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March 29, 1999

Habitat for Inhumanity plans building spree

WOBURN — Habitat for Inhumanity announced plans to build 15 new dwellings for underprivileged families in Woburn that will "totally mess with the tenants’ minds."habitat.jpg (20521 bytes)

"Yes, Habitat for Inhumanity is about building houses — many, many houses all over the world," said group founder Millard Fuller at a press conference. "However, this work is about much more than construction. It’s about showing love and compassion. It’s about bringing people together. But most importantly, it’s about our own distinct brand of architectural sadism, scientifically tailored to engender acute psycho-visual terror."

Exiled from Habitat for Humanity for refusing to make right angles, wire an electrical plug safely, or make the distinction between hot and cold running water, the builders feel that their charitable acts have been largely misunderstood. Bill Bucknick, Habitat’s construction foreman, has made a career out of designing and building some of the most prominent mental hospitals in Central America and Eastern Europe.

"The whole ‘inhumanity’ tag is a misnomer," said Bucknick. "One little visit by the Amnesty International to a hospital for the politically insane I built in Turkey, and suddenly my work is tagged as being ‘inhumane’ under the Geneva Convention. It’s all a technicality."

Psychologists have agreed that forcing people to live in a house with no right angles, oddly sloping floors and ceilings, false perspectives, electrical outlets wired for European electrical currents randomly placed in the ceiling, toilets with hot water supply lines, and cooking equipment located only in the master bathroom can quickly create distress among the occupants. Indeed, tenants of the last Habitat for Humanity house Bucknick’s crew designed complained of vertigo, nausea and existential angst after living in the house for only two days.

Said one tenant: "With every flat plane sloping either toward or away from an imaginary vanishing point at angles impossible for the human brain to comprehend, plus the constant stench of a toilet supplied with nearly boiling hot water, I’ve turned to the writings of Sartre and Kierkegaard to try to make sense of a world in which God is dead and my electrical outlets won’t power anything except my Mentos night light."

Despite the criticism, Bucknick is adamant about continuing to help the local community. He has no plans to stop building the homes for the underprivileged that critics have called "hellishly surreal."

"I heard the same complaints from the people who moved into the state institution for the criminally poor I built in Peru, but you don’t hear any of them complaining now, do you?"

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