Architectural & Related Design

 An Interview with John August

Our separation from nature is reflected in today's architecture .

© 1997 John August

Q. What drives you as an artist?

A. We live in an imperfect world. Actually, the world is perfect; it is humanity that is flawed. As an artist and imagineer my goal is to help correct the flaws on whatever level possible.

Q. What got you into all this concrete stuff?

A. Globally we are faced with a very serious problem with the massive deforestation that's going on. Everyone complains, yet few offer viable solutions. I am proposing one solution for reducing or eliminating this problem. The concept is well grounded both from economic and environmental standpoints.

Q. Getting back to this flaw in humanity, where does this come from?

A. Two things. First, something tragic happened on the planet about 10,000 years ago. No one seems to know exactly what it was. A schism in consciousness resulted. The mythological overlays we are left with all leave out some essential part of our cultural anthropology. Second, when mankind changed from hunter-gatherers to an agrarian society, the human biomass grew disproportionately to the other existing life forms at the expense of the entire ecosystem. Now humanity views itself as a distinct entity apart from the rest of the environment. Many are consumed with this notion that our manifest destiny is to use the planet as we please. This separation from nature is reflected in our architecture today.

Q. How do you relate to modern architecture?

A. Very little.The growing metropolis of the world, that icon of futuristic builders, seems to grapple mindlessly in its attempt to emulate the perfect environment. The modern architectural model imprints universality in design and an attitude that the "controlled environment" is not only suitable but is necessary to keep pace with the advanced developments of technology. Regional distinctions, once important, are fading. Loss of indigenous styles have taken art out of architecture. Instead, architects resort to neoclassicism.

Q. What is neoclassicism?

A. Basically, it is taking classical forms and transposing them onto modern structures. It is an illogical paradigm. Most of these original forms followed the time proven adage that form, no matter how ornate, should always follow function. For a simple example, use of the arch in many of today's structures is symbolic; the arch originally performed a structural function, particularly in masonry buildings.

Q. With regards to residential construction, what is your pet peeve?

A. The methodology for our approach to building is askew. Besides the issue of what materials and designs we ultimately use, the format for implementation is just plain crazy. Our work force consists of three schismatic entities: architectural, engineering, and constructive. Herein lies the problem: the majority of architects have no "hands on" building experience; engineers have limited design backgrounds; and builders only follow plans. Even a hundred years ago the architect was a main player in the construction of a building. Going back even further - look at all the great cathedrals - the builder was also the architect and engineer. Now architects think they're so smart they don't need a background in construction to direct people for tasks they don't have a clue how to do themselves. The net result is everyone pays more for services and gets less quality.

Q. How do you relate your designs to Hawaiian style architecture?

A. First we need to clarify what is Hawaiian. Too many architects here think that the so-called "Dickey" double pitched roof typifies the Hawaiian style. Originally it had a utilitarian function - the steep pitch to the ridge created more insulating air space - but this idea has since been lost to modern air conditioners. Just another example of neoclassicism. More accurately - and traditionally - I think the Hawaiian style could be described as a departure from the concept of an enclosed structure being a separate entity from its surroundings. The entire site should be viewed as the dwelling. Some parts of the house may be completely open to the elements and other parts with varying degrees of isolation from the outside. Indoor and outdoor spaces should be unified rather than separated.

Q. After you've revolutionized architecture, what will you do next?

A. Write books, play music, and make movies.


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