How Buildings Learn: What Happens after They're Built

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Buildings have often been studied whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. Architects (and architectural historians) are interested only in a building's original intentions. Most are dismayed by what happens later, when a building develops its own life, responsive to the life within. To get the rest of the story - to explore the years between the dazzle of a new building and its eventual corpse - Stewart Brand went to facilities managers and real estate professionals, to ...
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Overview

Buildings have often been studied whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. Architects (and architectural historians) are interested only in a building's original intentions. Most are dismayed by what happens later, when a building develops its own life, responsive to the life within. To get the rest of the story - to explore the years between the dazzle of a new building and its eventual corpse - Stewart Brand went to facilities managers and real estate professionals, to preservationists and building historians, to photo archives and to futurists. He inquired, "What makes some buildings come to be loved?" He found that all buildings are forced to adapt, but only some adapt gracefully. How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis which proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time. A rich resource and point of departure, as stimulating for the general reader and home improvement hobbyist as for the building professional, the book is sure to generate ideas, provoke debate, and shake up habitual thinking. From the connected farmhouses of New England to I. M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth - this is a far-ranging survey of unexplored essential territory. More than any other human artifact, buildings improve with time - if they're allowed. How Buildings Learn shows how to work with time rather than against it.

Like people, buildings change with age, forced to adapt to the needs of current occupations. This provocative examination of buildings that have adapted well, and some that haven't, calls for a dramatic rethinking in the way new buildings are designed, one that allows structures to grow and change easily with the environment. Photos.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
All buildings are forced to adapt over time because of physical deterioration, changing surroundings and the life within--yet very few buildings adapt gracefully, according to Brand. Houses, he notes, respond to families' tastes, ideas, annoyance and growth; and institutional buildings change with expensive reluctance and delay; while commercial structures have to adapt quickly because of intense competitive pressures. Creator of The Whole Earth Catalog and founder of CoEvolution Quarterly (now Whole Earth Review ), Brand splices a conversational text with hundreds of extensively captioned photographs and drawings juxtaposing buildings that age well with those that age poorly. He buttresses his critique with insights gleaned from facilities managers, planners, preservationists, building historians and futurists. This informative, innovative handbook sets forth a strategy for constructing adaptive buildings that incorporates a conservationist approach to design, use of traditional materials, attention to local vernacular styles and budgeting to allow for continuous adjustment and maintenance. (June)
Booknews
Kind of like the theory that a literary text is never closed, but is temporarily appropriated in its reading and rereading, Brand, of Whole Earth Catalog fame, proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can grow from artists of space into artists of time. As a resource or just as a read, Brand shows how to work with time rather than against it. He provides loads of examples and loads of photographs and drawings. 11x8.75" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670835157
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 11.03 (w) x 8.77 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart Brand

Stewart Brand is the founder of The Whole Earth Catalog and Co-Evolution Quarterly. He is the author of The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT and How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built, and is the Director of the Global Business Network in Emeryville, California. He lives on a tugboat in San Francisco Bay.
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