The tendency to attribute symbolic meaning to acronyms we use in our daily life, made me think about the meaning behind the educational philosophy of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and the recent capitulation to add the letter A, for Arts, thus turning the STEM teaching system into STEAM. While a minor change in terms, the meaning could be profound.
A stem, according to the dictionary is “the ascending axis of a plant,” or the origin or cause of a thing. At least physically, a stem is always grounded in the earth. Whether a flower or tree, the stem reaches for the sun, while it roots itself in the soil. It is the support system and backbone, carrying the weight of branches, leaves and flowers. But it is immobile, it is stuck in place.
Steam, on the other hand, is an “invisible vapor into which water is converted when heated to the boiling point.” Steam is water which has become air born, free of the earth, it’s an ethereal mist, shape-shifting and mysterious. Steam, though immaterial, is also quite powerful! The industrial age was born of it.
So, the simple addition of an A to an educational acronym, as well as the simple act of adding Arts to the Science/Tech mix in teaching, if treated seriously, has the power to catapult the education system, and society at large into a new and powerful way of thinking about our future.
To rise above the already astonishing landscape we have built, to add other dimensions of depth and character, we need the wings of creativity and imagination. To grow beyond the industrial age that has grounded us in materiality, but also greed and waste, we need the wholeness and harmony that the arts contribute.
A balance of nature and culture, science and art, brawn and beauty is what allows us to be bold, build amazing things, yet also be introspective, and to add meaning, fun and beauty to the things we make.
“To grow beyond the industrial age that has grounded us in materiality…”
corinthian column symbolic of tree, projecting vertical strength and floral embellishment: truth, utility and beauty
by Steven Kellert
I tell people my greatest interest in architecture is when I can merge the inside and outside into a single flowing design. Building for Life does not go into length on this particular concept but supports it in general as a part of the love of nature continuum. He refers to this as Biophilia, a term coined by scientist E O Wilson that translates to “love of life.” The idea is that man is inherently attracted to nature, and is at a loss when nature is missing from his environment. This book explores ways of bringing nature back into our work places and personal surroundings. It provides scientific studies as proof of the need, and offers solutions that begin to remedy the problem by incorporating nature into architecture both directly and symbolically.
Kellert believes that it is especially important to expose children to nature, in whatever ways possible. Empathy and knowledge are really our best defense against environmental waste and destruction. I grew up spending a lot of time in the woods (my Dad was a forest ranger when he wasn’t teaching science), so his theory helped put my passion for nature into perspective. In nature we connect, we understand that we are not separate but part of a larger world.
He also points out that if we don’t build places we love—that are beautiful, light filled, well built and unique in character—we will never put in the extra energy needed to preserve them longterm. And tearing down a building that is only a couple decades old is the worst affront to the conservation ideals of sustainability I can imagine. I’ll be watching to see how the ‘biophilia’ movement grows and transforms, and hopefully adding to it in some small way.
What is Slow House?
A slow house cannot be a standardized, mass produced commodity. While any good design will attract our attention, and ignite our desire, it will also add true value to the neighborhood, and provide long-term benefits to the homeowner.
In describing the problem of poorly designed houses across North America, Slow Home Studio points out, “…like fast food. A fast house is a standardized, mass produced commodity that has been designed to attract our attention, ignite our desire, and give the illusion of value as much if not more than its been designed as a place to live. This lack of attention to the fundamentals of good design makes a fast house difficult to live in and hard on the environment.”
They go on to describe their findings from their survey of design quality of over 4600 new residential properties in nine North American cities, they discovered 57% were badly designed fast houses. Even more unsettling was their finding that in the single-family house category 78% would be considered fast houses.
The slow home attempts to break the “fast house” habit by offering equally compelling but different standards for the homeowner to use in making future housing decisions.
“We believe that homes are too emotionally significant, have too large an environmental footprint, and represent too significant a financial investment for this kind of institutionalized bad design to continue unchecked. A Slow Home is the antithesis of this too-fast mindset.”
folding exterior doors offer many options for creating connections between inside and outside spaces, family room to sunporch or screened porch, kitchen to deck, master bedroom to private terrace…
several readily available options are now on the market, the first company to provide residential folding doors was Nanawall:
nanawall was one of the first companies to offer folding partition doors, and still has one of the finer products…