Our Indigenous Disney Land?

County Commissioner Jim Disney issued a challenge to local builders to invent indigenous architectural ideas to be embraced by the marketplace. I applaud both his idea and method. Instead of requesting new building codes, he says, "People can still build what they want and paint it flaming pink," but believes peer pressure will popularize the best choices. That free market preference is the essence of libertarianism and truly effective policy.

Of course, it's hard to embrace the idea. Bill Gurski, president of the Homebuilders Association of Northern Colorado wants the concept to be market-driven but adds that encouragement in the form of lower building fees would be OK. He's echoing the "natural" view most 20th century Americans have of our political milieu. Don't fall for that insidious form of government intrusion, Commissioner.

The interference of special tax breaks or credits has led to a Federal tax code thousands of pages long infiltrating every aspect of society. The prevalence of huge homes is largely due to people rolling over money from a home sale in an overheated real estate market. The choice is either buy another expensive home or donate the windfall to the IRS. We should just tax everything at the same rate with no exclusions and let people choose their own way of making and spending money, but I won't hold my breath. We could also abolish the building code and let individuals take over. But the Universal Building Code guarantees that houses are equivalent. Thus mortgages on them can be sold, creating a market for financiers which some economists say creates the home market for the rest of us. The depressing blandness of suburbia is designed to appeal to bankers, the actual buyers of most of our homes. Commissioner Disney's campaign will have to be directed to them as much as to architects, designers, and individuals.

Some people may think "indigenous architecture" means Native American tipis because that's what the previous inhabitants used. But there are other connotations. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary says "indigenous" means "having originated in and being produced ... or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment." Because human construction is defined as not natural, I'd say indigenous architecture must "appear to fit in with the climate, geography, and biology of an area."

Our mountain architecture can have both rock and wood motifs with stone or log walls mirroring the cliffs and forests found there. These human dwellings can hug the hillsides like a river of aspen or climb like the mountains with multiple levels. A-frames, tipis, and oddities such as the DIA terminal are all reminiscent of our Rocky Mountain backbone.

Prairie architecture is trickier. Wind and sun are the main environmental qualities, Pierre Shale mud the firmament. Few people want to live in sod shanties. But the idea of snuggling into the earth away from the bluster can be done with berming or digging which also makes exterior maintenance easier and provides good insulation for natural solar heating. Someone looking south across a brand new development of passive solar homes with sod roofs would see nothing but mounds of prairie grass. Eventually, the owners would put in trees, fences and swing sets, but it would still seem more park-like than a subdivision of three-story cubes. A completely underground shopping center could provide parking spaces directly above the stores, making access easier and using less land.

We are constantly recreating our environment. We may as well mold it into something we all like using ecological concepts such as fitting appropriately into a niche and exemplifying natural selection using the free market.