Being Green – ‘Pulchraphilia’

Hi Folks:

Friday once again!  The topic for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post is ‘pulchraphilia’.  If you’ve never heard the word ‘pulchraphilia’ before, don’t be surprised.  I’d not heard of it myself until recently.  In truth it’s a made-up word.  Then again, all words have to begin somewhere…  I have no claim to it; the word was invented (as best I can tell) by Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Region Green Building Council, and the creator of the ‘Living Building Challenge’.  The word has two Latin words as its base: ‘pulchra’, meaning ‘beauty’, and ‘philia’, meaning ‘love of’.  Roughly translated then, pulchraphilia would be a love of beauty, just as biophilia is a love of life.  It comes from an article in the Spring 2010 issue of Trim Tab, the e-zine put out by Cascadia.

Now, I must admit that over the years I’ve read a LOT of papers on various aspects of green building and on building in general.  Almost all of them have contained valuable information, many contained new insights (at least for me), and some outlined new products and/or new technologies.  I’ve learned from all of them, but for the most part I would hesitate to call them ‘inspiring’.  This article inspired me.  Beauty is a loaded word in our society; for many it brings forth images of anorexia, plastic surgery and yo-yo diets, and if this is what our ideas of beauty have been reduced to then we are much the poorer for it.  There are many other representatives of beauty as well, from a beautiful smile to a beautiful laugh, from a beautiful sunset to beautiful music.  From a biologist’s point of view it might be folly to pronounce flowers beautiful, as their designs can be said to be functional – focused on using a variety of methods to attract pollinating insects, and thus creating progenitors for themselves.  Still, if function was the only criterion then there would be no need for the wonderful abundance of variety.  The same can be said of any other species, including ‘us’.  Beauty and praticality, form and function can certainly go hand in hand.

I believe those who feel a calling to be architects and designers understand this on some intrinsic level, and yet often this idea of beauty isn’t translated into the final product.  We create acres of cookie-cutter houses that all share a few basic patterns, using the same finishes and the same muted palette of colours.  We create commercial and industrial buildings that resemble nothing so much as huge concrete boxes, largely indistinguishable from a distance.  And often, as those interested in reducing energy use or in developing ways to increase sustainability and the like, we become driven by practicality.  For a building or for any product to work properly it must be efficient, cost-effective, suited to its place and its use.  All of those are attributes of green building.  But beauty?  What does it matter if a toilet looks elegant, as long as it uses 60% less water than a convential one? It does matter.

Beauty is intangible.  There’s no question of that.  Some might consider it indefinable, and yet I think we share some common sense of it; perhaps it is our innate connection to life itself.  I also believe that beauty needs to play an integral role in the design of our homes, our offices and places of work, and our stores.  What people find repugnant they draw away from, but beauty draws us forward, and we are much more likely to invest time, energy and effort into those things we love.   Here’s an example: Gigantic Flower-Shaped Green Stadium Blossoming in China.  Another is this very inspiring TED talk by Bjarke Ingels.  Anyway, I highly recommend Mr. McLennan’s article; read it and you may be inspired too!

Okay, the links for this week include:

Okay, that’s it for now.  Have a great week!


P.S. Today (April 30) is Save the Frogs Day: learn easy ways to help these lovable creatures!
4 Ways Your Family Can Save the Frogs

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