Buildings are time-shifted decision making. The decisions about where you enter your home, which room you use to sleep, and where you eat your breakfast were all made for you, probably by a stranger. Winston Churchill said as much: “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” This book explores the idea that this shaping is not once-and-for-all, but an ongoing pattern of interaction.

Here are a few of my notes:

  • Different types of buildings (commercial, residential, and institutional) change at different rates.
  • Different parts of buildings change at different rates: site, structure, skin, services, space plan, stuff (p. 13).
  • Most buildings do no adapt well, because they are not designed to adapt; that is, they “misuse time” (p. 2).
  • Houses used to be built with the intention of expanding and changing them over the years. In the third world this is still common with exposed rebar. In wealthier societies we tend to want everything to look “finished” even when it is just at a temporary pause in construction.
  • Buildings inspired by art look good at a distance, but are nonfunctional
  • A few more choice quotes: “water is the root of all evil” (114), “flat roofs always leak” (115), “do you want material that looks bad before it acts bad, like shingles or clapboard, or one that acts bad long before it looks bad, like vinyl siding?” (118)