“Looking good only counts if it does good, too.”

September 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm 2 comments

The title of this post is quoted from the website of community-oriented architecture firm David Baker + Partners, whose great video Better Living Through Density was shared by Baker during his presentation at Architecture for Change. One of my favorite moments (located at 2:04) is the comment that dense living requires less stuff but offers more opportunity for the individual and more benefits for the environment. The video also makes an especially strong argument for denser living by explaining the inverse relationship between population density and carbon footprint size (the serious charts start at 1:25).

I completely agree with Baker that density is a positive in urban environments, but I should admit that I really enjoy living in the densely populated city of New York, taking the subway daily, and being friends with my neighbors. As Richard Sciortino, the self-declared “developer in the room,” noted during his turn to play Devil’s advocate: “density requires demand.” And I know that not everyone, especially in America,  is as enchanted as Gary Chang at the idea of having only 344 square feet to themselves.

That said, Baker also pointed out that once you make something a standard, it generally gets cheaper to do, which can help previously undesirable construction options become more attractive. The cheaper-by-standardization model has certainly proved helpful in eco-friendly construction (see the 100K house for one of my favorite examples) and could probably be applied to denser models for living as well.

September 26’s daily design idea comes from an interview with Riken Yamamoto in anticipation of the upcoming book Total Housing: Alternatives to Urban Sprawl: “the system of ‘one family in one house’ is already collapsed”. Living spaciously may look nice, but the environmental and personal benefits of living smaller are becoming increasingly clear.

left photo of DB+P’s stunning and mostly affordable-unit g2 Lofts; right photo of Riken Yamamoto’s Shinonome Canal Court Block1, featured in the upcoming book Total Housing

This post is 5 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.

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“I’m known for this sort of quixotic behavior.” “We don’t build affordable housing. We build housing that is made affordable through subsidy.”

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. An architect of change. « Daily Design Idea  |  October 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    […] preservation or their own just-do-it approaches. Tons of designers are working on ways to create more responsible housing and reduce project costs (though they could always use more). And everyone seems so dedicated to […]

    Reply
  • 2. WTF is IEQ? « Daily Design Idea  |  November 4, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    […] that you guys will be joining me for the ride. First up is IEQ, first introduced to me through the Architecture for Change Summit this past […]

    Reply

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