By Dr. Constantinos Pantidos
Here is what we are looking for when we are searching for a new house. The motives are
deployed in order of importance.
In a case of burglary our emotional disruption of the event may be more significant
compared to our pain about the things stolen. This is because home is like a temple. We
expect to find peace there. When we go home and shoot the bolt on the door, we like to
think we’re locking troubles out (Stephen King). We are not locking the others out, we are
locking ourselves in. Everyone agrees that in the way a child draws a house we see a
projection of his/her personality and conscious or unconscious conflicts (Vigouroux 4). This
image of the house does not lose its meaning as we grow older (Vigouroux 4).
A house is more than protection: within this crypt is the root, the attachment, the depth, the
dive into dreaming where we lose ourselves in the infinity (Gaston Bachelard). Everyone
needs to return to one’s own cell, where one can listen alone his/her own breath where the
interest for oneself starts.
House is a large cradle. It allows one to dream in peace said Bachelard. Houses are intuitively
attractive because they symbolize the distinction between the self and the world. Out of the
disorder of the world, the roof helps us fashion a safe place (Murray Silverstein in Seamon
84). In this sense, house acts as an anchor to changes. The code for home is re-: return,
reunite, reconnect, doing things again (Rapaille 99). In no other place do we feel more in
peace, refreshed, full of our first youth and new life. This small corner becomes our own
sacred Mecca. A place for renewal and hope, a sanctuary within which we can retreat and
recharge ourselves, an oasis amidst turbulence. If we lack stability and roots, we may build a
lavish house to overcome our sense of insecurity (David p. 84).
During the night, the insularity of the lighted root is a small island of light in the sea of
darkness. It gives us the impression that the night has been mastered. It represents the
dialogue between the vastness of the world and the intimacy where the being finds
expansion and security in alternation.
The house is the place of absolute intimacy. It offers predictability. In our unconscious home
symbolizes the womb of space. Indeed, the primary symbolic equation of the house is
vessel. It is close to the body. House is based on the principle of interiority (Bachelard).
Seeking a new house depicts more often than not our dream to return to our first home, the
When we are searching for a new house we are basically searching for the safety offered by
our mothers. The connection of the house and the mother’s womb emerges very often in
child’s phantasies (Julia Segal in Ward 82). Our first home is the womb (Rapaile 94). In fact,
throughout our life, there is no place like home.
We are attracted to the house’s simple shapes (the rectangular shape of its body, the
triangular shape of its roof), we find meaning “in” them, because they are like mirrors
reflecting the very ground of our self – an inside and an outside, a body born of the mother
(Murray Silverstein in Seamon 89).
The house is just another protective layer of shell we try to surround ourselves with, on top
of clothes, make up etc. The Hellenes taught us that the household in classical Greece was
etched over by two deities: Hestia, the goddess of the hearth, at the shadowy, feminine
center of the house; and the outward-looking Hermes, god of the threshold protector of
exchanges and of men who monopolized them (Augé 1995, VII).
Indeed, warmth converts a house into a home. Studies have shown that loneliness feel cold:
people guess the temperature of a room as colder, when thinking about feeling socially
excluded (Bergen 215). House, like the cave from which it derives is a dark secret, like that
“secret place of the hearth”, the home (Flussel 57). Unused places feel cold and unshared
places lack warmth (Oldenburg 41). Dreams of houses often are about one’s body (Sinkman
94). The house is the object of the objects (has objects inside). Our body is our first house
(Vigouroux 37). We always dream to have a home that is alive… something lives and
palpitates within the walls which are our skin, the skin of our childhood within which we still
exist with all of our being (Vigouroux 97).
The human being cannot live in chaos. Chaos must be transformed into cosmos (Karsten
Harries in Seamon 51). Home roots us; it provides a physical center around which we
organize our comings and goings (David Seamon quoted by Oldenburg 39). Indeed, the
house is rooted in the earth, mastering the space, giving the illusion of stability. Homes
stand still, they resist momentum, and they exercise extraordinary control over the destiny
of certain families (Watson 92).
A retired astronaut who had walked in the moon when was asked by a child “what he has to
do to become an astronaut like him”, he answered “the first thing you have to do is to put in
order your own room”. By managing our household we think we control the immediate
environment and universe, we put in order our cosmos. The house helps us to master space
through thought. The order inside us affects our outward environment. “The house ensures
an active relationship between the cosmic order and the personal order. It reunites us with a
higher order” (Vigouroux 179).
House triggers the instinct of ownership. To appropriate space is a universal human need.
The “territorial imperative”, as it is called, is about a sense of possession and control over a
setting. The urge to establish personal territories, as Robert Adrey argues, most likely has a
natural rather than a cultural origin (Solomon 100).
