Heidegger’s three key essays concerning architecture, ‘The Thing’ (1950),

‘Building Dwelling Thinking’ (1951), and ‘. . . poetically, Man dwells . . .’ (1951),

were written when Germany was undergoing massive political and social

rebuilding following World War Two. Western allies established the Federal

Republic of Germany (West Germany) in 1949 and the partition of the

German Democratic Republic (East Germany), a separate state with a

competing ideology, was also realised. The raw business of survival had been

immediate for vast numbers of hungry and displaced people at the end of the

war and was not far from most minds. Destruction had been widespread and

physical rebuilding was still in its infancy. One-fifth of all German homes were

destroyed between 1939 and 1945. Post-war estimates suggested that, in

West Germany – where Heidegger’s Freiburg and Black Forest were located –

two-and-a-half million houses were required for refugees from the East, along

with another million for a generation of younger families (Conrads 1962). In

Heidegger’s Freiburg, as elsewhere, families and friends shared accommodation

until they could find a flat or house of their own. The term Wohnungsfrage,

literally ‘dwelling question’, was coined to describe this housing crisis which

lasted well into the 1950s. Heidegger’s discussion of dwelling in ‘Building

Dwelling Thinking’ and its companion texts was in direct response to this