Sustainable dwelling: a phenomenography of house, home and place

Speed, C 2008, Sustainable dwelling: a phenomenography of house, home and place, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Sustainable dwelling: a phenomenography of house, home and place
Author(s) Speed, C
Year 2008
Abstract In Melbourne, Australia, current debates regarding the ongoing provision of suburban residential development to meet housing demand tend to focus on its capacity to contribute to the overall achievement of sustainable development at the metropolitan scale. Within this context, sustainability issues are framed as an environmental problem, and the legislative proposals to address them, in general, are technology focused. However there is growing evidence that deeper changes in human behaviour and understanding are required to achieve a sustainable outcome at the residential scale, and that these 'sustainability issues' are in fact environmental symptoms of a wider human problem.

This thesis presents the results of an investigation of domestic architecture, as experienced by thirteen people, eleven of whom have voluntarily chosen to design, build and live in sustainable houses in and around Melbourne. The respondents' complex, multidimensional lived experiences of house, home, place and sustainability are explored within a framework based on theories of place.

The first of these theories is Heidegger's concept of Being, especially Being-in-the-World, and the way in which this relates to the human experience of place. The second is the related concept of Dwelling, which for Heidegger is the basic character of Being and is intimately connected with building. The third perspective draws heavily from Heidegger's concepts of Being and Dwelling to define place as the experience of rootedness, authenticity, and insidedness, and the absence of these as placelessness. The fourth theory is the genius loci of place, also referred to as the spirit of place. Dwelling is the point of departure for this theory which discusses the way in which architecture concretises the spirit of place, so place may be experienced as an integrated totality. The final theory, articulated by Bachelard, suggests that place, as memory, is the conflation of intimate experience, memory, and imagination. This perspective is explored through the experience of home, especially the memories of home.

Using phenomenography as a research approach, the qualitatively different ways the respondents describe their understanding and experience of house, home, place and sustainability, and the relationships between these, are explored. Insight into these understandings and experiences is achieved through the use of unstructured, in-depth interviews and a purposefully designed mixed-media package (cultural probe) which aims to provoke inspirational, creative and emotional responses. Conclusions are drawn regarding the interplay of notions of house, home and place and sustainability, and the ways in which the relationships between these phenomena influence sustainable behaviour.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Sustainability
Cultural probe
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