Monday, December 11, 2006

The Importance of Place

I noticed something last week while we were visiting Jamaica. I remember seeing the same thing while living in Nicaragua almost ten years ago:

Buildings are never finished. The concrete framed structures built by the local population are crowned by trellises of rebar jutting up from the corners. These metal lattices seem awfully lonely. Their lower halves are fulfilling their mission of providing tensile strength. The upper sections have only the promise of future employment.

This rebar seems to be a phenomenon of the developing world; I have yet to walk down the street in London Ontario and see naked reinforcement jutting out of an otherwise completed structure. There are any number of reasons why someone would elect not to trim this rebar or to design the structure with properly shaped cages. Local builders, for example, may lack the means for trimming these bars. Chop saws may be in short supply and going at a #4 with a hack saw or cold chisel is a lot of work!

I prefer to think that these structures are just simply never finished. They present a whole world of opportunities. If the owners ever decide to add another floor the reinforcement is easy to tie-in. Living in a structure that is in a perpetual state of being modified and built must instill a certain mindset, a certain sense that structures evolve to meet our needs. The notion of the perfect model home seems ill at ease with this idea.

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