ruminations about architecture and design

Saturday, December 4, 2010

architects are communists

I'm going out on a limb with this post, but this has been on my mind for a few years. Architecture, despite occasionally being an individual, artistic pursuit, is ultimately an activity with broad social impact. This impact can be measured in economic terms that go beyond mere currency. On most occasions, a building will outlive its original investors and users. Even before this amortization is complete, it is in the public domain as a capital good that has the potential to accrue value that is proportionally greater than its upkeep costs. Consequently, it is in everyone's best interest to have a sense of the capital value that is conferred by a building.
A skyscraper in a city is more than an egocentric statement by a developer or corporation. It represents the possibility of continued improvements in the lives of workers who occupy the same neighborhood or participated in its construction. Its shadow is an externality for property owners around it and its footprint is an opportunity cost for different things that might have been built with the same resources nearby.
No building project can occur in a social vacuum. Since it always an act of the community, the community, in some measure, owns the outcome and should have a say in its form, content and ultimate fate.
Side note: Jim Chanos is predicting the eventual collapse of the Chinese residential real estate market. I agree with him, and I'm encouraged that someone in the investment community is willing to take the risk of shorting the speculative bubble that is developing there.

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