Any serious conversation about sustainable buildings must begin with the issue of lovability. If a building cannot be loved, then it is likely to be demolished and carted off to the landfill in only a generation or two. All of the embodied energy of its materials is lost (if they are not recycled.) And all of the future energy savings are lost, too. Buildings continue to be demolished for no other reason except that they cannot be loved. Even an architectural landmark as celebrated as the Boston City Hall is in danger of this fate because only an architect could love it. It is not possible for a building to be considered sustainable when its parts reach a landfill in a generation or two.
The popular green community is now advocating that every building should have a plan for its eventual demolition and recycling. At first, this seems like an honorable goal. But in reality, it is an admission of the inability to build in a lovable fashion. Our ancestors once built for the ages, and the best of their buildings could last for a thousand years or more. Even the everyday buildings lining every street regularly lasted for centuries. And they lasted because they could be loved.
Many ask today how it is possible to know what other people love, and some are even offended at the proposition that we might know what future generations might love. This suspicion is built upon the notion that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and is predicated upon the model of architecture as fashion.
But architecture can do so much better than that. Because that which is the most intensely of our time today is also the most quickly out-of-date tomorrow. If we focus on what it means to be human rather than just what is popular in this moment, then it is clear that some things have resonated with humans throughout the ages. These include shapes that reflect the basic arrangement of the human body, which has a head, a body, and feet, or a cap, a shaft, and a base. The human body also is arranged horizontally with equal members on either side, at least externally, although our internal organs are arranged simply to do their jobs properly. And the exterior symmetry can be very relaxed, like when someone is sprawled out on a couch, or may be very rigid, like a soldier standing at attention.
Humans also resonate both with proportions found in the human body, and with a set of mathematical proportions that are both rational (1:1, 4:3, 3:2, etc.) and irrational (the square root of 2, the Golden Mean, etc.) Humans also resonate with natural laws, such as the law of gravity. In other words, they don’t just expect for things to stand up, but also to look like they are capable of standing up. Nobody except an architect wants to walk into a building built so thinly that it appears to be in imminent danger of collapse.
So while it is not possible to guess what architectural fashions might be like in 20 or 30 human generations (or not even next year, for that matter,) it most certainly is possible to stack the deck in our favor by building things that incorporate patterns that reflect timeless aspects of our humanity. Doing so extends the efficiency of what we build today into the distant future.
Lovable Buildings Resources
Lovable Buildings Bookshelf contains a growing collection of books that contribute to various aspects of lovable buildings.
Lovable Buildings Links
Lovable Buildings Blog Posts
God is in the Details examines what has in recent decades been considered completely taboo: explicit ornamentation.
the Chael-Dover Cottage - What the Original Green Looks Like paints a picture of a highly sustainable house using the Original Green standard.
The Mysteries of Lovable Buildings is a further exploration of the nature of lovability in architecture.
The Green Academy - Or Not is a report card on today's architectural education measured by Original Green foundations.
The Gizmo Green Conundrum pits an icon of Gizmo Green (a Chicago parking deck promoting itself as being green) against the eight foundations of the Original Green.
Earth Day - A Symptom of Our Disease? takes a critical look at our habit of pledging allegiance to sustainability one day out of the year, but for getting the basics (like lovable buildings) for the rest of the year.
LEED for Homes Awards - or - How To Shoot Yourself in the Foot measures award-winning homes against the foundation principles of the Original Green.
Original Green Places - South Main examines a Colorado community through the lenses of Original Green foundations.
the WalMart Sustainability Index measures WalMart's new standard against the foundations of the Original Green.
Down the Unlovable Carbon Stair-Steps is a very important post that charts how lovable buildings trump unlovable building performance in the long run, even if the unlovable buildings are LEED rated.
David Brussat and the Capitol Cove Article deals with design review issues, and how to better achieve lovable buildings.
WSJ on SmartDwelling I - The Tower of Wind & Water tells the first of several stories about SmartDwelling I, including some of the ways it achieves lovability with elements that help condition the house.
After Earth Day - What Next? What Can I Do? is the top ten things we each can do to be more sustainable, and includes operating naturally because much of the charm of old buildings comes from the natural ways they moderate the environment.
Tiny Places - Mike & Patty's looks at the lovability advantages of small buildings.
Preservation vs. LEED highlights the role of lovability in the preservation of buildings over the long term.
Diagramming the Original Green shows the relationship between the foundations of sustainable places and sustainable buildings.
The Birds-Eye Slum-View Problem describes a fascinating way of implementing an architectural code, and the little children that caused the breakthrough that makes it really work.
Problem 3 - The Carbon Focus shows why a carbon footprint is meaningless if a building is unlovable.
Towards Sustainable Architecture describes the foundation of principles of the New Urban Guild’s Project:SmartDwelling, which includes several principles that help create buildings that are lovable.
Engineering vs. Design documents how the ugly green devices contributed to killing the first Green Revolution.
Green Sheds illustrates how rooftop solar collectors, long a poster child for ugly green devices, can be done in a lovable way.
First Time Around describes how the previous environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s died in part because the gadgets it produced were efficient but not lovable.
Lovable Buildings on OGTV
Lovable Wind Generators discusses the need for wind turbines to not only generate electricity, but to be visually pleasant as well.
Invisible Solar Panels makes the case that "if it's hideous, hide it!"
Lovable Buildings Albums
The SmartDwelling I poster illustrates a home designed to be both highly frugal and lovable.
Schooner Bay Block illustrates a sequential method of neighborhood growth that produces more lovable places without requiring a highly trained designer. This method attempts to approximate the same model used to create the Most-Loved Places.
Lovable Buildings Presentations
All presentations entitled "Original Green" on the Presentations page deal with all eight foundations of sustainability, including lovable buildings.
Revolutionary or Evolutionary examines several aspects of the role of lovability in architecture.