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- Thermal Delight in Architecture -

“One of the magical things about our senses is that they do  not function in isolation.  Each sense contributes to the understanding of the others.”


Thermal Delight in Architecture

MIT Press, 1979
In continuous print for 40+ years

French ed. 1981, 2021 Éditions Parenthèses
German ed. 1984, Verlag C.F.Müller GmbH
Arabic ed. 1986
Estonian ed. 2018, Eesti Kunstiakadeemia

Our thermal environment is as rich in cultural associations as our visual, acoustic, olfactory, and tactile environments. This book explores the potential for using thermal qualities as an expressive element in building design. Until quite recently, building technology and design has favored high-energy-consuming mechanical methods of neutralizing the thermal environment. It has not responded to the various ways that people use, remember, and care about the thermal environment and how they associate their thermal sense with their other senses. The hearth fire, the sauna, the Roman and Japanese baths, and the Islamic garden are discussed as archetypes of thermal delight about which rituals have developed—reinforcing bonds of affection and ceremony forged in the thermal experience. Not only is thermal symbolism now obsolete, but the modern emphasis on central heating systems and air conditioning and hermetically sealed buildings has actually damaged our thermal coping and sensing mechanisms.


As we face new challenges with climate change, alternatives to the use of fossil fuels must be developed to meet our thermal needs. This book opens up a new dimension of architectural experience and provides a reservoir of ideas to those interested in the use of passive, climate-responsive design.

Print Reviews

Roger Conover, reflecting on his editorial career at MIT Press:
Roger Conover, Executive Editor of Art, Architecture, and Visual & Cultural Studies, on Thermal Delight in Architecture:

This manuscript was originally written as a master’s thesis by a student of architecture at MIT. Still a student, and still in her early 20s when she presented the manuscript to me, Lisa Heschong may well have been the youngest author to publish a book with MIT Press at that time, or since. The book has never gone out of print, and still sells thousands of copies a year. The prose remains as fresh and poetic now as it was then, and through dozens of printings the book's cover has never changed. Thermal Delight in Architecture remains a perennial favorite among architecture students, and was the beginning of a long  tradition at MIT Press which continues to this day: publishing first books by first-time authors in the field of architecture.

Progressive Architecture, Doug Kelbaugh, 1981



We'll have this review available as a PDF soon!



Natural History article, 1982

We'll have this article available as a PDF soon!

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Podcasts and Video Talks


BUILDING HEROes - with Julia Day

Recorded June 29 2024 

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Keynote at Parson’s School of Design Symposium

Immaterial Environments: on the Intersection Between Thermal Delight and Visual Delight in New York City 2011

Bob Cassidy Building Design and Construction August 2022

Lisa Heschong on Thermal and Visual Delight in Architecture

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