Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inbuilt furniture at Enfield Shaker village, New Hampshire
original photo by Walter Parenteau

Back to moving.

More and more I find the idea of carrying furniture around close to insane.
If you strip down pieces of furniture to absolutely vital ones: namely, perhaps your bed and some storage - do we really need to own them? At the scale of a city, does it make sense to be moving around thousands of similar looking bed frames, wardrobes, and bookshelves, like a huge swaping game which in the end consumes gas, human energy, and leads to the familiar left-behind casualties on the curbside?

Recently I've been mulling over possible alternatives. Among the first solutions: inbuilt furniture. One where architects and designers would participate in taking the load off the inhabitant's back, by making it a necessity to provide inbuilt storage.

The 'student dorm' model, improved. Of course it means accepting the idea of sharing furniture over time, but that's what we already do with buildings. A little clean up, and it's back on tracks for a new life. Wouldn't it be a fine system, where in theory you would only have to bring in your 'soft material' - linens, clothes, books, etc.?



A wonderful example of integrating furniture into the design of buildings. Among the most graceful features of this practice: 'The drawers graduate in height from top to bottom, a typical Shaker design feature that combines practicality with pleasing proportions - the larger drawers are a the bottom so that heavier contents are not precariously near the top.'

Storage cabinet in Hancock Shaker village, Massachusetts
photog by Daveybot

Another thrilling highlight: 'cleanliness - no dust could collect on top or underneath'.

Both quotes are from the wonderful book 'Shaker: Life, Work and Art' by June Sprigg and David Larkin, with photographs by Michael Freeman.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Visit of Cienfuegos, Cuba
photograph by Patrick Nouhailler

I was browsing through available data on ecological footprint - the previous article about overconsumption made me want to know more.

A type of graph that often pops up on the internet is the one below, showing, for each country, human development index vs. ecological footprint:

 graph by the Global Footprint Network
(they have great reports, by the way)

The Human Development Index is a single statistic which serves 'as a frame of reference for both social and economic development'. It combines 'indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income'.  

The Ecological Footprint represents 'the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to mitigate associated waste'.
(source: wikipedia

Looking at this graph, it is striking that the only country which consumes less than its share of the earth's biocapacity AND has reached significantly high human development is Cuba.

I know very little about Cuba, beyond the postcard pictures and the occasional political bits in the media. Regardless (but not disregarding) of what one may think of the Cuban regime, the fact that it is up there, alone, in the green window, makes me immensely curious about the details of its functionning.
I want to research and post more on this - meanwhile, if any of you have stories to share about Cuba's economy, things you've experienced yourselves there, feel free to tell in the comment section.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesterday there was an interesting article published in French newspaper Le Monde, titled
'The real threat on the future: overconsumption' (also available here - sorry, no English version).

I couldn't find a lot of information about its author ('Frédéric Julien, a political science PhD student at University of Ottawa, in residence at King's College Departmenf of Geography.') - but the contents are worth mentionning.

Julien's thesis is that society should fear overconsumption much more than overpopulation, as it is growing at a faster rate, and unlike demographic evolution, is showing no sign of being curbed any time soon: there are no 'growth control policies' equivalents to birth control policies.

If they are accurate, the following numbers are quite telling:
[note: 'ecological footprint' means the productive surface of soil and water necessary to sustain a lifestyle]
  • 'between 1961 and 2007, North America (the United States and Canada) have seen their population grow by some 39%, whereas their ecological footprint has made a leap of %160'.

  • 'as a result, in 2007 North America represented %5 of the world population, but %17 of its ecological footprint'.

I also like the phrase 'increase of revenue - i.e. 'permit to consume''.