An OP Summer Intern's 'Before' Perspective June 2019

We are proud to post a great introspective piece from a very gifted intern, Clara Wolcott. She is a student in architecture and her perspective is raw and refreshing. Enjoy.

Permaculture seems full of paradoxes to the Western human brain. It is intentional but looks like an overgrown weed forest. It seems as though humans don’t know where to stop interfering and neither does nature. I am a possible architecture major, and therefore, I cannot help but compare and contrast architecture and permaculture.

Architecture and permaculture seem different in most ways. In my architecture class this past semester, my professor held the belief that when architecture (the design of space using light, shadow, the surroundings, materials to convey some essence that a human would be interacting with) remains distinct and separate from the natural surroundings while maintaining a relationship and dialogue with it, both nature and the architecture became more fully themselves. With the resulting contrast, both the space and its surroundings were more beautiful and were happier instead of one trying to become the other. I had a very difficult time with this concept. On the one hand, I understand where my professor is coming from. A distinct border often produces a sort of elegance much coveted by architects. On the other hand, as someone who is interested in using plants in the actual design of a building, this seems altogether too black and white for me. Cannot both be beautiful together? Working even a little bit with permaculture has shown me the other side of this coin. Everything is melded and meshed and productive and not in the least elegant unless I know exactly what I am looking at. And I don’t.

But it is beautiful. It is beautiful in the same way that architecture is beautiful. Every piece of the design has been chosen and placed with care. With architecture, I often do not see the intentionality within the overall design. It is the same with permaculture. The designer might have to walk me through a garden to understand the choices and the reasoning. It might take me simply looking a bit harder at what is around me to see the details and not just the great swirling mass of green plant matter. I am excited to keep learning and to keep seeing the details, both in architecture and in permaculture. The questions of “how do nature and architecture interact? Can they combine? Should they?” is one that I will continue to ponder over, but permaculture beautifully conveys a relationship between humans and the natural world that I have not seen before.