Jane Jacobs has written that “the look of things and the way they work are inextricably bound together, and in no place more so than cities.”
Like many urban concepts, this idea intuitively rings true me — who feels comfortable on an ugly street or at home in a hideous building? — but is hard to write about because the interaction of appearance and function can be difficult to quantify.
But there are ways to talk about that interaction without simply having to trust experts like Jacobs (which isn’t necessarily bad). Recently, for example, new research demonstrated that historic buildings are the most environmentally friendly. That fact has a lot to do with the materials used to construct historic buildings — materials which are often the opposite of the cheap, disposable, and ugly ones used in some of today’s buildings.
The last two principles are fairly obvious and seem to guide most contemporary building. But the first two are more radical. How many plastic-sided, thin-walled homes in Utah are really going to last very long? (In northern Utah County some of the newer homes are literally sliding down the mountain and ripping themselves apart in the process.)
I don’t necessarily buy into everything Original Green proposes, but I think the sentiment — that we need to build attractive structures that have the potential to last a long time — is a good one. And returning to Jacobs, those kinds of structures also seem like the best candidates for achieving maximum functionality.