Week of July 5, 2009

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Please, Please don’t do away with room by room. I am finding this to be the place where I learn the most! At first I was a bit disappointed when you announced it, but over and over I glean more from that segment.

  • John Brown

    Don’t worry, we are certainly not eliminating any of the segments. We are going to rotate through the various types of exercises – two/week. In fact, the success of the two part en-suite bathroom segment played a big part in the decision to expand the exercises to two days. However, as you can imagine, they are also the most time intensive to prepare and it was too much to try to do one each week as well as all the others and still maintain quality standards.

  • ersie

    I like your new ideas a lot. Slowing it down sounds great! I’m looking forward to it.

    I have a request. Would it be possible to set it up so that one can subscribe to the comments even if one doesn’t submit a comment? Hope I haven’t missed it if it’s already set up like that…

  • John Brown

    Good question. I will ask our webmaster about this tomorrow. It sounds like a good idea to me.

  • Erin

    Thrilled about the new format! I am really looking forward to becoming more involved in the site as a result of more time to think and comment on each exercise. Great idea, looking forward to testing it out, and will certainly provide feedback.

  • Grace

    Great idea, John, to slow down the slow home site. I know that I, and I’m sure others, missed your input last week.

  • Meg

    Hi John,

    I hope you see this – I tried writing to you on the contact page and get an error.

    I was having trouble keeping up so I think the new format is going to suit me better – good plan.

    I’ve been less active on the site as I’ve been taking some time to get my teeth into Christopher Alexander’s ‘Nature of Order’ series. I’ve concentrated on book 2 (it’s a whopper in itself and there are 4 books in all). Here’s a summary around where I felt is ideas interlaced with Slowhome.

    1. Much of the architecture out there, particularly residential development is not ‘living’. By that he means it’s not designed with people living there in mind – not fit for purpose. It’s designed to be sold – the project is motivated by profit rather than good design.
    2. Architecture needs to unfold, that is the design arrived at slowly and incrementally with many of the decisions made during construction when the 3D reality is in place.
    3. The architect’s role is to help lay people be highly involved in the design, therefore managing the design, while at the same time being involved in the details which make up the art of a house, perhaps beautiful millwork, and providing guidance on normative needs (things the clients don’t know they’ll need) and solving requirement conflicts.
    4. It is possible to find sequences or methdologies (as opposed to just patterns set down in Pattern Language) that are general yet instructive enough to ensure that a good design will result if they are followed.

    He sets down 15 ‘transformations’ which can be used to create good design. These include things like boundaries, repetition, centres so he has basically re-articulated the building blocks of design. He says that in each incremental step one of the transformations can be used to improve the design and the art is choosing the best one.

    All in all he’s against the cookie cutters and the need for the public to be more aware of design – very much like Slowhome. A great book but perhaps not one for the reading list since it’s so long.

    I’ve been reading about design as a lay person for a number of years so if you’re going to do a reading list let me know and I’ll send through the titles that I’ve enjoyed.

    Kind Regards

  • John Brown

    I am sorry that you were not able to contact me through the site. For future reference my email address is editor@theslowhome.com.

    Thank you for the comments on Christopher Alexander’s book. I appreciate the time you spent summarizing the connection to slow home. It is very helpful.

    I particularly like the idea of the architect as a collaborator in the design process. I use a food analogy (obviously) when describing this idea to potential clients. I tell them that in my restaurant everyone arrives with their own ingredients (some of which are also provided by the site) and that my job as chef is to help guide them in the creation of a wonderful meal.

    We are still working on the right technical mechanism for enabling the reading list. When it is up and running I look forward to you sharing your list of favorite design books.

  • Cat

    A reading list is a great idea!

    Re: letting the design unfold over time
    One of the things that struck me when I visited Frank Lloyd Wright’s house in Oak Park was how drastically he had changed it over the years…moving stairs and windows and walls. After living in a house for a while, even architects see things differently than they did in the original plan.

    It seems to me that this could be a real advantage in building cookie-cutter homes over and over again. If you could discuss the advantages/disadvantages of the plan with people after they’ve lived in it for a while and improve the design incrementally.

  • James Scott

    Cat- I agree with you on Oak Park. It left me with the feeling that the architecture had a continuing kinetic. I also felt that upon seeing this home and studio I was left with the understanding that changes may take place over both the short and long term. And that is ok.

    The first thing I did when I arrived home was to plant a Ginko Biloba.

  • John Brown


    I agree with you about the idea of incremental change. Our lives are constantly evolving as we go through the various stages of life and our needs, priorities, and desires for the place in which we live necessarily change as well. Making small incremental adjustments to our home is often a good way to ensure that it continues to best meet our needs. It is also much more environmentally sound than moving.

    A parallel design strategy is the idea of “long life – loose fit” which means starting with a flexible kind of design that can more easily accommodate these incremental changes.