09 January 2000

Whitewash Formula

3 parts white portland cement 1 part hydrated lime mix until plastic. hose the brick liberally before applying so it does'nt suck the moisture out of the wash. Apply with 8" mason's brush. Mix enough in a wash tub to apply, and then mix again as needed.
It is a learned skill by stucco mechanics, but I have spent only an hour or two with them until they get it right. The painters bid to apply paint was over $20,000, The stucco sub did the job for less than $4000 with two men. The material cost for less than $100 for the entire house. This house was a renovation and redesign of the front facade. The red common brick could never be matched to the existing red common brick and the white wash gave the house a real presence it did not have originally.
^That recipe sounds very high in the cement ratio.

This is an Historic Whitewash Formula that I have spec’d. I have no clue why it includes molasses, but it does. Other recipes use ingredients like ground rice.

This recipe has two parts that are made separately and then mixed together, after they have cured for 12 hours. The ingredients are:

Part 1
Alum - Common Potash Aluminum
Molasses - Unsulfured, light brown/clear

Part 2
White or Ivory Lime
Portland Cement
Hot Water

Part A: Mix 12 pounds salt, 6 ounces of alum and 1 quart molasses dissolved in 1.5 gallons of water.

Part B: Mix 45 pounds of lime and 5 pounds of cement with 5 gallons of hot water. Let this stand for 12 hours. After 12 hours mix Parts A and B together. It should have a brushable consistency.

Very important is to wet down all brick surfaces liberally before applying the white wash. You want the brick to have absorbed enough water so that the brick doesn't draw the water out of the white wash. It can be brushed on thick or thin, depending on the desired effect. My preference is to apply it thick and then wash it down after it has started to set. This thins the coating so that the brick shows through more. Working the hose creatively can create a natural wear pattern, which is too hard to accomplish with a brush, usually ending up looking too intentional. They say that white wash can be tinted, but I have never tried it.

Normally, the image of this is white wash on red brick. We used it on an awful yellow brick and the look was charming. Much better than painting brick, which can create all kinds of maintenance challenges.

Gravel Road base stabilised with cement, hydrated lime(my preference) or plant or synthetic polymers. You can also stabilise dirt roads with lime: When I have treated my clay road , I have used 50 # bags - about 1 every 20 feet or so. First cut open the road. Then using the bags, I place the bags along the road, then cut them open and carefully spread the very dry, fine powder across the road. (No Wind Day !) Then mix with a tiller, or disc, several times. You may have to add water, as the clay will dry out very quickly. After mixing, make sure you have sufficient moisture so you can clump the material together in your hand. Ideally one should then compact with roller, or vehicle tires, and keep damp for several days if possible. The chemical reaction will make a cement out of the clay. Handling the material in bulk form with a shovel would be terrible tourture to yourself..way too dusty. A dustless way, is to make a slurry out of the lime. 1 ton of lime to 500 gallons of water, makes 600 gallons of 30% lime slurry. Now apply the lime slurry to the clay, and behold: applying lime slurry to wet clay, dries up the clay, and makes a cement. Now, you still must mix - tiller or disc - and compact. As you mix, the clay will dry rapidly to a fairly constant moisture level, and become friable. Now shape, and compact, by rollers or vehicle tires. Keep damp for several days if possible...Hydrated Lime has been used for decades on air strips and roads for stabilizing it. 2-6% hydrated lime, tilled into the soil will make it impervious to rain/ heave/ swell, and can be done once you dig the footer/footprint for your cob house. www.lime.org and search for the documents below:


Glitsa Floor Finish:
It's a floor finishing system... traditionally solvent born precatalyzed
and stinks to high heaven when curing. The solvents include alcohols, MEK, formaldehyde, etc, so no, it probably isn't 'natural' by your definition... but it produces a hard durable surface that can be re-coated if lightly abused every few (5+) years. The sealer sinks into the wood (typically mopped on) hardening the top layer of the wood and preparing it for the final finishes. General maintenance is cloth dampened with water.

I am unfamiliar and haven't yet used the Glitsa waterborne finishes... but as wood is non-polar and water polar, the grain raises with water. That's why I use a solvent born primer before latex coating for interior trim, Waterborne may be ready for prime time now... but other interior finish products don't meet that test yet..

01 January 2000

Head and Neck Injuries in Sports

Head and Neck Injuries in Sports: Papers presented at the symposium of the same name, held in Atlanta, 1993, published 1994.

Milton Gabrielsen, PhD and Arthur H. Mittlestaedt, Jr. EdD, for the CPSC

Causes of Pool Diving Accidents. Head and Neck Injuries in Sports, ASTM STP 1229, Earl F. Hoerner, Ed, American Society for Testing and Materials, Philadelphia.

Increasing research into diving injuries and fatalities as revealed in litigation over the years, can provide an insight into prevention and correction fo the causes. These causes have been divided into the following categories:
1. Victim Performance…
2. Victim Unawareness….
3. Pool Facility Non-Compliance….
4. Other:

As these statistics provided by the database relate to diving safety issues, the information is more remarkable for what variable it does not include. There is no information in this national database concerning depth of the water in which diving injuries occurred. For clarification, we must then look elsewhere for additional information. The 1988 White Paper on Diving Accidents from the National Spa and Pool Institute executive summary of the Arthur D. Little studies diagrams the annual number of spinal cord injuries. 75% of the ‘diving’ SCI occurred in the natural environment. Competitive divers use swimming pools, not oceans, lakes and rivers. Only 25% of the ‘diving’ SCI resulting in quadriplegia occurred in swimming pools. Approximately 95% of these occurred in the shallow end of the pool. Careless diving into shallow and mid-range water depths is the aspect of user behavior that needs to be addressed.
The shotgun approach to removing diving boards is not the cure-all to reduce the real risk of ‘diving’ SCI injury. There is no justification to remove competitive diving boards in sites with excellent safety records that provide appropriate supervision (lifeguard and or diving coach) and sufficient room to maneuver.

Removing competitive diving boards in supervised sites with excellent safety records is unwarranted. Although there is a risk of injury in any practically built diving area, the real risk statistically comes from diving into shallow water five feet deep or less. There is a more subtle aspect of user behavior that needs to be addressed to reduce the risk of shallow water diving injuries. Although learning to dive in shallow water may be safe for youngsters 4-8 years old, the risk of injury from head impact with the bottom increases as the child matures into an adult-sized body with increased height and weight. Facility users need to appreciate this increased risk and adjust their behavior accordingly.

Given the facts, removing shallow water, not diving boards, is the obvious solution. However eliminating shallow water, like elimination diving boards, is a Catch 22 situation. Overall, ‘diving’ accounts for only 8% of the risk for spas, pool and associated equipment. Drowning accounts for 75% of risk. The shallow water cannot be removed to prevent diving SCI without increasing the risk of drowning. Likewise, removing diving boards used by instructional, competitive and recreational programs eliminates programs with excellent safety records that teach safe water entry skills.

Providing appropriate supervision is a key factor in reducing the risk of injury. Providing appropriate supervision enables continual monitoring of user behavior. A classic ‘diving’ injury profile based on over 200 ‘diving’ SCI that occurred in pools, presented by Milton Gabrielsen, PhD., at the 1984 National Pool and Spa Safety Conference, points to the lack of supervision as a prominent predisposing factor:
- In 89% of the time the location of the spinal cord injury was a residential, motel, hotel or apartment pool.
- In 85% of the accident sites, no qualified lifeguard, instructor or coach was present.
- In 57% of the cases, there was evidence the victim had consumed some form of alcoholic beverage, mostly beer.

