Watch Stewart Brand’s 6‑Part Series How Buildings Learn, With Music by Brian Eno

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 titlethe 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:

You can find How Build­ings Learn added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of West­ern Archi­tec­ture: From Ancient Greece to Roco­co (A Free Online Course)

The Acid Test Reels: Ken Kesey & The Grate­ful Dead’s Sound­track for the 1960s Famous LSD Par­ties

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

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  • Ted Mills says:

    Amaz­ing find! Had no idea this exist­ed. Brand’s book is one of those reads that changes the way you look at every­thing. (By every­thing, I mean build­ings.)

  • Carl Russo says:

    Inter­est­ing, but I can’t respect Brand’s cur­rent lib­er­tar­i­an-cap­i­tal­ist ethos. Espe­cial­ly in the age of self-serv­ing bil­lion­aires with kooky, seri­ous­ly fucked-up aspi­ra­tions for world dom­i­nance.

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