Homes that Mediate Climate

Our homes mediate climate in large part through their materiality. As in Torben Dahl’s Climate and Architecture, there are four types of architecture driven climates: tent, cabin, stone house, and cave. The progression of climate stability is shown from a tent climate (that changes temperature rapidly to match its surroundings) to a cave climate (which fluctuates much slower, over the period of a year). The types that are more stable in temperature, are more embedded in the Earth.

Humans are not the only architects on Earth; animals must also make shelter. For example, termites were praised by Dahl for their expert mound molding that provides advanced ventilation by thermal lift up through the surface shafts and keeps coolness lower towards the bottom. Plenty of other species of animals also live in homes made from the ground. Animal burrows can be inhabited by foxes, cats, wolves, lions, and many others. Burrows provide most of the same essential necessities our houses do like “constant temperature and humidity, protection from predators” (as mentioned in a webpage about Natural Resources). One additional thing these underground homes provide that ours do not is “refuge during fires”. Perhaps one can say that the ground itself may be one of the most ancient forms of insulation.

One instance of ancient underground architecture is the Cappadocian Cave homes located in present-day Turkey. According to the National Geographic, this World Heritage site once hid persecuted Christians fleeing Rome. The “fairytale landscape of cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys” of soft rock were solidified from the ash of volcanic eruptions. Thus “human hands” carved into the rock to create a “network of human-created caves” with tunnels connecting towns and structures with “as many as eight different stories hidden underground”. It is truly a marvel that is still inhabited today.

Photo: Cave houses along cliffside

*Pictured above is the city of Cappadocian Caves, photograph by Paule Seux (National Geographic)

In conclusion, rock and earth has always been an important mediator of indoor and outdoor climate. Addington in “Contingent Behaviors” notes the “building as container of the body’s environment”. Architecture indeed has an important purpose of stability in creating shelter, which means maintaining an environment of livable temperature. And while humans may be adaptable to many climates, architecture serves as the “third skin” according to Dahl (clothing being the second). Our homes and architectural structures mediate stability for not only our comfort but also our continued survival.


Natural Resources

National Geographic

Dahl, Climate and Architecture, pp. 54-89.

Addington, “Contingent Behaviors”, in Energies, pp. 12-17


2 thoughts on “Homes that Mediate Climate

  1. I like the idea about animals also being architects. It would be interesting to study the examples of animal architecture and how they influence human architecture.

  2. Hi Sangyoon! I really liked your reference to animals and their natural ability to control climates within their built structures. I feel that we have a lot to learn from what animals already instinctively know.

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