Demolition and Desire

The missed opportunities of starting from scratch.



Sometimes I feel like we are cheating.

When I go on a site visit and the conversation is about demolishing everything, pulling up trees, re-grading the whole property; I feel a certain guilt stirring in my psyche.

Practicing and studying in the landscape industry there is much to understand about the ecological implications of our industrial and extractive choices, the construction industry, waste and consumption, all playing its role. So when I’m part of conversations about full demolitions and hauling everything away, something nags at me.

“What we try to do at Dune Hai is begin with what you have.”

What does it mean for us to continuously tear everything down and start designing from scratch?

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn't say complete preservation is the answer. I love historical nods to architecture of the past but I don’t think we can (or even should) preserve everything just for the sake of it which can be stifling to innovation. But I’d argue, so is tearing it all down and starting new.

What we try to do on projects at Dune Hai is begin with what you have. We take inventory: what is the existing infrastructure, can we make it work, can we save or move anything, what has to go to the dump, what can we build on? Sometimes answering these questions makes our job harder, and sometimes we unearth some funky feature that looks great in an updated design. It makes the project more interesting. Like a rock that builds on itself, you get layers of existence in your space, and that can be pretty cool.

Without beginning with what you have, more questions arise: what kind of culture do you want to contribute to? Is there a way to satisfy our wants and desires while reconciling our responsibility for the landfills of construction waste, the industry’s carbon footprint and most of the world's chronic land mismanagement? These may seem like big questions for sometimes tiny landscapes but I do feel we all contribute to the problem and therefore we should all be part of curbing the nasty habits.

And yes, to answer one of those big q’s, I do think we can get what we want while being smart and innovative in our solutions.