This is even more of a ramble than usual…
[Marginally Musical Intro]
That’s right folks, it’s the Paul Spooner Podcast!
The other day I was thinking about how different countries base their laws off of the “standard” population and not necessarily off of the whole population. For example, we pride ourselves in America (In A Marrrca!) we pride ourselves of being inclusive of minorities. We include minorities in the political process, we want to make everyone feel included…
But that’s not really true! We DO have to make our laws to serve someone, and generally those laws are made to serve the majority. For example, we have laws about not using your cell phone while driving. Now, this makes sense when you’re driving in city traffic (and as I talked about in [a] previous podcast there’s a lot of things that are involved in driving, and you need to be paying attention to what you’re doing), but if you’re driving out in the countryside where there’s really nothing around… There’s no reason to not talk on your cell phone. You’re connected to other people, you don’t need to be paying close attention to the road. There’s no one else on the road! So, in that case, it’s an example of being focused on one group of people (the urban population) to the detriment of other people (the people in the countryside).
And I’ve chosen this example for a reason. The population of the world is now, supposedly, living more in urban areas than in rural areas. This problem occurred for a long time in the past as well, because law makers almost always congregate to make laws, and they congregate (of course) in urban areas! That’s where people congregate! And so the voice of urbanites has been louder in the ears of law-makers for centuries now [and probably millenia]. But even more so today there will be a tendency for laws to be oriented toward regulating and controlling urban life without too much concern for the detrimental effect it has on rural life.
Now, there’s a corollary here, which is that urbanites are much more easily policed than rural… peoples. So if you are driving out in the middle of the countryside with your cell phone out and you’re talking on it… probably, you won’t get in trouble for it because it’s very expensive to have a policeman sitting out in the middle of nowhere policing no-one [you don’t count] when he could be policing people who are very tightly packed; Such as [exists] in a city.
So, even though the laws are oriented toward city people and they would be (if they were all followed strictly) weighty and laborious for people in the countryside… people in the countryside can get away with, just, not following the laws… most of the time, and no one really cares! And…
And that’s fine. I think that’s good!
We should exonerate people who are outside the normal circumstances from following the normal laws. The laws do apply to everyone, but they don’t apply to everyone equally, especially when they are made to regulate a circumstance that doesn’t exist in the scenario that they are being broken [in?].
And you might say “Well, why make an exception? Rural people can just move into cities, or form their own cities!” Well, see, this is a problem, because there will always need to be people who are in sparsely populated areas. Until the entire globe is one giant city… and by that point I’m sure there will be people who are rurally located in space! Or in far off-flung colonies! There’s always going to be a frontier. There’s plenty of space in the universe. There’s always going to be someone who is living out on the fringes and they need to be considered exempt from… not all laws… but from a lot of the laws that we expect people to follow when they’re living in a tightly packed situation.
I’m living in Nagoya, and, uh, there are a lot of people around here! Lots and lots! They’re very tightly packed, there’s lots of congestion, and I understand that there’s certain strict regulations and laws about how you behave when you’re in a city. And the Japanese have these kinds of laws. And they’ve had these kinds of laws for a long time because their society has been fairly congested for a long time.
On the note of expansion… and I don’t know why this doesn’t happen. I expect it has something to do with the cost, but I think it also has to do with cultural standards and expectations… but, it seems like we could build a lot more things on and in the mountains.
I understand it’s very cheap to just construct a flat foundation building on the flat ground, but for the people who can afford it, it seems like mountains would be much better. I mean, they have excellent drainage, so they’re not going to flood. They have a great view, so you can see things that you like instead of seeing your neighbors [That came out strange. I like my neighbors! Anyway…], they’re mildly inaccessible so they keep the riff-raff out, they’re (usually) exposed bedrock so they’re very solid (ahh, structurally)… you don’t get… I mean, some places have landslides, but most of the time mountains are very sound. They’re almost all granite.
So, there’s all these advantages to building on mountains. And currently I feel like our aristocrats, our nobles (and we don’t like to think of them that way, but they are)… our nobles, our rich people, are of this mindset: that they should live on the flat with everyone else. And, I think, we should encourage them to build things on the mountains! Build castles! Build hobbit holes and things! I think it would be neat! If they have the money, why not spend it building something interesting and remote and secure and solid?
There’s no reason that they should be building mansions that are just larger scaled up versions of normal wood frame houses. We can move beyond that, and I think we should.
