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Lovable Buildings

If it cannot be loved, it will not last. It has long been known that unlovable buildings tend to be demolished and carted off to the landfill soon after they have paid back their initial investment. And once demolished, the carbon footprint of the building is meaningles.

Love first. Some will say "that was pleasant" and move on with their lives. Others will ask "why do you love me so?"

Be kind to strangers. You never know who the angels are.

When scouting a place for a photo shoot, I look first for streets with #StreetTrees because if the people on a street love their street trees enough to keep them healthy, they’re likely to love their homes as well, so it’s a good street.

Every city and town needs a place so romantic that people use it as a backdrop for their #WeddingPictures. Nobody ever takes wedding pictures on a cul-de-sac or at a strip center in #sprawl. SimpleIndicatorComplexCondition

Free building materials (adobe, etc.) can create #lovable buildings because they are composed only of natural materials and humanity. Cheap building materials usually create #unlovable buildings because they express the factory, and cheapness.

Very few Americans make the connection between density, charm, and character when they travel to Europe. They complain fiercely about eight units per acre in the US, but love 100 units per acre in Europe.

I gave up on the term "beauty" years ago because the debates are endless, and have since used the term "lovable" because while the architects will still debate, the people are much clearer on what can be loved and what's unlovable.

Southern Victorians of the late 19th C & Southern bungalows of the early 20th C were so austere I’ve long considered them distinct styles. I assume this owes to impoverishment of the region after the war. I find beauty that is almost Shaker-esque in their simplicity.

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Title Principles

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Beauty vs. Love

This young model was taking a quick break from a photoshoot in her island nation when she saw me photographing the plaza below her balcony. She struck this pose for me and I captured it; she gave me a thumbs-up, so I guess it's OK to use the photo, even though I spoke hardly a word of her language. Many have asked me over the years "why is Original Green architecture based on lovable things instead of beautiful things?" No single image captures the reason why better than this one. I admired her beauty that day, but I never loved her. I walked away to shoot the next plaza, and she turned back to her photoshoot. Wanda, on the other hand, changed my life in so many ways when I fell in love with her. So while beauty moves us to admiration, love moves us to action, and is therefore a stronger standard.
There's also the "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" thing that goes back in various forms all the way to antiquity. This has moved many (especially the architects) to discount beauty as a meaningful standard. But architects aside, there is strong agreement among people of many cultures what is lovable and what is unlovable where they live. The architects and design geeks may be confused on this, but the people generally are not.

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Cheap vs. Free

Alt Text The first scene was produced with some of the cheapest industrially-produced building materials available today; the second scene was created by hand, with materials picked up freely, probably within sight of where the building is built. Both scenes occurred within a short distance of each other, with the same regional conditions and climate, and built by people from the same culture. Viewed through the lens of economics, one would say that there's not much difference between cheap and free. But viewed through the lenses of human eyes, it's clear that there is a world of difference. But why?
To achieve industrial efficiency, mass-produced building products are manufactured to fairly precise standards so they roll off the assembly line just alike and pack tightly for shipping. But when they meet the real-world conditions of people building with the cheapest materials they can buy, they are often installed in imprecise ways, which looks sloppy at best, whereas construction of free materials, when built to even less precision, looks charming, as the second scene clearly shows.
So are there good uses for industrially-produced building materials? Yes, but it's important that the designers using precise materials be skillful enough to actually use them precisely. Alys Beach, for example, is built mostly of concrete blocks, just like the buildings in the first scene. But because the talents of most people designing there are world-class, they have built a stunningly beautiful place.

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Perfection vs. Aging

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How will your design look in its later years, after the age comes on? The surface in this first image was undoubtedly sleek and seductive in the beginning, but the dents with time are inevitable in a surface meant to be machine-perfect. The building just above has aged at least 100 times as long, but even in a state of lengthy disrepair, it is likely more endearing than in its original state, while the previous surface has begun to lose its luster. Design for perfection, and your work begins the long slide to demolition just after the ribbon-cutting. But if designed to age gracefully, it may be far more beloved long after you are gone.