Impact on Competitive Programs

Throughout the country, divers are having the diving boards taken out from under them. The big community pool, country club or resort pool with diving boards seems to be a thing of the past. Only 15.2% of nonresidential pools have diving boards of any kind. Diving programs have been canceled in Parks and Recreation, YMCA, high school, club and local pools in (many states). One mother of two prospective young divers wrote to express her concern. The local YMCA permanently removed the diving boards because the insurance company would no longer cover them. …Olympic gold medalist, Greg Louganis, says, “the sport of diving has the potential of becoming extinct”.

The removal of diving boards throughout this country comes at a crucial time for USD’s future Olympic efforts. While the numbers of young Americans with access to diving boards is diminishing, the Chinese have developed a large base of young age group athletes from which to field their future Olympic teams....

The Liability Crisis

The problem is not simply limited to the issue of ‘diving’ safety, but is part of a greater liability crisis this country is now experiencing. “Over the years, courts have “increasingly based liability more on the theory that the defendant has deep pockets or the insurance coverage to pay and not because they have really done anything wrong” said Richard K. Willard, US Assistant attorney general and chairman of the Justice Department’s Tort Policy Working Group....

Townships Sections Quarter Sections etc

A good visual description of original survey lines:


Ghost Marks

Framing ghost marks are the result of differential surface temperature and can be cured with better insulation

See here

Driehaus Prize Remarks

Driehaus Prize Remarks
Andres Duany, January 2009

Today we have spoken about Richard Driehaus, of his generosity and perspicacity. But something I've come to see in him is perhaps of greater importance: his enthusiasm. The energy of enthusiasm is important to move things forward. Most of us here are enthusiasts about this great thing, traditional architecture and urbanism. And we are something else that we don’t often realize: most of us here are brave, too, as by practicing traditional architecture and urbanism we enter the ring with champions like Lutyens and Palladio.

Modernists do not. They write their own rules of the game, so they always win. Peter Eisenman, for example, is invariably the champion of Eisenman-esque architecture. There are no other contenders. This is clever, but in the end it is not interesting because there is no tension. Eisenman's achievements are noticed less every time. He does ever bigger buildings that are ever more swiftly forgotten. They are victories over himself, about which only he can care.

But what if Peter were to design a classical building? What if he were to attempt something as dangerous as to enter that ring with the real champions? There would be a renewed interest in him as an architect, to say the least. And I’m sure it would be a great performance -- Leon Krier, who is his friend, says Eisenman knows Palladio very well.

Designing a classical building is virtually the only thing that remains for those avant-garde architects. They have already explored every shape that could be hyper‑cantilevered, crashed, randomized, slashed, perforated, photo-tuned, upturned, bent, dematerialized, dissed, or otherwise transgressed. It is by now the expected. There remains only their engaging in the ultimate test, to compete with the likes of Lutyens and Palladio, under common rules.

But even that would be merely entertainment. For the challenge that is upon us, traditional architecture and urbanism must be more useful than amusing.

It has been Lizz’s and my most serious contribution, I think, not so much to recover traditional architecture and urbanism, nor to evolve it, nor even to practice it as widely as we have, but to empower it again through collective endeavor. This achievement requires that credit be widely distributed, because our work is also the work of others; so there will be many names mentioned in this presentation.

But for not having met Robert Davis, some of these others may well be up here today receiving this award. Among them are Robert Orr, John Massengale, Victor Dover, Dhiru Thadani, Neal Payton, John Torti, Pat Pinnell, Peter Calthorpe, Liz Moule, Stef Polyzoides, Peter Katz, Ray Gindroz, Dan Solomon. It is very unusual, in this field of authorial individualism, to have such people working towards the same end.

And we should not make a distinction between designers and developers, as both are creators. Buff and Johnny Chace, Galen Weston, Patrick Bienvenue, Robert and Daryl Davis, David Tomes, Greg and Susan Whittaker, Joe Alfandre, Steve Maun, Craig Robins, and scores of others are as knowledgeable about design as we the designers must be about development.

And then the teachers. In the schools, for a short window either side of 1970, there was a genuine open-mindedness about architecture. It was the time when Michael Graves, Alan Greenberg and, above all, Vincent Scully, taught us to love and appreciate all good buildings. They didn't turn us into style bigots. I'm most grateful for that. Because of them I visit the world with much more enjoyment.

With the partners at DPZ, and the professors at the University of Miami, Leon Krier holds a special place as a teacher. In addition to urbanism, he taught us how to be polemical. Those razor-sharp cartoons clarified timeless concepts at the explicit expense of the ridiculous practices of modernism. Over the years his drawings, projects, and writings have systematically engaged everything from the region to the detail of buildings. They now constitute a complete body of knowledge. We had only to adjust them to American conditions, and to develop the massive delivery systems required by the present situation.

Receiving the Driehaus Prize with the help of so many, it is right that we should share it. It would be incorrect to take the stipend for ourselves. So Lizz and I have arranged its donation to a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the furtherance of this endeavor that we share. The publication of Leon Krier's complete works will be its first achievement.

As you may know, it is not my practice to be as nice to everyone as I have been today. But on this beautiful occasion I will continue to do so by thanking our opponents. We are grateful to them because they have discerned the threat that our ideas pose to theirs. By relentlessly attacking the New Urbanism from their illustrious institutions, they have provided us with visible platforms. I must thank them also for maintaining such a high level of strategic ineptitude. How easy they have made it for us outside their circumscribed world. We thank them for how much they concede by sticking to irrelevant ideologies; by their fascination with the transient, the unworkable, the uncomfortable, the unreproducible, the unpopular, the expensive, the unbuildable, the useless, the repellent, and the unintelligible. That has been a gift greater even than this prize.

This gift has not been without sacrifice on their part. Modernist architects of great talent have willingly performed for the regard of only about six critics. And they do so knowing that these critics have a history of raising them up and then discarding them once they are bored. We have seen in our own time the marginalization of truly brilliant architects -- Paul Rudolph, Charles Moore, Robert Venturi, James Stirling, Bob Stern, Michael Graves, Peter Eisenman -- all once raised to the heavens and then dismissed, even when at the peak of their powers. As with Paul Rudolph, these architects will outlive the critics, but it is a terrible waste of resources.

We have taken a different course. We seek judgment, not at the mercy of those six, but in the regard of America at large. When people ask, "Aren't you worried about what Orousoff wrote?" I tell them, "But I don't know anyone who matters to our practice who knows him." What he writes has no effect. For the time it would take me to write a publishable response, I could edit a code that would affect perhaps hundreds of buildings. Besides, if we were to respond, it would only empower those critics by granting them a visibility in our world that they do not have.

What then is this world of the New Urbanism, and why is traditional architecture important to it? There are many reasons, but the primary one is that because traditional architecture is a common language of the American middle class, it is the symbolic discourse through which we implement the social and ecological ideals of the Charter of the New Urbanism. The enormous American middle class is the group that really matters, and yet they are the only consumers of architecture not addressed in the modernist schools or the professional periodicals.

