Dr. Matthew Hardy of the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment established the Original Green discussion group last week. Judging from the first few days, it promises to be quite lively. Please join us for enlightening discourse that promises to push the Original Green forward in ways we can’t anticipate yet. Here’s the group’s webpage, or you can just email here to join the conversation.
The Prince’s Foundation has long been a great ally of Original Green ideas, and long before that, I’ve been a huge fan of Prince Charles’ work, dating back to the 1980s. I first worked with the Prince’s Foundation in 2005, during the first Rose Town charrette in Kingston, Jamaica. I was a consultant during that charrette, which Prince Charles commissioned to DPZ. The Foundation ran a follow-up charrette in November 2008, and I had the privilege of working on that one as well.
While we explored a good bit of previously uncharted territory in the 2005 charrette, the biggest breakthrough occurred at the end of the 2008 charrette, when this group of little children provided a breathtaking leap forward in the understanding of living traditions. You can read their story in this post.
There were other notable advances as well. The potters are a group of artisans living on the north side of Rose Town trained by the Foundation; they craft useful and fanciful work, but they have problems: Rose Town has been wracked with such violence for decades between one political party on the north side and another political party on the south side that most Kingston residents don’t get anywhere close to the neighborhood. As a result, nobody buys the potters’ wares. I’ll blog soon about a novel proposal to solve this dilemma, and help knit the neighborhood back together again.
The Foundation’s support of Original Green ideas continues in a number of ways: Hank Dittmar, the CEO of the Prince’s Foundation, has included me in presentations to the Congress for the New Urbanism on more than one occasion, for which I am grateful.
Last year, Ben Bolgar included me as one of the faculty in the Foundation’s Building Craft Apprentice training program in New Orleans, which is an outgrowth of the Prince’s visit to the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and mirrors the Foundation’s program in the UK. You can read more about the 2009 program here.
One more thing from last year... on my final day, Ben asked me to say a few things to the students. For a spur-of-the-moment thing, it turned out pretty well, and I later wrote it down as well as I could recall it. I call it the Curse of the Craftsman, and you can read about it here.
Last year’s class worked through the winter on projects assigned by our New Orleans partners. They graduated in March in fine fashion. After touring Britain for several days and visiting the work sites of their apprentice colleagues in the UK, they came back to London for their graduation, which was presided over by Prince Charles.
While in the UK for the graduation, I had the privilege of teaching a Masterclass at the Foundation. I was a faculty member in a symposium there a few years ago, but had never taught a Masterclass until this year. It was quite a treat for me, and I believe the students enjoyed it as well.
This fall, Ben restructured the faculty so there would be fewer of us, on longer engagements. Ben, Edith Platten, Ann Daigle and I took the building program all the way through, with other instructors for geometry, life drawing, and watercolor.
One of the things I do is to take the students on walking tours of the city. I ask them to identify things they see happening again and again. These are patterns. Next, they’re asked to figure out why people repeated these patterns, and if there might be a reason to repeat them again today. If so, then they have to tell a story that is rational. compelling, and inspiring as to why we should repeat each pattern.
One of the students came up to me at the end of the second day and said “I have lived in New Orleans all my life, but I’ve never really seen New Orleans. Thanks for giving me a brand-new city in which to live!” I hadn’t really thought about it that way, but she’s right... really seeing a place opens up so many things.
Dr. Hardy had asked me back for another Masterclass, so while returning from a charrette in Mauritius recently, I extended my stay in London in order to do the class. While preparing for this class, I finalized the “lenses” idea I’d been considering for some time. It resulted in the largest single remake of the presentation that I’d ever done. Look for many more posts exploring the Original Green through various lenses. Better yet, join the discussion group and be a part of the development of the ideas!