What is Slow Architecture?

The new wave or architecture promotes smaller homes and using what you have.

Posted by Chaya Kurtz | Sep 01, 2009
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If you've never heard of "Slow Food," you've probably heard of "Fast Food." If you've never heard of "Slow Architecture," you might have heard the phrase, "McMansion" refer to cookie-cutter suburban sprawl. Slow Architecture is a movement toward building homes that are space and energy efficient, attractive, harmonize with the surrounding area, and create a smaller carbon footprint.

What makes Slow Architecture "slow?" Literally, Slow Homes take time to build. Just like it takes time to cook food that honors the native flavors and ingredients of the region, homes that work with their environment take time to design and build. The main idea behind Slow Architecture is careful consideration of what both the home owner and the environment need. John Brown, the founder of Slow Home, says that Slow Homes are homes that people can afford. He holds that living within one's means, rather than trying to buy the biggest house possible, is slow living. Therefore, the Slow Architecture movement is a movement away from size, and a movement toward quality and durability. It takes time to build quality, durable things.

A facet of Slow Architecture is reusing existing structures and objects instead of producing new ones. For instance, Slow Architects prefer filling in existing urban spaces to building up lesser-developed suburban areas. You'll find many creative uses of old objects inside Slow Architecture houses. Used wood and recycled building parts might all become part of the structure of the house. Home furnishings might be made from creatively-used found objects, like tables and chairs made from cast off wood.

Slow Architecture aims to harmonize with the environment. "Harmonize" might sound flakey, but a home that agrees with its natural environment is the most cost-efficient option. Maximizing natural light and building a home that is appropriate to the climate can save you thousands of dollars in heating, cooling, and lighting bills. Just like there's nothing hippy-dippy about a slow-cooked pot roast, there's no shame in building and furnishing a home in a way that it will last for generations and serve exactly its purpose, with no frills.

If Slow Architecture sounds interesting to you but you're not in the market to build a new house, you're in luck. Since Slow Architecture's focus is using existing structures and objects, you can use Slow Architecture concepts to use the space and objects you have more efficiently.

Things you can do to "slow" your house down:

  • Fix it - don't throw it out: Although many of the objects we have in our houses are meant to be disposable, Americans throw out many things that are actually fixable. Next time something breaks or looks a little worn, ask yourself if you can fix it.
  • Centralize: Make a hub in your house for family/personal activity. John Brown suggests that one should not see his house as a series of rooms on a floor plan, but instead see it as a series of places where you do certain activities. In many houses, the kitchen is the hub of the house. What can you do to use the space in your kitchen to accommodate all of your activities?
  • Relax: Turn off the cell phone, internet, and television for a few minutes every day. Cook a simple dinner, turn off the TV, and eat together as a family. Slow Architecture promotes independence and calmness. It costs nothing to give yourself a few minutes of quiet.
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