Beyond the snobbism, there is a reason for that. To the middle, class unlike the poor, the market gives choice -- and given choice they choose traditionalism. Their ability to evade the modernist discourse (which the poor cannot do) confuses architects. But it does not confuse us. It is through the steady reputation of traditional architecture that we enlist the middle class to our cause, which is to have them inhabit again a walkable, compact, and diverse urbanism.

You might ask: but isn't the American middle class culturally trivial? The response to that depends on your conception of culture; it can be either the late modernist one of cultural activity as critique, or ours (coinciding with the early modernist concept) of cultural activity as action. Theirs attempts to express the condition of the world, while ours attempts to reform the condition of the world.

You see, the lifestyle of the American middle class is the root cause of the environmental problems of the world today. It is that simple. It is the way we supersize our habitat, the way we consume as entertainment, the way we drive around to do ordinary things, the way we so freely allocate land to our use, and even how we choose to eat, that is the cause of climate change. It is this lifestyle, and now its export version (pushed by architectural consultant-criminals) to Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, South America and Eastern Europe, which is responsible for the environmental problems we will all suffer. It was traditional architecture that both politically and technically enabled New Urbanists’ extraordinarily early commitment to environmentalism.

If that is what traditional architecture has done for us, the urbanists, what can it do for itself?

The current renaissance of traditional architecture must be seen not as a single event, but as a process. A first generation restored the old and sturdy citadel which is the discipline of the classical language. The next generation now entering the peak of their practice can continue to unfurl beautiful banners from the ramparts, in the hopes that virtue will be recognized by all … or it can sally to take territory by force. There is so much territory forlorn by American design. I do not allude to the bits held by modernism, but to the vast areas held by mindless production builders, by the green gadgets that pass for environmental buildings, by the nauseating plan books, by the junk-space of civic buildings, by the junk-products at Home Depot, by the hapless mobile home industry. These are blights on our physical and cultural landscape that can only be redeemed by traditional designers. This is risky, I know. We could jeopardize the impeccable reputation of the citadel … but we could also show the space that traditional architecture can occupy as nothing else can.

In this quest, we must be as courageous as the generation of pioneers. Bob Stern, Alan Greenberg, Tom Beeby, Rob Krier, and Thomas Gordon Smith all risked their good name by entering the trackless wilderness of post-modernism. But see what they gained on the other side: the architecture that we now so confidently reward with the Driehaus Prize.

The best proof that architecture has been well and truly recovered through that heroic thirty-year campaign is that it can be dependably taught. Classicists today can be as good as their masters even while still young. I am aware that the rigor of the classical canon enables this instruction. I am also aware that the discipline of the Orders was the compass that guided architecture out of postmodernism. But in teaching the Orders today we should take care that students not become overly dependent of bookish authority. They must not learn the fear of being caught "incorrect." The measure should be what Lizz calls "plain old good building." We are, after all, building primarily for common folk and not patrons.

Will the current generation bore deeper still into refinement and elitism, or will it spread classical architecture out to a broad democratic, indeed populist, future? Will it continue republishing ever more esoteric treatises, or will it write new ones conceived to serve, not the 16th or even the 20th Century, but this future which is upon us?

To explain what I mean, please permit me a rudimentary example. How can there be a viable canon of architecture that is incapable of producing an opening wider than it is high -- by that I mean a horizontally proportioned intercolumniation? We cannot be effective today if we cannot even deal with a simple barn opening or porte-cochere. And that is just one problem. We confront the conclusion that the classical canon must be expanded if it is to engage the 21st Century.

I would propose a new ethos -- one no longer dedicated to the recovery of the classical canon of Vitruvius, Palladio and Vignola, but to expanding that canon. Taking care that this process does not devolve into neo-postmodernist dissipation, it must be based on the authority of masters and masterpieces. First we must transcend the authority of the historic treatises, to rescue that which was discarded in the reductive process of writing them. Then we must recover to our side those transitional 2Oth Century architects that historians have assigned to the modernist camp -- where they reside as the foundation of their authority -- when they are, in fact, a late, great flowering of classicism.

Take Frank Lloyd Wright. You could see the Prairie School as the beginning of the fall, but you could also see it as the last of the Greek revivals. Wright was among those who, instead of the Parthenon and all of its proprieties, took the Erechtheion and all of its freedoms, to extract a contemporary architecture. If the Erechtheion -- its dynamic massing and multiple columniations, its agile engagement with topography, its free repertoire of moldings, its localized symmetries and rotated approaches, its complex, multi-leveled interior, its contradictions and unresolved tension -- is classical, then the young Wright is certainly among the great masters of classicism. Wright must be on our side if we are to take the territory defined by the 21st century.

Another master of the canon would be Jose Plecnik. Plecnik, who knowing the classical language perfectly, took it and translated it to the folk vernacular. Like Shakespeare, who found literature in a moribund Latin and bequeathed it in a native English with vitality to spare, Plecnik shows us the workings of what my brother Douglas calls “the vernacular mind.” Not “the vernacular,” which is a style, but the vernacular mind, which is the way of folk art. It is the ability to compose from memory and circumstance, with found materials, of working sequentially through anything and everything, with craft but not perfection. The robustness which Plecnik brought to architecture is essential, I think, to the withering that the 21st century will impose upon us. Leon knows it. Look at his American buildings at Miami, and at Seaside and Windsor. What lessons do they hold? Not one of them is correct in the canonical sense, and yet they are canonical buildings. And so I would also bring into the canon the work of Leon Krier.

An expanded canon would include newly drawn plates alongside Vignola's: the Orders of masters like Friedrich Gilly, John Soane, Alexander Thompson, Tony Garnier, Auguste Perret, Josef Hoffman, Gunnar Asplund, Adolf Loos, Jose Plecnik, Marcello Piacentini, Michael Graves, Rob Krier, Robert Stern, Scott Merrill -- and a score of others. This treatise would claim an enormous amount of new territory for classicism.

A portion of this Driehaus Award will be applied to such a treatise.

We are almost there. We have only to climb one last Everest.

Water Main Crossing Rail

Encasement of rail slab with plastic to prevent stray current
Found at Water Works Association website: PDF Sample of Google Streetview find: Electric Manhole by Tracks 
from that article: "We’ve already gotten one very angry call asking why we didn’t quote more people sympathetic to Duke. Believe me, we called lots of people. And we talked to representatives of other utilities, too. It’s just that they didn’t agree with Duke, either." Meanwhile the Fishwarp tells us the biggest benefitter from the federal stimulus money in our area was (surprise) Duke. http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120221/NEWS/302210018 "The largest single local stimulus spending item was $203 million set aside for Duke Energy’s installation of “smart “meters” in Southwest Ohio. It also made Duke the sixth largest recipient of stimulus money in Ohio and the largest private recipient in the state. Read more: http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php/topic,18957.16590.html#ixzz1n7kGDunl Portland has solved streetcar/utility trouble through cooperation Business Courier by Lucy May Despite the fact that the city of Cincinnati broke ground on its $110 million streetcar project last week, there are still plenty of people locally who wonder if the project is ever going to happen. That’s largely because of the stance Duke Energy Corp. has taken on its gas, electric and chilled water lines that must be moved as part of the project. Duke says those utilities should be at least eight feet away from the streetcar rails and that it will cost at least $18.7 million to move the lines out of the way. And, here’s the most important part, Duke argues that the company’s ratepayers shouldn’t have to cover those costs. The city of Cincinnati, on the other hand, maintains that a three-foot buffer is plenty between the rail lines and the utilities. The city doesn’t have an estimate for how much that would cost, but city officials have budgeted $6 million to move Duke’s utilities and would like the company to help pay some of the costs, too. Cont Read more: http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php/topic,18957.16590.html#ixzz1n7lXoOki

West Fourth Demo 2004



The Social Ideology of the Motorcar

The Social Ideology of the Motorcar
André Gorz
please read this first
The worst thing about cars is that they are like castles or villas by the sea: luxury goods invented for the exclusive pleasure of a very rich minority, and which in conception and nature were never intended for the people. Unlike the vacuum cleaner, the radio, or the bicycle, which retain their use value when everyone has one, the car, like a villa by the sea, is only desirable and useful insofar as the masses don't have one. That is how in both conception and original purpose the car is a luxury good. And the essence of luxury is that it cannot be democratised. If everyone can have luxury, no one gets any advantages from it. On the contrary, everyone diddles, cheats, and frustrates everyone else, and is diddled, cheated, and frustrated in return.

