Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Rock House

The Rock House set in Portugal has been there for four decades. What an amazing way to take advantage of the landscape and so beautifully integrate a home that is seamless among its surroundings. It doesn't hurt that it  has a stunning view of windmills in the distance. It makes you think about building into and with the land rather than building on top of the land. Which rings so true today after the devastation in Haiti. We all have seen the famous picture of deforestation in Haiti that is so noticeable on the Haiti Dominican Republic border. That kind of devastation to our land causes immense instability, trees and dense vegetation are the glue that holds our soil together.
 When this is lost, it leaves the landscape vulnerable to mud slides and erosion which is the worst environment to be hit with an earthquake. Its horrific to think of an already desperate country that struggles with supporting its population, trying to deal with such tragedy and destruction. The only light is that through new non-profits like Architecture for Humanity, a non-profit I learned about from Michelle Kaufmann, that we now have an opportunity to completely rebuild this country in a way that is safe and sustainable and works for the people of Haiti for the long term. Of course I think container construction could play a big part in this effort, but are there other, better ways? It does not have to be an expensive endeavor, just a well thought out and planned one. Its always the poorest that suffer the most during these catastrophe's and it is these ones that are forced to rebuild using whatever means they can. They aren't afraid of hard work, chipping in, they just require information, direction and the know-how to build something that can last and keep them safe. We saw it in Pakistan and China, and now again in Haiti....schools and shelters torn apart and demolished finally demonstrating their sub-standard construction, a horror story just waiting to play out.

So I look at this Rock House, and I realize that there isn't a one size fits all around the world to stop this from happening again, we can't send containers to the four corners of the world to shelter and protect these ones. We need to consider the landscape and the environment and look locally at what lends itself to shelter, what does shelter require to be sustainable in the region and what do the people need. Its time for some ingenuity in the world, integrating architecture with the earth.

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