Home: A History of an Idea

From ArticleWorld

In Home: A History of an Idea Witold Rybczynski explores the idea of comfort as being central to the idea of home in this study, which is more an extended essay than a full-length academic work. Rybczynski's is an intellectual rather than technical history, and he looks to how people's understanding of home life as being the pinnacle of domesticity, privacy, and intimacy intersects with more tangible concerns about efficient use, good light and ventilation. A theme running through Home is how the concerns of architects and interior designers are often about form and appearance, rather than functionaliy and ease of use.

Rybczynski presents his history by weaving together a wide range of examples from different times and places to prove that in the western world technological advcances have changed the structure of and functions offered by houses, and socio-economic change has changed the structure of the family, but not much has changed fundamentally in people's expectations of comfort from domestic life.

There are instructive explorations of home life as depicted in 16th century Dutch painting, as well as the semiotics of Ralph Lauren interiors, and illuminating comparisons between the domestic concerns of 19th century English housewives and modern day urban dwellers. Home offers a sensitve reading of real life concerns often lost in the thickets of architectural theory.