The sturdiest the house, the best the security it provides. Till some years ago we built houses
with thick walls, few small windows and thick and tall fences. We preferred rock although it
does not offer the best insulation or robustness. In this respect the house is a “castle”. The
vertical shape of the house itself gives the impression of standing up, conveys the notion of
stature. Erected, standing up, the house is reassuring in all its solidity. The change from
oval/curved to angular living space had to do with a fundamental change in mental attitude,
in cosmology and the shape of the world (Jones). Social prestige is also coming by the size of
the house. Once we have built our house – castle, we infuse it with a cosmic order. We
maintain a close-cropped lawn to show a well preserved property, imitating the pasture
without the cows which connote inexpensiveness. We build high fences, we place guards at
the gates to mark our territory and create order and significance. The house can be a status
symbol, the ultimate symbol of “having arrived”.
In our home “we can immerse in our secret world, where we are the Primum Movens, the
Judge, the Creator, the Lord (Hankiss 124). We put everything in order, build a sterilized
place, and seal it from the world in order to preserve one’s own self from every disorder.
Through the desire to manage, to predict, to organize everything we try to maintain the
illusion of our omnipotence.
The house as an “object” represents the dynamic rivalry between itself and the universe,
courage and resistance of both the house and the humans. Faced with the hostility and
storm of outside, the house virtues of protection and resistance are transposed into human
virtues. The house acquires the physical and moral energy of a human body. It becomes our
buckler with which we confront the cosmos.
The purpose to own a house gives us meaning in life, something to achieve. “The house asks
us to love it and to recognize it because it asks us to love and recognize ourselves ”
(Vigouroux 179). Our house satisfies our pride.
A solid mass in silhouette rising up along with a vertical axis.
The house gives a sense of steady urgent energy pushing up from the ground, aimed at the
sky (Murray Silverstein in Seamon 84). Humans are uneasy about living in lightness because
they have lived for so long amidst heaviness and horizontality (François Dagognet in
Manzini, 16). The architect is therefore forced to feign heavy pillars or loadbearing surfaces
in order to reassure humans (François Dagognet in Manzini, 16).
The essence of dwelling is about the basic need for “being somewhere”. Being – the very
property of existence - somewhere implies more than location; it involves primarily
identification with the particular character of the places, paths, and domains in question
The building of the house is an act of creation of our cosmos, an act of genesis. Building has
thus been thought traditionally an analogy to divine creation: God as the archetypal
architect (Karsten Harries in Seamon 51). We can satisfy our inherent motive to create and
feel intimately close to ourselves by decorating our house. Homes are expressions of
ourselves, and extensions of our own personalities. We use our houses as a substitute for
direct verbal communication. The house we choose to live, the objects we put inside
communicate ourselves. The colors we choose, the pictures on the wall advertise our self-
identity. The arrangement of furniture help us express our creativity. Paleolithic humans
began to domesticate themselves before they domesticated either plants or animals
(Mumford 123). This was the first steps in transforming human personality (Mumford 123).
By returning home each day people not only restore themselves physically, but they also
renew and reaffirm their identity by interacting with objects that contain desired images of
the self (Csikszentmihalyi).
The house is a seat, a mysterious cave, complete with cosmic powers. It is as if the house
comes out of the earth, the house that grows from the earth, which lives rooted within its
The house accommodates the unconscious memories in line with the symbols of intimacy
that real life does not always have the power to root: the house is a counter universe, an
It is from this centre of the intimacy of the house that we start becoming aware of the
hugeness of a world and our participation in the universe. House is an image that helps us
grow. We conquer the universe by becoming the masters of our house (Gaston Bachelard).
Our unconscious reduces the world. The vault represents the sky, the ground is considered
to be the earth in its entirety.
In their house, people see themselves as the centre of a stage: games of perspective and
light, colour and form. The space of a make-believe world which revolves around the
presence of actors. The house helps us become someone else. We want to live in some skin
other than ours (Vigouroux 27). We change houses to change our life.
It is as if the house is rooted by itself in the ground, it requests us to descent. It gives a
feeling of secrecy, of something hidden. It is not only a hiding place, it is also a dungeon. The
foundations of our houses are not foundations but roots that are alive from where the
The house evokes a confrontation with the world, a resistance to the outside flow of life.
All these images focus on being locked up, being protected. A being that is hidden is a being
that reaches the depth of its mystery. This being is going to come out, to be reborn. Its
destiny is to resurrect (Gaston Bachelard).
Houses often become prisons to fulfil desires that are not ours, desires of loved persons who
vanished, and desires of loved persons who never belonged to us. By demolishing a house
we demolish roles that are not ours, we want a different life (Vigouroux 27).
Our room becomes our anchorage and refuge, our lover who welcomes us within her. When
we return to her, she warms us and protects, she nourishes our body and soul. She is always
there, when we need her and she never abandons us.
The house offers the freedom from the anxiety that someday we may find ourselves pushed
around or pushed out. Only those who can count on a nurturing, protective home
environment are free to venture into the public arena (Arendt quoted by Csikszenthmihalyi
et al. 114). We change houses to find what we miss of ourselves, our roots.
We need to stop running after a moving ground we can never conquer.
In our roots we find nothing else than ourselves (Vigouroux 139).
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