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Grabov Rat : the site makes all the aura

Grabov Rat : the site makes all the aura

the cottage (pojata) on Grabov Rat: in front, lower left

Dominican monastery : central position

city harbor of Bol : behind the monastery

Zlatni Rat, famous beach : towards the horizon

Photo of Sep. 9, 2007

Settling on the site of a new building is a momentous act, at least if you stop to think about it. That not everybody does is obvious from all those buildings that crouch like strangers on their own land, looking out of place or simply oblivious. Yet it may be that you think too much about site selection. Because deciding on the right place to build is also uncannily simple, a process in which the advice of the senses and intuition is often your most reliable guide. I of course came to this realization very late, and only by most roundabout path.

The momentousness of the decision was all I could think about. Wherever I put my building, it would stay, more or less forever. I'd have to live with the consequences of the choice as long as I was around, and others would be stuck with it after that. Charlie had said that key elements of my building design, its scale and skin and fenestration, the way it met the ground and the pitch of its roof, would be determined by this first fact. Then there were the views to consider (from the building, and of the building), the fall of light across its floor, the movement of air around it, the ambient sounds, the angle at which it met the late-day sun. Dwell too long on so many soon-to-be-se--in-stone characteristics and the decision is liable to paralyze you. I know, I am only talking about a hut, an outbuilding. Yet I felt that by choosing its site - a single place out of all possible places in which to build - I was setting this great big contingency in motion, rolling it down the steep, one-way hill of personal and local history.

Faced with any such large decision, my first instinct (if you can call it that) is to look for a book to tell me what to do. But I was surprised to find that the literature of architecture and building contains remarkably little on the subject. Lewis Mumford had complained back in the fifties that the proper siting of houses was a lost art, and I turned up little to suggest it has since been found.

Michael Pollan: A place of my own, Delta, New York, 1997.

Of course there was more to the Grabov Rat site choosing. First of all, on that remote and uncultivated land, could a garden of my liking be integrally designed with the building? Am I ready to live without city water and power? Iím not young any more (thatís politely called advanced age, I believe), so, for how long will I have the capacity to walk to the city, almost two miles away? And, related to my age, for whom am I designing this building and garden, myself or the next generation?

Do not ask me for the blunders Iím aware nowadays. I underestimated the exposure to winds, the notoriously unpleasant bora in particular. I was completely unaware (and foolish enough not to think) of the millions of insects who roam such a remote and uncultivated land. And more, of course, Iím not ready to admit now. And, funny, when I recently visited the Dominican monastery, I was surprised at what a good and clear view these people have of our cottage - in spite of the fact that, among other pluses, Iíve selected the site because of a magnificent view of the monastery.

Hey, just donít get a notion that I do not like the site!

 2007-09-30 

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