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How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built [Paperback]

by Stewart Brand
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 1, 1995 0140139966 978-0140139969 Reprint
Buildings have often been studies whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis that proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time.

From the connected farmhouses of New England to I.M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth—this is a far-ranging survey of unexplored essential territory.

More than any other human artifacts, buildings improve with time—if they're allowed to. How Buildings Learn shows how to work with time rather than against it.


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How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built + Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice (Second Edition) + A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

All buildings are forced to adapt over time because of physical deterioration, changing surroundings and the life within--yet very few buildings adapt gracefully, according to Brand. Houses, he notes, respond to families' tastes, ideas, annoyance and growth; and institutional buildings change with expensive reluctance and delay; while commercial structures have to adapt quickly because of intense competitive pressures. Creator of The Whole Earth Catalog and founder of CoEvolution Quarterly (now Whole Earth Review ), Brand splices a conversational text with hundreds of extensively captioned photographs and drawings juxtaposing buildings that age well with those that age poorly. He buttresses his critique with insights gleaned from facilities managers, planners, preservationists, building historians and futurists. This informative, innovative handbook sets forth a strategy for constructing adaptive buildings that incorporates a conservationist approach to design, use of traditional materials, attention to local vernacular styles and budgeting to allow for continuous adjustment and maintenance.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Brand founder of The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly, launches a populist attack on rarefied architectural conventions. A hippy elder statesman (once one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters), Brand argues that a building can ``grow'' and should be treated as a ``Darwinian mechanism,'' something that adapts over time to meet certain changing needs. His humanistic insights grew out of a university seminar he taught in 1988. Catchy anti- establishment phrases abound: ``Function reforms form, perpetually,'' or ``Form follows funding.'' Thomas Jefferson, a ``high road'' builder, is shown to have tinkered his Monticello into a masterpiece over a lifetime. Commercial structures, Brand says, are ``forever metamorphic,'' as a garage-turned-boutique demonstrates. Photo spreads with smart and chatty captions trace the evolutions of buildings as they adopt new ``skins.'' Pointedly, architects Sir Richard Rogers (designer of the Pompidou Centre in Paris) and I.M. Pei (the Wiesner Building, aka the Media Lab at MIT) are taken to task for designing monumental flops that deny occupants' needs. Later sections track the social meanings of preservationism and celebrate vernacular traditions worldwide (e.g., the Malay house of Malaysia; pueblo architecture; the 18th- century Cape Cod House). Brand also documents his own unique habitats. He lives with his wife in a converted tugboat and houses his library in a metal self-storage container. Here, as throughout, Brand's self-reliant voice rings true--that of an engaging, intellectual crank. Brand makes a case for letting people shape their own environments. His crunchy-granola insights bristle with an undeniable pragmatism. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140139966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140139969
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 10.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

All 73 years is here:

