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Earth, Wood, & Glass
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Date:2006-04-24 11:21

Off topic, but if you came here and liked what you saw, and if you know others with similiar interests, could you tell them about earthwoodglass?

I am currently trying to promote this community, but every little bit helps.

Thank you.

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Date:2010-05-24 10:54

Welcome to Earth, Wood, and Glass

This introductory post is a basic guide to the community, just to keep everybody on the same page, and to explain to the curious just what’s it’s about.

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Date:2006-04-24 08:31
Subject:Kitchen (pantry, dining room, laundry room)

Kitchen—food preparation, storage.

The kitchen is amazing room. In its essence, it is a place to prepare food for eating. But that statement weighs in with all the gravity of the role food and eating play in human culture.

Kitchens are semi-public. You can walk into someone else’s kitchen, but you know you don’t belong there. The arrangement of a kitchen is molded to the needs of the cook or cooks to whom it belongs.

A kitchen is a statement of the abilities, lifestyle, and philosophies of the cook. All social and psychological indicators of a person can be found at a glance in the kitchen if you know what to look for. Most people don’t, but there it is.

It also tells a lot about a family, about how communal the kitchen is and the relative importance of the food preparer in the family hierarchy. By its public nature, the kitchen is an arena for the cook to assert social dominance over others.

Thus the kitchen is seldom central to a house. Central areas are communal. But the kitchen seeks to be visual, to exert its hegemony and importance over its particular territory. Like Texas—it’s a border state, but it’s big and it wants everybody to know it’s there.

There are three rooms commonly associated with the kitchen: the laundry room, the pantry, and the dining room.

The dining room and pantry are attached by function, the laundry room by plumbing.

The pantry is the most directly related to the kitchen, and its purpose is purely storage. However, the pantry seldom comes under the hegemony of the cook/kitchen. Or at least not nearly to the same degree. This is because the pantry is filled from outside the kitchen by communal effort. Now if does the shopping and stocking, the pantry will likely be off-limits.

The dining room is where the household pays tribute to the kitchen and vice-versa. The successful interface between house and kitchen is a point of pride, and this is where it is developed and shown-off. The destruction of that dynamic usually ends up with people eating in the kitchen, living room, or other personal spaces. This is part of the significance of breakfast-in-bed.

The laundry has no direct causal connection to the kitchen. But it often ends up adjacent simply by plumbing. Our house is a classic example where the kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom are clustered together. This also has the classic result of putting the pantry in the laundry room.

As far as social spaces, the laundry room is an open social space that no one wants to enter, or look at. Another common placement of laundry rooms are in the equivalent of a closet. Are there secrets in laundry rooms? There is the euphemism of “airing one’s dirty laundry.” This is similar to the bathroom and its social ignored commonalities—getting things dirty, especially underwear. Because even women leave skid-marks.

Thus, there may be a more subversive point in placing the laundry room adjacent to the kitchen—reminding the “housewife” or “servant” of their place, lest the cook feel to self-important, to say “yes, the kitchen is yours, but so is the dirty underwear.”

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Date:2006-04-23 23:43
Subject:Walls III: interior walls

Interior walls have three important functions:

1.        Restriciton of movement
2.        Sensory insulation—mostly sight and sound
3.        Display of socially/psychologically important stuff.

As we can see, the modern stud-frame/drywall interior wall accomplishes all these things. It is solid and functionally unbreachable, blocks vision completely, and easily accommodates the hanging of pictures or shelves on its uniformly flat surface.

The result is, in essence, an invisible wall. We even spackle such walls, giving them just enough random meaningless texture to recede completely from our consciousness. In their own way, they become as invisible as the partitions of a yurt. Such walls are also thermally neutral. And finally, they are acoustically neutral, more or less eliminating echo while retaining resonance.

It’s subtle, like stage magic.

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Date:2006-04-23 23:42
Subject:Walls II: human things

Thus walls are, in a way, the most human parts of our buildings. They are a direct reflection of our vertical existence. Rabbits, naked mole-rats, and badgers dig round tunnels and spherical chambers because, not only are they more stable, but because they will never stand up and hit their head!

Humans are vertical creatures that move about on a horizontal plane, usually in linear directions, that occupy a proportionally small footprint. This tells you half of the story of human architecture. The other half rests on the fact that humans, when they rest, get horizontal.

But walls are not about resting, or being horizontal, which is why buildings solely about resting often do without them.

Walls are about the shaping and restriction of human movement and sensation. Exterior walls must, by location, be about maintaining the bubble, thus playing structural and insulating roles. But interior walls are social and psychological. This is reinforced by Shelter’s article on the traditional yurt. Even in a wall-less dwelling, there are still invisible social partitions dividing the yurt into “rooms.”

Walls explore the limits of the GOIA principle, especially INAY. Are walls simply the physical manifestation of an inherent psychological/social construct?

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Date:2006-04-23 23:41
Subject:Walls I: the bubble

I have been frustrated with the concept of walls. What are walls, and why?