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Grain & Texture

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The Carbon Stairsteps

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The Role of Living Things

Living things are essential to lovable places. Architects may focus on the beauty of the building to the left, but everyone else sees that the humble roof garden atop the parapet makes this a better place because while the building to the left shows signs of skill, the building with the roof garden shows signs of care.

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Timelessness and Innovation

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Three Foundations of Lovable Things

For a couple millennia, we have been reminded that there is no greater love than this: that someone would sacrifice their own life for those they love. Not just put themselves in harm's way in hopes of coming out fine on the other side, as countless soldiers have done since antiquity, but knowing how it will end. This does not happen for things; just for deeply loved creatures. Love for things is a lower standard. Nonetheless, when a place, a building, or some other thing is loved enough, it can inspire enough toil and care that it is sustained well beyond the lifetimes of those who first loved it so. There are many reasons for such love, but most of them fall into three families of things loved: things that reflect us, things that delight us, and things that bring us into harmony with the world around us.

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Things That Reflect Us

The most well-recognized form of things that reflect us are "face buildings" as seen on the gable end of this carriage house, with two eyes, a nose, and a mouth.

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Things That Delight Us

This frontage garden provides both visual delight and, depending on the plants chosen, delightful smells as well. A frontage garden this good qualifies as a Gift to the Street, which is an imporant component of Walk Appeal, highlighting the fact that things that delight us strengthen many other elements of the Original Green, and aid in building places people love.

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Things That Bring Harmony

Yes, it's a stair. But it also bears strong resemblance to the Golden Mean spiral, which is iconic of proportional harmony. But it's not exactly the Golden Mean spiral, highlighting the fact that things which bring us into harmony with the world around us need not be mechanically precise in most cases (except for musical harmony), but instead serve as reminders of the highly interconnected ways the natural world is woven together, in contrast to the disparate silos of the abstracted and industrialized world.

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Tools for Building Lovable Things

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NIMBYs

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The Luxury of Small

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Celebration of Meeting the Sky

There is no better place for a burst of exuberance in a building than in the place where it meets the sky. In cultures around the world and over the centuries, this is where those who love what they're building adorn them most often.

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Surface Adornment

Utilitarian buildings accomplish their intended purposes with just their necessary elements, but people have from earliest times adorned buildings that were special to them in some way with ornamentation that most often reflected plant, animal, and human forms. Modernist buildings are today adorned with elements that appear to be be anything from broken glass to the hammered concrete of Brutalism. Most people who are not architects prefer the earlier reflections of natural things, so do not hesitate to adorn buildings you hope to be special with things that call attention to the building's role in its community.

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Water's Edge

Water's edge, whether small waters or great waters, has always been a significant and sometimes profound place to humans. Cities on the water should work hard to bring the people back to the water's edge. In another time not long ago, this was likely a concrete-piped underground storm sewer, but today it has been daylighted and forms a park's downhill border. But it's important to note that it delivers delight because people can come right up to it. Water's edge where the people can't go, either because of piping or other inaccessibilities, brings no delight.

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Utilitarian Thoughtfulness

The iconic rooftop lanterns of Antigua Guatemala can admit light or exhaust air, or both, and they are beautiful. More recent utilities like the wires strewn thoughtlessly across the roofs are indicative of the shoddy approach to building utilities in our times.

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Visibly Shed Water

Buildings that visibly shed water tend to be more lovable than those that tell you "trust me; I got this." That's because we're hardwired to sense which buildings are more likely to shelter us, especially in a place we've never been before. I believe this is at least in part a survival instinct.

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Regional Materials

Lovable buildings tend to use materials from the region. They not only look more appropriate than industrially-produced products from halfway around the world, but they cost less to ship and support regional economies. So be a good neighbor.

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Celebrate Simple Things

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Civic Art

Civic art is an unmistakable sign of a place that is loved. But there's the thorny issue of statues. Someone a previous generation wanted to honor might not be so appreciated by those in the present day. It is every generation's right to choose who they will honor.

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Color

If there is a local color tradition that has lasted at least 7 years, then honoring it makes what you're building or refreshing more tied to the place & therefore more lovable. Why 7 years? It's my arbitrary attempt to separate traditions likely to last from fads that may not.

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