In 1986 Carlo Petrini protested the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in Piazza di Spagna, Rome and launched the Slow Food Movement. Carl Honoré explains in his book, In Praise of Slowness, that Slow Food “stands for everything that McDonalds does not: fresh, local, seasonal produce; recipes handed down through the generations; sustainable farming; artisanal production; leisurely dining with family and friends.” But ultimately the movement is about the sensual pleasures of food.
Thirty years after Carlo’s protest, organic produce, artisanal cheeses and craft beer are everywhere. Foodies flock to ever more specialized restaurants serving only food cultivated in their own backyards. Whole Foods is considered mass market and Michelle Obama is promoting farm-to-table in public schools. Carlo should be proud. He saved food!
Since then, the Slow Movement has touched almost every industry except ours. Slow Cities. Slow Aging. Slow Religion. Slow Cinema. Slow Education. Slow Sex. Slow Medicine. Slow Fashion. Slow Parenting. Slow Travel. Architecture, design and the building industry are conspicuously absent from the list. We find that strange. So we decided to do something.
Ninety percent of our time is spent inside a building. The spaces where you live, work and visit have a huge impact on your life, health and mood. McMansions are the architectural equivalent of fast food. Poor quality, made with cheap materials, bloated with fillers and chemicals, depressing to be in, built fast and without a thoughtful design. Every town has them and nobody really wants them. But there aren’t many other options.
That’s our fault. We as architects, designers, builders and artisans have not protested the McMansions and other soul-less “junkspace,” the term Rem Koolhaas used to describe strip malls, big box stores and developer high-rises. We roll our eyes, complain and go about trying to produce quality work, while our market share gets smaller and smaller. We haven’t launched a grassroots revolution. Yet. We need to take a stand in defense of Slow Space.
The Slow Space Movement promotes good quality buildings, made with clean healthy materials and built with fair labor. The three principles of good, clean and fair are borrowed from the Slow Food Movement as they apply equally well to the design and construction industry. The movement is about creating buildings of enduring value for the world, using the planet’s precious resources judiciously and wisely, and supporting the community of artisans and craftspeople. The Slow Space Movement takes the long view regarding design and construction, believing that buildings should last hundreds of years and benefit the common good.