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After work, a business trip or a vacation, people head home. Emanuele Coccia, an Italian philosophy professor, wrote a book about what makes home so special — a space for privacy, pets, clothes and of course: people!

Emanuele Coccia teaches at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris
Philosophers have paid little attention to the home so far, says Emanuele Coccia. The Paris-based professor of the history of philosophy has set out to change that with his eye-opening book “Filosofia della casa. Lo spazio domestico e la felicita” (Philosophy of the Home — Domestic Space and Happiness). These are some of his key insights.
We build houses to shelter in a cozy way the part of the world that is essential to our personal happiness, Coccia writes. What is essential to people ranges from favorite bed linens and Grandma’s old apron to one’s children’s baby toys that still sit on shelves in rooms they have long since moved out of.
But the philosophy professor urges the reader to look beyond the objects and pieces of furniture people often accumulate — and to cast one’s gaze to the people around us and who are often in our homes, such as partners, children, sometimes parents, grandparents, neighbors or friends. He likewise says one should not forget the plants on the balcony that are lovingly cultivated or the cat that has been waiting eagerly for their owner’s return. Memories and dreams also belong to our home. It is the “museum of our ego,” Coccia writes.
No matter how enjoyable a holiday trip was, people have to return home sooner or later. “We can only always inhabit this planet thanks to a home.” People live in a certain city or region because it is where they have a house, a flat, a mobile home or where they have pitched their tent.
Comfy and cozy at home
All the same, people don’t usually spend all day in their homes, says Coccia — it is “the place of return.” After a long day at work, a weekend getaway, a summer vacation, a business trip or a stay abroad, it’s where people come back to, a reliable shelter that allows them to move out into the world in the first place. People travel, but what is familiar awaits at home.
The author delves into the history of the indoor bathroom. For the longest time in human history, toilets were located outside the living space, in outhouses in people’s yards or as tiny separate rooms in communal hallways. According to Coccia, modern indoor bathrooms were introduced following the example of US hotels in the early 20th century.
This square block of limestone with a hole in the middle is a toilet that was part of a magnificent royal estate in the 7th century B.C., according to the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The 2,700-year-old private toilet was discovered in October 2021. Underneath it, archaeologists found a septic tank hewn out of the rock, reportedly a rare find because only rich people could afford toilets.
The oldest toilets found to date were built by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia between 3,500 and 3,000 B.C. This photo shows ancient Roman toilets on the Leptis Magna archaeological site in Libya. For the Romans, going to the bathroom was far from a private affair, it was a social event. The latrines — they had no partitions — offered space for 60 people all at once.
The oversized toilet in the building’s facade, designed by French designer Philippe Starck, is obviously a sculpture not meant to be used. The huge toilet bowl is an advertising gimmick for a German manufacturer in Hornberg in southern Germany. From the rim, visitors have a view of the Black Forest. The Western ceramic toilet bowl is not necessarily the standard everywhere in the world, however.
Toilets in Asian countries are usually of the squatting kind, which has two advantages: the posture facilitates bowel movements and there is no unsanitary toilet seat. Paper for wiping is not a must, either: in many countries, including in the Arab world, running water is provided — and preferred.
Japan tops the list of high-tech Western flush toilet technology, from automatic air freshener features to heated seats, inbuilt stereo music systems and of course WiFi.
In Japan’s capital, Tokyo, some public toilets are transparent — the wall panels only become opaque when the toilet is in use. The Japanese city of Ichihara is home to the world’s largest public toilet, a glass cubicle with a lavatory on a 200,000-square-meter site. It is for women only, and the designer is none other than Sou Fujimoto.
The above toilets are located in southern Tunisia, in the middle of the Chott el Djerid in Tunisia. The salt lake served a movie location for the childhood home of Luke Skywalker, one of the main protagonists in the Star Wars films.
This toilet is a work of art. Dutch star architect Rem Koolhaas designed the unisex toilet in 2006 for the “A Star is born” art project in Groningen.
The Austrian-born architect and artist Friedensreich Hunderwasser designed this bathroom in his typical quirky, colorful and playful style. It is just one room in a building he gave the New Zealand town of Kawakawa, where he lived for many years until his death in 2000.
Tourists visiting scenic spots in Inner Mongolia will find this toilet in Xiangsha Bay, China’s first resort in the very east of the Kubuqi Desert. More than 40% of the world’s population lacks adequate hygienic sanitary facilities. The UN launched World Toilet Day (WTD) in 2001 to draw attention to the problem. “There will be no sustainable future without toilets,” the website says.
In 2020, NASA spent $23 million (€20 million) on two toilets in space — the most expensive toilets ever. Unlike the predecessor model (pictured is the 2003 toilet in the Russian “Zvezda” module at the International Space Station ISS), the new ones are also designed for women.
In 2016/17, visitors to the Guggenheim Museum in New York got to use this 18-karat gold toilet entitled “America,” installed as a sculptural performance by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan. “Whatever you eat, a two-hundred-dollar lunch or a two-dollar hot dog, the results are the same, toilet-wise,” the artist argued — and people waited in line to use it. The artwork was stolen in 2019.
Author: Julia Hitz
Having a bathroom of one’s own “moved into a more private sector what had until then had a more communal character, namely body care,” he writes. Anyone returning from a camping trip is likely relieved to hop under the shower in the privacy of their own bathroom.
People keep their clothes in their homes, too. When they travel, they bring their clothes in bags or suitcases. “Clothing is a notion of happiness inseparable from our bodies that can be taken along everywhere,” writes Coccia. He calls people’s wardrobe in their homes’ a “mobile body.” By the way people dress, they take their home, identity and attitude to life out into the public.
Clothing is a part of one’s social identity
That has the potential to be revolutionary, writes the philosophy professor. “When Coco Chanel designed her silhouette neuve by borrowing lines and fabrics from men’s fashion, she not only created another opportunity for showy consumption, but also a new female identity,” he writes, adding that women who dressed like that showed they were no longer willing to be reduced to their alleged representational duties, but were perfectly capable of working and playing sports.” It’s okay to show that off, at home and away.
Love is the most beautiful of feelings, which is precisely why it has its place in the home, writes Emanuele Coccia. “Love is lived, cherished and celebrated in the home. It is the domestic secret par excellence.”
A secret because we are the only ones to know what it really looks like in our private space, including a partner’s quirky habits or annoying tics, the sweatpants he or she would never wear outside but wears all the time at home — everything is out in the open at home.
Home is where the loved ones are
However, Coccia does point out that by defining the home as a private space, it has also become “a space of injustice” in which “oppression, injustice, and inequality have become an unconscious, self-reproducing habit.”
“Gender inequality, for example, has its roots in the home,” Coccia argues, listing the millennia-old belief in patriarchal societies that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, or the increase in cases of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.
That is why there is a need for a “philosophy of home,” he says — to ensure that home becomes the place where “we can be happy in the here and now, together with others.”
This article was originally written in German.
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