The Meaning of Use and Use of Meaning



Studies of indigenous buildings across the world have revealed time and again, that dwelling structures have served as symbolic representations of the world as it was understood by the peoples that produced them. Thus the concept advanced by William Lethaby in his early book, Architecture Nature & Magic that ‘the development of building practice and ideas of world-structure acted and reacted on one another’ has repeatedly been substantiated.1 Examples too numerous to list can be found in the pages of Guidoni’s Primitive Architecture,2 or Oliver’s more recent Encyclopaedia of Vernacular Architecture,3 but to gauge the full richness of possibility one needs to consult deeper ethnographies. A good example is Marcel Griaule’s Conversations with Ogotemmeli, the classic text on the Dogon. Here is revealed how the house symbolises the union of man and woman, its parts identified with their various organs, while the façade and its doors symbolise their ancestors stretching back to the primordial couple, at the same time combining the key numbers eight and ten. The orientated square layout of the house reflects the measure and making of fields, the original geometry, and this is further reflected in the technology of weaving, the warp and the weft intersecting like man and woman.5 Thus we come full circle, noting that the interlocking mythical system finds in the constructed world endless forms for its reflection, almost as it were looking for them.


How to Cite: Blundell Jones, P. (2007) “The Meaning of Use and Use of Meaning”, field. 1(1).