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Sustaining Sustenance through Everyday Building Presented at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture West Regional Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2004 Wes Janz Wes Janz

, PhD, RA, is an architectural educator, uniting professional education with building activities. He teaches design studios in the post-professional Master of Architecture II program, and upper level theory seminars. As Director of the MArch II program, he shapes a 'global citizen-architect' mission, recruiting students from South Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the US. He is Co-Director of

11-week immersive program that provides a cross section of world architecture, urbanism, and planning for graduate and undergraduate students in selected South Asian regions and cities. With students, faculty colleagues, and his collaborators in 26262625, he has constructed no-cost installations in Argentina, Sri Lanka, and the US. CapAsia, an

wjanz@bsu.edu http://www.bsu.edu/web/wjanz/WesSite/ Abstract Alongside architecture students and other collaborators, I build with construction and demolition waste. Shading this work are the living conditions of the world’s urban poor, understood through travels and work in south Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the US. Influenced by these experiences and the writing of de Certeau, I am critical of the “strategic” approaches that dominate the sustainability monologue. When he writes of “everyday living,” de Certeau foregrounds the “tactician” turning events into “opportunities,” developing intelligence inseparable from everyday struggles and pleasures, living a human and humane life. Three featured projects – an arbor in the US, pavilions in Sri Lanka, and a competition entry for Argentina -- recast sustainability from a tactician’s perspective. To sustain sustenance -- to give support, endurance, or strength to others and to one’s self; to earn a livelihood; and to occupy ‘other shades of green’ – such are the deeper murmurings coursing through these built works. Introduction To begin, three key moments are offered. The first is a journal entry from a 2001 South Asian field study. The second – a listing of the contents of a 20-yard construction site dumpster -- was made in August 2004. The third recounts a recent “green” conference experience. Then, de Certeau’s ideas regarding “tactics” are introduced as the framework through which three “everyday” works were undertaken. The central questions are: who has power, who appears to be powerless, and how to empower others, including myself. The article concludes with several ideas on how and why one can continue to find sustenance through sustainability. Key Moment One Moving through the world with eyes, heart, and mind open is to realize the challenges confronting most people:


-2.5 billion persons don’t have electricity, -most of Bangladesh (120,000,000 people) lives in unplanned conditions, -10,000 people move to Istanbul every week, -1 in 8 South Africans is H.I.V.-positive, -in Sri Lanka, “garbage” is new -- no comparable word exists in Sinhalese, -1,000 additional cars merge onto the roads of Beijing every day, and -every 24 seconds in the United States, there’s a new international migrant. Imagine Delhi, e-journaled on January 25, 2001: “Today, Yamuna Pushta. 45,000 living under a bridge. Incredible stench when we first enter, huge excrement smell – URINE – find out later a city contractor provides twenty toilets for entire settlement (1 per 2,250 residents) and charges for toilets too. So always a long line, always URINE.” Structures made of bricks, bamboo, plastic tarps, corrugated asbestos sheets, some sandstone, rocks secure bent metal roofs. Fires often wipe out entire neighborhoods, did I mention that? Imagine . . . our house floods annually, we return. It burns, we rebuild.” Paul Hirst in his piece “Cities: From Ancient Greece to Globalization” offers another reality, that of Cairo, Egypt, a sprawling “anticity” filled with shanty dwellers where growth fueled by uncontrolled rural migration renders the metropolis all but ungovernable. “Such a prospect is disturbing,” says Hurst, “because Westerners have tended to see urbanization as progress and the city as a force of order.”1 I offer Delhi, where 5,000,000 live illegally. An Indian colleague said: “Average Indian longevity is 62 years. In slums, 37. The people are fireflies drawn to the light of Delhi. Attracted by opportunity, they don’t know . . . soon they will die.”2 Key Moment Two Contents of one 20-yard, construction site, roll-off dumpster processed on August 11, 2004 at the 334 Recycling and Transfer Facility, owned and operated by Ray’s Trash Service3 in Zionsville, Indiana: 1000’s of 2x4 lengths 100’s of pieces of OSB 10’s of wood truss ends 10’s of cardboard boxes 10’s of aluminum cans and plastic bottles 10’s of rigid insulation pieces 10 lengths of steel strapping Approximately 150-200 roll-off dumpsters – many from construction sites -- are processed daily at 334, along with 150-200 garbage trucks, and 5-10 smaller trailers. Selected dumpster loads are sorted for cardboard, steel, or concrete chunks. Everything else, along with sorting operation debris, is transferred into 80-cubic-yard trailers and transported to the Twin Bridges landfill site; 32 18-wheeler trailers every day. According to Environmental Building News: 44,000 US commercial buildings and 245,000 housing units are demolished annually; 10-30% of the US annual landfill waste


