It is natural for everyone to know what he has learned, what he has grown into. So it is with the houses, we accept what is close to our experience so far. The space station is not a residence; contemporary Japanese architects are experimenting with incomprehensible things, folk architecture has a thatched roof, twentieth-century dwellings are gray panels or snow-white dwelling machines. While these stereotypes contain truth, they are useless. The world is much more colorful.
For students and teachers of architecture, or indeed for anyone, the kind of place where one resides and how one lives there are easily taken for granted. People typically live with their immediate families in one place for years or decades on end. The dwelling may be on the ground floor or several stories up and it will provide shelter for its occupants from whatever conditions may prevail outside. It will be equipped with the appliances and furniture the occupants require. It is designed and built by trained professionals and made of industrially produced building materials. The resulting building will not be cheap but will ensure comfortable living conditions.
Not every residence is like this…
There are occasions when a gymnasium must be quickly divided between several hundred families, or when an eight-person dwelling, devoid of any comforts, costs 400 million forints, or when a school has to accommodate 100000 children. There are people who speed along at 200 km/h while they sleep and there are those who live in prefabricated houses that can be transported by road. There are times when 40.000 tents are put up on one site and when the thickness of the walls of a dwelling is much greater than the height of its interior, and where the temperature is 75 degrees colder outside than it is indoors—and others where you can say good morning every 92 minutes! There are places where prisoners live better than free men in most parts of the world, others where the houses nest in trees, and there are occasions when people inhabit 1600 identical tin boxes. There are times when a student dormitory is made of shipping containers or when a habitation can be self-sufficient for three months, whatever happens. Other dwellings are inhabited for an average of only 9hours. These and other examples are the subjects of the chapter on extraordinary dwellings.
There are people who shut their menfolk up in special towers to protect them from blood feuds and others who build fortresses to give refuge for the whole clan. There are people who get seasick when they walk on dry land and others who build houses 50 meters up in the treetops. There is folk who chop a house from its base when it is no longer usable and others whose houses, ruined 170 years ago can still be seen, while others build by demolishing. There are, or rather were, other people who built their houses on floating islands of reeds and others who build houses as long as the central building of the BME. There are people who float on the surface of the water with their houses when there are floods and others who build impregnable fortresses out of a little stone and a lot of mud. There are, or rather were those who lived and ate together with their horses and cattle under one roof and others who live in houses, renovated countless times, which are hundreds of years old just as they did in the past. There are people who live with up to thirty others in halls, sleeping in hammocks and still others who build 9 meter high domes out of mud with no reinforcement.
These and other examples form the content of the chapter on vernacular homes.
Some houses are made up of fifteen small cubes and others have curtains instead of walls inside or whose roofs are more important than their living space. There are houses that completely hide their outer walls and others which look like a pile of houses, and there are those who live in their dwellings as if they were sitting on the branches of trees. There are houses where the floor slopes at the same angle as the hillside outdoors and others which have no windows wider than slits. Then there are other dwellings where the pantry is at one end of the plot and the study at the other end — but they can be moved. There are residences which resemble nothing so much as fully glazed side passages, and others in which every room is a passageway, houses which are one big stairwell. There are houses with glass walls which can be rolled up like a roller-blind or where the garden is in the house — although then it is not clear where the living area is. With other houses, it is unclear when one is outside and when one is indoors, or where the house ends and the garden begins.
These, and more examples comprise the chapter on contemporary experimental residential accommodation.
The Habitatio study resources which accompany the course module in Residences Analysis are based on the broadest possible interpretation of human habitation. According to this definition, a residence can be any place where at least one person can spend at least one night in more or less sheltered conditions. It includes single-family homes, buildings with multiple dwellings and low rise high-density housing, although these latter form the subject of another set of study materials. The Habitatio study materials do not concern typical residential buildings but focus instead on extraordinary, vernacular, and contemporary experimental accommodation.
These buildings, structures, products, and vehicles are interesting in their own right as well as architecturally and from a functional perspective. We can learn a great deal about the functions of dwellings and about the flexibility of humans and of inhabitants. Having acquainted oneself with the extreme examples contained in the Habitatio collection one may begin to regard all dwellings with a more open mind, and broaden one’s horizons when designing residential buildings. The Habitatio study resources comprise three studies and three collections of examples as well as this introduction. The studies establish the context of the three topics, and illustrated them with examples and external references, while the collections of examples attempt to provide an overview of each topic with the help of 40 selected dwellings. All three topic areas are very broad, and we had to be extremely selective when assembling the collections of examples. The aim was for the 40 residences to represent the areas covered, but naturally, this was not accomplished comprehensively. The three collections of examples are accompanied by a map indicating the locations of the specific buildings and the usual surroundings of the generic (typical) buildings. In many cases, the exact geographical location of private dwellings is not public information, in which case the name of the town or city has been given. For products the usual place of usage or production has been indicated.