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Posted On April 7, 2022
I have lately come across some interesting pieces of writing that claim to help us architects understand how to achieve ‘sustainability’ in our architectural designs. Something that is ‘sustainable’ we are told, creates the smallest waste stream, conserves and recycles resources, is not powered by fossil fuels, is made of renewable resources, and is acquired from a source as close to the Sustainable Building site as possible. But isn’t something missing here? If an inanimate object earns the right in a political jurisdiction to be called ‘Sustainable’ then how, when the time comes for concrete acts of maintenance and repair, IS it cared for? Does ‘being sustainable’ mean that a thing will be sustained automatically? By itself? What if the patterns of use it creates in its inhabitants create indifference to it because it fails to function, because it fails to be Beautiful?
The whole green movement craze to jump on the bandwagon of ‘Green Design’, ‘Sustainable Architecture’, ‘Sustainable Design’, and to follow prescribed steps to achieve ‘sustainability’ begs the Question. How is this so?
A building might be constructed of materials and powered by forms of energy certified ‘sustainable’ by the governing Political Authority. But what if the users of the building produced so experience it as an alien presence, an ugly, unwanted thing, an imposition, a bad neighbor, an intrusion? What will sustain what people want to be rid of? What will sustain what people experience as Ugly?
To ‘sustain’ is to ‘care for’. To ‘sustain’ is to ‘maintain’. Look at the soul killing precast apartment blocks at Paks, Hungary (p 25 of Jeffry Cook’s book, ‘Seeking Structure in Nature ‘ about Hungarian Organic Architecture ), constructed and experienced by their inhabitants as symbols of the inevitability of the Soviet Union’s eventual victory over the West. Who is there to patch the aged, dirty monoliths as their exposed concrete frames spall off in freeze thaw event after freeze thaw event down to bare rusty rebar? Who is there to champion what the building’s users experience as a symbol of Soviet iron fisted oppression?
Cook shows how Hungarian architects made these objects endurable to the Hungarian soul. The naked constructivist monoliths were altered by pasting two dimensional ornaments over the “Pure” International Style Forms. The oppressed hijacked the hated symbol, and covered it with a counter symbol to free what was being suppressed – the lack of Liberty in pre 1989 Soviet dominated Hungary. The pasted on ornament obliterates the original symbol’s power to convey the metaphoric lie that the Oppressor Soviet State is strong, just, right, and is a beautiful polity and social system. It carries the Hungarian Mind to an idealzed past and the promise of a perfected future by its designed deference to formal symbolic archetypes which exist and existed both in space and time and in the Hungarian soul. Such ornament awakens trodden down Hungarian souls that NOTHING can wipe history clean of her goodness, if her heroes would only listen to the messages the architectural symbols are the voices TO. THC edible packaging Hungary grows through the cracks of what was thought to be impermeable Soviet concrete and nothing can stop her relentless growth…her finest and tenderest roots patiently invade and spall off the hardest exterior material to show that the physical reality the symbol represents has no inward core of LOVE to sustain it!! She exposes its fraud, because at its core core it is only whitewashed over UGLINESS that can only be imposed by force ON a formerly free people.
The Poured Concrete Apartment Monoliths, once New Symbols of the Certain Eventual Victory of Communism over the West, bulldozed their conquered subjects’ land free of lovely Hungarian Architecture. Every victor civilization destroys the arts of her victims. What reminds the defeated of what they LOVE about who they were, and who their fathers and mothers told them they are and will be? What?
Could the reminder be the appearance of wispy pine roadside rest structures, shelters, sheds, too humble to be called Architecture, that are almost literal interpretations of Brunhilda’s Helmet, that sheltered picnicing families? Could it be the appearance of simple sheds that evoke feelings as overpowering as in those struck with wonder when they see Fay Jones’ Thorncrown Chapels, built entirely of two by four framing lumber, exquisitely constructed to evoke the very same thing as a European Cathedral bathed in the jewelled light coming through its soaring stained glass windows? From experiencing these wonders of the World, is it not a fact that the God worshiped here is Preeminent and Supreme, and is only in His mercy delaying appearing as the Conquering King of the Universe? This is architectural grass growing stronger than tempered steel in the cracks of what once was thought to be the utterly impermeable concrete of Hungary’s domination. How can the oppressors possibly pull out these nasty weeds and save themselves? They lose faith. They see ugliness and by speaking its name, become able to free themselves from it.
These elegant sheds and structures Mr. Cook records are intentional Metaphors for a Story every Hungarian shared deep inside, and when these little buildings appeared and were discovered by the district’s Apparatchiks, they understood the gravity of what was growing under them…the Beauty they thought they had rooted OUT of Hungarian soil and Hungarian soul. The ugliness they had imposed could not be sustained, because eventually the authors of this ugliness packed their bags to return from Hungary to Mother Russia to cast it off and demand their own freedom. THC cereal bags Were there any Russian Patriots in this return who gently carried back to Russian memory any Beauty that the Stalinist Soviet System thought it had wiped from existence? Pray that there were.
These wooden constructions are beloved things that actually evoke in the people who love them an irresistible motivation to make them live beyond a human generation because of the story they embody to twenty, forty and to more and more human generations. So strong do they evoke the message of the goodness of what it is to be Hungarian, they are like Japanese Temples that are carefully taken apart and renovated back to original condition every couple of generations, rotted and spoiled members discarded, new members carefully cut out of the finest wood species, shaped, finished and reinstalled into what is one powerful Symbol of the goodness of being Japanese. The architectural work achieves immortality because of the love it evokes.
So, let us return to the question.
The Soviets built these Concrete Apartment Forms because to the Soviet Occupiers of Hungary, they represented the symbolic message of the goodness of the Soviet way of life they were imposing by their total control. Hungarians experienced the symbolic power these forms conveyed as clearly as the Soviets who designed that power into them and themselves read that way.