Cars stopped appearing in architectural photography when sustainability arose as a concern. They did not go away though. Just beyond the frame, of every photo of a beautiful retreat in an exotic location, we know the photographer’s car will be lurking, alongside the client’s car, and maybe a builder’s car, if the “eco-style” box gutter still hasn’t stopped leaking.
If the accompanying text to those photos tries too hard to convince us that the building in question is saving the planet, we naturally turn away in disgust. We want to tell the architect to save their sustainability sermon, for the day they stop accepting commissions from hobby farmers, who use a tank full of fuel every time they go to spend a night in their exotic weekender.
I want to say though, that it is possible to reach remote buildings, by hiking, cycling, sailing, cross country skiing… by quite a few low energy means. I’m not saying cars can be removed from the picture entirely, but that some remote buildings are closer, let’s say, to nearby sailboats, than cars. The house pictured above, by Richard Leplastrier, is at the end of a jetty, not the end of a driveway.
There are very few remote places left on this Earth where we can imagine architecture that is not dependent, in some sense, on high energy transport. On any site though, we can imagine architecture being decoupled from cars, at least emblematically. In it’s own, perhaps weak way, The Getty Museum does this, by transporting visitors from the car park below, via a cable car.
It has been almost two years since this scheme (pictured right) did the rounds of the blogosphere. It is a proposal for a hotel serving bicycle tourists in the Lake Garda region of Italy.
Symbolically coupling remote buildings with means of arrival other than cars, could be a first step to more useful measures, like building bike paths beside country roads, as they have done in Denmark and The Netherlands, thus opening the countryside to active/green transportation.