ruminations about architecture and design

Monday, February 19, 2018

what a time it was


The research staff at towers of ilium has been consumed by a book about the development of the American suburbs. Crabgrass Frontier by Kenneth Jackson is the Ur text when it comes to describing the forces behind residential development in the U.S.

What makes his writing so impressive is that he sets out a definition of "suburb" that is more comprehensive than most architectural critics. His criteria for a suburb are as follows:
-Function: predominantly residential
-Form: owner occupied single family dwellings
-Income: middle and upper class
-Density: lower relative to historical urban settlement

So far, he has not used the term "sprawl."

More on this as reading advances.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

isaac newton holds short position

Towers of ilium wisely made no predictions for 2018 about the direction of the stock market. Towers of ilium is beginning to think about tempering its position on the stability of the economy through the course of the year. Odds of a downturn have ticked up a bit. More political mishaps will worsen the situation.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

home is where you find it


The difference between formal and casual has essentially disappeared in American home design. A more accurate way of describing the different areas inside a dwelling is needed. Towers of Ilium proposes the terms "Open Spaces" and "Retreat Spaces." There is a subtle distinction between these terms and  the more common phrases "Public" and "Private." An Open Space can serve as a zone that encourages gathering, but it can also be a barrier where business is conducted. A front porch is one example, a kitchen island another. Retreat Spaces can be any room with a door--and the backyard--provided some level of separation can be created.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

the deep state


Floodplain development is a typical feature of human settlement patterns. The problem with floodplains is that they flood--but usually not with enough frequency to encourage total abandonment. Climate change is upending certain expectations, but the effects are subtle and slow-moving. One day, Miami will be like Venice, and people will love to go there. The in between period will be hardest to cope with.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

not fiction


Almost any person from ten years ago with knowledge of oil production would not have believed the shape of this graph. The surge of tight oil extraction is important for many reasons, but it does not invalidate the general idea of peak oil. Eventually, petroleum will be competing aggressively with energy sources that have no limitations on production--i.e. solar.  Extraction technologies always face harder limits than manufacturing technologies.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

now and maybe




the end endgame


The Economist magazine had a good report on the proliferation of discount chain stores like Dollar General. For better or worse, this retail model may be the final model of the American shopping experience. The very wealthy will have a few boutique locations, and Amazon. The middle class will have Amazon. The poor will have Dollar General, and Amazon. Even Wal-Mart will throw in the towel. If things reach that point the Dollar Stores will even be able to get rid of their signs.