the blog posts

good book recommendations from bldgblog

Currently being foiled in my attempt to tweet this book list put together by Geoff Manaugh over at BLDGBLOG, so here it is!

Books Received is the column. And, in the words of Manaugh himself, "Somewhere, despite the weather here, it's spring. If you're like me, that means you're looking for something new to read. Here is a selection of books that have crossed my desk over the past few months - though, as always, I have not read every book listed here. I have, however, included only books that have caught my eye or seem particularly well-fit for BLDGBLOG readers due to their focus on questions of landscape, design, architecture, urbanism, and more."

Don't forget to look out Manaugh's new book too, A Burglar's Guide to the City. The only book I have ever pre-ordered on Amazon (breaking my self-imposed rule of ordering from my local bookstore). While it is a book about crime, policing and the built environment, I don't think Manaugh is intending to provide lessons on how to steal. Nonetheless, I'm guessing you'll know much more about the execution of a heist by the time you've finished reading, and you won't look at buildings in quite the same way either. Colour me intrigued...

For a sneak peek, check out Manaugh's piece for New York Times Magazine.

simplicity trumps grandeur

It is truly fascinating to see how other countries develop whatever it is they develop: hotels, residences, parks, warehouses, breweries, and so on. It is particularly intriguing when the architect achieves the total package for the owner  but in a fairly compact space. It seems to me that in Bermuda we lean towards a grandeur that, perhaps, is not always necessary.

all images - lucia degonda

I was reminded of this when viewing the Ustria Steila, a restaurant and hotel development in Siat, Switzerland. It is a three storey building with a 'tasting room' (pantry?) in the basement, restaurant and kitchen on the ground floor and three bed chambers on the top floor (OK, so, a very small hotel). 

Designed by Swiss architect Gion A. Caminada, it fits snugly on the hillside in Siat, overlooking Ilanz, the first city on the Rhine River. It is reflective of the architectural style of the village, in terms of height, scale and siting.  The retaining walls you usually see in Bermuda are not so much in evidence here. At least, where a wall is necessary, it serves the dual purpose of providing an outdoor dining terrace for the restaurant as well. Caminada's objective is to ensure this new building fits into the village community, and it seems a success to me.

Now clearly Swiss style is not Bermuda style, however, there is a simplicity here to which we might give more consideration.

Learn about Caminada's design philosophy in the 2014 Dezeen article, "New exhibition showcases the work of Swiss architect Gion A Caminada".

we need more earth

Earth Overshoot Day. Heard of it? I hadn't. Not until very recently. It is the day when, according to the Global Footprint Network, "humanity's annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year." 

This year, Earth Overshoot Day was 13 August. In 2000, it was during the month of October. It is a record you don't want to continue to break but, notwithstanding the Rio Earth Summit and the "sustainable development" vocabulary that is part of everyday life now, apparently we will. 

source: global footprint network

source: global footprint network

The impact of this ecological overspend, as the Global Footprint Network terms it, is evident to anyone paying attention. Drought. Water shortages. Deforestation. Extreme weather events. As you can guess, humanity's carbon footprint is a significant part of the problem. The irreverent conclusion, therefore, is that we need more earth. China needs 2.7 Chinas. Japan needs 5.5 Japans. Greece needs 2.6 Greeces (as if the country didn't have enough problems already). In fact, we need 1.6 earths to support current collective ecological consumption. 

Where is Bermuda in this mix? I would imagine somewhere worse than Japan. Our ecological consumption is going to be higher than our domestic biocapacity - and I make that statement boldly without checking any facts or figures since we import just about everything, and consume much in the way of fossil fuels in the process.

Is change possible? Yes it is. If we, the 'global we' that is, can reduce our carbon emissions 30% by 2030, which is what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report recommends (see previous blog post), we can push Earth Overshoot Day back to 16 September (Global Footprint Network press release).

While that's not balanced, it's better. We need better because there is no more earth.