Anyone who follows the Original Green knows that one of the central principles of sustainable buildings is that “if it can’t be loved, it won’t last.” But can we describe what makes a lovable building so precisely that we can produce them repeatedly?
It’s a little tougher than it sounds. The architects and designers of the New Urban Guild, for example, regularly produce lovable buildings, as do many others. But can you somehow write a formula that makes their artistry repeatable? Because if we can’t, then the only thing that can be done is to say “hire these guys.” And there aren’t nearly enough people out there who know how to design lovable buildings. We need to find a way to spread the ability to create buildings that are lovable if we hope to build sustainably.
It’s not an impossible dream. The Porches, Walkability, and Sustainability blog post shows how something that was once considered to be an art form can now be described with charts and graphs. But can we do something similar with lovability?
Come and find out for yourself. I’ll be speaking at the Traditional Building Exhibition & Conference in Baltimore, which runs from October 21-24. I’ll be participating with Michael Mehaffy and others in the Building Sustainably, Profitably and Beautifully session that is being put on by INTBAU-USA. My part of the session will attempt to answer this question of how to build lovable buildings repeatably.
For a head-start on the session, here’s what we know already: There are some characteristics of lovable buildings that are universal, but not all characteristics of lovable buildings are universal. In other words, there is no single style of building that people love so much in every corner of the globe that they build it before all others. If there were, then Chinese architecture would look just like American architecture, etc. But American architecture doesn’t even all look like itself. That which is loved the most in Boston would look really weird in the deserts of New Mexico. So there is no Internationally Lovable Style.
So what are the universal characteristics of lovable buildings? Here’s one: people look for things that reflect them. So they look for objects (including buildings) that have a top (head, or capital) a middle (body, or shaft) and a bottom (feet, or base.) Things that are decapitated or baseless don’t resonate as much.
What are the non-universal characteristics of lovable buildings? Well, that varies from place to place, so we’d have to be talking about a particular place, like the Gulf Coast, or about New England, or the deserts of the Southwest. But while these non-universal characteristics vary from place to place, they do have certain commonalities. Please come to Baltimore, and we can discuss what they are!
~ Steve Mouzon
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 - 07:58 PM
You should post a followup to this that's more in-depth...after Baltimore of course. =)
Friday, October 2, 2009 - 12:48 PM
Alas, work will prevent me from coming to Boston. But I do believe that scale is a major ingredient to creating a lovable building. So is proportion. So Palladian buildings with their marvelous symmetries, resonate with us a thousand years after they were once designed. Too many mcmansions are a pastiche of styles, meant to create an imposing impression, but really copnsturcted to use cheap materials wherever possible. Have you noticed how thier rooflines hang way down over the windows, which are often placed in odd positions. And those cathedral ceilings that create the feeling of being in a warehouse, rather than a home? Even some of the top architects design these ultra modern dwellings that would be hard to live in -- all for show but with such hard edges that you'd be afraid to slip. The furnitue might gouge out your eyes.