How to Build a Home That Lasts a Thousand Years
How to Build a Home That Lasts a Thousand Years

How to Build a Home That Lasts a Thousand Years

Sir Roger Scruton famously said “Put usefulness first, and you lose it. Put beauty first, and what you do will be useful forever. It turns out, nothing is more useful than the useless.” (View Highlight)

Of course we know beauty when we see it, even if we can't scientifically define it or capture it (but neither can we capture or define time). We can measure its effect on our nervous systems, we can measure it in our blood and hormones, and what is more, when we subject others to the very same beauty that changed us, they too demonstrate these measurable effects. Beauty is objective and its effects are broadly similar and consistent across cultures and across millennia. (View Highlight)

We must be able to assume that the materials we build with will still be around in a millennia from now, and that limits our choices to the traditional building materials either raw or subjected to basic elemental action (air earth fire water): soil (from which we get straw, adobe, bricks, clay etc.), wood (which is a both a material and a source of energy), stone (granite, sandstone, limestone from which we also get lime mortar). (View Highlight)

The first rule also includes locality. The materials used should be available locally. The closer to the building site the better. (View Highlight)

it is no use to build in a way that your descendants will have no way of learning for themselves, with a technique that can't be handed down. (View Highlight)

The world of architecture and engineering is full of “we don't really know how they built this” or “we would have to reinvent this technology.” (View Highlight)

A building that can successfully answer to our most basic needs will be forever relevant. Because human nature is essential and does not change. We will always need protection from the elements and places that are meaningful to us, that nourish our bodies as well as our culture and roots. (View Highlight)

A building that can’t shelter or nourish (sustain) us will likely fall out of fashion as generations pass and sooner or later maintenance will be ignored and one day the whole thing has come down. (View Highlight)

But how do we know if our choices conform to these rules or break them? The easiest is simply to look back and see what we did a thousand years before. If the essence or the very form a building survives to this day, it is likely that anything built in its manner will still be around a thousand years from now. (View Highlight)

Or in other words, traditional buildings and materials last not only because they are proven to possess beauty but also because they are answers to the unchanging needs of human nature (View Highlight)

From a purely practical perspective tradition in building is also telling us how to avoid entropy and calamity: Build on the highest point of the land to protect you from flooding. Build your roof with the acutest angle possible considering your materials, to better survive the many centuries of rain. (View Highlight)

And the funny thing is, if we build true to those three rule, we are very unlikely to build anything ugly. To build ugly it takes a lot more sophistication, a lot more ideology. (View Highlight)

Naturally I am not saying that we should always build everything with an eye for 100 generations (even the temporary or the disposable can have its place), but it seems wasteful to always build with materials destined for the landfill after less than one generation, like we do now. (View Highlight)