This is pretty much common knowledge in the case of the seaside villas. No politico has yet dared to claim that to democratise the right to vacation would mean a villa with private beach for every family. Everyone understands that if each of 13 or 14 million families were to use only 10 meters of the coast, it would take 140,000km of beach in order for all of them to have their share! To give everyone his or her share would be to cut up the beaches in such little strips-or to squeeze the villas so tightly together-that their use value would be nil and their advantage over a hotel complex would disappear. In short, democratisation of access to the beaches point to only one solution-the collectivist one. And this solution is necessarily at war with the luxury of the private beach, which is a privilege that a small minority takes as their right at the expense of all.

Now, why is it that what is perfectly obvious in the case of the beaches is not generally acknowledged to be the case for transportation? Like the beach house, doesn't a car occupy scarce space? Doesn't it deprive the others who use the roads (pedestrians, cyclists, streetcar and bus drivers)? Doesn't it lose its use value when everyone uses his or her own? And yet there are plenty of politicians who insist that every family has the right to at least one car and that it's up to the "government" to make it possible for everyone to park conveniently, drive easily in the city, and go on holiday at the same time as everyone else, going 70 mph on the roads to vacation spots.

The monstrousness of this demagogic nonsense is immediately apparent, and yet even the left doesn't disdain resorting to it. Why is the car treated like a sacred cow? Why, unlike other "privative" goods, isn't it recognised as an antisocial luxury? The answer should be sought in the following two aspects of driving:

1.Mass motoring effects an absolute triumph of bourgeois ideology on the level of daily life. It gives and supports in everyone the illusion that each individual can seek his or her own benefit at the expense of everyone else. Take the cruel and aggressive selfishness of the driver who at any moment is figuratively killing the "others," who appear merely as physical obstacles to his or her own speed. This aggressive and competitive selfishness marks the arrival of universally bourgeois behaviour, and has come into being since driving has become commonplace. ("You'll never have socialism with that kind of people," an East German friend told me, upset by the spectacle of Paris traffic).
2.The automobile is the paradoxical example of a luxury object that has been devalued by its own spread. But this practical devaluation has not yet been followed by an ideological devaluation. The myth of the pleasure and benefit of the car persists, though if mass transportation were widespread its superiority would be striking. The persistence of this myth is easily explained. The spread of the private car has displaced mass transportation and altered city planning and housing in such a way that it transfers to the car functions which its own spread has made necessary. An ideological ("cultural") revolution would be needed to break this circle. Obviously this is not to be expected from the ruling class (either right or left).

Let us look more closely now at these two points.

When the car was invented, it was to provide a few of the very rich with a completely unprecedented privilege: that of travelling much faster than everyone else. No one up to then had ever dreamt of it. The speed of all coaches was essentially the same, whether you were rich or poor. The carriages of the rich didn't go any faster than the carts of the peasants, and trains carried everyone at the same speed (they didn't begin to have different speeds until they began to compete with the automobile and the aeroplane). Thus, until the turn of the century, the elite did not travel at a different speed from the people. The motorcar was going to change all that. For the first time class differences were to be extended to speed and to the means of transportation.

This means of transportation at first seemed unattainable to the masses -- it was so different from ordinary means. There was no comparison between the motorcar and the others: the cart, the train, the bicycle, or the horse-car. Exceptional beings went out in self-propelled vehicles that weighed at least a ton and whose extremely complicated mechanical organs were as mysterious as they were hidden from view. For one important aspect of the automobile myth is that for the first time people were riding in private vehicles whose operating mechanisms were completely unknown to them and whose maintenance and feeding they had to entrust to specialists. Here is the paradox of the automobile: it appears to confer on its owners limitless freedom, allowing them to travel when and where they choose at a speed equal to or greater than that of the train. But actually, this seeming independence has for its underside a radical dependency. Unlike the horse rider, the wagon driver, or the cyclist, the motorist was going to depend for the fuel supply, as well as for the smallest kind of repair, on dealers and specialists in engines, lubrication, and ignition, and on the interchangeability of parts. Unlike all previous owners of a means of locomotion, the motorist's relationship to his or her vehicle was to be that of user and consumer-and not owner and master. This vehicle, in other words, would oblige the owner to consume and use a host of commercial services and industrial products that could only be provided by some third party. The apparent independence of the automobile owner was only concealing the actual radical dependency.

The oil magnates were the first to perceive the prize that could be extracted from the wide distribution of the motorcar. If people could be induced to travel in cars, they could be sold the fuel necessary to move them. For the first time in history, people would become dependent for their locomotion on a commercial source of energy. There would be as many customers for the oil industry as there were motorists-and since there would be as many motorists as there were families, the entire population would become the oil merchants' customers. The dream of every capitalist was about to come true. Everyone was going to depend for their daily needs on a commodity that a single industry held as a monopoly.

All that was left was to get the population to drive cars. Little persuasion would be needed. It would be enough to get the price of a car down by using mass production and the assembly line. People would fall all over themselves to buy it. They fell over themselves all right, without noticing they were being led by the nose. What, in fact, did the automobile industry offer them? Just this: "From now on, like the nobility and the bourgeoisie, you too will have the privilege of driving faster than everybody else. In a motorcar society the privilege of the elite is made available to you."

People rushed to buy cars until, as the working class began to buy them as well, defrauded motorists realised they had been had. They had been promised a bourgeois privilege, they had gone into debt to acquire it, and now they saw that everyone else could also get one. What good is a privilege if everyone can have it? It's a fool's game. Worse, it pits everyone against everyone else. General paralysis is brought on by a general clash. For when everyone claims the right to drive at the privileged speed of the bourgeoisie, everything comes to a halt, and the speed of city traffic plummets-in Boston as in Paris, Rome, or London-to below that of the horsecar; at rush hours the average speed on the open road falls below the speed of a bicyclist.

Nothing helps. All the solutions have been tried. They all end up making things worse. No matter if they increase the number of city expressways, beltways, elevated crossways, 16- lane highways, and toll roads, the result is always the same. The more roads there are in service, the more cars clog them, and city traffic becomes more paralysingly congested. As long as there are cities, the problem will remain unsolved. No matter how wide and fast a superhighway is, the speed at which vehicles can come off it to enter the city cannot be greater than the average speed on the city streets. As long as the average speed in Paris is 10 to 20 kmh, depending on the time of day, no one will be able to get off the beltways and autoroutes around and into the capital at more than 10 to 20 kmh.

