The Solar Manifesto - Part 1.
for even after the deepest night, the sun always rises.
I started my twitter account exactly a year ago to share my insights and thoughts about the kind of architecture I believe in and practice in my day to day with more or less success.
Coming from a modernist education, I slowly realised how cobbled my mind was with impractical ideas. Sharing my thoughts is as much a self-discovery as self-determination. My hope is that my insights can be transformed into valuable creations and projects that you and I can build to last.
As my following grew, so did my drive to clarify my ideas into written / illustrated forms of tweets and threads.
I recently realised, though that it's hard for me to distill or even grasp the complexities of the subjects I want to talk about in short form so I decided to try out long-form writing.
This is my first sincere attempt, The Solar Manifesto. The goal with this introductory letter is to list the 21 core ideas I defined as my guiding principles which I will flesh out in the coming issues in more detail.
The main goal is to shine a new and forgotten light of the sun on architecture and practical building principles that can improve the durability and resilience of the buildings and improve our overall health and wellbeing while also nurturing design solutions towards simple and timeless beauty.
There are a lot of thoughts to unfold, so I will break the 21-idea manifesto in two parts. Here's the first part with the first eleven ideas:
Solar Manifesto - Part 1.
Sun is energy, health and abundant wealth. However powerful we feel, our lives all revolve around the Sun, every day. Our body is tuned into the circadian rhythm, or if not, we can hardly be in flow with Life.
The Sun is the central heating of our solar system, Earth and all ecosystems - including our body. It can also be the main heat source for our homes and buildings.
Many basic but essential activities for which we currently rely on electricity, fossil fuels, and complicated technology could all be powered by the sun. The sun’s power could be harnessed for anything from drying clothes, meats, vegetables, and heating water.
2. Passive solar and the Passivhaus standard
Passive solar heat gain is the core idea of passive solar homes and the "Passivhaus" building standard developed in Germany. It is an ancestral principle that was reborn in the 1970s through earthship and off-grid solar homes. It became more widespread in Europe after a small german team developed a toolkit that made designing passive solar homes easier.
Passive solar in essence means we maximise solar heat gain in the interior of the home via large south facing windows. The heat then is trapped by the very well insulated thermal envelope of the building.
I will elaborate in future issues in more detail.
The greenest form of energy is what we never consume. None of my ideas are new. They are based on ancestral principles which are being proven by contemporary studies.
Other ancestral ideas are building transitory, outdoor spaces that maximise living in the outdoors, in gardens - for example outdoor kitchen, workshop, living rooms.
All the ideas are easily implementable and measurable with the aid of some simple modern tools. For example secondary natural materials can be improved into useful building materials (wood chips to wood fibre insulation) with the help of manufacturing lines.
Every solar principle - building orientation, passive heat gain, efficiency of insulation etc. - can be measured and calculated with a comprehensive energy balance toolkit.
5. Durable ("Firmitas")
A 500 year old house is 10x more sustainable than a 50 year old one. We should aim to build as durable as possible, learning from what people achieved around the middle part of the last millennium and adding our new-found scientific knowledge about natural materials.
Since it's impossible to build a zero maintenance home, we should target easy maintenance for durability.
6. Functional ("Utilitas")
The abundance of the 20th century drove the sizes of homes to monumental scales. Through my practice I always propose the smallest, most functional layout for a project. I can guarantee that most building designs could be at least 30% smaller, while getting an improved functionality - sometimes with even overlapping uses for multiple rooms.
This idea ties in tightly with functionality and durability. A building quickly becomes worthless or a burden if it cannot adapt to new situations - like a growing family or a massive new need for home office/workshop space. As much as it should be able to grow or reorganise, it should be divisible to smaller units if necessary.
8. Natural materials
99% of the time we use natural materials for structure (for example mass timber), insulation, timber windows. I aim to talk about the versatility of wood and wood-derived products like cross laminated timber that I think is a significant innovation to happen in the last century - among other topics.
9. Classical forms ("Venustas")
In the last 10.000 years, in a blink of a Jupiter eye-storm, humanity perfected some timeless forms that can inform future designs with great success, even if we don't aim to reach the magnificence of classical buildings with every new design.
Cognitive scientists have proven that these forms are also in harmony with our minds, our evolutionary intuition being trained on them for thousands of years.
The other thing our neural pathways have been trained is proximity to nature and our symbiotic relationship with her. For the last couple of years I have been researching ways and proposing designs which try to get this harmony back with nature in some simple ways.
Be it growing small botanical gardens or homesteads or just carefully placing trees as bioclimatic shading, the experiments to regain connection with nature are endless.
11. Fractal - self-similar, rhythmic patterns
Inspired by nature, complex designs can be broken down into simpler elements in order to be understood. The more robust aesthetics organise themselves around fractal forms or self-similar forms from the simplest vernacular forms to the exquisite.
In the next instalment, I will expand on the next 10 core ideas of the solar manifesto. A quick peek at what’s to come:
13. Decentralised - off-grid
14. Vernacular - low tech
15. Urban - density, some high tech
16. Resilient, quality, exquisite
17. Community (smaller-scale) or Refined
18. Oikophilia - wellbeing, love of home
19. Mono no avare or love for impermanence
20. Wabi-sabi or nurturing / revitalising old buildings.
That's it for Part 1 of the Solar Manifesto. I hope you've found it useful. If so, come and be part of a well-rounded circle and subscribe to my newsletter for future solar insights!