of Western philosophy and thought, exemplified
by such distinctions as, for instance, individual/world, culture/nature, subject/object, mind/body,
matter/spirit, truth/meaning, part/whole, et al., but also by the division, specialization and
proliferation of disciplines and subdisciplines to address the complex multiplicity of our world.

5Architecture and architectural theory could not but be affected by this change in world view, the
subject/object split and the subsequent shift of emphasis to the object and object world. Ever
since, beginning with the Renaissance and continuing up to our present time, architecture has
concentrated on - and attempted to define itself - through the object of its investigations - the
building; what form it should take and why! It has done so regardless of the time period, style or
prevailing ideology that conditions or conditioned its particular expression.
The subject, the question of our being, and the subject matter of architecture, the question of our
place in the world, which had formed the basis of architecture’s explorations for thousands of
years from Stonehenge to the pyramids and the Gothic cathedrals, is addressed, if at all, only
indirectly, i.e. it is subsumed within the object, the building, its form, and its properties.

6Heidegger, in his essay, attempts to recover and re-assert some of this world and world view.
More specifically, by etymologically tracing the roots of the terms ‘to build’ and ‘to dwell’, he
uncovers not only their original meaning, but more important, he is able to determine what their
real nature is, and the role they play for our being, and our being in the world. He, thus, arrives at
the following conclusions and definitions:

· that building is really about dwelling

· that dwelling is about the initiation and exploration of our being, the manner we humans are
as mortals on this earth

· that the question of building, the issue of our dwelling, and the issue of our being, are
inexorably linked and cannot be separated without doing harm to each one of them.
7How much of this understanding of building and dwelling has been lost, or become altered
during the ascendance of the techno-scientific world view and paradigm, becomes clear if one
examines current architectural practice in light of Heidegger’s tenets :

· building, the creative, material act through which dwelling comes into being, has been
reduced to engineering and construction: the calculation, technical production and assembly of

· dwelling, the issue, has been replaced by dwellings, i.e. housing as a commodity, or, more
generally, by buildings as inhabitable, functional shelter.

· being, the ultimate question, as well as its complex totality, have been reduced to, and
substituted by, such conceptual components as function, space, comfort and aesthetics as the
major ingredients of buildings.

· as a consequence, building and dwelling have become separated into distinct, if related,
entities and disciplines: the design, the engineering, and the construction of buildings.

8As already mentioned before, for architecture these developments begin with the Renaissance.
The (re-)discovery of Vitruvius, combined with the intellectual curiosity and scholarly pursuit so
characteristic for the age, also led to an explosion of architectural theory and theoretical treatises.
Many of these treatises were based on Vitruvius’ "The Ten Books on Architecture"3 as a model,
including even its title. The most famous and most enduring aspect, however, the so-called
"Vitruvian Triad" of utilitas, firmitas and venustas (commodity, firmness and delight, or in its
modern version, function, technology and form) are actually the result of a misreading of
Vitruvius. For, while Vitruvius makes reference to these categories, he mentions them in his book
almost like an afterthought and uses them akin to attributes or properties.4 It is the Renaissance
that elevates them to distinct, autonomous entities; the fundamental, conceptual components that
not only constitute the ideal building, but have come to stand for a definition of architecture in

9For centuries, up to this day, architecture has struggled to bring the different, inherently
conflicting, demands posed by the three categories of function, technology and aesthetics into a
harmonious balance and integrate them into a coherent whole. With limited success. For to do so
requires either a compromise, or the suppression or clear subordination of at least one, more
often though two, of the components to the dominant remaining one(s). Typically, the component
that prevails over the other two is that of aesthetics. One reason is that beauty, due to its self-
sufficient, autonomous nature, does not easily bend to compromise or subordination. Another is
the commonly held belief - again a product of the Renaissance when architecture emancipated
from a craft to an art - that what distinguishes architecture from mere building, i.e. construction
and engineering, is the element of aesthetics.

