By Peder Anker
For decades the slow food movement has focused on traditional and regional cuisine, farming and food production in harmony with the ecosystem, and the empowerment of local businesses. The trend has spread beyond food, to slow music, slow fashion, and slow dating.
So it comes as no surprise to find advocates of slow architecture. They see our mass-produced suburbia, popup McMansions, and dull glass façade high-rises as the root problem of a society obsessed with instant pleasures and short-term goals. As an alternative they promote design that reflects a landscape’s environment, such as wind, sun and temperature, but also social conditions. A slow architect will spend hours investigating a property’s year-round sun and weather conditions, while also learning about the client’s social and psychological needs. Indeed, the slow architect will think of him or herself as a therapist designing a building capable of social enabling as well as environmental and spiritual healing.
Just as a slow food chef uses hours, even days, in creating a perfect meal from local sustainable ingredients, the builder of slow architecture will have to use time turning local materials into stunning design. This does not mean that a house will take forever to complete. Using local materials may also translate into cutting costs.
Slow architecture will incorporate all the available technologies of sustainable design, such as solar cells, geothermal heat exchange systems, and energy efficient materials. Why not be good to the environment and cut down the electric bill at the same time? Yet such novel technologies will not decide the look of slow architecture, which varies in style from hyper traditional to raw funky avant-garde. The point is to create a building that takes the physical, emotional and social wellness of the owner seriously, while also making sure the process of achieving this end reflects the result. And that process has to be slow in order to bring all the moving parts together.
Peder Anker is a Professor of environmental studies at NYU and University of Oslo, with a PHD from Harvard.