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visual arts

A Home in the World: Houses and Cultures

Martine & Caroline Laffon.
Publisher Harry N. Abrams  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 11.5 x 10 x 0.9 inches
ISBN 9780810956070
Pages/Publication Date 198/2004
Daedalus Item Code 61069
This item is not available.
Humans variously perch their homes in trees or float them on lakes, they build them to last for centuries or make them portable enough to carry on their backs, and they often find their inspirations for their dwellings in the landscape, in the human body, or in the homes of other animals. Illustrated with 150 color photos—some filling two pages—this book offers a fascinating perspective on home design by revealing how different cultures have handled the essential task of building houses that reflect their ideals and values.

"In Tibet, when a house is founded, its owner must nail colored cloth to the top of the doorframe, sprinkle barley in the lower corners of the frame and spread yak butter on the frame, symbolic rites that nourish and protect the future home. This and many other ceremonies are recounted in this book, which showcases the homes of indigenous peoples, predominantly from rural places in Asia and Africa. The first section concentrates on the elements people consider when building a house, such as shape, material and location. Next, the authors look at the design and building process, investigating the beliefs that underlie structural conventions and practices (i.e., in southern India, the kitchen must be located in the southeast part of the house, in the direction of the 'god of fire'), and they discuss the role of the house as protection and retreat. Throughout, they meditate on the relationship between people and their homes, including the taboos that arise regarding certain aspects of the home, the desire to decorate and issues of privacy. The photographs are brilliant, offering intimate glimpses of houses and their inhabitants in the most far-flung corners of the world. One photo captures Pygmy women in the Congo gathering leaves for their roofs; a few pages later, an Inuit man fashions the top of his igloo. The text, which was translated from the French, sometimes has an overly academic tone, but it's generally easy to follow. Though many of the customs documented here may seem incomprehensible to Westerners, this book succeeds in showing some of the universal impulses that drive homebuilders the world over."—Publishers Weekly

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