Monday, October 24, 2011

Buildings That Learn

This weekend, I read a book titled How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They Are Built, by Stewart Brand. Through the book, the author examines the relationship that buildings have to society through their evolution. The main idea is that buildings long outlast their first use, and in many cases their original owner/builder.

The book discusses the idea that a building's location on a site is the most important and influential component to erection of a structure. The author shows examples of the interior and exterior renovations and how buildings have evolved as their context has changed and how the needs of their owners has evolved.

This idea is central to the ideas we adopted with the adoption of our Form Based Code, here in Dover.We crafted a vision, through surveys and interaction with the public, about how the community viewed Dover's downtown, and then using the regulatory power of a zoning code, we developed that vision into text and ideas became policy.

The book was interesting and a bit bland, at the same time. It has impressive imagery and illustrations/floor plans, but would benefit from less text reinforcing that imagery. The text gets in the way. It is like over thinking the idea, and then somehow confusing the simplicity of creating long lasting and adaptable space with rigorous conformity.

What impresses me is that this idea of simplicity and adaptability was one that people could grasp. The community liked the idea that the historic buildings they appreciate downtown have qualities and characteristics they want to see in any new buildings that are constructed adjacent to them. People like that buildings have history and stories to tell. This is an appealing aspect to living and working within a community that has a long and involved history.

If you are interested in learning about how buildings evolve and adapt to the environment around them, let me know and we can discuss this more.

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