Week of May 31, 2009

Environment | Art | Research | Technology – eart n° zero 2009

  • Meg

    I’m looking forward to the new segments, particularly room by room.

    I’m going to be away for a couple of weeks with limited internet access so I’ll miss the first front entry segment. I wanted to copy you in on some email correspondence that I’ve been having with design psychologist Susan Painter which talks a bit about how I’m interested in using analysis techniques from IT projects and applying it to architecture and interior design. This particular paragrah talks about entry (although not exhuastively).

    “My particular area of interest is how the functional aspects of a home impact people from a psychological perspective. The question I am asking is ‘What is the psychological impact of the functional success or failure of homes?’ I’m wondering if some of the ideas that apply in software design might be relevant in the architecture and interior design world. As I’ve said, the idea of patterns brought to us by Alexander was adopted by the IT sphere. Perhaps some of the requirements gathering methodologies that focus on functional perspectives (eg use cases and task analysis) used widely in the IT arena might be relevent to architecture and interior design. This would mean that the design of a home would be derived from a study of single interactions with the home rather than designing in terms of broad requirements (eg we want a cloakroom).

    If we elaborate on the cloakroom example, a use case or task analysis would analyse all the small actions which go into entering the house and taking off outdoor clothing and putting down bags etc. This analysis might reveal that everyone in the family is right handed therefore the front door should be hung by the left side to allow easy unlocking and entry with a few bags of shopping. The best position for the cloakroom would be close to the door on the right hand side, as should any shelves upon which to place keys and mail. Opening the front door in the dark should automatically switch on a low brightness light to make entry easier. The light of the cloakroom should come on automatically so a spare hand isn’t required. I think it would enable an architect/designer to think in a really detailed way about how the home will be used and design a home that’s a joy to live in.”

    Susan’s reply was…
    “Your cloakroom analysis is a good example of taking the ‘programming’ phase in a very detailed direction. Most times, this level of analysis is reserved for a larger component of a project, such as the kitchen, and of course there are kitchen designers that focus on how every inch of the space is to be used because the kitchen is such a function-intensive room. Often, architects and designers can’t spend this amount of time on every space because the clients don’t want to pay the fees for such detailed analysis, which can be very labor-intensive.”

    So I’m trying to develop / learn about methods where this level of analysis could either be done by the clients themselves or applied by the architect without requiring a great deal of extra work.

  • Belle, Toronto

    I found this analysis very interesting. When I look at my own house, we are all right handed and the door is hung on the left side. However, the hall closet is also on the left. Had it been on the right it would make for an easier entrance. Also had the house been designed this way, the front door would have been moved over a few feet and it would position the door in the centre and look better from the outside!

  • Louis Pereira

    Meg – Thanks for bringing up the relevant aspects of pattern into the discussion. By ‘Alexander’, i presume you were referring to Christopher Alexander, author of “The Pattern Language”. I am aquainted with a couple who operate a systems analysis firm and they also adhere to the same principles espoused by Alexander.

    To suggest that it ‘might be relevent to architecture and interior design’, (with all due respect) is stating the obvious. In fact, The Pattern Language was written primarily for this purpose and any group of people, to create beautiful, functional, meaningful places. I urge anyone following Slow Home to include this on their ‘recommended reading’ list. In fact i would suggest to John to include in some area of the Slow Home website, this type of list.

  • Paul C

    Excited about the new lineup, always good to shake things up a bit and I am looking forward to the new challenges. Great suggestion Louis re: “recommended reading” link

  • Terri

    I am also very interested in the new exercises, particularly Room by Room where the kind of analysis Meg talks about will come into play more. A reading list is also an excellent suggestion. Maybe eventually we could have links to our own critiques of such books or articles? (I say this as a writer and editor.) Now, I’m off to check out the eart link…

  • James Scott

    A terrific article. After a few months of participation on The Slow Home site, reading John’s interview today left me with a real sense of empowerment. My testament to the great work John, his team, everyone in fact, has put into this project.

    Kudos to John, but to all of you, for helping John make this site the success it has become. The reading list is one great example.


  • Terri

    I second James’s sentiments ^. Yes, kudos to you, John, for getting out the word for the Slow Home website and for maintaining it with so much energy. The eart online journal’s publishing mandate (stated on page 4) indicates that it is the perfect forum for your interview. I wish I could have read more of the other articles too.

    Looking forward to more from The Slow Home!

  • John Brown

    I think a reading list is a great idea. I am also particularly excited because it is the first initiative to have emerged from the slow home community. This is a big step forward for the site. Let me think about it for a couple of days and talk to my webmaster and we will come up with some ideas.

    On that note I also want to take this opportunity to add my “kudos” back to all of you regular contributors. Your participation is critical to the ongoing success of slow home. I deeply respect your daily commitment to the site. There are a growing number of people around the world that follow the exercises everyday. Your enthusiastic responses to the projects and your insightful and supportive comments about each others work have become an essential part of the educational process we are trying to create.

    Together we are building a movement that, I believe, has the potential to become a strong voice of change in the residential industry.

    Thank you

  • John Brown

    Thank you for sharing the excerpt of your conversation. It is quite fascinating.

    One of the challenges I continually face in my own work is how to balance a strong desire to particularize a design project to a specific family or person against a more generalized agenda of “long life – loose fit” that tries to keep a given project open ended so that it can adapt to a variety of people, needs, and times.

    Buildings should fit the lives of the people who live in them but buildings also last longer than their inhabitants.

    I have a friend who lives in a canal house in Amsterdam that is over 500 years old. They were removing wallpaper one day in one of the main rooms but stopped when they got to a layer of oil paintings. That house is amazing, vital, and vibrant and has seen innumerable lives pass through its doors. The rooms are great places to be but they are also so open ended that you can basically decide which one is going to be for living and which one for sleeping.

    I think that good design needs to address both the particular and the general.

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