Experiencing the Home: Memories of the Home


GrandfatherSource: Unknown.  The simplistic beauty of a Victorian home tells of past experiences as a granddaughter listens on, lost in her imagination.

We are informed by architecture every day, but none more significantly than that of the place we live, the home. Daily we leave it and yet daily we return. For the home houses the very essence of who we are. Within it we rest, we cook, we learn, we relax, we interact, we talk, we grow, we live. The home encourages honest word and expression of emotion free from the influence and judgement of the outside world. The home is where we are our truest self.

So bound up are we to the home that its repetitious nature imprints itself to memory; the shape and feel of a door handle; the choreographed run up the stairs; the haptic transition from carpet to tile underfoot. Our seemingly ordinary, everyday homes impress themselves deep into our subconscious. So informative are these memories that they can so often be vividly recalled many years later. Such memories, steeped in sentiment, contain the deepest architectural experience according to architect, Peter Zumthor. These memories are how we relate to the world. Consequently, there is every need for the home to be designed with these evolving memories in mind. The home is not designed of four walls and a roof. Nor is it designed of rooms, partitions and furniture- this is only a house.  For the home to be designed it must connect with its inhabitant emotionally, subconsciously through atmosphere, exploration and experience. As Zumthor states, ‘Beauty doesn’t come out of the shape alone, but of the multiplicity of impressions, sensations and emotions that the shape has us to discover’ (1). The home then in turn creates memories.

And yet with the rapid technological advancements of our culture, there is concern for the homes of today becoming void of such experience and memory with greater importance seemingly given to their visual appeal alone resulting in decorated shells void of the inherent beauty that Zumthor describes. This is emphasised by the hordes of pristine ‘show-room’ photographs used by today’s estate agents hoping, and succeeding, to lure prospective buyers with the promise of a flawless home free from human touch.

Despite this shift in recent years, at Le Lay Architects we still recognise the importance of designing the home. The next part in this article series discusses why the places in which we live today are at risk of losing the very things that make a house the home.

1. Peter Zumthor (2006). Experiencing Architecture. 2nd ed. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser. p8.