A Design Perspective

The Call of the Wild

Similar to constructivists of the 1920s, attendance at CED required me to go in an entirely different direction concerning architecture. 

I did not know why I had to take my wife and newborn child out onto the 1907 lava flow at the southernmost tip of the United States on the Big Island. It didn't make sense.

I rationalized it by saying I needed land and wanted to follow Chris Alexander's lead and build a house using his timeless way of building.

But, there is a peculiarity that occurs when applying A Pattern Language: it talks back.

On reflection, many years later, there was a reason for the madness. At the UN Conference on Human Settlements in 1976, the idea of providing site-and-service projects for the undeveloped world was proposed.

It was the minimalist idea once again, instead of for workers, this time for the poor.

On return from the conference design Professor Lerup posed a question. He asked, “If you had land, what would you build?”

Attendance and participation in developing the CED Habitat Manifesto (1976) required following through on the first change recommended for the CED curriculum:

  • Offer more substantive courses on the theory and practice of self-help housing in this country and the developing world.

As it turned out, life in the Kau desert was my response. Due to mindful self-consciousness, I realized that coursework was all theory. I had no idea what a minimalist site-and–service lifestyle entailed.

Since there was no relationship between theory and experience, Kau resolved this issue by providing “home ground,” a place where floating thoughts, projections, and conceptualizations found solid groundedness and a sense of being.

                                   Mexicali                                                                                  Kau