Architecture filters the environment, you know, like a clam

I spent the weekend in Beaufort, NC.

I looked over the water, and the marshes, and watched the sun go down over the sound. I watched the fishing boats come in at the end of the day. I felt the wind on my face. I squinted my eyes and tasted the salt in the air. I dreamed about buying a boat. Then, I thought about clams.

That night, I sat in the lobby of the Duke Marine Lab for an opening of my wife’s exhibit on Sea migration. We talked with a couple who’ve “retired” into the commercial fishing business. They used to teach biology and work in a technology field. They’re passionate about the environment. They raised their kids by the North Carolina coast. And, now they farm clams by the marshes. We ate some of the seafood at the opening that night.

Eventually, I started to compare Architecture to clams. I might have had too many rum punches, but try to follow me: Architecture filters the environment – just like the clam.

Buildings take in air from the atmosphere, process it internally and exhaust it. Buildings catch the rain on their roofs and drives, and walks, and then direct it back to the streams, rivers, sounds, and ocean. Buildings let in light, and filter it for the inhabitants. They let in the wind and ventilate the spaces within. They displace the earth; they attach themselves to the sides of the earth and break the flow of the land; they temporarily relocate nature’s materials; They hold their place in time, and, eventually rot and dissolve back into the soil. While they’re around, they filter the environment.

You can determine the health of the water system from the quality (and taste) of the shellfish it supports.

But, what do our buildings tell you about the health of the built environment? If we filter the environment, are we leaving things cleaner than we find them?

All Paintings are by Jacob Cooley and are used by permission of the artist. I love Jacob’s paintings & I think he captures the feel of coastal NC better than anyone. Jacob is an amazing North Carolina Artist, and a good neighbor. Check out more of his work on his website – HERE.

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