Stumbled over this at the local library. The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food are both on my to-read list, so Michael Pollan was definitely on my radar, but I’d never actually read him, no essays, stories, or articles, etc. The cover and the premise drew me in, as who can’t relate to the romance of building your own cabin in the woods? Far from a simple Walden reboot, this book expertly balances two “narratives,” the physical act of building, and the deeper ruminations on the history of architecture and how it has been informed by (and at odds with) nature. He says himself in the preface that in his writing he has found his niche of fascination and creativity to be “exploring the intersection between nature and culture.” It fascinates me as well.
When designing a chicken coop, one must be sensitive to how your birds live in nature, how many square feet are needed, roosting bars, the privacy and number of broodboxes, etc. These natural constraints form a kind of cross section for a wide variety of creative implementations which in other contexts we call “architecture.” The pitch of a roof, for example, has more to do with the amount of snowfall a region receives (the steeper, the better to keep it from collecting and caving your roof in) than the “local cultural symbols.” The book is full of these explorations, bordering on broody. The author keeps the pace light and entertaining, while educating, as the reader is drawn in to his very primordial instinct to build his own “place of refuge and prospect.” I recommend it for anyone who can relate to this instinct, as it has a rich historical and psychological depth worth exploring.