Maybe one of the reasons this kind of thinking prevails (In America at least, I don’t know about other countries, but it seems to be global as well. I don’t see a lot of mountain work. Maybe in Greece and Italy and the older civilizations, but they’ve kind of fallen by the wayside. They’re not adopting the modern technology to build these kinds of things. They’re still kind of set in this mindset that they have to be done using crafstmanship and hand work and all this kind of thing… anyway! [Further note, This is totally off-the-cuff, so I might be completely wrong about this. Do the upper class in other countries build interesting places to live? Let me know!]) I think part of this, in America, is that a lot of the money is “new money’; In fact, ALL the money is “new” money by world standards. We don’t have old long-lasting families, aristocrats, people like that, and those that we do have, or had, we have eliminated through anti-trust laws and through excessive taxes. So, we don’t have people who have grown up with wealth, and who know how to use it properly. Most of the time, people are new to it, and they’re like “Ooh! I could just have a… something! That’s like what I had when I was poor, only in larger quantities! Or in larger scale! Or made out of more expensive materials!” They’re not thinking about higher level concepts like design and architecture and location. They want to live in their old house in their old neighborhood with their old friends, but just in a more flambouyant gregarious way… Or whatever it is that they’re trying to do.
Honestly, I’m not very connected with the Ultra Rich.
But, my family… I was born into wealth. I mean, my family is not poor. My Dad’s worked very hard and made a lot of money and he has taken care of us. But again! We lived in a wood frame house on the, you know, flat part of the land, and it wasn’t really a thought [AFAIK, correct me if I’m wrong here Dad] that we could use those resources to do something interesting. It was just, “Well, this is what you do with money. You buy an existing house that’s kind of normal.” And my Dad actually had a house that was built on a hillside, but the area where we lived (in Camarillo) is made mostly of sand… so when you’re building on a sand hill, that’s kind of different from building on a granite slope… the house is basically falling off the hillside.
So that’s not good.
But again, it was a pre-constructed house, it wasn’t built new. Now there was one house that he had built new, but it was a tract house, so it was of a certain design. I’m sure that economics went into it. It was an expensive neighborhood, but it was designed out of a set.
And that’s another thing that would be very useful, I think, is some system of systematic modular architecture. It doesn’t have to be modular in the sense that the pieces themselves can be mixed and matched, but in the sense that we can have designs that are mixed and matched. So you can have some sort of archetypical “kitchen unit” and archetypical “bedroom unit” and then have a way to (computationally probably, because computers are fantastic tools) computationally combine those together in different ways and different orientations to match the terrain. Because of course if you’re going to be building something custom, you may as well build it to match the existing area; The area that you’re in; The location that it’s built in.
You can’t just… design something and then plop it down wherever you want… I mean, you CAN, but at that point you may as well design an ISO container house.
Which I think we should! I think we should have ISO container houses! Houses that are, actually, truly modular. That have modules that you ship over on an ISO container boat, and you move on a semi-truck that carries ISO containers. We have all this infrastructure in place! We should just use the infrastructure that we have to build houses! We should have pre-fabbed ISO box homes.
And there shouldn’t be a stigma against them (and of course there WILL be a stigma against them, because they will be inexpensive and therefore reserved for “the poor.” But… ) We should be very comfortable living in these things that are gonna be well designed. Someone’s going to spend the time to make this thing right, and then they’re just going to make a billion of them. We already do this with mobile homes, we should do it with normal homes.
And then if one of the things gets a leak in the roof, you take the module out and you replace it with a new one, and send the old one back for repair. I mean, it’s… the whole concept of building a structure in place is very antiquated and I’m certain that we can get beyond that and build something useful, and beautiful, and functional, and inexpensive, transportable… We’ve got all these things designed already, it’s… it’s been done! We should just accept it and incorporate it into our society.
And I think it would be easiest done in [The United States of] America of all places because America is a very young culture and we can adapt easily. We don’t have a whole lot of standards already in place for how people live, and what classes live where and in what kind of circumstances. In Japan there’s so many symbols for affluence and poverty and station in society. You’ve got… their roofs have all these different symbols on them, and the way that they dress, and everything about the culture has these in-built tools for communication.
Which is good! You want to be able to communicate. But because we lack those tools in America, a lot of the time, I think it would be useful to change our culture now, as a group… and I’m not saying that we should enact laws or anything, but just, like, we should come to a consensus of like, “Hey, this is a better way to live. Let’s live this way.” before our culture solidifies into a set form, which it will, and it is doing already. And maybe it’s too late already… I don’t know.
[Mildly Musical Outro]
Prefabricated houses exist already, but it turns out that the marketplace doesn’t like it. I was talking to an architect about this a few weeks ago. Kinda like straight bannanas.
Audio of this comment.
That’s what I’m saying! We, as a culture, should decide that prefab houses are A-Okay and start using them, preferably on mountains. Ahh well. Silly rich people.
I know a guy who is building an “upscale” residence in an upscale neighborhood in Los Angeles, using four modular buildings as the basis of the structure. I’ve seen the plans, and it actually looks pretty neat! He’s doing a lot of things similar to what you brought up; one the buildings is basically the “kitchen” building, two others are “bedroom” buildings, and the fourth is entry/living. They’re stacked up and joined together with wood framed construction (and seismic joints) which will give it a very “house”-y feel, complete with an interior courtyard.
Excellent! I’d love to see pictures of the plans, as long as he doesn’t mind.