Look at the way the three storey tower nestles into the rock, protected, supported and utilizing what nature provided. In the right lights, you can’t tell stone from stone…this truly exemplifies building from local materials!
(From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Emily Fox of Michigan Radio reporting).
This four minute radio segment is about a couple who built a tiny cabin in the woods of a northern Michigan town named Cedar. It's perhaps slightly bigger than a typical "big" tiny house. Both the health department and zoning officials say their home is too small and deem it uninhabitable. The story expands my caveat from two posts ago about not only having a place to build, which is so important, but also comprehending the legalities of your place.
At its very best a house successfully joins a place; at its worst it ruins it. Whether it's a traditional house or a tiny house on wheels, a house designed to not be a part of any place risks being a mistake. Plan carefully because there are many legal obstacles. On a good note, however, some places are beginning to open up to new ideas, so don't be gloomy - be realistic. Know your situation. And remember: place is vastly important; place is the starting point. Don't go (building a) home without it.
Musings on Place
To build a house is to change a place, so before designing and building a new house I remind myself to ask a few simple questions, like:
- How will building a house change the place?
- Will it enhance it by adding beauty to it?
- Will it improve it by adding quality to it?
The answers to these questions are subjective since they revolve around sentiment and emotion - and personal opinion. For one, I like to think the work my wife and I do is handsome and adds beauty to a place. Our houses are also built with high quality non-toxic finishes & materials, durable reclaimed hardware, and the highest grade woods that will last generations and are more likely to survive the vicissitudes of time.
Sometimes there already exists a standard for a place. In such situations these same questions can actually be objective. Our next building site, a place my wife and I intend to live, is just this type of place. It asserts a community standard, that of historical preservation, for new architecture. This was, admittedly, a turn off to me at first because I enjoy designing on my own, unfettered. After considering things for awhile, however, I came to appreciate that a conversation was taking place and that the rules weren't etched in stone with plenty of creative space. Ultimately, I learned that it's good practice to get to know a place, including its community, prior to making decisions that could alter both.
Once a project is ready to move ahead, I then start to ask myself straightforward objective questions:
- How will the house affect the neighborhood commonwealth?
- Will it add quality in terms of value to the place?
- In what ways will the house become an asset to the community?
Knowing facts about a place aids in designing a good house - for me that's a house that works "naturally" into its place, it's a house that just fits both land and community. It also helps me calculate the budget and time required to achieve the vision.
So, place is important. It warrants some consideration, especially since you can't go home without it.