Stewart Brand came onto the cultural scene during the 1960s, helping to stage the Acid Tests made famous by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, and later launching the influential Whole Earth Catalog (something Steve Jobs described as “Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along”). He also vigorously campaigned in 1966 to have NASA release a photograph showing the entirety of Earth from space — something we take for granted now, but fired humanity’s imagination back then.
During the 1970s and beyond, Brand founded CoEvolution Quarterly, a successor to the Whole Earth Catalog; The WELL (“Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link”), “a prototypical, wide-ranging online community for intelligent, informed participants the world over;” and eventually The Long Now Foundation, whose work we’ve highlighted here before. When not creating new institutions, he has poured his creative energies into books and films.
Above you can watch How Buildings Learn, Brand’s six-part BBC TV series from 1997, which comes complete with music by Brian Eno. Based on his illustrated book sharing the same title, the TV series offers a critique of modernist approaches to architecture (think Buckminster Fuller, Frank Gehry, and Le Corbusier) and instead argues for “an organic kind of building, based on four walls, which is easy to change and expand and grow as the ideal form of building.”
Brand made the series available on his Youtube channel, with these words: “Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like… Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.” And he added the noteworthy footnote: “this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital— shot digital, edited digital.”
Find the first three parts above, and the remaining parts below:
- Part 1: Flow
- Part 2: The Low Road
- Part 3: Built for Change
- Part 4: Unreal Estate
- Part 5: The Romance of Maintenance
- Part 6: Shearing Layers
You can find How Buildings Learn added to our list of Free Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..