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Reading 13 "Nature and the Idea of a Man-Made World" by Norman Crowe


1. nature

"Ultimately our understanding of nature configures the way we approach both the environment that we create and the environment in which our creations reside," writes Crowe on page 7. He goes on to say that, "The man-made world is an alternative nature, so to speak, created by artifice and born as a human reflection of the wonder we find in the natural world--the heavens, the seasons, the landscapes and seascapes, plants and animals." Thus, Crowe argues that architecture--the built environment--is the human creation sparked by man's interaction with the natural. Man has been the creator of his own place in nature, his own version of the natural world.

2. balance

Crowe makes the firm argument that, "Each of us, whether we recognize it or not, acts upon a foundation of some concept of nature." Because of this inevitability, we all strive for the ideal balance between the built world and nature. In looking at two extremes--one in which man dominates nature, the other in which nature dominates man--anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss is noted to have concluded that his image of the ideal balance between nature and the built environment existed in his native France "where, in a predominantly agricultural district, towns were dense and compact, taking up as little of the land as they might, yet within them were healthy human communities living in close harmony." (page 9) This balance is found by each person individually, however, notes Crowe. Each person's idea of this harmony is shaped both by direct life experience and by culturally inculcated values.


1. Much in the tradition of the Gothic Revival backlash to the mechanized architecture of the Industrial Revolution, Crowe speaks of the value of craft that is common in all architecture that seeks to possess ideal harmony; that ideal balance between nature and the built environment. Do you view modern architecture, in general, as actively seeking this balance between nature, or rejecting its importance? If it is neglecting this balance that Crowe advocates, how can the profession take steps to seek this ideal harmony?

2. "It is ironic that while science has shown us that we are at best minor actors in the broader natural order, our actions lead us in the opposite direction," writes Crowe on page 22. Which of the actions of mankind have led us in the "opposite direction"?