Saturday, September 3, 2011

Respect the Land

Have you ever noticed that some houses look like a big eye sore, no matter how beautiful the house itself, just because it doesn't fit with the land around it?

I've noticed that there is a difference between working with the land and forcing the land to submit to your use. Usually, the first option always turns out well. The second option not so well.

For instance, take this example: Down by Annapolis, Marland there are these gorgeous Cape Cod homes along the river. The problem is that there is serious cliff erosion. It's just dirt. And you can see how pieces of the dirt cliff just keeps falling into the water. It's natural erosion. The problem is that the house is inching closer and closer to the edge of the river even though it's standing still. I guess people don't expect the land to change. Funny enough, one of the houses that is closest to the edge of the cliff is for sale. No thank you! Eventually, those houses will end up in the river. It's a sad, sad thing and not much can be done, unfortunately.

During a geology class in college out in Utah, we took a field trip up to the side of the mountain to see a house slowly being squashed flat because of a slow land creep. There was nothing to do to stop it. Oh, and it was on an earthquake fault. And guess what? The house was for sale! It's important to do your geological research before you buy a house. Because legally, the homeowner or land developer don't have to tell you if your house is on a fault line or if there is a slow land slide at work 10 feet from the property line!

These two examples are cases of not working with the land, but trying to force it to act for you. Usually the land wins. It's older and smarter and does its thing not really caring what you did to the top of it. And sometimes men's interference makes things worse. (Like digging out the toe of a hill to build houses which can lead to a landslide!)

Now, I'm not expecting that if I live in the woods that I'll build a log cabin to camouflage into the trees. But I just love how some homes, especially ones older than 150 years seem to flow with the land, working with its curves and dips. Not bulldozing out the imperfections, but cherishing them for their unique aesthetic.

Take this 18th century building in Ellicott City, Maryland for example:

Notice how the stone foundation of this building is built around this honkin' piece of rock. And look at the brick sidewalk! That beautiful, ancient stone wasn't forced to make way for the sidewalk - that brick, man-made sidewalk bowed and made way for the older, more mature geological feature. Now, that's called respect!

I'll have to take more pictures of other parts of this city that illustrate this point beautifully. More to come!

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