How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built Paperback – Oct 1 1995
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From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
Brand founder of The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly, launches a populist attack on rarefied architectural conventions. A hippy elder statesman (once one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters), Brand argues that a building can ``grow'' and should be treated as a ``Darwinian mechanism,'' something that adapts over time to meet certain changing needs. His humanistic insights grew out of a university seminar he taught in 1988. Catchy anti- establishment phrases abound: ``Function reforms form, perpetually,'' or ``Form follows funding.'' Thomas Jefferson, a ``high road'' builder, is shown to have tinkered his Monticello into a masterpiece over a lifetime. Commercial structures, Brand says, are ``forever metamorphic,'' as a garage-turned-boutique demonstrates. Photo spreads with smart and chatty captions trace the evolutions of buildings as they adopt new ``skins.'' Pointedly, architects Sir Richard Rogers (designer of the Pompidou Centre in Paris) and I.M. Pei (the Wiesner Building, aka the Media Lab at MIT) are taken to task for designing monumental flops that deny occupants' needs. Later sections track the social meanings of preservationism and celebrate vernacular traditions worldwide (e.g., the Malay house of Malaysia; pueblo architecture; the 18th- century Cape Cod House). Brand also documents his own unique habitats. He lives with his wife in a converted tugboat and houses his library in a metal self-storage container. Here, as throughout, Brand's self-reliant voice rings true--that of an engaging, intellectual crank. Brand makes a case for letting people shape their own environments. His crunchy-granola insights bristle with an undeniable pragmatism. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Proposing six shear levels within a building based on their ability to temporally adapt, How Buildings Learn uses Site, Structure, Skin, Services, Space, and Stuff as a highly successful outline in delivering its message (p. 13). One source attributes this paradigm to that developed by British architect and historian F. Duffy's "Four S's" of capital investment in buildings. The site is eternal, yet often ignored by architects. The structure is most permanent defining the form and lasting 30 to 300 years.Read more ›
rarely addressed topic. By well put together I mean that it is not only well
written, but well illustrated. The photographs are excellent and help explain
the topic under discussion.
The book is about how buildings change over time. Brand shows numerous
examples of how different buildings have changed with use. More important he
explains what makes a building that can improve and adapt to new uses as it
ages. This is important for architecture since builds often last longer than the
people who design and build them. At some point they may be put to uses that
were never anticipated when they were built.
The author, who is an architect, is highly critical of how his colleges
design buildings. Most buildings are designed without any thought for the
occupants. Nor is any thought given to the uses the building will be put to in
the future. Few buildings are designed so they can adapt to unanticipated uses.
In brands opinion the more impressive the design of the building the less useful
it will be to it's occupants.
Brand offers advise and examples on how to make a building that will last
and be used and loved by its occupants for a long time. These rules are fairly
simple. Several good examples are included. This is the most important part of
I read this book about architecture even though I am not an architect and
have no particular interest in the subject. This book was worth while because of
the ideas for how to design something complex and long lived so that it will
remain useful. This can be applied to software engineering just as well as
architecture. I do not know of any better discussion of the subject.
This perfectly captures the central thesis of _How Buildings Learn_: Once built, buildings do and must _change_ to fit the changing needs of their inhabitants. The interiors may be remodeled, roofs raised, additions made, plumbing and wiring added, rerouted or remodeled, & etc. Single-family brownstones become apartment buildings, homely warehouses may become lofts for artists and high-tech startups, and mansions may be turned into museums.
Good buildings can be changed gracefully; bad ones resist change. Brand shows us many examples of each. In many cases, "vernacular" architecture -- rather plain structures that wouldn't earn a place in an architect's resume -- prove the most suited to change. Brand reserves considerable fury for prestiege projects that seem more to serve the architect's ego than the inhabitants' practical use.
I'm not an architect, student of architecture, or what-have-you, so I don't know how this book ranks with other critiques of architecture. I can say that I found it immenseley informative, persuasive, and readable.
Addressing the building layers (site, structure, skin, services, space plan and "stuff") through a logical sequence of chapters, to get the most out of this book deserves a thorough read rather than a surface glance. The deeply referenced & illustrated, entertaining chapters span:
Flow- introduction and the time dimension; Shearing Layers- of the different rates of change in buildings; "Nobody Cares What You Do In There": The Low Road- easy adaptation in cheap buildings; Houseproud: The High Road- refined adaptation in long-lasting sustained-purpose buildings; Magazine Architecture: No Road- where tenants needs ignored for photo-aesthetics; Unreal estate- and markets sever continuity in buildings; Preservation: A Quiet, Popularist, Conservative, Victorious Revolution- to address incontinuity and frustrate innovators; The Romance of Maintenance- and preservation; Vernacular: How Buildings Learn from Each Other- and respect for design wisdom of older buildings; Function Melts Form: Satisficing Home and Office; The Scenario-buffered Building; and Built for Change- imagining buildings inviting adaption.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book was actually recommended to me by a computer science teacher. Read it as the architecture of a computer system (the site), the hardware (the structure), the software and... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Robyn S Kendall
After reading this book in its entirety I have frequently returned to revisit chapters. A well researched book. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2013 by M. Yeo
Recommended by John Brown of Housebrand. Generally liked it, great perspective on function in design. Read morePublished on Aug. 25 2013 by Robert Kelly
The best part of this book is its historical photos, a history of our society told by its buildings. Read morePublished on Oct. 5 2003 by misterbeets
When I started reading the book I felt myself in agreement with much of what Brand has to say. Eventually I began to have nagging doubts which eventually crystallized. Read morePublished on June 11 2002 by Justus Pendleton
the point made by the author is a very good one: we all have to look at the way buildings were once built and integrate the intrinsic knowledge into what we architects are doing... Read morePublished on Dec 9 2001 by J. A. Hoedemaker
Very entertaining and informative, without being worthy. It's true, replace the word "building" with "web site" or "software" or any other systemic... Read morePublished on June 27 2001 by Mr. R. Horberry
I'm always fascinated with how seemingly impersonal forces effect changes over time. This book is about exactly that: Although people are responsible for changes to a building,... Read morePublished on Aug. 13 2000 by Michael Rawdon