10If and when an equilibrium between the three components of function, technology and
aesthetics is established, it tends to be short-lived, for it is inherently instable due the
contradictory nature of the components. One has to look only at the three architectural
movements of our own century - Modernism, Post-Modernism and Deconstructivism - for
Modernism attempted to solve the issue of aesthetics from within the components of function and
technology (function + technology = beauty). The models were nature as revealed through
science, and the machine. The result was what Modernism had aspired to as its ideal:
architecture as aesthetic engineering. Inspite of its lofty, social and utopian goals to help bring
about a new society and new world, Modernism produced mostly, especially in lesser hands, an
abstract, empty and often inhumane architecture, or after W.W.II, an exaggerated, monumental
Post-Modernism criticized Modernism for its disregard of both, beauty (primarily its lack of
decoration) and meaning. It attempted to correct Modernism’s "mistake" by factoring the
component of aesthetics - and as part of it, meaning - back into the equation. It did so not by
trying to integrate it with the other two components of the Triad, but by a compromise that
acknowledged the incompatibility of aesthetics with function and technology, and by dealing with
it separately as an added element. Known as the "architecture of the decorated shed" since
Robert Venturi so aptly defined it, it combines function and technology into "building", essentially
functional/technological shelter, and then treats aesthetics as decorative appliqué (building +
decoration)5. Though Post-Modernism produced, perhaps, a richer and more varied architecture,
in most instances it turned out to be little more than historicist and eclectic scenography, and its
meaning stayed both, literally and figuratively, on a superficial level.
Deconstructivism, as the name already indicates, is partially inspired by the early Modernist
movement of Russian Constructivism. However, its real roots are in the literary and philosophical
movement and theory of Deconstruction. Deconstruction attempts to "de-construct" and "de-
center" the "logo-centric" thought and order that it contends we have imposed on our world, be it
philosophical, social, political cultural, scientific, technological or physical etc., which prevent us
from confronting the true reality of our world, i.e. its heterogenetic diversity. The claim is that,
through our centralized, hierarchically ordered structures, we impose univalent meaning and,
thus, suppress the multiplicity of potentially other, equally valid, interpretations.

11In character with these tenets, Deconstructivism aims to "de-construct" the anthropocentric,
and thus by definition logo-centric, world view and structures that, it maintains, still control
architecture. Of the Vitruvian Triad of components, it is especially critical of the notion of function
and dismisses it as an artificial construct. But it also attempts to displace technology, perhaps the
most logo-centric of all logo-centric systems, from its prominent role in architecture by subsuming
it within the element of aesthetics, thereby reducing the Vitruvian Triad to just this one
component. Above all, though, Deconstructivism challenges and aims to de-construct
architecture’s aesthetic conventions, particularly its orthogonal, formal order and expression, and
its quest for a harmonious whole from clearly defined parts as manifestations of its logo-centric
and anthropocentric nature. Deconstructivism, thus, is essentially in search of a new aesthetic.
Characteristic for its architecture is the avoidance of Cartesian order and geometry, the
fragmentation of form, the lack of any perceivable center, and the use of components in
contradictory and/or ambiguous relationships.

12There is no doubt that Deconstructivism has brought new energy to architecture and has
broken open and invigorated its aesthetics. Yet, contrary to its professed principles of diversity,
Deconstructivist architecture shows a remarkable uniformity of expression, i.e. it has become little
more than another stylistic movement. In the final analysis, it - like Modernism and Post-
Modernism before it - is still a product of the object-oriented world view and paradigm that
underlies and controls architecture. Furthermore, all three of the movements reduce architecture
to something less than its totality: Modernism by abstracting human existence to function and
space, Post-Modernism by replacing architecture with skin-deep imagery and decoration, and
Deconstructivism by narrowing architecture to a mere issue of aesthetics, works of art, to be
explored and contemplated rather than inhabited.

13This reductive, objectified approach does not stop at the theoretical and intellectual
underpinnings of architecture, it naturally also extends to, and conditions, architecture’s mode of
operation - its practice - and the methodology used to produce works of architecture. Since under
this paradigm architecture is equated with the design and construction of edifices - functional,
technological and aesthetic, architectural objects - it seems logical that the process used to
create these objects - design - is analogous to that of construction, i.e. it is essentially a process
of assembly and composition; of selecting appropriate components to meet the needs and
demands of a particular project and finding arrangements which make it possible to synthesize its
various parts into a coherent whole. Or to state it in more methodological terms: design is
commonly approached as a creative process of solving a functional, technological, spatial and
formal problem, akin to a complex, open-ended, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

14Contrary to common belief, the majority of designs are not "new creations". Rather they are
derived from previous answers, a "library" of similar, architectural precedents and already
established building types. These then serve as models for the new project. They are more or
less adapted and modified to accommodate the particular circumstances of the project at hand,
and their architectural expression shaped by the prevailing aesthetic ideology and/or the personal
preference and style of the respective designer.
This notion and methodology of design as the assembly of answers from distinct components,
already implicit in the Vitruvian Triad, is re-enforced by the division of labor and the specialization
architecture has undergone. When first construction, and later engineering, became separate
disciplines, architecture began to lose control over the totality of the building process. Architecture
- design - became, more or less, divorced from building, with architecture primarily responsible for
the lay-out and form of the building, and engineering and construction primarily responsible for its
technical realization and production.

