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Lesson Plans

Environmental design

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
JudaOrlandi, Marilyn (Marilyn.JudaOrlandi)
Fri, 10 Oct 1997 09:47:00 +0200

Dear Cindy, Lindsie and Lisa (University of Arizona Art Education
You said:
>We noticed a section in this website relating to environmental design
>began to uncover many reasons for creating architecture that blends in
>the environment; therefore, preserving it rather than destroying the
>environment to show off a fancy building. On one hand, this concept
>like a good idea, but what are the realities of the construction
>For example, nature is disrupted by the first shovel that hits the
>Is this considered conserving the environment? Or are we fooled by its
>appearance? Frank Lloyd Wright prides himself on being an
>conscious architect. Wright states that "architecture should blend
>the land and should follow the earth's line." What are his main
>That his architecture be aesthetic or the environment be preserved? Or
>it possible to do both?

>Any wishing to respond, feel free.

In answer to your comments regarding environmental design, I would like
to share the following with you, as an extraordinary example of
architecture which fully respects its ambient.

This year we had a wonderful vacation in Puglia in the south of Italy.
We stayed in a Trullo, which is a typical construction of the area.
Most date back several hundred years and were built when the nobility of
the time wouldn't allow the peasants who farmed the land to build
permanent structures on the land. Since the land is full of stone in
that area, and the peasants had to clear the land in order to cultivate,
they used the stones from clearing the fields to build these Trulli by
placing one stone upon another with no cement or mortar to hold them
together; just stone upon stone fit together. That way they were not
considered permanent and were permitted.

The base of the structure is square with an outer stone wall and an
inner stone wall about four feet apart. The space in between is filled
with stones and rubble creating air spaces which then acts as insulation
keeping them incredibly cool in the summer and warm in the winter. At
about five feet high, the structure becomes round and the stones are
placed one by one, consistently making the opening smaller and smaller
to create a high conical dome on top of the structure.

On top of this stone roof flat stone slabs are placed as roof tiles so
that the water from rain runs off. The water from rain is collected off
the roof in a runoff channel and goes into a cistern under the house, so
that each house is independent for water source. (Puglia is a dry area
and water is precious ) In the Trullo we stayed in, we drank this water
from the cistern under the house and it was so pure and cool.

The houses were then whitewashed on the inside and out. On the inside
on the re-modernized Trulli, they have a special way of finishing off
the interior walls that doesn't exist anywhere else. They are first
plastered with a mixture cement and sand to a rough finish. Then they
are plastered over that to a smooth finish with a mixture of plaster and
ground local stone, then the last two coats are done with a sort of
gesso mixed with powdered local marble-like stone and the final result
is a silky smooth luminous white finish that reflects the light in an
incredible way. There are so many rounded surfaces in these structures
that the light just seems to reflect and reflect. This surface never
has to be repainted. We saw Trulli where the walls had been done 15
years ago and they were just like new. If it gets dirty it can be
washed and stains can be taken off by spraying with bleach.

Because the walls are so thick the windows are very small in each room
.(Rooms can be added on as needed and are connected to the main room
through an arched passage way.) Despite the small windows, because of
the reflecting surfaces, the light in the rooms is incredibly bright.
In fact, I often had to keep the shutters half shut.

Instead of furniture, niches are created in the thick walls to serve as
shelves, and closets and whatever other storage space is needed.

The woodburning oven is built into the outside wall so that the house
doesn't heat up in the summer when baking. A large niche above the oven
is used to store wood for the fire, and its position keeps the wood dry.

Stairs were built into the outside wall of the Trullo leading up to the
roof to make it easy to repair the stone tiles in case there should be a
need. The roof and terrace surfaces are also used to dry figs etc. in
the sun.

Smaller "Trulli" were built for storing grain and keeping animals etc.

I am told the structures are extremely stable and even a hurricane
doesn't have an effect on them.

What I find interesting is the fact that these structures were not
designed by some famous architect, but by simple peasants who combined
available materials to build structures which met their needs, respected
the environment, were ecologically valid at a time when the word ecology
probably didn't even exist... and at the same time are so aesthetically
pleasing that they are now a tourist attraction.

Marilyn Juda-Orlandi
Rome, Italy