The Latest Slow Movement: Slow Space

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©. Slowspace

What is Slow Space? Cambridge, Mass. architect Mette Aamodt describes it as being “akin to slow food for the built environment, that focuses on human-centered design that is beautiful and long-lasting, healthy for people and the planet and fair for workers.” There is also a need and desire for simpler, better things. Aamodt writes:

There is evidence that mass consumption has topped out. IKEA CEO has said, “we have reached peak stuff” and Warren Buffet has declared “the death of retail.” Instead of stuff, Millennials value experiences, tiny houses over McMansions, and fair trade. We are seeing a new era of quality over quantity, what Dieter Rams coined as “Less but Better.”

Read the Slow Space Manifesto (slowly):

Our world is covered in junkspace* – bad buildings that are ugly, poorly designed, and unpleasant to be in, composed of cheap toxic materials that make you and the planet sick, and built by unskilled workers that are exploited, enslaved and endangered on the job. Every day more of these buildings go up, but we say enough! The Slow Space Movement aims to end the mindless proliferation of junkspace, to educate the public on its physical and psychological dangers and to inspire architects, designers, builders and artisans to stand up for buildings that are good, clean and fair for all.

The Slow movement started in 1986 with slow food, described in TreeHugger as an effort “to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.”

Over the years, the slow concept has been applied to slow travel, slow cities, slow travel slow fashion and I even tried to promote slow cars, “a radical lowering of the speed limit so that the private car can survive in an era of peak oil and global warming, simply by being smaller and slower.” There have also been a couple of attempts at slow design and the slow house. But this attempt at slow architecture speaks to the current problems we face, and the challenge designers face now that the green movement, sustainability and energy efficiency have been so politicized.

The Slow Space Movement has three broad pillars that define it – Good, Clean and Fair. For a building to be Good it must beautiful, human-centered, and last 100 years. For it to be Clean it must be healthy for people and the planet. To be Fair its supply chain must be fair trade and workers must have fair labor.

© Aamodt / Plumb Architects

Mette is a partner in Aamodt / Plumb Architects and their website makes a big deal about their commitment to Slow Space. But she sees this as something much bigger than her and her firm.

Slow Space and these SLOW principles are something we would like to see much more of in the world and we would like to inspire others to pursue them in their own ways. We can only do so much in our small practice but I know there are many architects out there that believe in these core values as well and are working toward a more positive built environment.

Architecture has always been distressingly slow. It takes a very long time to build a career, to design a building, to get it built. It takes forever to introduce new technologies and to change codes. We keep talking about new technologies like prefab and BIM and 3D printing to speed things up, but maybe we are not thinking about this correctly, perhaps Mette is on to something. Perhaps we should just think it all out, build simply, efficiently, carefully and to last, and slow down.

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