Soulless Buildings — 10 Comments

  1. Soulless indeed, Owen. Someday in the future our descendants may look back to this time as a technically advanced Dark Age, and the first thing they’ll notice is the soulless architecture, like jagged spikes thrust coldly into the sky.
    We’ve all lived in these life-draining kinds of structures all our lives. Time to change.

  2. I also agree with you Owen, and that is not just because I developed an EarthBag system myself. In fact, the very reason for developing this system was to address some of the seemingly insoluble social issues we face here in South Africa with a ‘triple bottom line’ sustainable solution (environmental, social, economic)

    We all desperately and urgently need to find answers to our global problems that do not further hasten the destruction of earth’s ecosystems – but these solutions need also to provide social benefits such as employment together with a sense of community and self esteem, as well as being financially viable.

    We have a history in this country (both during the apartheid era and since democracy in 1994) of churned-out, substandard, uninsulated, soulless cinder block houses built by dishonest and shoddy contractors. Few local community jobs are created, the budget available annually builds only a fraction of the number needed, asthma, TB and other illnesses are greatly exacerbated (condensation and mould), and there is little sense of pride gained from a ‘handout’ house.

    Interestingly, there are many cases of someone being given a house, which they then rent out and move back to live in a shack. Being unemployed, they otherwise cannot afford to pay even the minimum rent or maintain their new home. People need jobs before they need handout box homes.

    And many shacks I have seen are castles created with pride by the owner, true family homes that are far more liveable than the ‘boxes’.

    Stable, successful communities are never created through this approach to housing.

    If we have only a ruined environment and no true community in which to live, and have no income or self esteem, then what do we have?

    Earthbag building is at least part of the solution, rather than being part of the problem.

    • Top notch, Johnny. This looks like another blog post. I’d really appreciate it if you’d post this at the $300 house competition site. This is powerful stuff.

  3. Hi Owen, I totally agree with all this and was trying to vote for your designs several times – somehow it does not let me sign up… is there maybe a technical glitch (the reason why not many people have voted maybe)???

  4. Absolutely. I live in a city bursting with concrete box prison-like structures and I just can’t fathom why we would want to be pursuing ways to make more of those, cheaper. Heart and soul should be part of every home, but it goes beyond the physical walls to the community that surrounds that home. Do we want to mass-produce cookie-cutter boxes in the “first world” to then air lift and drop them into the slums of the “third world”, continuing and deepening a sick abusive relationship that already exists between the two, and likely further abusing the environment as well? Or do we want to encourage the use of indigenous materials and – as important – owner-builder skills combined with community cooperation and participation that will allow poor people to self-realize, instead of constantly relying on multi-nationals (as generous as they’ve always proven to be -ha) for hand-outs? Earthbag building, from what I can see, is a viable possibility for almost any poor community in the world. And it makes houses that can be personal and beautiful, each one an expression of its creators. And it does all that with minimal impact on the environment. How could any Ikea-like house in a box compete with that?

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