15In countries like the US where architecture does not enjoy a state-guaranteed monopoly, the
validity of architecture itself has come into serious question because of this development. Since
the general public believes architecture to be about the "construction of buildings", and since it
considers this to be the domain of engineers and builders, it cannot see any real value or
relevance for architects. The consequences are increasing competition by engineering offices and
builders for architectural commissions. About the only authority and competence still conceded to
architecture is in the area of aesthetics. But even there aesthetics is misunderstood as "image-
making" (one of the reasons why Post-Modern architecture - "the architecture of the decorated
shed" - became such a popular success). The recent escape of avant-garde architecture like
Deconstructivism into art and sculpture, while understandable within the context of this
development, is but a symptom rather than a real solution to architecture’s problems.

16So, what is the answer? How can architecture overcome this seemingly vitious circle?
Heidegger, in his essay, addresses the cause of architecture’s difficulties, which are centuries old,
head on and in the most fundamental way when he probes and attempts to define the nature of
our dwelling and the nature of building, and when he points out that both are means to affirm and
explore the identity of our being. Though he barely mentions the term architecture, his essay is
clearly a call for an alternate view, definition and approach to architecture. But he goes further. He
outlines the basic structure for such an approach by defining the constituent parameters of our
existence and our dwelling - the fourfold of the earth, the sky, the mortals and the divinities -
which architecture must engage if it wants to be true to its nature and its calling.
Architecture, in this sense, locates us within the larger order of our world by "carving out a place
for our being" from the vast and shapeless continuity of time and space and giving it symbolic and
physical presence. At its best, architecture connects our inner with our outer world and brings
them - at least temporarily - into congruence, thereby revealing to us some of the mystery of both.
Buildings, thus, are more than inhabitable structures that protect us from the elements, let in light,
and provide privacy and space for our activities, though these are demands they also have to
satisfy. Buildings are not ends in themselves, but mediating objects through which we create a
world for ourselves and enter into a dialogue with the world around us by defining and articulating
our relationship to our fellow beings, nature and its phenomena, and "the world beyond". As such
they involve the totality of our existence and our being, not a reductive, objectified notion of it. The
earth that grounds us and all things, and provides the material for our building; the sky, the origin
of space; the sun that animates all life and gives us the measure of time; the diurnal rhythm of
night and day, light and dark; the dynamic cycle of the seasons and the climate; these are the
primary components of architecture, not their derivatives of function, space, structure and form.

17At the very end of his essay Heidegger makes what is, perhaps, its most important point when
he observes that, due to our human condition, our homelessness in this world, "[t]he real dwelling
plight lies in this, that mortals ever search anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must ever
learn to dwell "6. It is a point that is rarely noted, possibly because it is not understood, or
dismissed as eloquent rhetoric. What it essentially says, is that, as a result of our consciousness,
as humans we are at once a part of the world and yet apart from it, and that, therefore, we never
quite feel at home in the world; that our dwelling is and remains an un-ending quest and open
question. Or, to say it differently, it is a question that poses itself anew for every time period,
culture and society; that we all, individually and collectively, confront and have to solve within the
understanding, opportunities and available means of our time: to discover and define an identity
and a place for ourselves in the world; who we are, what we are, and where we belong within the
larger order of our universe? Every work of architecture shares in this quest and addresses
aspects of these questions from within its particular vantage point.

18For architecture this search is fundamental to its nature as a discipline. If our dwelling - and,
thus, architecture - is a continuing, open-ended question, then design, the process through which
a work of architecture comes into being, is first and foremost a discourse and a form of inquiry. It
is not the assembly of building components, of "anwers" to limited, superficial questions derived
from previous solutions; or the composition of abstract geometry and form to be subsequently
"translated" into a building.
The meaning of a work of architecture - and its logic - comes from "within" rather than "without"
(i.e. it is not "imported" from previous precedents, normative theories, or aesthetic ideologies). As
the nature of the work emerges and its understanding becomes clearer, so does its form as the
manifestation of this understanding. Design is, therefore, an evolutionary learning process, a
process of exploration, discovery, understanding and interpretation, i.e. it is fundamentally a
hermeneutic process. Furthermore, since its subject is the question of our being and our dwelling
in this world, design is more than a process of solving functional, spatial, technological and formal
problems: it is inherently a phenomenological and ontological process.
But design as the guardian of the issue of dwelling cannot exist without the material act of
building. As already mentioned, through architecture - and, thus, through design - we enter into a
dialogue and a discourse with the world around us. Through the shaping of the earth and
organizing its material into a spatial and tectonic framework we engage the forces and
phenomena of nature, reveal its order, and make this order part of our own. It is evident that
building cannot be reduced to just "construction", nor separated from the question of dwelling,
and, thus, the process of design, without subverting both. Trying to understand and bring forth the
essence and meaning of a work is synonymous with the exploration of its material form and order
and, thus, the inquiry into the formal, phenomenal and tectonic nature of building.

