Winnie Tu

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 5-2016




building, fire, architecture, combustion, construction, exosomatic, paradoxical




Architectural Engineering | Architectural Technology | Environmental Design


The importance of fire in human social evolution is widely acknowledged but the extent of its impact is not fully explored. Generally, it is connected to energy, light, purification, illumination, creation, destruction and metamorphosis. Fire’s paradoxical nature has built up many societies throughout human history and has been the primary social driver within communities. Due to technological advances, its energy has been transformed into a distant element which is being used discretely in industrial buildings, hidden under basements, or replaced by other forms of energy. Now, heat, energy, and light is readily available anywhere at any time, eliminating the biological need for a centralized source of life. As a result, fire has lost its original symbol in society as the life giving entity of the home and of the city. Strict fire regulations have further relinquished the use of fire in contemporary society. This ultimately plays a role in society’s shift towards individualistic rather than collective organization - extinguishing the original formulation of community.

When fire is controlled, research confirms that hearth and campfires induce relaxation as part of a multi sensory, absorptive, and social experience. Because fire ties heavily with community formation, this thesis aims to directly re-introduce the element of fire as a social phenomenon measured through four scales of human proxemics: public, social, personal, and intimate. Since fire involves flickering light, crackling sounds, warmth, and has a distinctive smell, the architecture will be designed around the exploration of these characteristics and its spatial qualities through the control of construction as well as heat and light dissipation to result in the design of a cyclically transformative burning building.


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