Louis LeRoy – Endless Work in Time and Space
What would you do with a pile of bricks?
After a great showing of “Into the Garden of Glass and Steel,” we dramatically switched gears to focus on the patient and, in some ways, odd work of Dutch artist Louis LeRoy. He works alongside several friends in Mildam in the North of Holland on what he calls the “Ecokathedraal.” If you are anything like me, the idea of a Cathedral usually brings about visions of larger scale, often ornate religious architectural design. However, the Ecokathedraal was nothing of the sort.
We were first met with a pile or rubble: bricks, chunks of stone, and other solid building materials dumped on a seemingly random (but beautiful) site as the dumping ground for construction waste. Then comes along an aged, Dutch artist, who begins to tell a story of his vision in his native language while the film translated through subtitles. What we were left with was nothing less than something beautiful.
“I know nothing, I work and I observe”
LeRoy spends his days sorting through this rubble (which, we found out later, he purposely has dumped here). He searches, with is friends, for the right stones and bricks to lay in place all over his Ecokathedraal. We discover that this built form is actually a collection of artistic and architectural structures spreading throughout the site. The rubble is his palette of materials, a collection of building blocks from which he can create structures without the use of mortar, glue, or any other materials to hold them together. He works at building everyday all day to learn and observe. What’s more is that he purposely lets nature take its course. He allows nature to “reclaim” the brick and stone, made from natural materials, as a way of allowing his art and architecture to grow into harmony with its surroundings and return to its original place over time. Through this he works to discover the synergy between our human, built environment and the natural processes of our environment.
“We are now treating our cities in a very dangerous way”
He has discovered that regulation, predetermination, and code requirements have created a dangerous outcome for the future of our built environment. Through the lessons learned on his Ecokathedraal, LeRoy has realized that we should not completely control our environment from the very beginning. He says that planning is important, but flexibility and discovery is equally needed, especially in our development of cities. He says that some planning is good but that we should completely plan a city before building it. We should shy away from our complete regulation of telling people what they are “allowed” to build on a site. LeRoy believes that we should allow some openness in the development of our architecture so that we may give room to discovery and more harmonious way of living, both with nature and within our society.
“What is 30 years? Nothing, absolutely nothing”
I feel that this was one of the most powerful quotes from him in the film. In an generation where “instant gratification” is desired, it is hard to imagine ourselves in 2, 5, 10, or 30 years. However the general gist of what LeRoy started to proclaim was that we should let even just 1% of our architects have free reign in the design of our homes, communities, and cities. Then, we should increase try to increase that number by 1% each year. He exclaimed that in 30 years we would have around 30% of all architects with a freer reign on our built environments. Imagine the amazing progression of our world if that were to happen!
The film, overall, was not an especially exciting film. After all, it was about a man in his 80s moving heavy blocks into place to build his Ecokathedraal (he puts all of us to shame!). However, through hard work, observation, and an open mind, his story and ideas are rather extraordinary and quite intriguing.
What do you think would happen…if his thoughts came true?
For more images, please visit http://www.ecokathedraal.nl/