The same is true for all cities. It is impossible to drive at more than an average of 20 kmh in the tangled network of streets, avenues, and boulevards that characterise the traditional cities. The introduction of faster vehicles inevitably disrupts city traffic, causing bottlenecks-and finally complete paralysis.

If the car is to prevail, there's still one solution: get rid of the cities. That is, string them out for hundreds of miles along enormous roads, making them into highway suburbs. That's what's been done in the United States. Ivan Illich sums up the effect in these startling figures: "The typical American devotes more than 1500 hours a year (which is 30 hours a week, or 4 hours a day, including Sundays) to his [or her] car. This includes the time spent behind the wheel, both in motion and stopped, the hours of work to pay for it and to pay for gas, tires, tolls, insurance, tickets, and taxes. Thus it takes this American 1500 hours to go 6000 miles (in the course of a year). Three and a half miles take him (or her) one hour. In countries that do not have a transportation industry, people travel at exactly this speed on foot, with the added advantage that they can go wherever they want and aren't restricted to asphalt roads."

It is true, Illich points out, that in non-industrialised countries travel uses only 3 to 8% of people's free time (which comes to about two to six hours a week). Thus a person on foot covers as many miles in an hour devoted to travel as a person in a car, but devotes 5 to 10 times less time in travel. Moral: The more widespread fast vehicles are within a society, the more time -- beyond a certain point -- people will spend and lose on travel. It's a mathematical fact.

The reason? We've just seen it: The cities and towns have been broken up into endless highway suburbs, for that was the only way to avoid traffic congestion in residential centres. But the underside of this solution is obvious: ultimately people can't get around conveniently because they are far away from everything. To make room for the cars, distances have increased. People live far from their work, far from school, far from the supermarket - which then requires a second car so the shopping can be done and the children driven to school. Outings? Out of the question. Friends? There are the neighbours... and that's it. In the final analysis, the car wastes more time than it saves and creates more distance than it overcomes. Of course, you can get yourself to work doing 60 mph, but that's because you live 30 miles from your job and are willing to give half an hour to the last 6 miles. To sum it all up: "A good part of each day's work goes to pay for the travel necessary to get to work." (Ivan Illich).

Maybe you are saying, "But at least in this way you can escape the hell of the city once the workday is over." There we are, now we know: "the city," the great city which for generations was considered a marvel, the only place worth living, is now considered to be a "hell." Everyone wants to escape from it, to live in the country. Why this reversal? For only one reason. The car has made the big city uninhabitable. It has made it stinking, noisy, suffocating, dusty, so congested that nobody wants to go out in the evening anymore. Thus, since cars have killed the city, we need faster cars to escape on superhighways to suburbs that are even farther away. What an impeccable circular argument: give us more cars so that we can escape the destruction caused by cars.

From being a luxury item and a sign of privilege, the car has thus become a vital necessity. You have to have one so as to escape from the urban hell of the cars. Capitalist industry has thus won the game: the superfluous has become necessary. There's no longer any need to persuade people that they want a car; it's necessity is a fact of life. It is true that one may have one's doubts when watching the motorised escape along the exodus roads. Between 8 and 9:30 a.m., between 5:30 and 7 p.m., and on weekends for five and six hours the escape routes stretch out into bumper-to-bumper processions going (at best) the speed of a bicyclist and in a dense cloud of gasoline fumes. What remains of the car's advantages? What is left when, inevitably, the top speed on the roads is limited to exactly the speed of the slowest car?

Fair enough. After killing the city, the car is killing the car. Having promised everyone they would be able to go faster, the automobile industry ends up with the unrelentingly predictable result that everyone has to go as slowly as the very slowest, at a speed determined by the simple laws of fluid dynamics. Worse: having been invented to allow its owner to go where he or she wishes, at the time and speed he or she wishes, the car becomes, of all vehicles, the most slavish, risky, undependable and uncomfortable. Even if you leave yourself an extravagant amount of time, you never know when the bottlenecks will let you get there. You are bound to the road as inexorably as the train to its rails. No more than the railway traveller can you stop on impulse, and like the train you must go at a speed decided by someone else. Summing up, the car has none of the advantages of the train and all of its disadvantages, plus some of its own: vibration, cramped space, the danger of accidents, the effort necessary to drive it.

And yet, you may say, people don't take the train. Of course! How could they? Have you ever tried to go from Boston to New York by train? Or from Ivry to Treport? Or from Garches to Fountainebleau? Or Colombes to l'Isle-Adam? Have you tried on a summer Saturday or Sunday? Well, then, try it and good luck to you! You'll observe that automobile capitalism has thought of everything. Just when the car is killing the car, it arranges for the alternatives to disappear, thus making the car compulsory. So first the capitalist state allowed the rail connections between the cities and the surrounding countryside to fall to pieces, and then it did away with them. The only ones that have been spared are the high-speed intercity connections that compete with the airlines for a bourgeois clientele. There's progress for you!

The truth is, no one really has any choice. You aren't free to have a car or not because the suburban world is designed to be a function of the car-and, more and more, so is the city world. That is why the ideal revolutionary solution, which is to do away with the car in favour of the bicycle, the streetcar, the bus, and the driverless taxi, is not even applicable any longer in the big commuter cities like Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston, Trappes, or even Brussels, which are built by and for the automobile. These splintered cities are strung out along empty streets lined with identical developments; and their urban landscape (a desert) says, "These streets are made for driving as quickly as possible from work to home and vice versa. You go through here, you don't live here. At the end of the workday everyone ought to stay at home, and anyone found on the street after nightfall should be considered suspect of plotting evil." In some American cities the act of strolling in the streets at night is grounds for suspicion of a crime.

So, the jig is up? No, but the alternative to the car will have to be comprehensive. For in order for people to be able to give up their cars, it won't be enough to offer them more comfortable mass transportation. They will have to be able to do without transportation altogether because they'll feel at home in their neighbourhoods, their community. their human-sized cities, and they will take pleasure in walking from work to home-on foot, or if need be by bicycle. No means of fast transportation and escape will ever compensate for the vexation of living in an uninhabitable city in which no one feels at home or the irritation of only going into the city to work or, on the other hand, to be alone and sleep.

"People," writes Illich, "will break the chains of overpowering transportation when they come once again to love as their own territory their own particular beat, and to dread getting too far away from it." But in order to love "one's territory" it must first of all be made liveable, and not trafficable. The neighbourhood or community must once again become a microcosm shaped by and for all human activities, where people can work, live, relax, learn, communicate, and knock about, and which they manage together as the place of their life in common. When someone asked him how people would spend their time after the revolution, when capitalist wastefulness had been done away with, Marcuse answered, "We will tear down the big cities and build new ones. That will keep us busy for a while."

These new cities might be federations of communities (or neighbourhoods) surrounded by green belts whose citizens-and especially the schoolchildren-will spend several hours a week growing the fresh produce they need. To get around everyday they would be able to use all kinds of transportation adapted to a medium-sized town: municipal bicycles, trolleys or trolley-buses, electric taxis without drivers. For longer trips into the country, as well as for guests, a pool of communal automobiles would be available in neighbourhood garages. The car would no longer be a necessity. Everything will have changed: the world, life, people. And this will not have come about all by itself.

