14 June 2010

PRESCRIPTION VERSUS CRAFT

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The rules and regulations are part of the list of things that a craftsperson considers when starting a project, the loved object that is to be crafted.  There are any number of ‘projects’ that may be shaped in part by a of list of rules that is mandated by government. A building project is certainly in that category.

We can use one part of a building as an example, say a front entrance facing a public way. The building code prescribes that the opening and approach must be fully accessible by anyone that is not fully ambulatory. This affects the door configuration, the door pull to get the door open, and the walkway below, etcetera. The zoning code is dictate the way the door feces the street, what (if any) gate may be placed in front of it, and perhaps even what style of architecture the entrance may be. Add to that criteria, the design review panel will want to mess with proportions, argue about the color, and dispute the whole validity of having an entrance in the first place. After the rules of entitlement are dealt with, its on to project budgets, autocratic municipal service requirements, and accommodating the desires and frustrations of whoever is building the building. It is a wonder how craft can take place, even when the cast of characters is at its most supportive.

As a society, we prescribe a procedure and a set of rules to make good cities. We like good, and we dislike bad. When someone does something bad, makes a bad building, or does something that is deemed inappropriate to the health and welfare of the general public, a rule is made, and a procedure is enlisted to carry out the rule. Administrative personnel are trained, and mostly sourced through the levels of higher education, with the objective of carrying out the new rules. These rules, 'black and white' as they are,  describe elements of a building as either bad or good. The rules are fully integrated into our legal system so that if someone veers off the path of 'good', they may be appropriately judged by all to be 'correct' or 'incorrect '; or more plainly, good or bad.

The problem is that craft is way more complicated then good and bad.

Lots of other human factors can weigh in, but by it's inherent nature, craft is good.  But it doesn’t fall readily into a rule of good, and often comes into conflict with all the things that might be of interest to a regulatory body, and any other conventional notion about what is correct.

I'm not saying that regulations aren’t necessary.  It is the nature of craft to be reasonable, and answer all functional requirements, as well as the needs of anyone that uses the object of craft (in this case society). But as we implement this necessity, we mostly tend to ignore the way our rules and codes and public way of doing things neglects the essential nature of craft.

The imperative of craft occurs as a natural thing in the design of our cities, neglected or not. We see exceptional design realized despite extraordinary obstacles. Their creators have accomplished their wonderful thing, hopping along with one leg and both arms strapped to their backs.

In this way, we hobble the creative minds that make the places we live and reside in. Is this really the best way to craft a city?

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