Thursday, May 24, 2007

House of the woods: Zero-footprint architecture?

Here is a visual aid to help explain my question/idea.

What if buildings had to leave the ecosystem of the place they are built on the same? So if you built a house in the woods, you'd have to let the woods stay. Only very limited chopping down of trees.

I think it would help us deal with climate change if our culture and built environment were to ease the boundaries of built/wild, or inside/outside. Or perhaps it would be better to say we should let the outside inside. Suburban sprawl is a kind of example of the built world encroaching farther into the unbuilt. Today we need to use our formidable talent for design to reverse the flow - let the outside come into our homes and buildings.

This picture is concept art for one such building. A forest home, with stiff panels for easily constructed and customizable walls, struts to keep it off the forest floor, and a hard top with sealed holes to allow the house to be built around the trees.

A moment reveals plenty of problems with this idea, but maybe ideas like this one could spark debate and discussion over how to do the necessary: reduce the footprint we make as a society, and reduce our cultural propensity to force the natural environment (and even our own natural bodies and minds) into regular shapes with right angles.


Mariel said...

So I've been doing some thinking about ways of living in a space without affecting the space. My first set of ideas involved advancements in technology, such as making homes out of a material that could easily morph and adapt to different climates while keeping the inhabitants safe inside. Then I realized that that isn't really what we're aiming for in thinking about this, and furthermore that in order to live in accord with one's environment, one shouldn't have to make advancements in technology.

So then I considered that what we actually should want to do is live WITH our environment—not trying to get out of its way, but not trying to crush it either. This got me to thinking about a movie I recently saw (though the movie itself is not recent) "Jeremiah Johnson." The film is about a man who decides to make his life in the mountains. He lives off of the animals around him, using their fur for clothes and their meat for food, builds his home from the trees, etc. And of course I do not cite these as new or inovative concepts, but thinking on them made me realize that living WITH the environment in this way, only taking what one needs and appreciating the resources and the landscape are key to the sort of symbiotic relationship we're so desirous of—Respecting that Nature is providing us with a home, rather than applauding our own agency for deciding to make our home in nature.

The Speeker said...

Yeah, I see what you mean. But then, how do we think about "need"? For one adult living on his or her own while healthy, need is one thing. But what about illness or injury? Or children? The Jeremiah Johnson experiment is a good one for our society to constantly be in touch with (we should never forget that mass society is a kind of choice we make, and not the only way to be). I also think that it'd be worth talking about how to use those lessons for a society that still wants hospitals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, etc. Anything come to mind?