"If you've ever entered a building and you catch yourself and realise you have slowed down just to be in that building…that's the essence of slow architecture."
Image: Salk Institute by Louis Kahn
The Slow Movement began in 1986 with the Slow Food movement, a protest against fast food's culture of quick preparation and consumption, cultural homogenization, harmful farming techniques, and unhealthy ingredients. Over the years, the Slow Movement has expanded into the areas of cities, travel, shopping, and, more recently, design.
Informed and inspired by the principles of the Slow Food and Slow Cities movements, the slow design principles offer a flexible, pluralistic approach for designers to gently evaluate themselves as to the true purpose of their design activities.
"It's about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It's about quality over quantity."
- Carl Honoré in his 2004 book 'In Praise of Slowness'.
The principles of slow design follow this ethos and are intended to create a platform for debate - open to dialogue, iteration and expansion - rather than be prescriptive.
The 6 Principles of Slow Design are:
Slow Design can uncover often-overlooked processes, experiences and materials, either in life or in the design object itself.
Image: Clifftop House in Maui by Dekleva Gregoric Arhitekti
This highly conceptual principle suggests that we should think beyond the obvious functions, appearance and lifespan of an object, seeing its potential for other meanings and uses.
Slow design should cause "reflective consumption"; that is, an individual should enjoy the unique effect of a one-of-a-kind object or design, while also being able to recognize its place in the world in bigger terms.
The Slow Design movement is open-source and collaborative with the hope that designs will evolve as designers cooperate and share with one another.
Image: Moorraum Lookout by Bernardo Bader Architekten
This principle encourages users of Slow Design pieces to actively participate in the design process, exchanging ideas and fostering a sense of community.
Although much of its philosophy touts slowing down to be more conscious in the moment, Slow Design is also about looking ahead, seeing what will be needed in the future and creating designs that can become richer over time. Looking beyond the needs and circumstances of the present day, slow designs are behavioural change agents.
Image: The Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudí
There are no formal guidelines for practicing Slow Design; even its principles are deliberately abstract, meant to provide inspiration, rather than instructions, for designers. But here are a few ideas to turn philosophy into practice.
Include your clients in the design: Find ways to incorporate real aspects of their lives and their passions into the design of their spaces. Perhaps even let them collaborate in the process of applying your design to their home or office.
Pass along the story of your design: Be aware of the provenance and history of the artefacts and materials you're putting into the design, and share that knowledge with your clients. You could even write up a pamphlet so they won't forget the details over time.
Let the locale inspire you: In the spirit of New Urbanism, make sure your design is consistent with the aesthetics of the community surrounding the space. Find subtle ways to echo its history and culture in your work.
Use sustainable practices: Green building is not just a trend; it's our future. Plus, its principles dovetail perfectly with those of Slow Design. Be sure to let your clients know of your environmental commitment as part of the developing history of the space you're designing for them.
Image: Avalon House by Archiblox
At Archiblox we incorporate all these ideas into our design practise. We work with our client's design brief and inspirations, to create a unique solution for their needs, inspired by the natural landscape and community in which the project is situated. Our construction methodology ensures that we touch the earth lightly and our design methodology lends itself towards highly sustainable projects with minimal environmental impact. We focus on quality, not quantity, and are proud to create buildings that will stand the test of time, both structurally and aesthetically.