dvdc: “architect Tadashi Murai creates a fully equipped structure that comes with its own power, heating and cooling, water, and waste-disposal systems” Read more: http://www.dwell.com/slideshows/simply-sustainable.html?slide=3&c=y#ixzz1pGVV07rK
Alexanderpf: From a design, manufacturing and engineering standpoint this is interesting project. To clear my head before going back to work I’d like to write a critique of this post.
Teju Cole in recent weeks has introduced the term “White Savior Industrial Complex.” Tadashi Murai, regardless of race, has with this “sustainable design” produced a beautiful work channeling the neo-liberalist industrial complex. Regrettably what the term “Sustainability” has come to mean to too many business people “the same thing in a different way.” Going on a picnic? Bring some bamboo forks and biodegradable cups! Oh and we’ll bike there!
The term sustainability is an awkward fit. There is ambiguity what aspects of our civilization we value. [See: what kind of country do we want to be?] This is why I’ve gravitated towards the term Permaculture. Just “getting by” isn’t in our nature as animals. We, along with a few other mammals, are tool makers. We’ve been to the moon, and if we were smart we’d already have started teraforming Mars by now.
Oddly enough, this “sustainable home” … for spaceship Earth, was designed like it was intended for a mission to Mars. All of the “systems are internal” it looks like it was intended to be air lifted to the nearest third world disaster area.
Yes, this house can “sustain itself” but what about it’s inputs and outputs?!
It should be clear to everyone that we’re living in a time where ‘systems engineering’/’second order cybernetics’ were playing an increasing role.
The 20th century was all about “Economy” — raw state power ‘controlled’ by a body of well intentioned people. This worked well after the horrors of the two great wars. The growth and prosperity of the 50’s and 60’s in America and Europe is unimaginable! This was also a time when people were still connected to lots of systems. The first two that come to me are food systems and transportation systems.
Maintaining a system can be a hassle! Going to a butcher, or a baker instead of a mega-store. The Walking/Biking/Driving ratio. Whole food vs. engineered microwavable/restaurant food.
Business people is finding out that it’s about about “services” rather than “products.”
Architects and engineers are finding out that optimizing for the general case has reached it’s limits. It’s easy to plop down a house, heat/cool it with central air. etc. It’s much more difficult to build a system where everything is maintained internally. But who is to say that this is much better?
We’re in an age of of meta-optimize. Is a waste-output of one system really a waste when it’s just input to another system? The connections matter — it’s about ecology rather than economy as Alan Moore said in a recent BBC interview.
This structure doesn’t look like part of an ecosystem. But it’s exactly what the neo-liberal industrial complex raves out about. If you don’t have a clear mental picture by now, imagine a teenage missionary from Colorado who wants to go to [insert nation] and help them fix all of their ills with cure all “green tech.”
We’re in an awkward stage right now. We’re still dragging lots of dead weight from the 20th century.
Remember those inconveniences of the “systems” that make up our lives? Well they kind of screwed us over. We got lazy. We started exploiting people.
Not only did we want countries like Bangladesh to make our stuff for cheap, Nigeria to give us their oil for cheap, or countless others to deal with our toxic (…e-waste, industrial waste) trash when we didn’t want it — we wanted them to drink coca-cola too.
Market-Based Democracy (especially in it’s newest form) is just too simple a model for the “meta-optimization” I mentioned earlier.
We’ve moved beyond (.. see how that term sustainability hhinders us) the gains we can get from market-based democracy. When the massive state power of ARPA created what would become the Internet it introduced us to a new age.
When all we had was broadcast media (one-way flow of information; TV/Radio/Newsprint/etc.) “general optimization” worked socially the general optimization model was a good fit.
The exponential growth of computing power was the fuel for our model. The problem with exponents is that in practical terms they are very hard to deal with. I think it’s safe to say that our population growth has saturated the planet with people. This depressing situation has lead to this very nihilistic design style that my generation is such a fan of.
Collectively humanity is as much of a sociopath as always — but now have the communication systems and collective knowledge to realize this.
To my generation: Please stop idolizing the designs of firms like Apple; a firm which itself has made a career from the modern designs of folks like Dieter Rams.
What is the show “Mad Men” but a celebration of the folks that brought on the end. Design for design. Consumption for the sake of consumption. The cancerous madness Edward Abbey called growth for the sake of growth.
It was a golden age. We went to the moon, we did the hard stuff! … and then we stopped. We gave up. Communism had us so scared that the nation decided to fight in Vietnam rather than go to Mars.
Let’s face it — when the over-focus on design that we saw in the 50’s and 60’s meets the industrial-grunge nihilism (or for that matter the upscale nihilism of Apple) of my generation the result is seldom groundbreaking.
Some may call this style functional design — but remember: the functional optimization done was for the general case. This is why everything is “dumbed down” and simple.
Real functional design takes advantage of the wind and the sun in more clever ways than just making an open box.
Permaculture inspired design is hard because it is seldom general. You must observe patterns, and understand how accomplish your goals (“obtaining a yield”) within the system.
I’ll end by saying that permaculture goes beyond biological systems. It goes for the built world, the invented/tooled world, and the social sphere as well.
</RANT> Back to work! But that was fun and I’m refreshed. I’ll be back to edit this later! But … What do you think?