Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan Hardcover – Abridged, Audiobook, Box set
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"Just Enough is valuable as a mentality, as a framework for acting in the world..." --Worldchanging.com"Brown's elegant and accessible text with its lucid illustrations make this a wonderful companion for students and professionals in the fields of design, civil engineering, farming, construction, or Japanese history, or any person interested in leaving a more delicate footprint on the planet." --ForeWord Magazin"Just Enough should be required reading for anyone who wants to help make today's world more sustainable. Read it, please." --Sarah Susanka, Architect and author of The Not So Big House series and The Not So Big Life"Azby Brown's book, using excellent examples from Edo-period Japan, proves that we have surrounded ourselves with many things that we don't need to live sustainably and happily. This is an important warning for the future, one that should make us all stop and think." --Shigeru Ban, Architect, recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture, designer of the award-winning Hanover Pavillion for Expo 2000"Truly an eye-opener. Brown takes us behind the scenes, revealing the complex and ingenious techniques that put Japanese traditional life in harmony with nature." --Alex Kerr, Author, Dogs and Demons, Lost Japan"Just Enough offers an interesting and engaging perspective on Edo Japan for those who enjoy reading about cultural history, alongside sustainable ideas relevant today." --Green LA Girl"I read Brown's book with relish, and at the end of it felt that my mindset had shifted, from feeling that I never have enough, to feeling that I undoubtedly have too much." -- Macy Halford, New Yorker Online "In my mind Azby Brown is the Rick Steves of historic time travel. Where Steves takes you to his 'Europe through the back door', Brown invites us to visit Edo period Japan with him. He addresses his readers -- that's us -- as part of his entourage." --The International Examiner"
About the Author
Azby Brown was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He studied architecture and sculpture at Yale, graduating in 1980. In 1985, he received a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education to do research at the Department of Architecture of the University of Tokyo, where he received a master's degree. He is the author of The Genius of Japanese Carpentry (KI 1995), Small Spaces (KI 1996) and The Very Small Home (KI 2005). He became an associate professor of architectural design at the Kanazawa Institute of Technology in 1995, where he has also accepted a position in the Department of Media Informatics. In 2003, he opened the Future Design Institute in Tokyo, and currently serves as director.
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- As an experienced IT architect, I do not necessarily agree with everything in the book (this does not come as a surprise, as architects have opinions). That said, I certainly learned a lot that I can apply immediately on my projects and some of the more provocative statements challenge me to leave my comfort zone (or at least consider doing so).
- Junior architects can use the book both as a tutorial and as a reference when/while growing in their profession.
- Developers with a "who needs architects" mindset (hopefully) will understand architects and modelers much better after having read this book, and appreciate the value of archtecture.
Things I liked in particular:
- Overall vision and message of pragmatism sent
- The risk-driven approach increases chances to get accepted both in agile development and in more traditional architecture communities
- There is a lot of practical advice e.g. in Chapters 10, 11 and 15
- The author is in command of a large body of relevant related work (both industra and academia) and puts them in perspective adequately
- Editorial quality: structure, figures, command of the English language (some words and expressions a bit be hard to comprehend for non-native speaker)
Some room for improvements (2nd edition?):
- Not all metaphors and analogies work internationally, e.g. not all IT people are sports fans that follow baseball or know what a rookie is
- The connection between parts 1 and 2 could be a bit stronger, even if loose coupling generally is a good thing; e.g., some more backward references
In summary, I'd say Just Enough Software Architecture is a highly recommended read for every architect in touch with development reality and every developer with a desire to build complex systems that will stand the test of time.
Early on, however, I had some problems with the glorification of the Edo period even though in a material way it could be called superior to ours. The author says that it fulfills the Hanover Principles for sustainable design (Hanover Expo, 2000) but he says that human rights and "open communication among stakeholders" are among those principles. He also tells us that population control in the form of infanticide was part of the Edo program for sustainability, as well as the prohibition of marriage for younger sons. (Of course they didn't have modern birth control.) There was a strict caste system in the land of Edo, with the Samurai half of the population using most of the land for their private homes. Frugality and humility were said to be important and necessary cultural values, but greed and arrogance must have been widespread too (as in most cultures). Is sustainability possible without some very serious sacrifices of human rights? (And I don't mean the right to buy or do everything you want.)
