The Landscape Guide

9.4 Language and Building Design

Contents list

Excellent buildings should speak to the whole environment: to other structures, to the animals, to the plants, to people, and to everything. For the comfort of their occupants, in hot humid climates, buildings should strain every ear to catch the wind. In cold climates, buildings need deep eaves, thick walls and as much sunlight as possible. These are internal matters, but they should avert any new International Style. From a planning standpoint, it is what buildings say to the external environment that matters most. Whole settlements can be designed to bend their backs to the wind or hold up their hands to the sun. Thick walls say "We believe in the conservation of energy'.

For those who can read the language of settlements, oblique aerial photographs should say: "Hot humid climate', "Hot arid climate', "Temperate windy climate', "Cold arid climate'. For those who can read the language of ecology, eye-level photographs of ordinary streets could say "The native vegetation is oak-birch forest'. It would be boring if all the streets said the same thing but, given a choice, it is probable that residents would wish them to convey this message. In fact, most modern settlements say "We are internationalist. We have passports. We could travel anywhere in the world without being recognized as the inhabitants of a local culture or land.' One hopes that this attitude will die, once the novelty of international travel has worn thin.

2005 Note: there are illustrations and practical examples of how to incorporate vegetation with architecture in Johnson, C. (2004) Greening Cities

Thai houses speak of the hot humid climate in which they are built.