Sandboxing Development

Magicians do magick. That much is obvious; however, we do more than this, we explore uncharted areas of thought, casting for futures amongst the chaos of possibilities. The following essay arose from a cyber-collaboration between two Sators, chatting about resource and energy use, how we live, how we discover how to live, and the ways this affects/is affected by the mutual shaping of spaces and bodyminds.

Sandboxing Development

Or, what can energy de-development consist of? What seems needed? More sandboxes, at least from our viewpoint.

Sandboxes where we can play with building ideas, castles on the ground, foundations for our futures.

Those of us living in post resource exploited areas of the world face a structure of living that got imagined and built in a time when the accessible resources were quite different. It sits, embedded in the fabric of our buildings, our villages, our towns, cities and all managed landscape.

We had a lot of trees, once, we had a lot of coal, once, we had a lot of gas, once.

However we used it, however much sits left, unexploited, we increasingly need to find new ways of doing, new ways of living – and that seems to necessitate thinking inside the box, the sandbox.

Faced with unaffordable, unsustainable and every more destructive energy practices – we must innovate our doing, in accordance with our context.  If we look to the sandbox of architect Michael Reynolds and colleagues – we find a group of people who sandboxed their development ideas with much success.

In developing and discovering a model for minimal energy need building – they frame for us a methodology and framework that demonstrably, needs little in the way of ongoing fossil energy. Their Earthship building model uses a design philosophy that includes some basic guidelines for utilizing earthmass and direct solar (sunwise attitude) to create buildings that maintain a warm and dry building that got field tested in the high desert of Taos – showing that extremes of temperature, hot dry summers, and biting cold winters got easily coped with – by sandboxed experiments that provide proof of low energy living (and with aesthetics that please many, including us).

Babapapa ftw!

Babapapa ftw!

Having sandboxed these designs – the Earthship builders share with the world – how to live with little fossil energy (and a whole lot more ideas of recycled materials and other groovy ideas to boot).

It seems no great strain to compare and contrast our housing stock in the UK – a badly insulated, above-ground box, with chimneys for wood, coal or gas. Veined with plumbing that moves heated oil and water through the giant heat sinks we call radiators – to understand that our previous infrastructure belongs in the past, to an age of coal and steam and gas.

Without mourning the great age of the heavy engineer – we can look forward to how we go about implementing proven ideas, and adapting them for our context now.

We put in place laws and rules to attempt to create a society that tries for fair. To, all, benefit from our long term projects and resources. And I argue and state, that this needs to include the forward thinking, development and implementation of life beyond easy fossil derived energy. We can make room for and support the brave and the visionary – to take up the challenge of re-building our communities. And it seems it must come from the sandbox.

Just as the vast majority of our buildings were designed to be powered by fossil fuels, our domestic practices demonstrate fossilized ways of living. Breaking away from these ancient dependencies, to instead rely on present day energy supply chains (the oddly titled ‘renewable’ flavours), means escaping reliance on the past. It poses the important question; What was created today which we can use?

The sandbox provides us with the opportunity to tell and show each other how our ideas work. How they look, feel, taste and smell. How they impact our spirit. For in seeking to play in the sandpit – we take the initiative of entrepreneurship, the essence of science and art and we seek to manifest. The art of living, the art of life. Whilst the interior decorators and property porn rampers, seem to miss the mark of prophets of a new aesthetic – it seems that we must look to the sandboxers to find the champions of the art of living.

Collected rain water, grey-water recycling, black water processing (yes, Gas from Shit – lead into gold), earth-mass insulated buildings. Solar heated water. Freedom seems nevermore so free. Food forests and micro-industry. Clothes made not in a sweatshop – but in a beautiful greenhouse fronted building, with high quality organically grown gmo free food in the canteen.

Our homes reflect and amplify the external behaviours we adopt, they constrain and shape out ways of life. Our conceptual views of these actions and our unwittingly self-imposed definitions of Life as lived are internalized as they emerge from the walls and doors that another person decided upon placing just so.

In our dwelling places, what does it mean to install technologies that are easily adaptable to the onslaught of development? All those rich self-builders who spent thousands of pounds on a CD player with literally miles of cunningly concealed wires leading to speakers in every room must have felt gutted when a few years later iPods arrived, with speaker docking units cheap enough to kit out a whole house for a few hundred. Would an approach accepting and celebrating this aspect of twenty-first century technological developments not make more sense? Power, heating, lighting and other such systems will doubtless change in the next century, so instead of embedding them deep within our walls, perhaps make them surface mounted, aesthetically pleasing adornments to our rooms?

A chaos magician may well find this a blindingly obvious way of approaching what to do with the structural components that make up a building, determining as it does the semiotic programming of our psyches.

By physically entering a sandbox space, we can feel the walls, the smooth silky texture of rammed earth, the rough elephant skin of lime plaster, the sticky featurelessness of glass. Looking up at a branch fashioned into ceiling support, we can experience that thrill of physical recognition, that here is a real place, not merely a manufacturer’s laminated catalogue of dreams.

So where are they?

Sandboxing opportunities need to be hunted for. Existing tryouts can be found in town & country, with a bizarre situation in England where even a conservation area (designated as countryside Which Shalt NOT be Built Upon EVER) may grant permission for a dwelling which is of ‘exceptional architectural merit’.  Within woodlands, below the ground and build into sides of old quarries, reclaiming deserted structures in rural Spain.

Looking into the future, the crystal ball (ok, our ooVoo conversation…) tells us that large city centre shops are on their way out, as we use them merely to check out goods before purchasing them online for 30% less. What will we do with these plate glass fronted rooms? Given the need for local food, we could imagine greenhouses fronting a sitting room/kitchen, a semi communal space with private living quarters in back for the tribe which has taken over Dixons…

Eutopic? Well yeah. And in the doing – we would encourage us all to remember that one person’s utopia will seem dystopic to others. And that seems key to the sandbox. For the sandbox seems to work for the willing. For those that can and will do. If we make room for them, for ourselves, to re-design the future – we don’t need to take some political speech or preaching blogger’s word for it. The sandbox as testing ground begs our visit – for we get to see, touch, taste, hear and smell what the future might seem like.

Sator Hanuman & Sator Ganesha

The second basic act of magick after divination is enchantment. Casting a spell upon the world to change it… from a thought to another thought, from a word to another’s words, leading to evocation and manifestation of the desired outcome.

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