Malcolm Wells beats me to the punch

January 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ll admit, it kinda makes me sad to see that someone else (and therefore I’m sure several someones!) has already written a book on what I want to make an architectural thesis about, natural architecture and a natural city.
Wells’ particular bent is titled “Gentle Architecture” and I actually encountered (read?) the book almost three years ago. Then managed to totally forget about it until “magically” coming up with the idea myself. But that’s nothing new, so we’ll get over it and move on.
Here are some choice bits so far:

“I see in the wilderness model the only way of saving the citeis. Remember that what we call wilderness, or nature, is a community. […] The difference is that wilderness works; cities no longer do.” (p28/29)

“As I see it, all we need do is start, start with a tiny row house, in necessary, or a doughnut shop or a fruit stand. One by one. It’s the way the quiet city got destoryed. It’s the way we’ll replace the noisy one. Large projects will grow out of the experience accumulated on all the small ones.” (31)
I actually disagree with this in some ways – I don’t think it’s enough. But there’s a good point in here – no one should be approaching gentle architecture wielding the sort of power that got the shitty architecture built, the power to erect some massive megalithic homage to anything. We’re absolutely going to make mistakes, so let’s make them small and earn our way up. But not too far.

Malcolm Wells expresses my sentiments on the potential of prefabricated buildings as a new building type:
“Big changes are coming, and our real test may not even begin for a few years more, when the factory-made buildings now being developed begin to flood the market. If we’ve learned nothing at all from the lessons of the times, we’ll scatter those prefabs across the land in a binge of littering like nothing we’ve ever seen before, killing everything in their paths.” (32)
Yes, I will quote this every time anyone proposes that prefabs can save the day, from now on. You are forewarned.

On current construction practices (with or without architects, I might add; this is how suburbs and strip malls are built too):
“The architect picks materials from his brightly colored catalogs, and the Caterpillars roll. From mine to mill to shop, the beautiful and the natural lose more and more of their identity as immense amounts of energy turn them bright and plastic. Assembled as ‘completed’ buildings, they have barely begun their decades of waste.” (48/49)

“The science fiction of architecture, with rare exceptions, is hopelessly man-centered. Sky cities, sea cities, bubble cities, stack cities, instant cities, media cities; biotecture agrotecture, videotecture, cybertecture – what a roster! One can imagine wildlife crying out in terror, […] ‘Doesn’t the man-animal know about the budget?’ For life does have a budget; its currency is air, water, land and a day’s ration of sunlight.
Here is an animal called a human being. What are its characteristics?
-It needs air, water, and food.
-It produces heat, breath, sweat and other wastes [too polite in 1981 to say piss and shit].
-It needs insulation from temperature extremes [or to live in a temperate climate].
-It needs protection against things like rain, wind, dust, insects, peeping Toms, and burglars.
-It was designed to live in a quiet environment. [I would reword this: It thrives in an environment of variety that includes quiet.]
-It craves mental stimulation.
-It needs love and approval [and community] from its fellow animals.
-It likes comfort.
-If its tendency to eat too much and avoid exercise is not discouraged, it dies too soon.
-The budget for its total sustenance cannot exceed the amout of air, water, food, and natural resources which can be taken from its proportionate share of [local!] planet surface without degrading the life-supporting qualities of that area.
-[I would add: It thrives best when it has a means of self-expression, and when it can make its own environment ‘beautiful’.]” (55)

Gunna need to start doing some writing of my own … time to pull out a new notebook, me thinks.


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