The Slow Space Movement

I have been reading a lot about a movement that is so intrinsic in my practice that it gave me pause.  A group of Architects lead by Architect, Mette Ammodt have begun to discuss the idea of space – the idea of slowing down and feeling or being in a space.  “Space” is one of the main tenets of great architecture but I think that my colleagues have forgotten this basic tenet in the pursuit of either pure design or simply money.

Ninety percent of our time is spent inside a building. The spaces where you live, work and visit have a huge impact on your life, health and mood.  Builder spec homes are the architectural equivalent of fast food. Poor quality, made with cheap materials, bloated with fillers and chemicals, depressing to be in, built fast and without a thoughtful design. Every town has them and in many locations they are the only affordable space available.

We as architects have not protested the development of these subdivsions and other soul-less “junkspace,” the term Architect Rem Koolhaas used to describe strip malls, big box stores and developer high-rises. Perhaps, too much of architecture has focused on form-making and too little on the experience of space. In fact, form-making has been the dominant theme of modernism, postmodernism and contemporary theories. The slow space movement is founded on our relationship to the built environment.  It’s no different than cultivating your taste for wine or fine food. One of the Slow Food Movement’s early objectives was to cultivate an appreciation for the taste of good food. I think we should do the same with great spaces. We should cultivate an appreciation for good buildings. It’s not enough just to look at a beautiful picture. Here is a picture of a beautiful dish from Bon Appetit. It looks delicious. But so does this picture of a Whopper, even though we know it is junk food.

Let us be aware of how spaces make us feel and teach our clients how to feel space as well.

The Slow Space Movement promotes good quality buildings, made with clean healthy materials and built with fair labor. The three principles of good, clean and fair are borrowed from the Slow Food Movement as they apply equally well to the design and construction industry. The movement is about creating buildings of enduring value for the world, using the planet’s precious resources judiciously and wisely, and supporting the community of artisans and craftspeople. The Slow Space Movement takes the long view regarding design and construction, believing that buildings should last hundreds of years and benefit the common good.

I have spent my career taking these principles into account.  To me it is intuitive and a basic principle of great architecture.  It is why I concentrate my efforts on the new builds on the natural sites and locations.  To me this is what great architecture is all about.