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a big mess
on August 29, 2013
Upon first opening up the back of this book, I'm greeted by a horrible sight: a pseudo-Robinson projection map of the world that has very inaccurately been overlaid with linear Mercator projection lines of latitude. "Inclinations for solar waterheaters" -- my level of trust in this author has already plummeted.
There are useful passages on bamboo and polewood structural joints, and on water pumps, and sand filters. Everything else here is treated in a shallow, slapdash manner. More than 700 pages -- maybe 50 of them are worth your time. Compare this to "A Pattern Language" -- more than 1000 pages and almost all are useful, worth returning to again and again.
I suppose if you have no construction images in your life -- if you are barely literate, and living somewhere remote, and just need to see some diagrams to get started building your shelter -- that this book would be very helpful indeed. That's a sad state of affairs. The vernacular builders of the past produced works of far greater beauty and functionality than most of what's contained in here, though the author proposes to codify some of that knowledge. Rubbish -- not just inadequate but misleading. A mess of non-functional "green building" disasters and uncomfortable, dark, dank, smoke-filled, rotting hovels.
There is a need for a book of "bootstrap architecture" -- something less academic, more immediately useful than "A Pattern Language". This is not it by a long shot. A set of illustrated David Macauley books would be more to the point.