http://sb.longnow.org/SB_homepage/Bio.html


--SB


















Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, thought-provoking, calm October 9, 1997
Format:Paperback
I've hesitated to review this book because I'm personally suspicious of glowing praise. However, this book deserves it. Brand's starting point is the observation that most architects spend most of their time re-working or extending existing buildings, rather than creating new ones from scratch, but the subject of how buildings change (or, to adopt Brand's metaphor, how buildings learn from their use and environment) is ignored by most architectural schools and theorists. By looking at examples (big and small, ancient and modern), Brand teases out patterns of re-use and change, and argues (very convincingly) that since buildings are going to be modified many times, they should be designed with unanticipated future changes in mind. Of course, the same is true of programs, and I found again and again that I could substitute the word "program" for "building", and "programmer" for "architect", everything Brand said was true of computing as well (but much better written than any software engineering polemic I've ever read).
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn: What happens after they're built is as much a reflection of his life as it is about architecture. This potent clearly written essay provides valuable insights for a wider ranging audience while poking fun at established norms in the information age. Depreciatory of modernism casting doubt on the success of popular monuments paying homage to their creators, Brand does not limit his criticism of Wright for Falling Water in southwestern Pennsylvania or I.M. Pei's Media Lab Building at MIT. The strength of the book is the candid and thoughtful approach, interrelating complex issues with simple strands. Weaving a tale of old stuff in a new world, Brand proposes that buildings are most useful to their occupants and neighbors when they adapt. He assures that change will happen and that the only enduring monuments are those that can transform with time. Brand relies on a variety of primary and secondary sources and reinforces his examples with candid photographs, often visually comparing and contrasting to make his points. For each of these archetypes he tests the building against its function to perform basic living needs. He candidly makes observations without concern for political correctness within the broader architectural community.
Proposing six shear levels within a building based on their ability to temporally adapt, How Buildings Learn uses Site, Structure, Skin, Services, Space, and Stuff as a highly successful outline in delivering its message (p. 13). One source attributes this paradigm to that developed by British architect and historian F. Duffy's "Four S's" of capital investment in buildings. The site is eternal, yet often ignored by architects. The structure is most permanent defining the form and lasting 30 to 300 years.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and convincing October 9, 2001
Format:Paperback
In a review in _The Last Whole Earth Catalog_ (1971), author Stewart Brand wrote: "We're not into utopian thinking around here, preferring a more fiasco-by-fiasco approach to perfection."
This perfectly captures the central thesis of _How Buildings Learn_: Once built, buildings do and must _change_ to fit the changing needs of their inhabitants. The interiors may be remodeled, roofs raised, additions made, plumbing and wiring added, rerouted or remodeled, & etc. Single-family brownstones become apartment buildings, homely warehouses may become lofts for artists and high-tech startups, and mansions may be turned into museums.
Good buildings can be changed gracefully; bad ones resist change. Brand shows us many examples of each. In many cases, "vernacular" architecture -- rather plain structures that wouldn't earn a place in an architect's resume -- prove the most suited to change. Brand reserves considerable fury for prestiege projects that seem more to serve the architect's ego than the inhabitants' practical use.
I'm not an architect, student of architecture, or what-have-you, so I don't know how this book ranks with other critiques of architecture. I can say that I found it immenseley informative, persuasive, and readable.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buildings Come Alive! September 3, 2000
Format:Paperback
`Buildings That Learn' covers the adaptation over time of buildings to tenant needs, often hindered by all of: the `fixed solution in year xyza' aesthetic architects; the vagaries of the real-estate market; and the short-lifetime of modern buildings (quality not increased at same or better rate of increase in human life over centuries). Interestingly, software `guru' Ed Yourdon flagged up similar problems hindering software productivity and quality in his `Rise & Fall of the American Programmer' (e.g. non-customer focus, markets prices & labor costs, poor quality development etc..).
Addressing the building layers (site, structure, skin, services, space plan and "stuff") through a logical sequence of chapters, to get the most out of this book deserves a thorough read rather than a surface glance. The deeply referenced & illustrated, entertaining chapters span:
Flow- introduction and the time dimension; Shearing Layers- of the different rates of change in buildings; "Nobody Cares What You Do In There": The Low Road- easy adaptation in cheap buildings; Houseproud: The High Road- refined adaptation in long-lasting sustained-purpose buildings; Magazine Architecture: No Road- where tenants needs ignored for photo-aesthetics; Unreal estate- and markets sever continuity in buildings; Preservation: A Quiet, Popularist, Conservative, Victorious Revolution- to address incontinuity and frustrate innovators; The Romance of Maintenance- and preservation; Vernacular: How Buildings Learn from Each Other- and respect for design wisdom of older buildings; Function Melts Form: Satisficing Home and Office; The Scenario-buffered Building; and Built for Change- imagining buildings inviting adaption.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars best book on architecture
I hate most of the junk that fancy architects design with incredible hubris and utter disregard for where the building is or how it will be used. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Sanity Clause
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK !!!
HAD TO BUY THIS BOOK FOR A COLLEGE CLASS... WHAT A SURPRISE...WITTY, INSIGHTFUL ,DOWN TO EARTH, ENTERTAINING.... Read more
Published 15 days ago by patchee woznid
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating concepts and good resentation. This book is a classic!
I would recommend this book whether you are a student or not.
This helps raise ones awareness of the surroundings and offers insight into the world.
Published 2 months ago by Merrill Kramer
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for any architect or urbanist or historian
Simply a wonderful book. Makes you appreciate quality and celebrate useful, beautiful buildings in your city. Read more
Published 2 months ago by K. West phal
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful book!
The book is really good! I thought it was not a new book, but it is brand new! I have to say I am surprised.
Published 7 months ago by YANG YIMENG
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, but low image quality in the Kindle version
I bought the Kindle version for easy highlighting and note-taking. The book is as great as all other readers have said here. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Tao
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Well written.
You should have a copy of this book.
Nice book its so full of content.
I like it.
Published 10 months ago by Roberto Galvez
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Gift - Great Price
Great gift for an architect , contractor, realtor, or developer. As an engineer, it opened my eyes to another side of real estate.
Published 12 months ago by CarlC451
5.0 out of 5 stars Stewart Brand is a genius activist.
I'm not sure the buildings learn as much as they endure the stupidity of people that try to change them. But it's a great book.
Published 13 months ago by consumerist
5.0 out of 5 stars BUY IT! READ IT! THINK ABOUT THE TOPIC!
As a lover of old buildings, I have often wondered why it is some buildings are almost universally loved and others not, why some building manage to stay around for centuries while... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Kim E. Van Rijn
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