How Buildings Learn: Chapter 10 - Function Melts Form: Satisficing Home and Office

How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand is a really great read about the underlying processes that govern the evolution of buildings over time.

Too eager to please the moment, over-specificity crippled all future moments. It was the image of organic, not the reality. The credo "form follows functions" was a beautiful lie. Form froze function.

Houses evidently need more low-definition space for later expansion, and it's easier to add in than to add on.

Many a remodeling contract has to announce grimly higher costs upon discovering the product of previous do-it-yourselfers.

The trick is to remodel in such a way as to make later remodeling unnecessary or at least easy. Keep furniture mobile. Keep wiring plumbing, and ducts accessible.

[By] Far the greatest rate of change comes right at the beginning, as it does with everything that lives. Finishing is never finished.

You're right down to where the building most interfaces with the people who will be living in it, and they discover that some important things were left out, and some ideas that seemed so sensible on the plans aren't going to work. Last-minute revision - the most important stage of tuning a house - comes just when time and money are shortest. Aggravated compromise is the order of the day.

Inhabitation is a highly dynamic process, little studied.

The building and its occupants jointly are the new system.

Interior designers never satisfice. They are paid to optimize, to make perfect. Perfection is frustratingly temporary.

Paradoxically, habit is both the product of learning and the escape from learning. We learn in order not to learn. Habit is efficient; learning is messy and wasteful.

"Change is suffering" was the insight that founded Buddhism.

Once in place, the organization advances best by hordes of "small wins".

Chris Alexander: "At each level of scale, it is those actually using the space who understand best how it can be made/altered to have the character of being conducive to work. ... Therefore we suggest using materials and structural systems which invite change and allow changes to accumulate."

You cannot predict or control adaptivity. All you can do is make room for it - room at the bottom. Let the mistakes happen small and disposable. Adpativity is a fine-grained process.

"Wanderer", wrote a Spanish poet, "there is no path. You lay down a path in walking." [Antonio Machado]

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