Defining Sustainability
SJR 01 - 15 - 2010

When the word sustainability is mentioned to a designer, they usually think of green design. Things like passive heating, daylight, and renewable resources come to mind. There is a whole other aspect to sustainability that we as designers have to pay attention to and that is the sustainability of culture. This trip is a great way to expose us to different cultures and to see how they have and still are surviving through the years. Having been in Spain, we were lucky enough to be able to go to a Gypsy Flamenco show on our last night in Granada. Two buses came and drove us up into the mountains to the Gypsy quarter of town. The roads were very narrow and winding, which seems logical since we were on a mountain side. The Gypsy Cave, where the show was being held, overlooked the Alhambra. I have to say, the Gypsies have a great view, especially at night! The cave....well the cave was interesting. The sketch to the right shows the room that the dance was held in. [Sketch looking back toward the entry to the cave] The room was built into the mountain, hence the name 'cave' and then reinforced with arches and had stucco added to give the effect of a cave. The seating was very tight. It was literally a bunch of kitchen chairs lined up right next to each other along the sides and then a few levels of more chairs across the back of the room. Hanging from the ceiling were a number of old, metal pots and pans. The walls were lined with photos of the different dancers and their families at different events like a show or a birthday party. Obviously the Flamenco dance style is a means of sustaining culture itself. It pulls elements from all the different groups that inhabited Spain throughout history. One of our guides told us that the hand movements came from the Gypsies, the steps from the Christians, and the Jews and Muslims influenced the music. Flamenco is also passed down through the generations, as so is sustained. We had many different dancers, some looked around our age and some were middle aged. In the pictures there were even young children dressed up and dancing. The way the show was set up and the cave itself is another way to see how the culture is still surviving. The gypsies often didn't have permanent homes and would live where ever they could find shelter. These were often places like caves, so the setting of the Gypsy Cave was very appropriate. Also the Gypsy culture is very close-knit, so the close seating fits into the culture well. The pots and pictures that were displayed also pay tribute to the culture. The Gypsies didn't have a lot, so what they did have they were proud of. Thus displaying wears like pots would fit with that pride. The photos reflect back to the idea that the Gypsy culture is very close knit and that they are all one big family. The space was very small, which made it very intimate. The dancers were literally right in front of you. For me it felt like we were getting a private look into the Gypsies' lives. It was kind of like we were part of their larger Gypsy family, and we were all partying together in their kitchen that had been cleared out to make room for the dancing. They even had some of us dancing with them at the end, including Ted! So what can designers take away from this? I would say that sustaining a culture is just as important as sustainable/green design. Without a culture, people don't feel they belong. By creating a space that sustains a culture, the designer can create a sense of place that has an important impact and meaning for the people who use it.

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