ruminations about architecture and design

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

over hill and dale

The romantic period of tall buildings is still going strong, but not in the U.S. or Europe. Africa is the last uncovered territory. Some entity in Lagos will build a thousand foot spire within the next ten years. A rising skyscraper does not lift all boats, but it is a useful symbol of the penultimate phase of urban development. What is the final phase of the city, you ask? Sprawl.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

bookmaking amazon in massachusetts

The economic and business team at towers of ilium has wrapped up its analysis of plans that Amazon has for a second headquarters site. They have concluded, after exhaustive research and many late nights, that the odds of any place in Massachusetts landing this fish are less than 1%. The reasons are as follows:
-Prime spots in the greater Boston metro region are too expensive and the infrastructure is already overwhelmed. The downmarket spots like New Bedford and Worcester don't have the talent pool.
-Saturation of the tech market in the Boston zone would make positions hard to fill at competitive salary rates. Political opposition to Amazon policies would be considerable.
-Neither Charlie Baker nor Marty Walsh needs to cough up bribes to another big company to sustain the state's economic system.

So, where will Amazon end up? Maybe nowhere. But, before we consider that possibility, let's state that the natural place for the company to re-centralize itself would be in some southern state like North Carolina. Costs are lower, infrastructure is less congested, and politicians of all stripes will open up taxpayer wallets in a hurry. 

Amazon actually doesn't need a second headquarters. What they do need is a national recession to test the resiliency of their business model and the business models of their competitors. The internet retailers with the best organizations and lowest overhead will emerge from this recession with bigger market shares--regardless of their home base locations. If Amazon does choose some hapless east coast city for its new digs, the plan will fizzle once the stock market crashes. Amazon, with all its warehouses and robots and employees will probably make it through.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

places to put stuff

Pure functionality is loathed by architects. The design profession places the highest value on things than cannot be justified beyond a moment of visual satisfaction or provocation. Fortunately, clients, despite occasional proclamations otherwise, have similar values. Even more fortunately, the trades deliver their highest performance for the most irrational components of a building.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

wood roofs

An architect from the old school was once asked if a house should have a wood roof. "Is there any other kind?" he answered. Indeed, they look nice, but should probably not be used in California.


The Catalonian independence movement certainly caught towers of ilium by surprise. Although it has been a few hundred years in the making recent events feel serious. More serious is the response by Spain and the position adopted by the European Union.

This blog predicts that things will proceed badly if Spain uses force in the matter. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

las vegas was never easy

Quite predictably, Blade Runner 2049 is included in the list towers of ilium architecture movies. The film-makers did a good job of referencing the original and adding some new visual twists. The long pan in the beginning over the solar energy fields can be juxtaposed against the 1982 movie opening. Overall, the effect of the new movie is more restrained than the original, while making an earnest effort to be more monumental in scope. Noir grittiness has been replaced with sepia-tinted drama. There is no vegetation anywhere.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

early fall review

The towers of ilium newsroom held a two week retreat to re-assess basic priorities. Nothing was accomplished. The next retreat will focus on how to better manage time at retreats.

-Hurricane season is not quite over, and there's a fair chance that when Nate makes landfall it will reveal yet more weaknesses in American infrastructure. The more prosperous parts of Texas and Florida will probably recover quickly, but Puerto Rico may be in lots of trouble for years to come.

-The Trump administration lurches forward. This blog hopes that war with North Korea will not happen.

-Urban planning and traffic management in the greater Boston area is officially dead. No improvements will be made ever.

-The new Blade Runner movie will get several reviews in the upcoming week by the entertainment division of towers of ilium.

UPDATE: The effects of Nate are so far relatively minor.