Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Comprehensive Cornerstone of Hillside Housing

Checking in at the ROO

By John Taylor; 2009 Nov 09, Qudrat 06, 166 BE

(this is a revised version of an essay called ROYOBB originally posted to the Badi' Blog on July 31, 2006)

Black Boxes in the UCS

Hillside housing, the architecture of the UCS, is inspired the Black Box, one of the best-known "livingry" -- as opposed to weaponry -- proposals made by Buckminster Fuller. Fuller envisioned a wholly mobile future where, instead of permanent, grounded dwellings, people would live in portable manufactured living units built of materials strong and light enough to be carried about to new locations by blimps or helicopters. These modular units, built to exacting, standard dimensions, would have at their heart a rented "Black Box" capable of producing everything necessary for survival, including energy, food and air.

A spin-off of the space program, the Black Box would also recycle water and other wastes, thus reducing what we now call the ecological footprint of dwellings virtually to nil. Once these high-technology Black Boxes are miniaturized and mass produced, economies of scale would reduce their cost to a point where having one in one's house could be declared a basic human right. Because they are so efficient, this might be considered the first human right that is simultaneously an environmental right.

Buckminster Fuller, like H.G. Wells, saw the home of the future as an independent, low-density, freehold structure, which we know now causes sprawl and social isolation. Hillside Housing in a UCS is a determinedly high-density, full service facility. The difference, therefore, between Fuller's mobile dwelling units and those in a Comenian development is that many functions of Black Boxes are intentionally offloaded to the household and neighbourhood levels. Instead of an entire home, then, the mobile dwelling module in the UCS consists only of a bedroom, bathroom, a small personal living space, and a study.

The functions of a laundry room, living room and kitchen are all performed either in the household compound or by specialist companies in the neighbourhood. At the same time, other specialized functions that are centralized now, are taken on at the most local level possible. For example, Comenius envisaged a small school, church and government being incorporated into every household. That way basic schooling, worship and consultation take place not only close to home, but actually in the home.

The UCS household, then, consists of a compound of several mobile bedroom units surrounding a common dining and living area. Since this is an agronomy, plants are everywhere, and a small kitchen and nursery garden are also part of every household. As for residency, it is a possibility, though hardly encouraged, for individuals to avoid household living and dwell alone in a small apartment. As a result, the institution of the household must compete for members not only with other households but also with no household at all.

Each personal dwelling module is the size of a standard shipping container, though parts of it may be detached and placed in various locations in the household at the user's convenience. What remains of the Black Box, then, after all these tasks have been offloaded? Basically it has a bed in a small bedroom, a shower and toilet, and maybe a small reception area. But its most important and technically advanced room is the study, which I call the "Room of One's Own," or ROO.

Virginia Wolfe in a famous lecture advised girls who aspire to becoming writers to somehow reserve a room in their house, a private space devoted to their career alone. A ROO should not be restricted to writing, however. This minimal space, it seems to me, is an essential for every creative person. No painter, for instance, can function without a studio, or an inventor without a workshop. Each and every worker in this information age must be a creative worker, and therefore have a personal, private space in which to seek refuge, even if it is compact. Everyone, no matter what their calling, would benefit from a small study in which to contemplate and communicate, if not carry on their entire daily work.

There is no such thing as a worker's constitution today, but there would be in a UCS. This constitution should declare this study a universal worker's right and obligation, every bit as sacred as physical rights like food, clothing, shelter, and rights of the soul, like freedom, dignity and equality.

Of course in order to use it well, a ROO would have to be introduced from our earliest years. The ROO could start as a play area next to a baby's crib. From there it would grow and evolve throughout life. The design of a child's ROO would be under the oversight of parents and teachers. Their power might fade into influence, perhaps reducing only to a veto during adolescence. Other influences might come from friends and faith groups. In early youth the room expands and develop into an open-standard educational space partly designed and controlled by teachers, partly by parents, partly by the creative urges of the child itself.

As a child grows into adolescence, the use of this station would fade from play into the experimentation of a student, and finally flower into a productive worker's studio. Thus, as we have seen, partial regulation of this semi-independent unit gradually passes from parents and teachers to one's chosen trade or professional body.

Although it is a private space, the design of an adult's ROO would still be carefully regulated and to some extent run by one's trade or profession. In a real sense, then, it is a Black Box, a mass-produced technological device connecting each worker with all other members of his or her specialty in a communally designed workspace.

The ROO is also a tool for easing the transition between employment and unemployment. Instead of a total dichotomy, as now, between working and out of work, the ROO system encourages workers to move through a gradation by moving their workspace around. It may be located entirely in the office or company where one works --in which case the ROO will be devoted to a serious hobby, sport or pastime (studies of Nobel Prize winners found that most of these highly creative discoverers are highly competent in a second area, apart from their speciality. This avocation is often related to music.) At another, creative or introspective stage in one's career, the ROO would move into a neighbourhood cooperative workshop, or into a garage or so-called "man space" within the household itself. At another time of cocooning or retirement, the ROO would be fitted back into its original location, next to the bedroom in one's mobile living unit.

The design of a ROO is so important that it would be a central concern of an entire new profession, the dialectician. This we will get into next time.


No comments: