Architecture Critic #1

Through the Wide Angle PART 3

Ecology & Van Der Ryn

B y S i n g u l a r N e w m a n

As Van Der Ryn 1)once put it, the worst thing to do is to do no thing at all. In other words, doing nothing will ensure an end to our way of living, as a matter of fact history teaches us that the only constant throughout time is change. The science of ecology tries to understand man in the natural world and tries to put forth viable models of peaceful co existence within the planetary environment.

As the factors to the problem are always changing it is easy to see why most ecologists are frustrated and even angry at the whole situation. In my opinion I see the dilemma to be bigger than a single arm of science can tackle. The answer to our conundrum lies in the help of many, the entire spectrum of human civilization needs to become involved. From farmers to pharmacists, industry leaders and governing bodies need to get involved and stay involved because this situation is a planetary concern and the entire environment works as a whole, therefore the answer to the problem facing earth lies in the combined effort of the whole population of the globe.

Regionalism as defined by Van Der Ryn is the practice of building and constructing using local materials and goods. Materials that the place is made of much like the Romans used marble to build their cities at one point using red marble as paving stones. For example the North Western United States is blessed wit gigantic forestry reserves. I definitely believe that the material of choice to be used for constructing a private residence should be wood. Locally harvested and ecologically certified, and even dough some products found at the local lumber yard, are certified sustainable, the entire carbon footprint calculations stop when the wood exits the forest in China or Russia. The entire cost should be added, meaning that the polluting footprint of a large ocean vessel going back and forth between North America and the other side of the world, pollutes at least as much as double that of a locally grown and harvested tree. The industry should take that into account.

On an architectural side note, I would like to add that one dominant regional local style known as the Craftsman Style, is well suited for the area. The look of the old, over sized timber beams makes me feel that I am standing in a forest, the natural patter of fallen logs can be felt, a threshold of natural selection.

The perfect residence in my opinion is a dwelling that dwells peacefully with its local environment, by dwells peacefully I am referring to the entire, complete whole encompassing what is defined by the word dwelling. Dwelling in the sense of the word living, or the understanding of the word to mean permanent residing place, a house, an enclosed space offering protection from the elements and allowing for the ecologically sustainable production of said materials, having been used to construct this said dwelling.

So that is to say, one way of looking at the situation. The procurement of the materials used to construct, the entire energy used, for an example the many trips needed by a cement truck, and the calculation of the ecological impact that truck's travels have, in essence many different factors come into play when trying to determine the realistic level of something that can be called sustainable ecological, green as the buzz word is these days.

The truly green building has calculated its ecological footprint from start to finish. Should the man hours spent by the architect in designing the project also go into account? Well I do not see why not, as Buck Minster Fuller 2) once thought about it, that the world at large should trade in a currency known as an energy unit, the meaning thereof being that one's standing in society would be determined by the level of energy he or she circulates into the system. Fuller’s idea of course can only be developed if humans on the planet actually had the potential to directly invest energy credits, inside the global energy economy. That being the case, energy credits become just another symbol of worth just as today’s paper money.

However, perhaps one day the planet will be alive and well, and the globe will be spinning in the right direction and men, women and children will have developed the means to free and non polluting energy generation and conservation, or more accurately described as the lack of necessity to conserve anything, since the possibility and technical ability to generate unlimited energy using the background radiation of the cosmos itself will have been developed.

The possibility of today’s society to arrive at these lofty goals however seems distant at best if not impossible at first sight. More education on the issues is required. If say for example, the level of awareness of the public towards the planetary health, was at least half way as much as that of the public’s fascination with sports, than we would be half way there. A change in attitudes is essential for the global populace, the entire world needs to get off the bus and take a break and think about his or her future and realize that were not in Kansas anymore.

So I guess you can call me a technocrat, a believer in the science of invention, solving problems by out thinking them and developing solutions to unexpected as of yet problems. What I am trying to say is that the entire thought process will be redefined then, when a new energy source is put into worldwide use. The world will be free to consider other more important issues, like the study of real history and discovering man's beginnings and finding out where we come from and where we are going. Or perhaps the quest to eradicate all diseases of the mind and body. The eventual colonization of space as well comes to mind. I am glad to be living in a time of great enlightenment and that the future has never looked brighter. The planet is going through a rebirth in my opinion, and man will as well be moved to change as well.

I say man learns two things from history, that man learns nothing from history, and that the only constant in the universe is change. Therefore we should be constantly changing our outlook to fit the time and space we occupy.


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