Monday, March 25, 2019

The Long House

An acquaintance showed me a photo of the spectacular view from his living room...after he commented that the place was uninhabitable because of its energy-inefficient Seventies architecture. He added that it had been designed "by hippies". The comment and the unforgettable view percolated through remembered readings and tours. I realized that the wide open floor to ceiling glazing of the space is the exact but draft-proof equivalent of local tribes' houses. Someone, the owner said, had installed exterior shutters to protect the interior from summer sun. 

Those same shutters can be used to replicate the longhouse daylighting strategy. A traditional structure, composed of the world's first modular lumber, faced in the direction of brightest sunlight. That side of the building had the highest point of the simple slanted roofline. On sunny days, people removed the siding to let in light and air. When shade or shelter were desired, the vertical boards went back in place. The strategy is similar to the traditional Japanese way of managing comfort in a paper house, but the Japanese used solid sliding wooden panels. Shutters are a cannier and more versatile investment than the twenty thousand 1994 dollars an acquaintance spent to curtain her similarly designed international style house.

Creature comfort in a long house was assured by lounging under the low side of the roof near a communal cooking fire. Nineteenth century European-American houses had the inglenook, an enclosed seating area close to the hearth. My recent informant said his family uses a small room on a lower floor as a keeping area.


I find that the biting cold and damp of a Northwest winter is easier to manage if I visit a sauna several times a week. The sauna offers the bone-deep relaxation of alcohol or medical pain relief without the complications. Tribespeople used sweat lodges and coped with the climate by wearing salmon oil, cedar bark skirts, capes, and hats and by getting lots of exercise -30-

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