The earlier post was too damn long.
I felt that I had to cover a lot, so I threw a few words at a lot of topics. That is not the aim of this blog. My aim is to make my points clearly and simply, offer solutions, and then shut up. I could have ended that post earlier but then I would have just joined the chorus of Cassandras wailing about the impending doom with little insight as to what we might do to prevent it.
That post was not elegant. I tried to do too much, and didn’t do it very well.
I thought about elegance when I was washing dishes this morning. In the short time I’ve lived in houses with dishwashers, I’ve had to hire somebody to replace three of them. I have never had to do this with a sink. I haven’t washed dishes in a sink since having a working dishwasher. They are convenient, but complex, fragile contraptions. The function is much the same, but dishwashers last years, sinks last decades.
Consider also a parking lot and an urban sidewalk. Both are there to get people where they are going. A parking lot requires swaths of paved land to stable all the cars carrying all the people to your building, while the street does it with a thinner stripe of sidewalk. There’s a lot of context I’m leaving out, but that is the essential difference between the ideal Suburb and the ideal Urb. Both do the same things, but one requires a lot less space and money to build for it.
An intact forest, street trees or even pervious pavements are more elegant than pavements, stormwater ponds, floodways, and the Sisyphean practice of stream restoration in the face of continued development and more floods. One costs thousands and constant maintenance by landowners on the watershed, the other costs millions to the county and recurring costs. Stream restorations, dikes and floodways fail as long as the stormwater keeps coming.
Back at home, we have a temperamental forced air heater, that burns methane and blows the heat around the house in response to a thermostat in the living room. The ducts have to be cleaned, the filter changed, the igniter tended, and the manifold serviced every year. If only we had a properly insulated house and some well placed windows, we could get by with much less of this ducted heat. But the house was built in an optimistic time when builders and their codes thought energy would soon be too cheap to meter.
To wax political for a bit, the quickest way to solve the federal deficit would be to make the congress and president personally responsible of any overages in budget. Elegance is skin in the game. Make people feel the consequences and benefits of their actions, and they are going to act better than if they are insulated from their choices.
Elegance is not inconvenience and rugged authenticity. My examples might lead you to believe that. Elegance is the design that does the essential function with the least material, assembly and upkeep. I could say more, but I won’t