Assembling a dream world [broadband recommended]

ablarc

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#1
ASSEMBLING A DREAM WORLD

Five settlements in the same region:

One:













Two:













Three:













Four:













Five:





Some people have imaginations, and some people don’t. Those who created these four settlements are said to be in the former category, but the truth is the antecedents are easy to identify.

Middle Earth’s prototypes can be found in England, Ireland, China, the Iowa prairie, Spain, Italy, the Merritt Parkway, Tibet, Barcelona, Viking Scandinavia, the Adirondacks, the Col de Tende, Mont Saint Michel, Urbino, Lincoln, Petra, Assisi, Durham, St. Paul-de-Vence, Stonehenge, Crete, Cordoba, Baalbek, Marakkech, Lalibela, Rhodes, Granada…as well as places unbuilt but real enough in children’s books and the minds of Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Beatrix Potter, Walt Disney, Jan van Eyck, JMW Turner, Arnold Boecklin, Alma-Tadema, Gustave Moreau, Altdorfer, M.C. Escher, Hugh Ferris and Fritz Lang (even animal architects such as paper wasps and prairie dogs have contributed to the eclectic salmagundi)… wherever places that appeal to the human sensibility have been built or assembled.



Eclectic, knowledgeable, wonderful, maybe even imaginative…you bet. But original? Maybe not. Does anybody really care; isn’t wonderful enough? Can you identify the precedents plundered by the pasticheurs? If you can, it’s just a parlor trick—just stuff for the effete intellectual snobs to snicker about.


Would Peter Jackson’s purposes have been better served if he had hired a crew of set designers hell-bent on originality? Should we denounce them, enraged, for their immoral borrowings, their unscrupulous pandering to the middle class’s kitschy sensibility? No, I hear you say, after all this is a movie. But wait, it’s OK; this is a movie.

But in the real world…

What? In the real world we must have originality? Or do we really mean conformity to a rigid paradigm, a spectrum of possibilities that extends from Adolf Loos to Frank Gehry? Truth is, even the cult of originality is a form of fakery; we have to rely on our audience to be insufficiently versed in architectural history to recognize the precedents. For this reason there were architecture schools that stopped teaching architectural history for fear it would compromise the students’ illusion of originality.

Modernism is predicated on ignorance of the past. The avant-garde mistakes individualism (which is common) for creativity (which is rare).

I think many of us would be quite happy if our surroundings resembled any of these places that Jackson and Tolkien have cooked up. These are all walkable, and consequently the surrounding countryside remains unspoiled. It would take an effete intellectual snob to object to their kitchiness in Maryland and approve their creativity in Lord of the Rings. And yet consider for a moment: who wouldn’t be delighted to live in the pastoral surroundings of the Shire?

There you are, prosperously ensconced in your earth-form dwelling, troglodytically light in your ecological footprint. You can dispense with air conditioning and know that you are advancing the Green cause and doing what you can to slow global warming.

I am sent a monthly screed called Eco-Structure promoting this very kind of thing, but the buildings illustrated inside are hybrids of Lever House with grass on the roof, not these warm and fuzzy testaments to mankind’s kinship with chipmunks.



No…the style is wrong! To the prim and upright Ichabods who set themselves up as the arbiters of architectural morality, these burrows are simply too reminiscent of other places, other times; too comforting, too familiar, too…cute (the English word is twee).



At the risk of throwing the scolds into a tizzy, I propose this subversive thesis: any one of these places in Lord of the Rings could be built today—unmodified--anywhere in the 48 states, and they would find buyers. Not just buyers but happy buyers. In the real world.

The retired Oregon hippie day trader would choose the earth shelters of The Shire. Here, among the tree roots, he would merrily install his graying wife, his pot seedlings and his collection of Neil Young albums.













Rohan is obviously a ski resort, seen here in the off-season:



I would be quite happy in Gondor, together with my fellow weirdos:











Rivendel has a limited clientele who stay for only a few weeks at a time. They are all interested in est, scientology or rolfing. Some come to fish.







Gray Haven is a gated community. Its plutocrats arrive by cabin cruiser:








* * *

Oh, today’s built environment is so joyless. People seek to escape to their tepid and ultimately style-less McMansions, but there they find no respite from the banal; those places quite simply are not fanciful enough to lose yourself.

If people were offered alternatives, don’t you think some would choose them?

* * *
 
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#2
Absolutely. People would try out different products if given the chance though that doesn't mean there wouldn't be unique problems that we don't even think about in our current housing stock. But unless you find someone with a bag full of money, the people who run Beigh Bank, Beigh Mortgage, and Beigh-e-mae aren't going to go for it. Different is risky so why do it when there are so many opportunities to make money with known rates of return and risk factors?

You have to find a Charles Brewer, only with more money and more vision.

I actually lived in a community as a young lad that planned on building inner-hill houses like those of the Shire. We even had LOTR inspired murals in the pre-existing buildings and were named for one of the communities you didn't cover (which was odd when you think about it since we were going to use Shire rather than witch elf architecture). But it never came to be. Eventually the whole thing went bankrupt, the lake disappeared when our spillway burst, and the bank took over the land. The land is now a Christian home for troubled boys.
 

