Re: Re: Architecture in the West

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Before condeming these structures, should we not stand back and look at them for what they are – an embodiment of rural life in contemporary Ireland (as was the cottage before them). It is so easy to be critical of the present and celebratory of the nostalgic past.

You’ve constructed an interesting argument PDLL. I don’t have time now to construct a full counter-argument now but there are a few ideas. The basic objection I have to “venacular” Irish country housing is not the architecture but the dispersed pattern of development.

It’s not a question of hiding human existance, its the homogenisation of the landscape. The current patterns of countryside development is to dot similar bungalows at regular intervals on every patch of available land. This represents an increase in entropy. In the end we get uniformity – any constrast between wilderness and human settlement is gone – and so there is nothing to appreciate about either. Life is made interesting and enjoyable by contrasts. The reason travel is enjoyable – even involving small distances like a 100 miles or so – is the novelty of seeing differences.

This pattern is not sustainable and I don’t mean from an modern environmentally aware perspective. The Irish countryside is covered in insolated ruined houses. And I’m not talking about medieval castles or crannogs – I’m talking about many houses less than 100 years old. This represents a massive waste of human effort. Were such houses originally built in a hamlet, village or town, it is far more likely they would have been maintained thus adding to to cultural/historical stock of the country. Many of the isolated modern bungalows of today will suffer the same fate. Contrast with the prevailing patterns of country settlement in many of our european neighbours like France or Italy where the town or village is focus of development.

From a human perspective, these patterns of development have a significant social cost. Nobody should be forced to interact with neighbours, etc. but study after study has shown that the more daily social interactions a person has, the happier they are. Conversely isolation increases the chance of depression, etc. I’m surprised that nobody else has considered that there might be some connection between the fact that the west of Ireland has one of the highest rates of suicide in Europe and the fact that the prevailing pattern of living is one of dispersal and isolation.

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