Natural Architecture - The Joy of Living in Harmony
A critical look at Natural Architecture - The Joy of Living in Harmony
Author: Fernando de Haro and Omar Fuentes (AM Editores, 2010) - translated by: Louis Loizides
Reviewed by Ellen Zeigler
Natural Architecture - The Joy of Living in Harmony is a glossy, full-colour picture book of exclusive resort-style architecture in Mexico. Translated from Spanish to English, this large coffee-table book features pages of images of wealthy homes situated in picturesque landscapes. The loose geographic narrative Sea
tends to be somewhat lost in translation and the small amount of text is mostly a series of romantic verses: "Tasting: It's invisible but it's there. From the sea comes the breeze, the fragrance of life, the rumbling of the waves." I don't know about the Spanish version, but in English, it walks the fine line between flakey and romantic.
My first instinct when reading through the book was to berate the author for not offering enough details about what "living in harmony with nature" really means. But as I flipped through the pages I realized that the authors don't discuss any details at all. There is not enough sufficient content to criticize. There is no talk of designs in nature being mimicked in architecture, there is no mention of natural or local materials, there are just images of beautiful homes in beautiful settings. It's a visual index of wealthy architectural details. Out of 239 pages, 89 of them featured infinity edge pools
-often on a two-page spread. That's nearly forty percent of the book! Not to mention the detrimental impacts have on the "natural" environment.
That being said, I can't deny that if I were given the opportunity to spend a week or two at any of the places that graced the pages of this book, I would happily accept. The architecture is stunning and the landscape is breathtaking. But it brings me to a face-to-face with a dilemma: at what point do we allow ourselves to forget about all the problems in the world and go swim in an infinity pool in a desert in southern Mexico? Or at what point do I allow myself to enjoy flipping through a romantic architecture book without feeling like its kind of a waste of time. If every person in the world was given the opportunity to spend time at one of these relaxing homes, I'm sure the world would be a much happier place. But the truth is less than 1% of the population will ever visit, or even set eyes on one of these homes... and that seems pretty unnatural.
Ellen Ziegler, b.ends, is graphic and architectural designer and a proud co-founder of studioCAMP. She likes all things fun, particularly her custom-made leather oxfords.