Dan

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#3
(A slight hijack, but remaining on the topic of fictional built environments.)

Watch Battlestar Galactica when it comes up on the Sci-Fi Network this month. The producers did a very good job at representing an advanced civilization where traces of the past still exist; for example, in "Caprica City" (Cylon-occupied Vancouver, really), futuristic high-rises are intermingled with two-story brick commercial buildings.

Science fiction, otherwise, does a horrible job at portraying cities of the future. Either they're Blade Runner-like dystopias, cities where everything is new and shiny like an edge city, or very low density exurbs where everybody lives in bucolic luxury, housed in large, modernist houses in deep forests or perched on mountaintops.

I'd like to see a science fiction movie set in 2050, where characters live on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs, shop at Wal-Mart, and get stuck in rush-hour traffic on an Interstate. When you think about the built environment 46 years ago, were things that different? New suburbs, Kmart in suburban plazas, and traffic jams on the Interstate. A late 1950s suburb wasn't as attractive as thier contemporary equivalent; signs were gaudier, suburban commercial buildings more basic in their appearance, parking lots without landscaping, access management unknown, but it wasn't that different.
 

jread

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#4
Myself as well as many other people I know would give just about anything to live in one of the places in Middle Earth :)
 
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#5
There have always been houses that have not been built to society’s norms. Do they still have that show extreme homes on TV?
 
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#7
Do a search for "hobbit houses". You'll be surprised at what you find. There are a few isolated bits of fantasy architecture out there. If you go to New Zealand, you can even go on a guided tour of The Shire...or the location it was filmed at least.
 

jordanb

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#8
Is that thread where people critiqued the LOTR built environment from a planning perspective still around?
 
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#11
Not sure I would want to live in the neighborhood around the "Pancing Pony". I looked rather rough. Then again, maybe it is just ready for yuppification.
 
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#12
I agree with ZG. Rivendell is the nicest of the cities, although I don't think there would be many job opportunities. I did not see much industry there. Maybe it is a college town?
 
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#14
I like that castle way up in the mountains.

Maybe if I breed enough mutant warriors I could take it.

(PS I'm the guy looking for zoning violations with the giant eye on the tower)
 

ablarc

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#15
jread said:
Myself as well as many other people I know would give just about anything to live in one of the places in Middle Earth :)
You have to be rich, but as noted on other threads, more and more folks are able to snap up the world’s beauty spots. They go for the nifty architecture and the proximity to interesting people or natural beauty.

It shouldn’t be hard for Middle Earth to trump such flashy but ultimately conventional projects as these that take aim at the disposable income market:




$1000 per night is what the oil sheiks pay.




Note the Rolls Royces.

Who wouldn’t rather live in Gondor or Rivendell?

.
 

abrowne

     
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#16
Now I'm going to go watch LotR just for the architecture and the imagery. I can't stand the actual story, and I can't stand Tolkien. I tried to watch the first movie but turned it off in frustration. However, I will persevere as I now have a purpose in mind...
 
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#17
It's just me and Old Tobe in the Shire. When I rode my bicycle down the coast of California I went through all kinds of back roads in Humboldt and Mendicino, honestly, I wanted to find a place like the shire, NOPE!!! Just a bunch of sloppy trash ridden mini suburban type house designs with drugged out communities,pretty sad. :(
 
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#20
Thoughts

Irish One, zoning doesn't allow the Shire.
Sure it could, if the community wanted it to. Would building and fire codes allow it? That's a different kettle of fish.
I'm sure you're both right. Reading this post struck a chord with me because I had always wanted to find a beautiful tidy, artistic, ecologically sensitive, agrarian, industrious, educational and commerce oriented neighborhood(s) -yes neighborhood(s)! (Ok, utopia) Right now, people don't seem to want to blend with nature, or work with their fellow human beings! We've become so isolated from each other it's scary.
I live in a suburban community so let me share my vision of another shire.

First, I like the idea of letting certain kinds of business run in a neighborhood. Small restaurants (bistro), bakeries, hair dressers, places where people can get their nails done, clothing boutiques, various boutiques and service stores. Nothing to industrial.

Second, I like the idea of people being able to build additions on to their houses in creative ways that will provide room for many different business' or give room for the kids and grandkids by building a 2nd or 3rd story. Maybe you want to build the extra story for renters or as office space.

Third, I like the idea that we build within the limits of existing infrastructure.

Problems:

What do I tell Johnny land owner to persuade him not to sell his thousand acre property to a developer of single family homes?

How do I tell Johnny and Suzie home buyer that they shouldn't buy an affordable single family home freshly built near a decent school for their children?

Possible (only) solution: Let them develop and we'll develop our new shire in existing neighborhoods.

MONEY TALKS

I'll be the first to amit that I have grandiose dreams and visions about the transformation of existing and willing suburban neighborhoods into beautiful tidy, artistic, ecologically sensitive, agrarian, industrious, educational and commerce oriented places. I don't think the Shire needs to be built from scratch. All of us would benefit from continuing to build the places that are here and create our very own homebrewed Shire.
 
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