There’s no place like home

–There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.
(Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”)

A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sittin’ there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight
(Burt Bacharach, “A House is not a Home”)

The word ‘house’ comes from the Greek word “χους” (“hus”) that means dust, soil or dirt. It is materiality that is reflected in this word, the material of which the house is built. Through its materiality, its physical dimension, the house occupies a place, creating a dividing line, determining an inner and an outer site, an inside and outside: a space. That space can be read in different terms through different optics. Its dimensions, uses or circulation, can be analyzed in symbolic or architectural terms, among others. Usually, we are in the domain of the house when we are regarding its materiality and the relation of the object with its habitants, but not between them. From a phenomenological perspective, the symbolic meaning is contained into the house, but commonly emotional attachment is related to idea of home.

The network of relations and communications among organic and inorganic elements inside an inhabited space creates the more abstract idea of home. Etymologically, home derives from the german word heim, related to fire, recalling the use of the house as a place for staying warm and cooking (using external sources of energy), and bringing people together (network of relations). Those relations among people, and between the house and its habitants, also occurs in time. If space is related to the house, time is related to home.


Commonly used as synonyms, house and home are terms interconnected in a complex relation: a home seems to need a house for exists, but a house can no contain a home. A real estate agent will call it a house when you sell it and home when you buy it, for maximize or minimize emotional attachment. Home and house appears as the two sides of the same sign. But the different works reviewed shows that relation less obvious and more arbitrary. The house, the spatial dimension of the habitat appears as the consolidation of habits regarding the uses related to dwelling. Despite its constant reincarnation, the house is an institution, or the materialization of a previous plan or discourse that involves notions about how this space must be in physical and relational terms. Following De Certeau, the house is the materialization of a strategy. That strategy indicates, with particular strength, how the relations of power must be there, where the coordinates of power are generally expressed in terms of class, age and gender. If the spatiality is the product of a strategy, therefore it is, following Judith Butler, performative and arbitrary: a repeated corporeal project2. Additionally, as shown in different examples, the house is a historical contingency, a social temporality.

The word home contains the idea of relation and a energy flow. Is related more to time than space. So, the meshwork of relations could create their own spatial basis, like an auto-poetic system. Is the case of nomadic tribes or different kind of homeless houseless communities. The necessary conditions for create a home seems to be the organic forms and the energy source. That network relation can be organized in different forms, following different patterns or pre-structured landscapes, following Manuel de Landa. Assuming the possibility to create a home with only one person, as shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey, we are assuming that the relation which constitutes the home is not only generated by organic elements. Maybe, as Elvis Presley sings, home is where the heart is.

[read other entries about the home/house distinction]