It would be interesting to see a comparison of the Edo culture with others of that period, such those of rural Europe. I expect there were many similarities.
To develop that thesis "Just Enough Software Architecture" covers architectural modeling, classification, styles and uses. Most of the chapters reinforce the risk reduction thesis either through examples or models where these principles are clarified. Dr. Fairbanks also uses a slight variation of the standard UML 2.0 notation, simplifying that notation in an attempt to show how even straightforward models can highlight the mechanics of the architecture.
One concept that "Just Enough Software Architecture" introduces is the concept of "architecture focused design", which is a deliberately chosen architecture to achieve a collection of acknowledged goals. The author espouses the concept that these goals are driven by the constraints of the system. These constraints should act as "guide rails" and they ultimately can be used to influence and direct the system or systems being developed. Many systems have hidden constraints (for example performance or security) and this architectural approach can help influence system implementers in making architecturally aligned development decisions.
Overall, I enjoyed George Fairbank's book and believe it forms an interesting discussion starting point for any organization performing software architectural work. I would hope that a companion volume is added that does a set of more detailed case studies of how actual risk-based architecture fares in practice.
Many beautiful pen sketches throughout the book brings back my childhood memory. The Old "Edo" period
began in 1600 and ended in 1868, but the type of things depicted in the book were seen until just 50 years
ago in Japan. So-called modernization , or Americanization, has wiped out eco-friendly, waste-nothing
culture completely. I hope people will realize that we can live happily without many modern amenities.
I bought 2 additional copies and gave to my Americal friends in my neighbourhood.
The goal of this book is to analyze Edo Japan's sustainable practices and apply them to modern life. It does this by taking a fictionalized journey through the country, starting at a farming village and ending at the home of a lower-level Edo Samurai. As we travel with the narrator, the story points out various things we'd notice and what they mean. Between chapters different levels of society and locations are analyzed for useful lessons.
Thus you'll read about the energy-saving virtue of pickling, the value of latrine outputs, the life of traveling city pottery repairman, and samurai who farm on their small estates. It's actually a bit dizzying, and the author packs in a lot - almost a bit too much to be frank, but he's got a lot to cover.
This human-level look at a sustainable culture, why it evolved, and what it means is very intriguing and has high impact. Backed by illustrations and research, giving these fictionalized but historical examples of efficiency, good construction, food production, etc. helps one understand what we can learn and apply to our lives. This varies from ethical/personal approaches to serious thoughts about material usage and land.
The book will make you think, will help you see the value of history, and will give you ideas.
Despite it's many triumphs of stability, efficiency, and literacy, the book doesn't set the Edo period as something to emulate entirely. The Edo period was also a time of social immobility for most, high taxes for farmers, the practice of infanticide for some, and a samurai class whose comparative wealth were constrained by propriety and social policy. The author clearly admires the Edo period, and perhaps in one or two cases praises it more than I feel it deserved, but he also acknowledges its many flaws. He regards these issues with a kind of sad affection, blots on a period that he feels shows important virtues, but blots nonetheless.
Do I consider this a book worth reading? I do - for the right audience.
Ecology/Sustainability: If you're interested in sustainability in a historical context, this book will definitely be for you.
Those Interested in Japan: If you're into Japanese food, culture, or history, then you'll probably adore this book. This might also be a great gift for anyone interested in period anime and manga because of the wealth of details.
Writers: This books way of using fiction, illustration, and analysis is actually very interesting from a pure level of literature. As a writer or instructional designer, if this book sounds at least mildly interesting to you, you may want to get it as a study of a useful instructional writing style.
So there you have it. The book's not for everyone, but it's quite a good book for the right people.