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Investigating an Architecture of Essentials in Contemporary Residential Structures

Part 1 Dissertation 2009
Piotr Kaminski
Nottingham Trent University Nottingham UK
The study emerged from personal observation of failing social interactions in residential architecture. An interest in philosophy and theory of architecture, added to previous studies in the field of housing, led to a question: ‘what is essential in residential architecture?’
The work starts off with an attempt of reinvestigating essentialism through raising various questions. Principles in the work of Alberto Campo Baeza and Bjørn Normann Sandaker are used a basis for analysis. The need for scalable detail (intertwining all aspects of a building in dialogue) and simplicity in more than just aesthetics is derived. Most importantly a careful consideration of local variables - mainly the user, has to be made not to fall into multiplying architectural patterns, which stand for problems of anonymity and dehumanization in our building habitat.
The second part tries to answer what makes a person experiencing a space perceive it as ‘home’? It seems that the immaterial ‘feel’ associated with a building is what transforms a house into a ‘home’. Achieving poetics and a multisensory, humanized interaction with a structure are explored. Dynamic qualities of a ‘being’, along the lines of Heidegger, are identified as necessary.
The final part concentrates on material solutions to the aforementioned, stating that the material/immaterial dualism is strongly intertwined. Dynamics could be controlled by manipulating light in a conscious way, taking hints from some historical examples current lighting design seems to have forgotten. Also a proper use of material, considering not only optical but also tactile stimuli, is in order.
Summarizing the dehumanization of architecture has been largely related to a market driven multiplication of established formulae. Facing such a context, a purist interpretation of essentialism might not be enough to bring back a sense of ‘home’ to residential architecture. The most fundamental problem seems to be the mediocre response to human scale and dynamic of relations; both between structure-user and between multiple aspects which weave the complex tissue of architecture.

Piotr Kaminski

The merit of this work is not only in the content which strives to engage with home and the meaning of home both as physical entity and concretisation of ones sense of being. The student tries to come to terms with what is essential and what is not essential in an increasing quest for material representation. But the merit of the work is beyond this. The work itself is a reflection of the student trying to come to terms with himself and his own approach to design. His reading was extensive, transcending the boundaries described by subject, which served to not only confuse and challenge his initial presumptions and position, but to force thinking and confrontation about what is essential in terms of communication of a message. The message however was not only about the work, but also about what is important in a larger context. Thus the value of the work lies in the duality of its representation. It is not a dissertation about the subject, which it is, of course, on the surface. It is a written treatise about the self; it is a work of soul searching about his position and time in life, his experiences and the choices that have to be made. The process of the work provided the outlet through which he could search for meaning.

Michelle Pepin
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