1. Home and/or hyperconnectivity
On July 9th. 2013 the Onlife Initiative (OI) was presented in Brussels; it was discussed to discover e.g. the ‘blind spots’ and, in the words of chairman Floridi, to try and create a Manifesto ‘for mum’. One of the most elementary items in the document was – and to me still is – the current dichotomy of private space vs. public space, which is – so far – articulated by architecture, i.e. the adaptation of space to human needs. Or, as in a proposed definition by Lefebvre: “the production of space at a specific level”. The OI, building on Arendt’s works, emphasizes the value of this distinction, but does not address the principles of realizing this distinction; i.e. via architecture, no matter its definition. During our discussion it was acknowledged that the issue was interesting enough for further research and it became part of the discussions again during a most valuable FET-meeting initiated by the Fraunhofer Institute a few years later.
Why this emphasis? While most European countries recognize – and define legally –the importance of protecting private space, our built environment still is the physical translation of processes and understanding in use for centuries: we all have a home of some kind. We have an address; usually our existence is linked to a physical location. At the same time our homes have become the equivalent of a sieve through which data and therefore information is gathered and traded without the inhabitant having any role and/or influence in this. Without claiming principles on the value of a built entity: it cannot be both ways. Either we protect the physical/spatial privacy in our homes, or we rethink our dwelling – and therefore our architecture – and envision adapted solutions for our ‘place on earth’, to paraphrase the Belgian urban designer/architect van Broeck.
This rethinking starts with the awareness that our built environment changes into a hybrid environment, an interface; in the words of Oosterhuis: “we must see all objects, including the ‘I’ and individual building components, as actors, as active players in a parametric world”. This requires a rethinking, i.e. a necessary changing of a concept since the actual concept will hold no longer. Question remains whether we can think of our home as an entity that does not require a physical space to ensure the kind/amount of privacy needed to feel ‘free’ and/or act in public space. “Problems of dwelling are above all not architectural but ethical problems”, according to Harries.
Hyperconnectivity, with reference to our built environment, touches upon a fundamental problem concerning the ontology of our homes; it is contrary to the ‘triviality’ the home is supposed to facilitate.
- Lefebvre, H. (2014). Towards an Architecture of Enjoyment. University of Minnesota Press.
- Oosterhuis, K. (2011). Towards a New Kind of Building. NAi Publishers.
- Harries, K. (1997). The Ethical Function of Architecture. MIT Press.