19Such a view of architecture and design runs counter to the current design ethic and, by
implication, challenges the object-oriented, techno-scientific paradigm that is responsible for it. It
would be foolish to think that we can turn back the clock and change this paradigm, e.g. undo the
process of specialization and re-integrate architecture with construction and engineering. But we
do not have to be captive to this paradigm. We do not have to accept that architecture becomes
reduced to " form-making" and/or functional/technical problemsolving. We can change the way we
think about and approach design. Within its own domain architecture - design - can still pursue
the question of our being, building and dwelling in its totality and still collaborate with the other
two disciplines. The only thing that stops us is our own mind-set.

20"Building Dwelling Thinking" is often criticized and dismissed as an anachronism, a throw-back

to a long gone past. (Evidence typically cited for this is Heidegger’s poetic description of a two
hundred year old Black Forest farmhouse as an ideal example of dwelling through the gathering
and embodiment of the four-fold, even though he specifically states that this in no way should be
interpreted as a model for the present.) Yet, in a world dominated by the viewpoint of science and
technology, architecture increasingly has difficulties to demonstrate its value and relevance to
society and to establish a true identity as a legitimate discipline all its own. The problem that
architecture faces is not how best to accommodate itself within the techno-scientific world view
and paradigm of thought. Regardless whether it veers towards science and engineering or
towards art, or attempts to find a compromise, it is destined to further lose its identity and its very
existence is in question. The problem, as Heidegger points out, is first and foremost for
architecture to understand its very own nature. Thus, Heidegger’s essay by implication not only
calls for an alternate view and approach to architecture it also shines a bright light on the serious
failure of architectural theory.
21Current architectural theory has become little more than sophisticated criticism. It focuses on
architectural problems rather than the problem of architecture; theories rather than theory. While it
is good at diagnosing the pathology of architecture’s deficiencies, whether of a social, cultural,
technological, or aesthetic nature, it is blind to the fact that these are essentially the
consequences of the underlying paradigm that controls architecture’s thought and practice.
Meanwhile, while it is criticizing what is wrong with architecture, often looking to other disciplines
for guidance, from philosophy to sociology, cultural and literary criticism and art, it has abrogated
it’s obligation to help architecture find its own identity and definition as a discipline by exploring
what architecture is, instead of what form it should take, i.e. what its nature is, its role, its meaning
and its place within the rest of human endeavor. Only if architectural theory begins to pursue
these issues will architecture, rather than constantly be meandering between art, social science,
engineering and the humanities, finally begin to develop its own center and core, and be able to
go forward. Heidegger’s essay, rather than an anachronism, could actually help begin to point the
way to the future.


1 lecture given on August 5, 1951 as part of "Darmstädter Gespräch II" (Darmstadt Symposium)
on the topic "Mensch und Raum" (Man and Space); first published in the proceedings (Darmstadt:
Neue Darmstädter Verlagsanstalt, 1952); English publication, trans., by Albert Hofstadter in
Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought (New York, Harper & Row, 1975)

2 Donald A. Cress, trans., René Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First
Philosophy (Indianapolis, Hackett Publishing Company, second edition, 1986); Discourse on
Method originally published in 1637

3 Morris Hicky Morgan, trans., Vitruvius, The Ten Books on Architecture (New York, Dover
Publications Inc.,1960)

4 cf. Vitruvius, Book I, Chapter III. 2, "The Departments of Architecture"

5 cf. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas , in particular
the definition on p. 87 (Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 1985; revised edition)

6 "Building Dwelling Thinking", Poetry, Language, Thought , p. 161(the italics are Heidegger’s)

Subject , hat eher die Neigung zum Metatyp des Übergangs.

So hat jeder Lebensraum eine existenziale Sinn- und Sprachstruktur, die mittelbar oder adäquat
das existenziale Wesen des Seins zum Ausdruck bringt. Für das professionale
Architekturbewußtsein ist das Verstehen dieser Zusammenhänge nicht so sehr wichtig für die
Taktik und Technologie des Schaffens als für seine Strategie und Weltanschauung und für alle
Bereiche der fundamentalen Grundlagen des Berufs des Architekten. Die Schaffung dieser
Grundlagen erfordert eine wesentliche Korrektur der Methodik der Architekturausbildung und
entsprechende Veränderungen in der Kritik, der Theorie, der Wissenschaft und der Information
auf dem Gebiet der Architektur.