ruminations about architecture and design

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

plain sawn

Some readers have noticed the negative attitude towards architectural practice in recent blog posts. Towers of ilium apologizes for the tone, but not the content. Architecture thrives on constant criticism and revision. The aesthetic impact of anything built by humans--particularly shelters and infrastructure--is an essential component of culture. Diverse reactions are to be expected. When architecture drifts too far towards social engineering or when a designer takes an unequivocal stance on some issue, then it necessary to double down on skepticism. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

season ticket to a one way ride

This is important:

Kotkin makes the same solid arguments he has made in the past on this topic. One possibility he does not discuss is the possibility that current suburbs will increase in density as a consequence of improved transportation technology. This blog noted that the death of retail may open up land for more residential development.

Manufacturing may get automated to the point where it can move to more rural areas. Whatever happens, architecture is doomed.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

augmented reality

Amazing opportunities for this technology abound. We list some:

-Architects will become obsolete. Clients will rely on algorithms that show them infinite ways to arrange spaces and furnishings. It will be a glorious time.

-People who own seafront property that has been inundated will be able to experience memories of these places through sophisticated simulation programs. Parties, walks on the beach, good meals, sunsets from the deck, etc....

-Certain celebrities will allow fans to tune into their everyday experiences. Watch them sleep, eat, meet with important people, and interact with fans who are tuned into the experience.

-When the aliens invade, no one will pay them any attention.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

it can only cost more

An ongoing discussion is starting about the reconfiguration of the Mass Pike through the old railyards in Allston. Straightening out the highway, and removing some of the crumbling elevation sections, makes a lot of sense. The urban planning consultant hired by towers of ilium has made the modest suggestion that portions of the road should be built in conjunction with decks that can support buildings. This would double the cost of the construction but would improve the neighborhood in the long term. Comments are welcome--a public hearing will be held in Worcester on Monday morning.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

new morning

Where does design go from here? And what is "here?"

-Sustainable architecture is a typical design service for many firms. Its execution is still too frequently a box to check for LEED certifiability but it still matters. Much of the modern built environment would be worse off without the principles of green architecture reaching mainstream use.
-There is still no good substitute for spray-foam insulation
-The retail apocaylpse  is coming, but it will free up land for more residential development. It will be a long, slow, and bitter process that will be spread unevenly throughout the country. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

copperhead roads

The political turmoil in the United States is frequently being described in terms of geography. Election maps paint a picture of of an urban/rural divide that has deep roots in racial segregation, de-industrialization, and drug abuse. The most cynical observer could envision the 48 states divided into three distinct countries consisting of a central heartland flanked by  two coastal mega-cities. Such an outcome would require some creative map drawing--and a lot of barbed wire. To pursue such a fantasy would reveal that the weaknesses of the rural zones are even more significant than most people realize. Despite the results of the most recent national election, the balance of trade and power is heavily skewed towards coastal cities -whether they are near fresh waterways or oceans.

Towers of ilium, quite naturally, has a bias towards the cities. Commerce, consumption, congestion, drama, and innovation are the essential elements of the city. The conventional role of rural areas as places where natural resources are harvested points to a grim future where huge robots dig and till with tireless efficiency.

Monday, November 6, 2017

the crisis of durability

Why did the Greeks paint stone? If we consider the relative longevity of various building materials the very necessity of paint comes into question. Is there an architect out there who refuses to use it?