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How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built Paperback – October 1, 1995

ISBN-13: 978-0140139969 ISBN-10: 0140139966 Edition: Reprint

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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 (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

More About the Author

All 73 years is here:

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


--SB

















Customer Reviews

Several good examples are included.
railmeat
I've hesitated to review this book because I'm personally suspicious of glowing praise.
Greg Wilson (gvwilson@interlog.com)
Oh, the book might have something to say about buildings, too.
gregyork@sprynet.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Greg Wilson (gvwilson@interlog.com) on 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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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A. Wallace on August 31, 2003
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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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Jones on 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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Prof David T Wright on 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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