ruminations about architecture and design

Saturday, December 16, 2017

boston odds and ends

-Governor Baker has proposed legislation that would make zoning changes in towns easier to pass. If zoning regulations are relaxed, more housing could be built. So goes the theory. Towers of ilium assigns low odds of success to this.

-Low odds of success are assigned to the second phase of the Fenway Center project. The second phase involves building a deck over the Mass Pike to support buildings. These projects are usually killed by recessions.

-A recession is still 12 to 18 months away. This blog made a similar prediction 12 or 18 months ago.

-The stone floor in the picture is not stone--it is porcelain tile.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

the problem with silicon valley

The problem with Silicon Valley is that it is a valley. This geographic fact is a major annoyance to the people who live there--and more importantly, to the people who want to live there, but can't because housing costs are too high, transportation is too restricted, and the damn mountains around the valley are mountains and not flat land. Agglomeration theory is good until it runs into geography.

But, what about densification? Good luck.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

the sublime

A sense of security is often achieved by elevation. Weight is associated with quality. Water reminds us of distant aquatic lifestyles. In sum, our senses betray us, because beauty does not hold the key to the next square meal, and a good night's sleep is worth more than all the gold sunk at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

the origins of formality

Architects are conceited enough to believe that every aspect of their design will elicit an emotional response. The shape of a room, the curve of a moulding, the color of a wall--all are regarded as notes in symphony. What people feel, however, can be dramatically altered by conditions over which the designer has no control. A bright day can make a marginal space feel wonderful--and vice versa. People who aren't architects tend to notice and comment on furniture and decorations most frequently. Architects respond by designing spaces stripped down to pure volumes, which are not often appreciated by the public.

Odds of a war with North Korea this year are at about 40%

Thursday, November 30, 2017

blog worthy

Towers of ilium has so far avoided scandals, harassment issues, accusations of fake news, Russian hackers, and truth.

Artificial materials are a critical part of architecture. The Egyptians and Greeks were constantly presenting stone as things that were not stone. Modern plastics manufacturers have carried the artifice of creation to the point where people no longer have a frame of reference for many materials. In some areas, the artificial products outperform their natural products in all areas. Consequently, natural materials become more prized for their irregularity, imperfections, and unreliability.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

the density delusion

In places with land use regulations there will be a tendency towards prohibitions on density. So, paradoxically, if density if desired, then zoning codes have to be abolished. But what about Houston? 
This is from the city website:

The Department checks subdivision plats for the proper subdivision of land and for adequate street or right-of-way, building lines and for compliance with Chapter 42, the City’s land development ordinance. Development site plans are checked for compliance with regulations that include parking, tree and shrub requirements, setbacks, and access.

So, contrary to some claims, Houston does have ordinances that tends to encourage lower density--just like Manhattan. And, both are prone to flooding in certain areas. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

in seek of improvements

The indoor waiting area at North Station in Boston is probably the worst public space in the entire city. The negative attributes are too many to count, but we will try to list the most egregious architectural errors:

-Too small
-Bad lighting
-Bad colors
-Bad seating
-Bad acoustics
-Bad sightlines
-Bad restrooms
-Bad signage

With the exception of size, many of these problems could be remedied. Why was it designed so poorly in the first place?