Inhabitation as a Process. Theoretical Frameworks for Analysing Interiors

Hilde Heynen

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Program Area(s): Material Conditions


The process of ‘inhabitation’, the process of appropriating interior, domestic spaces by individuals is a complex phenomenon that has not been studied very extensively. The ethnographies and analyses that do exist are based upon several different theoretical frameworks. This article sets out to map the most important of these frameworks. We discuss phenomenology, critical theory and Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). Phenomenology is the container name for the approach to home and belonging that seems to be most widespread among architects and interior architects.

It is philosophically informed by writers such as Martin Heidegger and Gaston Bachelard, and holds that the home is a place deeply needed by all individuals in order to be able to really come into their own. Critical theory – encompassing as well the theories informed by the work of the Frankfurt School as later developments such as gender studies, queer theory or postcolonial theory – rather seeks to unravel the hidden meanings of the domestic interiors as tied up with the logics of capitalism, patriarchy and hetero-normativity. ANT, which is gaining ground in social sciences and architectural theory alike, studies objects and human networks as complex entanglements that can only be fully understood when taking their interrelations into account.

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