The Architecture of Resistance

Many have made the case for resisting the policies, programs and plans of the recently elected president of the the United States. [1] As those trained and morally obliged to envision and advocate for a just, peaceful and equitable world, architects can play a vital role in the resistance.

If we choose resistance, we will work in every aspect of our personal, professional and public lives to push back against racism, misogyny, xenophobia and plutocracy and to push forward an agenda of inclusiveness, fairness and peaceableness.  Architects understand our common cause with humanity and especially the possibilities that sustainable development offers for all the earth’s people’s. Architects have a unique understanding of cultural history and a vision for the future that can the lead the way if we will but act.

The architecture of resistance can take many forms.  It would surely include exerting our influence and expertise to end homelessness, hunger and unemployment.  When more than a half million people are homeless [2], and more than forty million live in food insecure homes[3], American architects can make a big difference by envisioning communities where everyone has a secure place to live and enough good quality food to eat.  Re-building a native knowledge of building crafts and gardening arts would surely improve the lives and livelihoods of our neighbors.

To resist the factions and forces that would divide us, we can choose to design for people and planet before profit.  We can work to design communities where all people have independent and sustainable mobility, access to a full life while protecting the planet.  We can do this by creating beautiful garden cities that capture and restore water, generate energy from sun, soil and the sky and are adapted to the scale of the pedestrian and bicyclist.

Just as the AIA has pledged to create Carbon Neutral buildings by 2030[4], we can also to create a carbon neutral landscape.  This will require us to push back against big infrastructure projects that are being promoted by our president elect and by others in congress that only ingratiate the rich, and make cities poorer and less sustainable. [5]  Instead the Federal Government should provide block grants for green infrastructure projects that promise that make our cities and neighborhoods more walkable, bicycle friendly, and food secure by incorporating urban gardens and markets.

The architecture of resistance will work to establish a democratic process for creating community wide master plans and improving ecological design literacy of all of our citizens.  This will provide the seed bank of ideas and knowledge to overcome the momentum of transportation funding being spent by elected officials as a way of rewarding their corporate and capital cronies.

The architecture of resistance will come down to every architect taking responsibility for the place they live and taking the time to speak up for what is right.  It will require us to once again think about our work as a vocation, literally, a calling.  We are called by the Creator, the Creation, the earth, or however you think about the Universe, to do our part to, to make it better, as stewards, guardians, and in the age of Trump, the resistance.

 

[1] The Right Way to Resist Trump  By LUIGI ZINGALES NOV. 18, 2016  New York Times ,  5 Ways People Are Resisting President-Elect Trump – Rolling Stone  Nov 18, 2016.

[2] National Alliance to End Homelessness

[3] FeedingAmerica.org

[4] https://www.aia.org/resources/6616-the-2030-commitment

[5] http://www.strongtowns.org/infrastructure/

Colors for a Porch

7.14.2013   This past week we focused on the front porch, got some of the skirting built, painted and installed, as well as the porch floor.  All the upper trim is painted, as well as this cool ceiling. (talk to Joan about that!)   Had some help from a new helper Monty, who is a real go- getter.

We spent quite a bit of time on the porch columns, which hopefully we will be installing this week.

 

160 North Chestnut Street Ravenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We began the restoration of this magnificent Heritage structure in May.  We installed a garden using sandstone retaining stones, as well as planted some trees, in an existing limestone parking area.  We have removed most of the siding from the South side, and the lower portion of the east side.  We have also removed the porch posts and rebuilt the porch floor framing.  new flooring is on order and we are restoring the posts.  We hope to re-install the posts soon and then begin working on the upper level of the west gable, including restoring the magnificent gable end light.

It is clear from the undressed stone that there once was a stoop in this location.  There is a perfect cut out of the crown from the original door surround.   There must have been at least a transom window, and likely side lites to the door.  We have the original front door, that is 7-8″ tall, 39″ wide and full 2″ thick.  The plywood opening is 55″.

A visitor last week, Harold Anderson, said his aunt and uncle Stephens had a roll top desk in front of a window that is now the low entry door.  (his mothers sister Helen was his aunt)  Dr. Stephens sat in the big room in his broken down Macintosh chair, next to the fireplace, smoking cigars.  Mr, Anderson said he would help his uncle drive his Lincoln out of the garage on the way to Congress lake Country club.

