Sunday, April 25, 2004

Whole System

Our post-industrial history has been one that combined an old worldview with new and powerful technology.

We have continued to perceive the world as fragmented: There is an "other" and there is an "away". While in reality, the world (as always) is a seamless whole.

At the same time, we developed technologies that allowed us to be remarkably effective in modifying nature: taking molecules apart, recombining them, moving huge amounts of mass, distributing new chemicals around the world and in our bodies.

The two do not combine well. It has led to an economic system that externalizes cost and where short term economic profit (for the actor) is the main priority. It has led to designs, of chemicals, processes, transportation technology and more, that (apparently) solves one problem while creating many new - and often more serious - ones.

Seeing Blue Vinyl reminded me of this. It is a product developed with narrow evaluation criteria used, a set of criteria that focused on certain aspects of performance and prodcution cost. The wider impact on worker's health, the health of people living in manufacturing communities, and others impacted by toxins released into the air, water and soil, was not factored in. And still is not. See My House is Your House for more information.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Culture and Building

There are some commonly noticed differences between US and European (as varied as it is) culture.

In the US, it seems that work and moneymaking has priority - even at the expense of sinking roots and friendships. People typically move after about 5 years, and most often because of work. Connection with local friends and neighbors is less important.

In Europe, family, friends and free time seems to be a priority (still). People typically stay in one place most of their life, and create deeper connection to place and local friends.

Some of the consequences, beyond the personal ones, can be seen in buildings. In the US, houses are seen as a temporary investment - something to stay in for a while and then sell again. It means that poorer construction techniques and materials are chosen, and the houses are not individualized. In Europe, people see their houses as somewhere to live for most or all of their lives, so they invest in high quality construction and materials - and they tend to be given more character.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Patterns & Function

The Universe embraces all polarities. It expresses and contains both poles in any polarity: existence-nonexistence, nonliving-living, body-mind.

One of the polarities it seamlessly and effortlessly expresses is that of function and aesthetics. Everything in the Universe is function, and also - to us - astonishingly beautiful.

Every pattern expressed in the Universe and the Earth has particular functions. The branching pattern distributes. Explosion patterns spreads. Cracking patterns allows for expansion and contraction of rigid materials. Spiral patterns allows for slow expansion or contraction.

We can learn from these patterns and their functions, and apply them to designs on all scales and areas. Doing that can help us to integrate more seamlessly both function (efficiently and effectively) and beauty.

It is also an expression of our acknowledgement of the wisdom of the Universe. A wisdom that is - and must be - far beyond any human wisdom as we are just a small segment of this immensely large whole. We express the patterns and processes of the Universe, but the Universe is always more and different from our experience of it.