Meanwhile, what is to be done to get there? Above all, never make transportation an issue by itself. Always connect it to the problem of the city, of the social division of labour, and to the way this compartmentalises the many dimensions of life. One place for work, another for "living," a third for shopping, a fourth for learning, a fifth for entertainment. The way our space is arranged carries on the disintegration of people that begins with the division of labour in the factory. It cuts a person into slices, it cuts our time, our life, into separate slices so that in each one you are a passive consumer at the mercy of the merchants, so that it never occurs to you that work, culture, communication, pleasure, satisfaction of needs, and personal life can and should be one and the same thing: a unified life, sustained by the social fabric of the community.

Le Sauvage, September-October 1973

Prince Charles Speech to RIBA 2009

A speech by HRH The Prince of Wales for the R.I.B.A. Trust Annual Lecture, London, 12th May 2009

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I suspect the only reason I find myself here today is because your President, Sunand Prasad, who was a student of Keith Critchlow who founded my School of Traditional Arts, invited me. I felt I should oblige him. I daresay he may be regretting his invitation by now… as if the media are to be believed – it is a wonder to find this hall seemingly fully occupied!

But it is, after all, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ 175th anniversary – on which I can only offer you my sincere congratulations – and it does seem that a tradition is emerging whereby I am asked to join you in celebrating a significant anniversary every 25 years. In another 25 years I shall very likely have shuffled off this mortal coil and so those of you who do worry about my inconvenient interferences won’t have to do so any more – unless, of course, they prove to be hereditary!

Now there is something I’ve been itching to say about the last time I addressed your Institute, in 1984; and that is that I am sorry if I somehow left the faintest impression that I wished to kick-start some kind of “style war” between Classicists and Modernists; or that I somehow wanted to drag the world back to the eighteenth century. All I asked for was room to be given to traditional approaches to architecture and urbanism, so I am most gratified to see that, since then, the R.I.B.A. itself has initiated a Group for traditional practitioners.

To my mind, that earlier speech also addressed a much more fundamental division than that between Classicism and Modernism: namely the one between “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches to architecture. Today, I’m sorry to say, there still remains a gulf between those obsessed by forms (and Classicists can be as guilty of this as Modernists, Post-Modernists, or Post-Post-Modernists), and those who believe that communities have a role to play in design and planning.

For millennia before the arrival of the modern architect, human intervention in the environment often managed to be beautiful, irrespective of stylistic concerns, because the “deep structure” of those interventions was consonant with a natural order, and therefore generated an organic, Nature-like order in the built world. And this is not just ancient history: as I recently pointed out in another context, there is still an echo of this sort of intervention to be found in so-called “slum cities”, such as Dharavi in Mumbai, where the work of Joachim Arputham and the Slum Dwellers’ Federation, whom I met there in 2006, has so well demonstrated the power of community action.

I hope we can avoid any such misunderstanding this evening of what I have to say – and to be helpful I propose to speak of “organic” rather than Classical or Traditional architecture. I know that the term “organic architecture” acquired a certain specific meaning in the twentieth century (as I was reminded only a few days ago when I visited Erich Mendelsohn’s Einsteinturm on the hills near Potsdam), but perhaps it is time to recover its older meaning and use it to describe traditional architecture that emerges from a particular environment or community – an architecture bound to place not to time. In this way we might defuse the too-easy accusation that such an approach is “old-fashioned”, or not sufficiently attuned to the zeitgeist.

This term “organic architecture” might also serve to distinguish what I am talking about from the “mechanical”, or even “genetically-modified”, architecture of the Modernist experiment – about which I will have more to say shortly…
Geoffrey Scott, writing as the First World War broke out, was most eloquent about the way in which buildings can mirror our selves: “the centre of Classical architecture”, he wrote, “is the human body… the whole of architecture is, in fact, unconsciously invested by us with human movements and human moods … We transcribe architecture in terms of ourselves.” In this sense, and above all in today’s world, it is surely worth reminding ourselves that Nature herself is a living organism; Man is a living organism, each of us a microcosm of the whole – mind, body and spirit. Because of this, what we refer to as “Tradition”, and the architecture that flows from it, is a symbolic reflection of the order, proportion and harmony found within Nature and ourselves.

There are equivalents to this in non-Western traditions also. In traditional Islamic architecture geometry is understood in ways both quantitative and qualitative, the combination of the two reflecting the complex order of Nature: its quantitative dimension regulated the broad form and construction of a building; its qualitative Nature established the more discrete proportions of architectural form. In this way the relationship between the architect and the surrounding world was one based more on reverence than arrogance; and both quantity and quality were each given their due attention.

Clearly, many people “out there” who aren’t architects, planners, developers or road engineers think about these matters rather differently from the professional mindset. When you provide them with an alternative vision based on the qualities represented by a living tradition, and with the quantitative element playing a more subservient role, people tend to vote with their feet. But the trouble is that nine times out of 10 they are never allowed an alternative, and they are all forced instead to become part of an ongoing experiment.

So I wonder if it might be possible to construct a series of seminars held jointly by this Institute and my Foundation for the Built Environment to explore whether we could ever come up with a more integrated way of looking at our alarmingly threatened world; one which is informed by traditional practice, and by traditional attitudes to the natural world?

After all, Nature, traditionally understood, is far, far more than a simple source-book of forms. One of the most important series of books of recent times, in my view – Christopher Alexander’s The Nature of Order – is both a compendium of living patterns seen in Nature, absorbed over millennia into human traditions of building, and a brave search for the underlying principles that give rise to these patterns everywhere we look. It reveals, as well as anything can, why we can often recognize Nature, and our own reflection more readily in a classical column, or in a humble farm building well-constructed, than in some glitzy new waveform warehouse. There have been architectural form languages and pattern languages practised over millennia that nourished humanity, and sustained human society, just as much as did our spoken languages.

But, still, we cannot entirely blame architects who think that mere imitations of Nature are sufficient: it is one of the legacies of the long Modernist experiment that we find ourselves so cut off from the real pulse of the natural world. To quote from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s foreword to its recent exhibition on Modernism: “Modernists … believed in technology as the key means to achieve social improvement, and in the machine as a symbol of that aspiration.” In many ways this emphasis on technology has brought us “social improvement”, and many significant benefits, but the side-effects caused by quite unnecessarily losing our balance and discarding and denigrating every other element apart from the technological are now becoming more and more apparent.

Perhaps we ought not to forget that Modernism was an urban movement. It did not arise in rural areas and I very much doubt that it could have done so. For Modernism largely rejected the influence of Nature on design. It preferred abstract thinking to contact with the patterns and organic ordering of Nature. Indeed, the exploiting of abstract concepts soon became the hallmark of Modernist architecture. The problem for us today is that this approach now lies at the heart of our perception of the world.

In so many areas, the only serious goals seem to be greater efficiency, inducing ever more economic growth, and increasing profits. Not to achieve these goals is to be marked down as a failure. The trouble is, these goals were only ever going to be possible if the apparent clutter and inefficiency of traditional thinking was swept away. It was only ever going to be possible if the bio-diversity in Nature was reduced to a much more manageable mono-culture. And it was only ever going to be possible if the inner world of humanity – our intuition, our instinct – was ignored, or over-ridden.

