Introduction: Phenomenological dimensions of dwelling
This study deals with the experience of moving and settling in a new home. It stems from recent research on the experience and use of the dwelling undertaken from a phenomenological perspective by the author of this chapter, and it continues earlier explorations of the subject that lead to the definition of three fundamental characteristics for the home.
In previous work, (Korosec-Serfaty, 1985), the author suggested that, on the one hand, dwelling implies the setting up of and inside-outside, i.e. the differentiation and qualification of space and thus the shift from “space” to “place”. Dwelling is a place-creating action, which amounts to the establishment of physical limits as many limits within oneself. It expresses the will to “remake” the outside world, to create an “inside” which seems justified, non contingent.
This non-contingent world gains its meaning only in relation to a situation in the world, any dwelling defines a certain kind of inside-outside relationship. The manners or cultural habits of closing and opening one’s home, like the cultural patterns of intimacy and hospitality (P. Korosec-Serfaty, 1989) constitute as many variations of the necessity to establish choices regarding the inside-outside dialectics.
Such cultural and attitudinal variations are then “translated” into architectural decisions. As an example. Balladur (1949) illustrate this idea by comparing the 17th century classical interior world to modem villa architecture: “In a Classical house, the basic structure of the interior volumes and the decoration are dominated by the constant effort to propose definite elements, whose contours are precise and perfectly stable”(p. 902). The Classical house therefore presents itself as an ordered. still and perfect world, in contrast with a chaotic, changeful and imperfect outside. “The inside-outside relationship is equated here with the relationship between form and formlessness” (p. 904). It derives from the will to deny the “social outside”, which is made of disturbances. risks and hazards which may, at any time. disrupt the established order or challenge the privileges pertaining the status of nobleman.
Balladur then examines an entirely different way of establishing the dialectics between the inside and and outside of the dwelling. He chooses the Neutra villas to show that the difference in design which separates the modem American dwelling from the French Classical house resides in the fact that Neutra builds the inside with all the characteristics ascribed to the out- side. This is evidenced by the importance granted to the site, the view and the landscape, which will be kept intact, by the use of transparent materials, and by building an inside symetrical with the outside which contains water, plants, woods and rocks whose natural grain and roughness are preserved. In other words, the inside is not defined but suggested as a potentiality, indicated in a positive mode: the use of transparent materials and of retractable partitions denies the need to conceal, which generally is negatively connotated. In such a house, the dweller no longer sees the wor1d in front of him (like in the Classical house surrounded by formal gardens à la française) but all around him. And “the roughness of the inside materials returns to the dweller the consciousness of his own skin” (p. 911).
Through the understanding of the relationship between inside and outside, we encounter the question of what the inhabitant accepts to see of the exterior wor1d and, coextensively, the question of what is exposed of him/herself to the sight of others. More specifically, it is through the experiences of hospitality, openness to others, claims for privacy that the dweller is confronted with the necessity to make their relationship to themselves more explicit.
In other words, dwelling presupposes choices, decisions about visibility, which is thus the second essential characteristic of the dwelling experience. By visibility, we mean that the inhabitant must initiate actions which contribute to hide and to show him/her to others as well as to him/herself, according to modalities which will always be personal. Facades are at once visages and masks. They embody the dialectical confrontation of private and social images the dweller experiences intimately and challenge his/her freedom to act on them as message conveyors of his/her identity (Korosec-Serfaty and Feeser, 1978).
These two phenomenological dimensions show that dwelling is a praxis, a series of concrete actions which are manifest not only at observable levels, such as setting up boundaries, acting on the inside and outside of the home (through maintenance, decoration, personalization, etc … ) but also and above all in the dweller’s inner evolution which derives directly from such actions (Korosec-Serfaty, 1973; Graumann, 1978). Thus, the third characteristic of the dwelling experience· is the appropriation of space, understood not only as the active mastery over a given place but also as an active personal involvement in giving new meaning to the appropriated places.
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Pour faire référence à cet article
Perla Serfaty-Garzon, “Dwelling, place making and the experience of transition and relocation”
in FESTSCHRIFT ZUM 60 GEBURTSAG VON PETER JOCKUSH
sous la direction d’A. Kleinenfen
Presses universitaires de Kassel, 1994 pp. 117-134