How Buildings Learn


Last week I mentioned The Long Now Foundation, the progenitor of a series of interesting experiments in long-term thinking (such as The Clock of the Long Now and The 10,000 Year Photograph). Stewart Brand was a Long Now founder, and still co-chairs its board. He's an interesting guy -- a former Merry Prankster, founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, and much more.

In 1994, Brand wrote How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built. The book is an extended argument about architecture and construction, trying to single out what factors make great buildings great, and what makes failed buildings so bad. Why do some buildings seem to improve with time and adapt to change, while others seem doomed from the beginning? In 1997, the BBC produced a three-hour documentary based on Brand's book, traveling around the world to examine various buildings and interview stakeholders about how they work. Brand has now posted the BBC documentary in its entirety online (in six parts) via Google Video. If you're interested in architecture, history, or sustainable design, this will be an interesting way to spend your afternoon. Here's the first segment:

See the whole thing: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, and part six. Keep in mind that because this is Google Video, you can download the videos in standard MPEG-4 format, playable on iPods or other video players -- just click the "download video" link on the right side of the links listed above.