Instead, we conform more readily to the limited and linear process of the machine. Such is our conditioned way of thinking along purely empirical, rational lines that we now seem prepared to test the world around us to destruction simply to attain the required “evidence base” to prove that that is what we are indeed doing. And then, of course, it is all too late for the Sorcerer's Apprentice to summon back the Master to cast the necessary spell to restore harmony and balance.

Nature, I would argue, reveals the universal essence of creation. Our present preoccupation with the individual ego, and desire to be distinctive, rather than “original” in its truest sense, are only the more visible signs of our rejection of Nature. In addition, there is our addiction to mechanical rather than joined-up, integrative thinking, and our instrumental relationship with the natural world. In the world as it is now, there seems to be an awful lot more arrogance than reverence; a great deal more of the ego than humility; and a surfeit of abstracted ideology over the practical realities linked to people’s lives and the grain of their culture and identity.

Over the past 100 years, I think we might possibly agree that the old way of doing things literally fragmented and deconstructed the world into a series of “zoned” parts, without any inter-relationship or order such as is found in Nature. The difficulty I face, however, in asking you to consider the Modernistic approach of the twentieth century as flawed, and needing to be replaced, is that, clearly, this fragmented approach has produced so many great benefits. It is, however, hard to square these benefits with all the evidence that tells us that if we continue with “business as usual” we will fail to solve, indeed we are likely to compound, the deeply complicated and serious problems that this approach has already created. I feel that our philosophical response and our spiritual response to this problem are just as important as our empirical one. Empiricism does not deal with meaning, so if we rely upon it to undo all the wreckage we have caused, it will not be enough – because it can only reveal the mechanism of things. I know, by the way, that many contemporary architects agree with this critique of the flaws in the modern movement philosophy. Just as I know that a considerable number produce some very interesting and worthy buildings. In fact, two which I have seen recently are I. M. Pei’s new museum of Islamic Art in Doha, and David Chipperfield’s remarkable restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin which I saw two weeks ago.

And if we are to respond philosophically and spiritually, as well as empirically, architecture is uniquely placed to help us do that. This is why, faced by such a broad range of interlinked challenges, I would like to suggest that members of this Institute might consider this question of refocusing and changing our perceptions and thus help change the course of our approach.

Let me point out that I don’t go around criticizing other people’s private artworks. I may not like some of them very much, but it is their business what they choose to put in their houses. However, as I have said before, architecture and the built environment affect us all. Architecture defines the public realm, and it should help to define us as human beings, and to symbolize the way we look at the world; it affects our psychological well-being, and it can either enhance or detract from a sense of community. As such, we are profoundly influenced by it: by the presence, or absence, of beauty and harmony. I don’t think it is too much to say that beauty and harmony lie at the heart of genuine sustainability. I believe that precisely because the built environment defines the public, or civic, realm it should express itself through the fundamental ingredients that define a genuine civilization – in other words, those civic virtues such as courtesy, consideration and good manners.

It was when I was a teenager in the 1960’s that I became profoundly aware of the brutal destruction that was being wrought on so many of our towns and cities, let alone on our countryside, and that much of the urban realm was becoming de-personalized and defaced. The loss was immense, incalculable – an insane “Reformation” that, I believe, went too far, particularly when so much could have been restored, converted or re-used, with a bit of extra thought, rather than knocked down.

I suspect that there are few among you here this evening who would now try to defend such things as the soulless housing estates that characterized that time. Albeit that they were pursued with the best possible motive. One of the problems that I think needs to be acknowledged is that so often we find the kinds of communities that work best cannot be built, due to the specialised and reductive nature of the modern planning process. The design standards imposed by the highway engineering profession, for instance, are particularly damaging to community as they ensure the dominance of the motor vehicle over the pedestrian, even within the neighbourhood. If I may say so, your profession could be of great help with this challenge of converting the planning and engineering professions, as surely you have noticed that the well-proportioned neighbourhoods of the Georgian and Victorian era hold their value far better than the monocultural housing estates of the past 50 years.
Indeed, compare these current rules with those established centuries ago right here, around Portland Place, by the Howard de Walden and Portland Estates. Those rules were intended to make good neighbours of us all – in regard to heights, rhythms and materials of building – and it is because of these firm and universal rules that this Institute can today enjoy being in such an enviable headquarters building. And who, looking at the sheer exuberance and inventiveness of 66 Portland Place, could argue that such rules inhibit creativity?

The organic/traditional approach – based on sensible “rules-of-thumb” rather than the more detached and bureaucratic way of ruling “by the book” – is a living thing, which doesn’t deserve to be called “old-fashioned”. It is better described as a process of continuous renewal – like those Japanese temples which are ever-renewed, yet remain ever themselves; or our – in my case rapidly ageing – bodies for that matter, the cells of which are continually replaced without replacing the thing that makes us uniquely us. And, as this very building testifies, Tradition has space for as much creativity as we can bring to it. The historian, F.A. Simpson – whom I remember well when I was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge and he was a very senior Fellow – once wrote that “the mind of Man can range unimaginably fast and far, while riding to the anchor of a liturgy.”

My School of Traditional Arts, in Shoreditch, works hard to inspire its many students not just to copy the patterns of the past, but to conjure their own interpretations of traditional patterning by keeping within the overriding discipline of the grammar of its geometry. This is essential, for even wisdom can die if it is allowed to become mere mechanical repetition, devoid of love or any real understanding. Unfortunately, however, the culture of architecture schools in general still overwhelmingly encourages students to focus on the exciting and the new, at the expense of the truly “original” – which should always point to our common origins – and of evidence-based lessons of history and place. Indeed, traditional buildings and projects are still looked down on today by most teachers; too often dismissed out of hand as "pastiche" or worse. The sad truth, I feel, is that virtually all Schools of Architecture and Planning have persisted in teaching an approach which is deliberately counter-intuitive to the human spirit and to the underlying patterns of Nature herself of which, whether we like it or not, we are a microcosm. By so doing they have deliberately thrown away the book of grammar that contained, as it were, the “syntax of civic virtues.” It was because of this situation that I founded my original Institute of Architecture, to be succeeded by my Foundation for the Built Environment which is soon to launch an MSc in Sustainable Urbanism Development at Oxford. It will be an inter-disciplinary post-professional degree and, in addition to that, my Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship in Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture is entering its second year, along with an expanding Traditional Building Craft Apprenticeship Scheme.

Since the 1960s I have gradually become convinced that the “experiment” on our towns and cities that had such a profoundly negative effect on me at that time – and not just on me, I can assure you – is only a small part of a much larger experiment that touches every aspect of our lives.

I don’t believe I am the only one to mind about this; nor the only one to feel that the giant experiment (which has been unfolding at increasing pace over the last half-century) with our built environment, with our communities, with our identity, with our very sense of belonging, has gone too far and that it is no longer sustainable in the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.

The fact that these circumstances are in some ways a natural consequence of this larger experiment – being conducted in all walks of life – needs, I think, to be recognized and stated plainly. The trouble is that very few people dare to call it into question, for the very good reason that if they do they find themselves abused and insulted, accused of being “old-fashioned,” out of touch, reactionary, anti-progress, even anti-science – as if it was some kind of unholy blasphemy to question the state of our surroundings, of our natural environment, our food security, our climate and our own human identity and meaning. Little wonder, then, that most people shy away from pointing out that the Emperor isn’t actually wearing very many clothes anymore.