Exterior walls are many things. They hold weather out and weather in. They are a buffer between the environment and ourselves. A poignant statement as I sit here being simultaneously roasted by the sun and chilled by the wind.

When we speak of shelter, we speak of the bubble we create separating us from the discomforts in our environment. What these discomforts may be are at once common to all humans, yet also vary widely depending on local conditions and individual tolerances.

That bubble of shelter is traditionally composed of walls, a roof, and a floor.

A floor, because a flat level surface is most comfortable to walk upon, and because the existing ground may harbor its own discomforts, like dampness, chill, bugs, etc.

A roof, to shade us from the sun and shelter us from precipitation. Also because the greatest transfer of heat energy happens vertically.

A roof joined to the floor—as in the classic A-frame tent or a dome—gives a complete bubble. It is simpler in construction, and somewhat more “natural.” Anthills and animal dens seldom have “walls.” Indeed, many primitive shelters do not have walls. And I think these are mostly structures which are more special purpose. I mean that people did not spend a majority of time in them. They slept there, stored food, etc., but by and large spent most of their time outdoors.

It seems contradictory, but walls give us space. A roof is, by definition, a horizontal covering. In order to meet the floor and still have space beneath for people, it must be domed, arched, slanted, gabled, etc. And it will always interfere with usable space where it meets the floor until it hits vertical—at which point, it is no longer “roof” and becomes wall.

To gain usable space, you can raise the roof on, say arches or pillars. But then you break your bubble. To seal that bubble requires walls.

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Date:2006-04-23 23:40
Subject:Living Room

Living Room

This is a complicated subject. “Living Room” is a common term, but it should be termed the “common room.” They are large general-purpose socially open areas.

If you look at residential architecture, from the tent to the mansion, they all begin with a common area. As we increase size and affluence, we see  the segregating of other areas by social restriction and specialization of function. In other words, you can judge the affluence of a house by the number of rooms that are not living rooms. Family rooms, entertainment rooms, studies, libraries, conservatories, chapels, even dining rooms—in the small low-cost home, all of these collapse into the living room.

In a small house, lacking specialized rooms, the living room becomes host to competing interests and activities, an area where family tensions and dynamics play themselves out. Conversely, it is also where family members go when they want to be with each other, enjoy each other’s company.

It is ironic, then, that there exist houses in which the “living room” is never used—a showpiece reserved for the rare visit by company that must be “impressed.” The family in such houses usually exist off in their own little worlds, rarely interacting.

More common in recent years are large new houses with large bare living rooms. Families move in, throw some box-store furniture, but do little to personalize the space. But how can you, when use of the living room mostly entails eating meals in front of the TV? When social activities all happen somewhere else?

To a certain extent, in America at least, the role of the living room as been supplanted by the deck/patio. Sort of “come to my house, but not in my house.” It’s a socially neutral exterior room, separate from the private lives of the family.

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Date:2006-04-23 23:36

Bathroom—grooming, bodily waste disposal, being sick.

(let us disregard the master bathroom for the moment)

The bathroom is simultaneously the most public and private room in the house. It’s where we accomplish our most intimate personal activities, barring lovemaking—though that happens there sometimes as well. At the same time, everyone uses it.

In western culture, this paradox has led to the development of the water-closet and the master bath. It is a conceit of affluence. But in most middle/lower-middle class houses, especially pre-1990s, there is one bathroom.

Here we find some decoration usually. And storage. Most everyone’s bathroom holds the same stuff—the necessities of grooming and medication/first aid (the bathroom is where you end up when sick  or hurt due to clean water, good lighting, and a toilet).

The bathroom is, more than anything, a statement about what all human beings share in common, but would rather we didn’t have to. Bathrooms rarely contain secrets we don’t all know already.

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Date:2006-04-23 23:35

Bedroom—sleeping, dressing, grooming, lovemaking, reading, napping. Storage, too.

The bedroom in western culture is a retreat. To say it is “personal” space is wrong though. Access is the most private level of public. There is no social convention barring a guest from entering an empty bedroom. It is not the space that is private but what we do there. The barriers against the outside world are more mental.

So, as important as doors, as social barriers, are barriers to sound and light. The bedroom is where we change our faces, and the master bath has evolved to support this. So we keep our clothes here, to change our costumes.

Keeping our bedroom clean, our bed made—to those for whom this important—is a statement of psychological order, of readiness. Conversely, a messy room may indicate a statement of privacy from those who consider their bedroom off-limits.

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Date:2006-04-23 23:34
Subject:Housing—living, playing.

We must eat and we must sleep.

We clothe ourselves.

We bathe and groom.

And we make love, and laugh, and cry.

We read and talk, tell stories.

Sometimes we even sing.

Maybe dance a bit.

What are we sheltering from? Heat and cold, wind and rain, yes. But also from people. Our exterior advertises, while the interior disguises. There is an idea of access and intimacy as well. How far will you be allowed into our lives?

Which goes back to—how public is a particular activity? Each room must meet a mechanical, psychological, and social need. Closets and cupboards meet a psychological need for security. This is also social—a guest shouldn’t see any more than they need to see.

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