stream is associated with remodeling and making buildings; and construction and demolition in the US account for 136,000,000 tons of waste a year.4 In the past two years I have photographed nearly 200 construction site dumpsters, amazed at their holdings and the indifference of the architectural profession regarding this wastefulness. The flow of garbage from the city, from construction sites is relentless, the transferring a mad ballet, the landfill a wasteland. I am done photographing dumpsters. Key Moment Three I toured the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, twice. I visited two “living machines” (@ Oberlin and the PAWS studio of “Garfield the Cat” creator Jim Davis), calculated my “ecological footprint” and share the website with others,5 attended lectures by William McDonough and Paul Hawken, offered a workshop at the 2003 Greening of the Campus symposium at Ball State University, 6 and more. I recycle. I do this work, and share these curiosities. At a “green” conference I attended in 2003, discussions about sustainability focused on superstars, organizations, formulas, and signature buildings (almost always in the US). The conversations were rational, Western, and completely reliant on systems thinking. Strategies and tactics Michel de Certeau describes a “strategy” as a force-relationship between a subject of will and power isolated from an exterior “environment” distinct from it.7 Strategies, de Certeau argues, “conceal beneath objective calculations their connection with power that sustains them from within the stronghold of its own ‘proper’ place or institution.” These entities exist in ways quite isolated from, and at odds with, other “environments.” They have proper and highly rationalized relationships with each other, their clienteles, and the objects of their research, and are concerned first and foremost with centralizing and maintaining power among themselves. I am critical of the “strategic” approaches that dominate the sustainability monologue, with its reliance on organizations (AIA Committee on the Environment, USGBC), formulas (LEEDS, best practices), star power (McDonough, Orr, Swett, Fisk, Wackernagel – almost all Caucasian men), and trophy buildings (the Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College). These “institutions” are isolated from, and at odds with, other “environments.” They have proper and highly rationalized relationships with each other, their clienteles, and the objects of their research. When he writes of “everyday living,” de Certeau foregrounds the individual as tactician working in the other’s place, manipulating events in order to turn them into opportunities, developing intelligence inseparable from everyday struggles and pleasures, living a human and humane life. One can sustain sustenance within a tactical approach. We can supply the necessities of life; give support, endurance, and strength; nourish; and provide a means of livelihood. Sustaining sustenance is not a strategy; it is a way of being in the world with others and our selves. Three Works


Three small, recent works explore the tactician’s place. Two were attempted with collaborators in 26262625 Architects, a group formed in 1997.8 The third project stands in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Work 1: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; 26262625 I’m building an arbor in my backyard. I work on it every day. Made primarily of no cost materials (cut maple, birch, and beech saplings and downed branches), the structure is impermanent, incomplete, in need of constant attention. No money, no electricity, and no trucks were allowed, even though I have money, electricity, and a driveway. The galvanized steel frame, inspired by canopy struts found in the garage attic, will remain or it will be discarded easily by new homeowners. First, seven galvanized steel pipe columns. A pipe beam spans five, moves perpendicular to floating columns, then diagonal back. Total cost: $337. Then, thirteen cut sapling columns and beams. Wire connectors hold hundreds of thin saplings, along with found objects. Most encased in a steel mesh skin. Lights, vine too. Tools used: hack saw, tape measure, level, pliers, gardening shears. Former student Jerome is the primary designer; Sohith contributed early. Architecture students – Kurt, Laura, Steve, Brooke, Ryan, Nick, Jenn, Adam, James -- provide important ideas. The arbor sees much living. In summer, vines and morning glories grow a green roof. The roots of a surging maple tree expose themselves to our feet. Birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and cats now animate our lives. My wife feels better when in the hammock. About dying. A sapling column sprouted the first spring, even though dead!! Moon flowers BLOOM as we sleep; awake, we find them exhausted. In autumn, the vine is bare, quiet. My father died ten years ago, my mother two years ago, both of cancer. Mom’s rolling pin and thin scraps from my dad’s woodshop -- some he harvested from his father’s forest, hauled out, rough cut, dried, and finished for his use (which never happened) – resist winter’s snow. I’m building an arbor in my backyard. I work on it every day. 9 Work 2: Kadubeddah, Sri Lanka; CapAsia III I am co-director of CapAsia, a ten-week, South Asian field study offered by the College of Architecture and Planning in 1999, 2001, and 2003.10 Among the 2003 highlights: participation in a 10-day project at the University of Moratuwa in Colombo, Sri Lanka with faculty members and 45 undergraduate students. One team was to construct a pavilion made primarily of scavenged wood materials (dismantled wood packing crates, disassembled timber pallets, and handsawn tree trunks); the other, a “mud” pavilion that consisted of rubble from demolished campus buildings and an earth/sand/cement mixture poured into sacks that were sprinkled with water, then pounded into place. Among the challenges: no money, the Sun, teams made up of cross-national students, shockingly different hand tools, no electricity on site, and only eleven days in which to complete both pavilions. Architecture professors speak of “learning by building,” referring to the acquisition of established knowledge. “Building to learn” inverts and expands the paradigm. We worked in a different country, with persons who (might) speak English as a second language, in a society with its own perspectives regarding the environment, locally available materials, America and Americans. More importantly, “building to