This week Kim Plough stopped by.  She is 71 and said she worked as an assistant to Dr. Stephens in his office for 3 years.  She was 19 when she started.   She said Dr. Stephens was “all about the Congress Lake Country Club”, which is what Mr. Anderson told me.  He was a member, but only fished in the lake.

Tim Ong on the side stoop

July 9th

For the past two weeks we have been working on the West side of the building, primarily the porch.  We have the porch flooring primed, and yesterday got the final paint colors selected. Tim painted the west wall of the porch and I painted the ceiling.  With a little good weather we hope to get the high areas painted so we can install porch floor this week, and maybe some of the columns.

We continue to have a steady stream of visitors, yesterday it was John Mendiola, a retired Ravenna Barber.  We had one woman roll down her window on Poplar Lane and yell out something like, “is the house being restored?”, “i thought that they would tear it down.”  “gonna take a lot of time and money”…”I hope you do it right.”

  

It has rained a lot the last few weeks, so in-between we have been scraping the porch columns, and I have done a little bit of sash repair.  Much more to do of course.  Should have the building permit soon so we can begin to work on the interior modifications.

 

THE HUMAN-SCALED, POST-AUTOMOTIVE CITY

Since my earliest days I have been intrigued by the question: “will we ever take a rational approach to the role of the automobile in the city?”   If we do, will we ever find a way to design a city without automobiles?

Fortunately we know a lot about what the city of the future, the city without the automobile, will look like.  This is because the city of the future will look a lot like the streetcar cities of  the late 19th century, except without the horses, as they will be replaced by bicycles and other human powered vehicles.

The challenge of course is finding a way to re- design our cities, in every sense of the word design, that have for several generations been built around the spacial needs of the automobile, instead of humanity.

To some, this idea is preposterous.  20 years ago, inspired by the 2nd international conference on the auto-free city, I spent a few hours reconsidering what the late 19th century downtown of Kent, Ohio will look like in the post automotive era.  To some, including the mayor, this idea was not just provocative, it was absurd.  My response then, as it is now, was that the real absurdity is to put convenience of a few before the needs of many, and indeed the future prosperity of the planet and its people.  In the interim,  of-course,  we have learned that climate change, mostly created by the burning of fossil fuels,  requires us to make changes to the way we live, govern and do business.  The challenge of course is that our problem is not technological (as in designing more efficient vehicles), but as our former president, George W. Bush, a Texas oil man, was willing to admit …psychological and and sociological.  An addiction not to oil, as he said, but to auto-driven vagrancy. The changes therefore have to do mostly with our relationships to each other and the planet, to the way we use space,time and because those, energy, each being integral to the other.

We know how to create human-centered convivial places where people can live most of their lives within a few miles of their and upon the resource base of their home region.  Traditional societies around the world have done this, even in post industrial times.   Subsistence economies always do this, but the modern, globally integrated society, built on financially cheap but ecologically costly energy have long lost the geographical imperative of living at home in our regions.  The automobile, while manufactured within our region, has severed our tie to place and unsustainably  un-tethered us from our region. It has reduced the natural influence of geography by creating the illusion of speed, without factoring the time and resources invested in return for that speed.  As Ivan Illich famously pointed out in his seminal Energy and Equity, when the time and money of maintenance of the automobile and its infrastructure is examined, our net Miles Per Hour is actually no better than walking.  Unfortunately, it comes at a great social, ecological and economic cost.  Building walkable, and as a bridge to walkable, bicycle-friendly, communities, is our way to sustainable prosperity.

Part of our challenge of course is making a paradigm shift from the modern-industrial consumptive economy to an economy based on conservation, the preservation of the planet and its people.  We have so separated consumption from production that until that idea is over turned, we will further imperil our planet.

MORAL IMPERATIVES FOR HUMAN SCALED DESIGN

As an architect who happens to be a Christian, I consider it my solemn moral and dare I say,  sacred, duty to speak out in favor of the human-centered redesign of our settlements. Earlier I mentioned design, “in every sense of the word”, because the creation of the places we work, live, play and are buried are ” designed” not just by architects and urban designers, but by businesses, elected officials, energy companies, consumers, engineers, and the geographical settings that constrain development.  Indeed, the development and “design” of our communities and regions is driven more by investments in infrastructure and real estate than by the rational evaluation of the costs and benefits by architects, designers, urban and regional planners.

The question that I am asking now, and will pursue with a series of essays is,” can we design a sustainable future?”, and can we put the automobile in its place, in the dustbin of bad inventions.

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Hawksley