The crisis in the banking and financial sector – devastating though its consequences will be for some – has at least brought to light something of the short‑termist, unsustainable, and experimental nature of the way many professionals now operate in the world; a kind of surpassing cleverness in the devising of products and systems that no-one really understands. At a time when, believe it or not, we are hearing calls for a return to old‑fashioned, traditional banking virtues, might these calls not apply equally to the manner in which our built environment gives physical expression to the way we do business and live our lives, as essentially social beings?

Nothing argues for a re-evaluation of our way of doing things more than the state of the planet. Some twenty years ago – shortly after I made A Vision of Britain – I made another B.B.C. film called Earth in Balance in which I interviewed the then Senator Al Gore. I don’t think many people paid much attention to that film. It’s amusing watching it now! His subsequent bestseller, Earth in the Balance, played an important part in framing the debate before the Kyoto Conference on climate change. At that time, I argued that a rebalancing of priorities from short- to long-term was needed and that short-term thinking was at the root of the environmental crisis. I may have thought that then – I am convinced of it now! Sustainability matters. Durability matters even more. And perhaps more than ever, it matters now; for surely it must be true that the twin crunches of credit and climate together have highlighted the dangers of the short-term view – “consume today and let someone else pay tomorrow for the throwaway society.”

As over 60 per cent of our carbon emissions can be attributed to the built environment, all of us who are involved with the making of place have a great responsibility. Climatologists speak, and speak urgently, of the need to flatten the curve of rising emissions – starting now.

Not only that, but the great irony is that many of the social challenges we hoped economic growth would solve still remain deeply resistant to resolution, even after so many years of “growth”. Experience now tells us that poverty, stress, ill-health and social tensions could not have been ended by economic growth alone. At the heart of this dilemma is the issue of global urbanization, as more than sixty per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. And what kind of cities will they find themselves inhabiting? The primary response so far to this accelerating urbanization has been to view it as a short-term challenge of scale, and to respond to it by building bigger, more and faster, rather than questioning whether and to what extent such development – still based on an outmoded paradigm of planning and design – is actually sustainable, economically, socially and environmentally. Some, at least, are beginning to regard the growth of shanty-towns – a highly-visible consequence of rapid urbanization – as more than just a nuisance that needs to be cleared away, in the same way as the “slums” of our British cities were cleared in the 1960s, but as a possible clue to how we might respond better to growth in the future – from the bottom up.

The trouble is that we seem to have become programmed to see the individual elements of a problem only in isolation – which means that, often, in curing one problem we create many more. We see this way of thinking only too clearly in those flashy new buildings where just by adding a windmill, some solar panels, or other such “bling” to a high-rise glass tower it is considered to make everything “green”. My Foundation has always been committed to finding a more integrated approach to greening building, inspired by traditional environments in which even such things as the alternate planting and paving of courtyards – encouraging the movement of air, so obviating the need for air-conditioning – and the clever placing of verandas or porticos, can make a building greener. The Foundation’s Natural House, now under construction at the Building Research Establishment’s Innovation Park, is an attempt to introduce a new model for green building that is site-built, low-carbon and easily adapted for volume building. It remains, however, recognizably a house. It doesn’t wear its “green-ness” as if it was the latest piece of haute couture; it is much more concerned with what works on the High Street in terms of good manners and courtesy.

I must say, I find it baffling that we still consider “whole-istic” thinking to be a kind of alternative New Age therapy when, in fact, to see things in the round and take account of the impact upon the whole is the only effective way of addressing the many, seemingly intractable problems we now face, especially if we hope to solve them without compounding our troubles with yet more chaos and destruction. More and more of the world’s problems seem interconnected, so it would be wise, would it not, to consider – in architecture as much as in any other field – the wider implications of our actions rather than constantly narrowing our focus and reducing our ambitions down to the one element and its one outcome. Yet this is the way we have tended to operate ever since it became the conventional way of thinking about the world.
It seems to me that the only way to tackle this narrowness of vision is through collaborations across disciplines and divides. Your current President has encouraged your Institute to take an active role in addressing climate change in the run up to the Copenhagen conference, and if there is a compelling reason for my own Foundation to cooperate with you in the future it surely has to be around causes such as this. I can only say that along with many others I look forward to seeing a new, binding and fair treaty to emerge from the Copenhagen conference.

In bringing such matters to bear upon buildings and places, what is needed, it seems to me, is a three-stage approach: first, a grounding in precedent, building upon what has worked well in the past; second, an understanding of locality, the specific “D.N.A.”, if you like, of a place, incorporating local intelligence and community input; and third, the incorporation of the best of new technology.
As an enthusiastic proponent of “Seeing is Believing,” I realized 20 years ago that I myself had an opportunity to “give room” to an alternative way of doing things. I set out to try to embody these principles in the development – undertaken by the Duchy of Cornwall, under the guidance of the master-planner, Leon Krier – of an area on the edge of the town of Dorchester. There, over recent years – and increasingly on other sites owned or part-owned by the Duchy – I have sought to follow what I regard as a golden rule: which is “to try to do to others as you would have them do to you”; in other words not to build something that I would not be willing to live in or near myself. The other day an architect friend of mine asked “How many Pritzker Prizewinners are not living in beautiful Classical Homes?”; and we all know what he was getting at. Surely architects flock in such numbers to live in these lovely old houses – many from the eighteenth century, often in the last remaining conservation areas of our towns and cities that haven’t yet been destroyed – because, deep down, they do respond to the natural patterns and rhythms I have been talking about, and feel more comfortable in such harmonious surroundings – even though, presumably, they don’t all feel the need to wear togas to do so?!
Poundbury has challenged contemporary models for road design by introducing shared spaces, and designing for the pedestrian first, and only then the car; and it has challenged the conventional model of zoned development by pepper-potting affordable and private-market housing, and integrating workplaces and retail within a walkable neighbourhood. Thus we can enhance social and environmental value, as well as commercial. Why on earth all this should be considered “old-fashioned” and out of touch, when we took the greatest trouble to sit down and consult with the local community twenty years ago, is beyond me – for we find, so often, that communities have the best answers themselves if they can be engaged in a meaningful way. My Foundation has discovered this time and again in conducting planning exercises in places as far afield as China and Saudi Arabia. For what is tradition but the accumulated wisdom and experience of previous generations, informed by intuition and human instinct, and given shape under the unerring eye of the craftsman, whose common sense provides the organic durability we so urgently need?

I pray that a new and developing relationship between this Institute and my Foundation for the Built Environment can enable us to work together to create the kind of organic architecture for the twenty-first century that not only reflects the intuitive needs, aspirations and cultural identity of countless communities around the world, but also the innate patterns of Nature. As Sir John Betjeman wrote with such prescience back in 1931 – “The Revolting phrase ‘The Battle of Styles,’ wherein architecture is now considered a fighting ground between old gentlemen who imitate the Parthenon and brilliant young men who create abstract designs, can only have been coined by stupid extremists of either side. There is no battle for the intelligent artist,” he wrote. “The older men gradually discard superfluities. The younger men do not ignore the necessary devices of the past. Both sides find their way slowly to the middle of the maze whose magic centre is tradition.”

Nowadays we might, perhaps, more accurately speak of “the young men who imitate the Parthenon – or who are, at any rate, beginning to value the lessons of history once again – and the old gentlemen who create abstract designs”, but the underlying message remains the same. If we can find the right path, perhaps you would care to accompany me to the middle of the maze?!

Glasgow Xmas Lights


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