Buildings have long offered our species physical shelter, but they are also deeply symbolic / emblematic of the changing shapes of our psyche.
There are the obvious examples, such as buildings of worship, shaped with carefully calculated proportions and lighting, they conjure images of the divine and offer an atmosphere ripe for contemplation. They strive to make the unknowable palpable.
Then there are the fortresses and castles; heavy set and deeply rooted in strategic landscapes – their angular projections and rough-hewn materials make them seem elemental and immovable, or deliberately inharmonious, austere and conspicuous.
But what of the houses? And more specifically, the home? A personal space divided from the rest of the world by a simple barrier – the threshold. This too has become symbolic. Remember the Trojan horse? It faltered three times on the threshold of Troy before it was hauled into place and sealed the city’s fate. Long have husbands carried their wives over this divide as a symbol of a new start, and in many a folklore tale has this simple barrier become a protective symbol of spiritual significance.
If not a fortress or a temple, then what is the home? It is a world within a world, a place where the conscious mind may remove its armour and truly exercise its free will. It is an opportunity to retreat and rationalise the day, safe behind the threshold until tomorrow, when we will venture out again to test ourselves against the turbulent world.
Bricks and Mortals: Ten Great Buildings and The People They Made, Tom Wilkinson (Bloomsbury Press)
Lessons From Vernacular Architecture, Willi Weber, Simos Yannas (Routledge)
Handmade Houses: A Free-Spirited Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design, Richard Olsen (Rizzoli)