Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan

Take Peter Eisenman's Tokyo office tower.  Eisenman's deconstructivist design is meant as "a kind of cultural critique of architectural stability and monumentality at a time when modern life itself is becoming increasingly contingent, tentative, and complex."  Evidently the wrenching dislocations and foldings of space in this building will help office workers in Tokyo experience the dislocations and contingencies of contemporary life on a daily basis.  Upsetting people in this manner is apparently taken as proof of success in this type of architecture.

Michael Pollan wants a writing shed (a la Thoreau), so he builds his own.  He keeps repeating that he does this to "add something to the stock of reality" and escape the less concrete world of words for a while, then writes an entire book, out of words, to wax poetic on the cultural histories of different styles of windows and the psychological landscapes they imply.  It's not bad, but there's really only so much one can say about a roof, for example, in a book like this before you're straying dangerously far from reality and drowning in a sea of words.  I was expecting more on the actual construction (which he does go into great detail about), to the point where you could conceivable follow most steps as the house takes shape.

One thing I can say is the man does his damn research.  This is the first I've read by him, I want to take on Botany of Desire next.  But he can cite from anything, whether on the regional 'language' of roofing shingles and what they might suggest or on the development of the independent self coinciding with the development of the private study during the Renaissance.

Another thing is that if Michael Pollan is playing Thoreau (referred to quite a bit, for obvious reasons), he is a rich man's Thoreau, and he knows it.  He's shipping whole fir trees from the Pacific Northwest, having his windows custom made from locally-sourced cedar, and paying an architect and a contractor to guide him through the process hour by hour.

Read this book if you want to build a tiny, super-cozy house behind your regular house.


Christopher said...

I do!

Brent Waggoner said...

If I purchase this book, what percentage of tiny house building is still my responsibility? I'd purchase it if the book would handle 60-70% of the work.

Nathan said...

If you buy this book, Michael Pollan comes and builds a tiny house FOR you!

Christopher said...

Does the book fold out into a tiny house?

Brent Waggoner said...

How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read if they can't even fit inside the building?

Nathan said...

A Place of My Own by Derek Zoolander