On the Wabi
The sweet understated beauty of moss on a stone path. The uneven handmade ceramic bowl. The chipped plate.
The rust, the stain, time passing.
The Japanese have many such undefinable concepts. Like ikigai that talks about finding your calling, or the one that says you should eat only until you're 80 percent full.
The one I like most is, of course, the one that speaks of aesthetics, of objects, of spaces.
Western civilization has no relationship with the wabi. The gardener shall be called immediately at the first sight of moss on the cobble stone. The weeds shall be pulled and the rust brought back to shine.
It shows in the way we build today even more than, say, fifty years ago. Houses used to get a certain look with age, they would grow patina. It used to be OK for ivy to attack a brick wall or for wooden doors to swell. Not anymore.
The concept of "House as a system" is inherently adverse to wabi sabi. A passive house does not conceive of leaks, drafts or tiny root systems challenging its authority. The modern building is immune to the outside. It stands still, ready for a photograph, forever new, blind to change.
I wonder how new buildings will look in fifty years time.
We have become so revolted by the idea of getting old, we want to spare our houses of it too. Perpetual youth of the polyurethane-cement block composite wall.
As much as I understand the arguments of energy efficiency in favor of the air-tightness of buildings, I cannot help but screech at the thought of these materials' relationship with time and wind and rain. When the inevitable happens and the plastic cover dries and cracks, when the house left unattended finally caves in the fight against water and the inner insulation gets wet, what then?
When a tiny little cog in the system of the new house fails, everything falls apart. When nature starts chipping away at composite walls, they are doomed.
When nature starts chipping away at the old stone cabin, it becomes wabi sabi.