learn” begins with learning from “other” first as a fellow human, then as architect, planner, or designer.11 Work 3: Buenos Aires, Argentina; 26262625 An entry in the “Precarious Habitat” category of the 2004 International Union of Architects “Celebration of Cities” proposed that 26262625 return to Buenos Aires, to the La Boca neighborhood. We proposed ten one-day workshops in La Boca, designing and building with scavenged materials, supporting the needs, skills, and means of men, women, the cartoneros (garbage-collecting children), craftspeople, architects, and students. We intended to extend basic details developed in previous small projects into this new setting, even as we based our design and construction work in what could be found locally: steel detailing in this place populated with abandoned hulks of former oceangoing vessels; timber pallet and rubble wall detailing from the Sri Lankan pavilions to be attempted in concert with the cartoneros; and branch and wood works from the arbor. Future Shades I will continue to travel in south Asia and Latin America, seeking out opportunities to work alongside the working poor. I will find the cultures of building, “the coordinated system of knowledge, rules, procedures, and habits that surround the building process in a given place and time” that exist in every locale, that, in some ways, cause all built environments and living conditions to be (somewhat) knowable.12 I will give new life and vigor to waste materials. There is global waste – one-liter plastic bottles, brick chunks, timber pallets, and more – and it has potential. I will use common, low quality hand tools. And I will continue my efforts to help just one person. Our world is beyond our imaginations. We must be engaged, even as we ask questions about the “sustainability” discourse. There are alternative paths, points of discussion, and ways to get involved. To act as an everyday builder is, for me, the best way to continue.13


1

Paul Hirst. “Cities: From Ancient Greece to Globalization.” In Ephemeral Structures in the City of Athens International Architectural Competition The Programme, edited by Maria Theodorou, 41-54. Athens, Greece: 2002 Cultural Olympiad 2001-2004, Hellenic Cultural Heritage SA, 2002. 2 Rahesh Miatra. “The Relationship of Floods to Man.” Inaugural session, Disaster relief workshop, School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, India, January 2001. 3 http://www.raystrash.com/ 4 From Environmental Building News as cited in “Running the Numbers,” Architecture 92, no. 4 (April 2003): 19. 5 http://www.lead.org/leadnet/footprint/intro.htm 6 Elif Tandogan, Tuelay Guenes, and Wes Janz, “’Potentiating’ Waste: Timber Pallets as an Alternative Building System” (workshop presented at the Greening of the Campus V, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, September 2003), 2. 7 Michel de Certeau, translated by Steven Rendall. The Practice of Everyday Living. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. 8 http://www.26262625.com 9 For more, see http://www.bsu.edu/web/wjanz/WesSite/Arbor%20Spring.htm 10 http://www.capasia.net 11 See “CapAsians ‘Build to Learn’ in Colombo, Sri Lanka,” http://www.bsu.edu/cap/article/0,,17046--,00.html 12 Howard Davis. The Culture of Building. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 13 For more, see http://www.bsu.edu/web/wjanz/WesSite/

Sustaining Sustenance  

Wes Janz. Alongside architecture students and other collaborators, I build with construction and demolition waste. Shading this work are t...

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