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Dwelling is fundamental for every human, but what does it mean to dwell and how to create a building as a dwelling place.. In “Building Dwelling Thinking” philosopher Martin Heidegger discusses the notion of dwelling and contends that “only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build” [Heidegger, 1971, p160]. If dwelling is a precondition to building what does it mean then to dwell? Heidegger points out that many budget housing complexes do provide shelter for the people and thus ‘house’ them, but many times it only works as an empty shell, and do not provide any possibility for dwelling. Definition of dwelling provided by the philosopher contains in itself a notion of preserving, sparing understood in a broader sense not only as “not” harming, but as letting things be the way they truly are in their nature.

Fundamental notion of dwelling is therefore preserving, setting at peace, allowing for the true nature of things to be nurtured. Human existence on Earth is also referred to by Heidegger as dwelling – “dwelling is a manner in which mortals are on the earth’’ [Heidegger, 1971, p148].

“Dwelling is coming together of the fourfold; the earth, the sky, the divinities and mortals”

Only by preserving these fourfold one can truly inhabit space. The powerful conclusion that stems from Heidegger’s deliberations is that even though in today’s world we lack basic housing for growing number of people and quality of existing housing is many times not sufficient, yet the biggest question is how to secure, preserve and free the fourfold without which humans can be homeless in fancy houses.

As Heidegger interprets building as dwelling, he points out two was of building by humans; building as cultivating things and building as erecting buildings. Thus cultivated and built environment signifies group’s or persons way of being-in-the-world.

The built environment translates the world around it, discloses or hides certain  aspects of given landscape, interplays with the surroundings.

As expressed by David Seamon [Seamon, 1998]: “The world in which we find ourselves completes us in what we are, and therefore the specific nature of the built environment becomes crucial”. In modern age human dwelling is not full, thus building in itself is reduced too. Heidegger gives very appealing explanation to this phenomena – humans abuse and manipulate the fourfold rather than approach it with the sense of sparing and preserving, allowing it to be in its own way. The key to re-discover dwelling is to let ourselves and others to be who we truly are.


For understanding the need for a sustainable development, it is crucial to turn back to the green movement idea and the growing popularity of a sustainability concept.

Sustainability was becoming an increasingly popular catchword at the beginning of the 21st century. The notion of sustainable development gained significance in 1970s after the oil crises when it became apparent that economical growth has its limits and natural resources cannot be exploited endlessly. The most commonly used definition of sustainable development was coined by the World Commission on Environment and Development known as the Bruntland Commission. It states that development in order to be perceived as sustainable should “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [United Nations, 1987]. This report is the first major work about sustainability and it created foundations for environmental issues to be included into the mainstream agenda.

The concept of sustainability can be broken into three dimensions, namely: environmental, economical and socio-political. These three pillars are influencing each other and might in effect produce synergy effects. However, social, economic and ecological spheres cannot expand endlessly. They are all a part of bigger subsystem namely the Earth itself, the Life on planet Earth and its environment. There are also
arguments pointing out that cultural diversity should be taken into consideration because “...cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature” [UNESCO 2001].

The document entitled Earth Charter [The Earth Charter Commission, 2000] looks at the sustainability from the perspective of values and actions needed to implement it. In the preamble of the document it is stated:

“We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations” [The Earth Charter Commission, 2000]


The question arises if sustainability is an answer to the global problems? As noted by Michael Braungart [Braungard, McDonough, video recording, 2001] sustainability focuses on maintaining and preserving instead of creating blossoming environment and therefore it might not be enough in a face of the current struggles. McDonough and Braungart [Braungard, McDonough, 2002] in their book Cradle to Cradle, which is considered as a manifesto of cradle to cradle design approach, present appealing comparison between a cherry tree and a house. Tree is a place inhabited by many species and provides them with both shelter and food.

The very idea of minimising waste is also questioned. Why do we produce and consume useless waste since the natural ecosystems around us use whatever is left
over in one process as a resource in the other? Falling leaves in the autumn are natural fertilizers for the soil and nutrients for plethora of micro-organisms. By applying this way of thinking to architecture one can think of a house as “a building that celebrates a range of cultural and natural pleasures – sun, light, air, nature, even food – in order enhance the lives of the people” [Braungard, McDonough, 2002, p74]. The cradle to cradle model comes from and stands in opposition to cradle to grave design model, which is defined as:

Comprehensive view of the materials cycle in an economy (from extraction to disposal after use), which allows consideration of opportunities for re-use and recycling rather than disposal in landfills, junkyards or incineration. This contributes to resource conservation
[Irurah, no date, p3].

Cradle to grave approach known also as life-cycle model rests on the assumption that sustainability means reduction of negative impacts along the life-cycle of the product. The product in this sense is understood very broadly. While at the heart of the cradle to cradle model lies assumption that “doing less bad is no good” and thus design processes should operate within the “continual cycles of production, recovery and remanufacture” [Braungard, McDonough, 2002].