Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Playing with Fire: Analysing the Role of Fire in Architecture

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posted on 2021-11-10, 21:14 authored by Goei, Joanita

This research addresses the four inherent themes within fire. Fire has an association with myth due to its complexity in nature and existence long before modern science. Even today these myths live on as a way to describe the characteristics of fire as an architectural element. Bachelard’s book The Psychoanalysis of Fire looks at how fire connects with our primitive self through reverie. Fire’s contemplative character allows us to escape the surrounding world, and transport us to a kind of subconscious level. An extension of the reverie of fire is fire’s relation to the primitive. Although we have evolved into advance species, at a basic level we are all still animals. There are certain primal needs inherent within us such as sense of safety and community. Fire fulfils these needs architecturally by providing the setting for ‘primitive experiences.’ The last theme I will look at has to do with fire’s association with living beings. Even though fire is not scientifically a living organism, it is often compared to a living being due to its complexity in character. Moreover, it often symbolises life in many levels of society such as the civic hearth during the Greco-Roman era. Several case studies are looked at to see the application of the ideas represented within the themes of fire. A range of contemporary architecture is chosen to show how the ideals associated with fire are still applicable in architecture even today. In the case studies fire has either been excluded physically but present symbolically, or its presence has been reduced to the bare minimum. The case studies aim to show how fire can be addressed architecturally using other architectural elements that are traditionally associated with fire, such as chimneys and hearth. Due to current issues such as sustainability, having fire physically within a space is becoming more difficult. Many places around the world have banned open fires. An option to continue celebrating fire within architecture is through the symbolic representation of the element. This can be done by using other architectural elements that we traditionally associate with fire ...


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Wood, Peter