Recently, while cleaning out the attic in my 100 year-old house (pictured above) and preparing for an upcoming move, I was reminded how much I love being nestled within the folds of a roof form. There’s something very comforting about residing in the air space that results from the basic structure of shelter. One of my favorite books on architecture, The Poetics of Space, was written by Gaston Bachelard, a French mathematician and philosopher. In his book, he offers a vertical image of the house which is created by the polarity of the attic and basement which denote, for Bachelard, irrationality and rationality respectively. The reason for going up to the attic is that it not only shelters us from the weather but it also makes apparent the whole structure of the house. The attic, for Bachelard, is a metaphor for the clarity of mind and is the place where dreams and imagination reside. The basement, conversely, is the realm of the sub conscience. In the South, basements were often called the “root cellar” which is an apt description since it’s the foundational root of the house.
If the basement is the root of the house, then certainly the attic is its pinnacle. I relish in the idea that the attic can be more than a place to simply store Christmas decorations and forlorn dusty furniture. So live, sleep and relax in the embracing tent of your roof. Its lofty space is the embodiment of the mind of the house, allowing us to literally reside in thoughts, daydreams and notion.
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