ruminations about architecture and design

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

uber, opioids, and architecture

There is actually no significant connection between these three things. Architects would like to believe that modern taxi service and self-driving cars will ignite some sort of design revolution, but that is pure fantasy. The opioid crisis is loosely connected to design issues by virtue of its broad reach. Heroin dealers took advantage of a robust transportation network to expand their addict base. More precisely, their addict base had been delivered to them on a silver platter by the machinations of drug companies.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

stolen goods

This graph from Calculated Risk shows the construction volume of multi-family housing in the U.S. for the past 50 years. Towers of ilium finds a few things interesting:
-The boom years of multi-family construction coincided with the boom years of single family construction. This pattern was solid until the late 90's through the housing crash of 2008. The rebound following the crash actually outpaced single family starts.
-The recent peak--and what could be a mild decline--points to recession territory. Why the decline? Slack demand or onerous development costs?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

truth is a gesture

The collapse of a newly installed pedestrian bridge today in Florida will be investigated with brutal thoroughness. As is often the case, errors only get analyzed fully when they cause loss of life. The recent flooding in Massachusetts has resulted in many insurance claims but probably very little comprehensive action. Futuring is hard work, and only undertaken with reluctance. It's still easier to run.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

realist architecture #58-new haven edition

No one really wants to go to New Haven, Connecticut. Granted, Yale University still maintains a campus in the city, but only as a fortified compound in the middle of a post industrial apocalypse. Ikea has a store near the highway, but there's no guarantee that they will survive the collapse of retail. Eventually, the only monument left will be the remains of this interesting creation by Marcel Breuer. 

This building will be an important test for preservationists. If it has no functional value it will continue to deteriorate and be the subject of condemnation. If the highway didn't cut off the site from the water there might be some hope, but odds are good that the next tenants will be a demolition crew.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

real architecture #57

What exactly is "loft living?" The romantic ideal is a struggling artist who rents space in a crumbling factory building in the blasted wasteland of a formerly teeming metropolis. This artist builds a loft out of salvaged lumber with borrowed tools so that he has a retreat from his artistic space. His career takes off and his dwelling becomes the setting of wild parties with cocaine and LSD and the loft becomes the spot for excessive sexual experimentation. Eventually, the city recovers, the neighborhood gentrifies and the building is sold and converted to luxury "lofts" for wealthy hipsters. Everybody wins.

This is a picture of an attic--not a loft.

Friday, March 9, 2018

the crabgrass paradise

Towers of ilium would like to apologize for the sporadic posting. The company has been restructuring; non-essential positions have been eliminated, executives have been rewarded, and consultants have been hired who will shortly unveil a new branding campaign. 

Meanwhile, the American suburb persists. One of Jackson's more interesting observations deals with the value that Americans place on newness in comparison to some old-world cultures. He claims that in Europe, age confers value to buildings, and the inverse is the norm in the United States.

Anyone who views greater density as the solution to racism, energy use, a loss of community, and transportation inefficiency is facing an uphill battle. The people of the town of Brookline--one of the first class segregated suburbs--do not want anything changed. Even people in older suburbs on the outskirts of dying cities do not want anything changed. Both groups vote.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

drum rolls

Towers of ilium has mixed feelings about construction in flood-prone areas. Towers of ilium has mixed feelings about its predictions of a stable economy through 2018. The potential trade war, the impact of chaos in Washington, the overheated stock market, and general inertia are all significant.

There will be another recession. Probably within two years. Trump and the Republican Party should pray for an early recession and a quick recovery. Odds are against this.