In Slavic traditional folklore and mythology, Domovoy (domovój) is the guardian of the home. Domovoy’s spiritual presence in the home is given consideration on a day-to-day basis. Domovoy lives in the hidden corners of the home — preferably close to the hearth. Although he protects the family, he may also bring misfortune to the family. Domovoy is rarely seen, often depicted as a little, hairy, bearded creature who can resemble or embody a family’s progenitor. He is half cute, half creepy gremlin.
Domovoy’s happiness is determined by the family’s effort to keep a tidy, cozy, and harmonious home. If Domovoy is happy, he will guard the family’s health and well-being. However, a disturbed Domovoy can become quite the poltergeist. An irritated Domovoy — often heard stomping on the roof and making noise in the night — may be appeased by leaving a small plate of food for him in the evening, cleaning the house, or otherwise resolving tensions and conflicts within the home. A happy Domovoy does not typically disturb the family, but can sometimes be heard bustling about. When the family moves households, Domovoy is always ceremoniously invited along.1
A guest wrote to host Nic Ryan of the Paranormal Mysteries podcast describing his father’s unwavering account.2 After watching a documentary about Domovoy, he audibly proclaimed that he believed in no such monster. Shortly thereafter, he found his dog in the bathroom with the hook latch locked from inside. Then his new toilet mysteriously breaks. A few months later, his dog, just a few years old and in good health, suddenly becomes ill and dies of unknown causes. At this point the man was so shaken he said aloud that he took back what he’d previously said and now fully believes in the presence of Domovoy. Nothing happened after that.
While there seem to be many varying accounts and interpretations of Domovoy, there are two elements of this creature that are of particular interest to a world with a need to inspire sustainable ritualistic behaviors at the domestic level. First is the ancestral embodiment of the creature. The presence of an earlier generation inspires reflection upon alternative ways of living — much needed in an age of vast digital and physical overconsumption. Second is the effort and consideration that is extended towards this creature. Although there is no tangible reward for our consideration towards Domovoy — aside from the promise of good fortune and protection from evil — people go out of their way to respect Domovoy.
As architects, we face the challenge of encouraging regular sustainable behaviors, especially those related to heating and cooling. To most, there is no direct incentive to subject ourselves to any discomfort or give any consideration to our energy consumption. However, our HVAC systems are invisibly malicious, as Domovoy reminds us that humans have lived for millennia without the need for such luxuries.
- Allow me to introduce: DOMOVOY. A Tamagotchi-style mobile game that encourages more sustainable inhabitation of architecture. DOMOVOY measures internal atmosphere using IoT sensors and monitors real-time local weather data. Using BIM data, DOMOVOY encourages the adoption of a wider thermal comfort range by suggesting sustainable actions based on a building’s components, orientation, and thermal properties. DOMOVOY sends you a notification before you leave for work and before you go to bed, suggesting actions such as opening shades to allow the sun to passively heat during the day when privacy is not necessary. Similarly, DOMOVOY could suggest closing heavy curtains in the evening to insulate the home. Users get rewards for completing these actions, multiplied by a factor relative to the width of your personal thermal comfort range. These actions require a synthesis of many factors that is simply beyond the daily computational/motivational capacity of most people. DOMOVOY reminds you to live more sustainably. Architects are pleased that their intentions are more likely to be realized by the dwelling’s inhabitants. Domovoy is happy.
DOMOVOY was presented by a team of eight individuals at the 2021 Copenhagen AEC Hackathon as a proof of concept prototype and is currently under further development.
- Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. “domovoy.” Encyclopedia Britannica, August 6, 2019. https://www.britannica.com/topic/domovoy. ↩︎
- Ryan, Nic. “#203 | The Reaper, Sleep Paralysis & A Domovoy (House Spirit).” Paranormal Mysteries Podcast, September 13, 2021. Podcast, website, 13:00. https://open.spotify.com/episode/11RghLrqItMEvhdxcj1opW. ↩︎