Houses On Stilts

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Imagine, if you will, if every house in the world was built on stilts. Just run with me on this, just run with it. So every house, in the world, is on stilts. Some are tall stilts, some are medium, whatever. Some stilts are made of concrete, others wood, or brick, or string and spit, or anything. But every house in the world, from the ground up, is built on stilts.

So obviously, all the skyscrapers are built on stilts. Every school, every library, on stilts. Every town hall, bank, clothes store, warehouse, sandwich shop – every building is built on stilts. And so obviously all the roads would be on stilts as well. And all the pavements. And all the lamp posts and bridges, and everything else too.

And in this world, this world of houses on stilts, you’d also have the history of houses being built on stilts. After all, it didn’t just happen overnight. From the origins of the first person who made a set of stilts, to the glorious spread of the house-on-stilts revolution, all those twists and turns and countless iterations of people putting houses of stilts is in there, in the history books. And the people too, people the world over will have found different ways to put houses on stilts. Some people think five stilts is best. Some people think seven stilts is best. Entire cultures are shaped around their method of putting houses on stilts; the best technique, the most valued style, placement, positioning, the hundreds of different rituals to ensure proper stilting, and so on and so on.

For the explorer, or on your holidays, you can go to far off places like Beirut and see the marvelous stilts of Lebanon! So different, so exotic – and the history of Lebanon is so different, so far fetched, their stilts are so strange. And of course, so is everything else; because of the stilts, and how things have grown around them. Their houses are different. Their roads are different, their town halls, everything. You can see how their whole culture has evolved in entirely different and wondrous ways, and all of it entwined around their own unique culture of houses on stilts.

And it’s not just Lebanon of course. You can go to any country in the world and do the same thing; take the time to marvel at how rich, how deep, and how complex their culture of houses on stilts is, and how it has shaped the culture and society of the people; even down to their music, their art, their language. Truly, houses on stilts have shaped the world in a countless million ways.

Of course, such is human nature, there are a lot of arguments about houses on stilts. Some people aren’t content to simply prefer five stilts over seven, they know it is the best way! And some of these people get very angry about these different – inferior – stilting habits. These different stilt-formations, these exotic stilting rituals, to some people they are not simply different, but wrong. And they say so at length.

And these are not little things. These are big, contentious issues! People get in arguments. People get in fights. If you look, all through history you can see it; the countless conflicts that have been started over the best way to build houses on stilts. The thirty year war between the Spanish and the French, all started because a Count snubbed the validity of the French stilting method. The British colonization of Africa, spreading the glory of stilts to the foolish, ignorant natives, who lived in trees, or tents – such barbarism! Stilts have dictated and shaped human culture and civilization for thousands of years; often in ways that shames the modern day stilter it’s true, but it is unarguable that human civilization has been shaped down to the bone by houses on stilts.

So there you have it. A world, beautiful and horrible and rich and deep and countless other things; this world of houses on stilts.

Now imagine, one day, into this wonderful world of houses on stilts, that someone builds a new house. And this house has no stilts. No stilts! How would it look? What would people think? It would be an outrage. People would point, and laugh, and dismiss it as madness. They would mark it as abhorrent, or illegal, or morally wrong. They would be afraid, or angry. This alien concept, this aberration, totally unknown in a world of houses on stilts, is an offence to all that is stilt-worthy.

But these are modern times after all and where this person, this ‘un-stilter’ might once have been stoned to death, or burned alive, or subjected to scaphism – now they may just be looked down on, or denied service, or dehumanized in numerous small ways. But mostly they will simply be ignored. Which is much more civilized, obviously.

But anyway, some time passes, and this person seems perfectly happy in their house-without-stilts, and they keep to themselves. And strangely enough, somehow, it turns out that their house took less time to build. And it seems to be more stable. And they can get out of their front door faster.

But this is a world of houses on stilts! And you know – everyone knows – that houses on stilts are the best way, the only way! You have thousands of years of history to back you up. Civilization upon civilization who, while their stilt-technology may have been archaic or their stilting practices unacceptable by today’s standards, stand behind you. An endless tidal wave of history supports and surrounds you. Your laws are based on this. Your morals are based on this. Everything, from the layout of your cities to your to your favourite blasphemous swearword, is based on houses on stilts.

But. But but but. Something is tickling at the base of your skull. The fact is, the house without stilts (eurgh! You can feel the wrongness even just saying the phrase), that house cost less to build. And it really does seem to be more stable. And it was built faster too. It just seems…better. But it can’t be, it just…well it makes no sense!

But there it stands. Empirical evidence that this house-without-stilts was…well…better. It was certainly faster. And safer. And cheaper too. But it’s still wrong, right?

So now, in the silence of your own skull, your brain is faced with a choice. One of the bigger choices it’s ever been handed. What does your brain do when it is proven to you that houses-without-stilts are better? It goes against everything you know! It goes against your history, it goes against your culture! Why, your own father was a stilts-builder! How do you tell him his life’s work may have been in vain?! How do you turn your back on the almighty weight of human history?

Of course! A revelation! You don’t. And fairly quickly your brain finds ways to make all this evidence not matter.

You say “This is the way it’s always been”

You say “You’re just trying to cause trouble.”

You say “Not having stilts is evil, because that’s what I was taught.”

And, when this doesn’t quite work, when this doesn’t quite convince your own mind, you bring out your most powerful argument:

“Houses on stilts don’t obey the same rules as your house-without-stilts. So all of your evidence is useless.”

And you leave, mental crises averted. Whew. You almost had to doubt yourself there.

And you climb the two hundred steps up to your creaking, swaying, repair-riddled house on stilts.

Knowing you are right.

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One thought on “Houses On Stilts

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