Friday, December 12, 2008

What's It For?

Though I've been considering and scheming about a garden structure for at least a couple of years now, it was only recently during a walk on the beach that my daughter held me to accounts and asked point blank: "What's the building for?"

Here's what I told her:

  1. We want a small space that conducive to creative tasks. A quiet place for knitting, working on a guitar, reading, writing, etc. would be great.
  2. We want a small gathering space to enjoy with friends for a beer, a dinner (with a view!), sit around a fire, soak in a tub, etc.
  3. We want a small spillover space that could be used to house a guest overnight.
  4. We want an indoor-outdoor integrated area that supports a number of garden production activities such as canning.

That's what we're aiming we'll talk about size.


Structures and space...

There's been a lot of back and forth around what and whether to build anything in the garden space. I think the 'whether' part has finally been resolved, but not easily.

Buildings take away from garden space. That's the simple version. However, I've also realized that garden space is enjoyed (appreciated) more of the time if you can do something there besides garden. And, in Oregon where 5 months of the year it pretty much rains, being able to enjoy a garden from inside is important unless you're willing to simply cede a third of the year to rain. So, I settled myself on putting a small structure in the garden.

I've learned some things about urban density and space too that give me the courage of my convictions to go ahead and build a garden structure. My small lot next door where I live has four structures on it, but doesn't feel crowded or even overbuilt. Space, I've learned, is really perceived space. Simple square footage means relatively little, at least from an aesthetic point of view. Visual layering, curved paths, effort to preserve small wild spaces, etc. all create a feeling of space that can't be explained by simple calculations of square feet.

There are also good reasons, I think, to work hard to increase urban density...especially where it can be done without aesthetic or environmental impact. Urban density means less sub-urban sprawl. For my money, urban density that's well integrated with living/growing spaces represents a huge improvement over cookie cutter neighborhoods populated with McMansions and sprawling lawns.

So, it looks like there's going to be a building. Now, we've got to figure out what it's going to look like!