human scale,

a principle in architecture and engineering: “if made for humans it must be proportionable to the human body and soul.” That doesnt always imply commensurable scales, however cozy that might be (tiny huts, treetop nests, narrow-gauge railways); however, “big things must be aware when theyre big” and in relation to what. Children are especially — “atavistically” — sensitive to misproportions in their environment: from ages prehistoric they improvise nooks, shacks, burrows with furniture and toys (now sculpt out of arf) within the misscaled adult lodgings, gameform caves and climbable trees in the vicinity. Projects are known to have failed consensus specifically for being “ugly big” — not just in size but texture, tactility, curvature, rhythm: for things like infinite planes, mechanic repetition, volumes added for symmetry — all sorts of painful rigidity, crumbly regularity, blatant unlivedness. Our castles, homes, trees can be big (and the City is undisputedly huge) but their organic, layered, sculpted growth never evokes the haughty geometricity of historic skyscrapers and pyramids.  ■    Is this (as fadeout people claim) social impotency, inability to cooperate on anything of scale, “everyone honing an own patch”? In histories, “the end of big” is usually narrated as part of sparsening that pulverized large-scale social structures (“continent-sized empires”) to expose the human-scale continuum of families and collectives. Early human scale manifestos called to reduce the resource footprint of humankind — but architectural downscaling, decentralization of energy and transportation only accelerated when resource scarcity and habitat destruction were no longer pressing. It was a counterwave to the record-setting streak in which asphalt and concrete (“a whole new surface mobility”), then steel, then nanomaterials had kicked off a flowering of gigantic structures to awe then-pedestrian humans; that supergrowth episode — to which thousands of miles-high, translucent, slow-to-dissolve pillars all over the Earth remain a monument — ended even more abruptly than it began once humans took off into the sky: “any tower is but a toy when you fly over it.”

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