ruminations about architecture and design

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

property bubble special edition

Towers of Ilium has been reading about  residential real estate bubbles in various countries around the world. Apparently, many people suffer under the delusion that home prices can only go up. Currently, the following countries have over-priced housing markets:

United Kingdom

Which one will pop first? Or will it happen all at once? I'll try to keep track of this. I think that the U.K. is a good choice for being the first to deflate because of its current recession and its proximity to the Eurozone.

Canada might be able to offset its property bubbles by devaluing its currency. I'm surprised they aren't doing that already--I guess they're feeling smug and are awash in commodity profits.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

performance space design challenge

I'm partly concerned about egress components. I'm more concerned about my ability to sell this space as an adequate theatre venue. The biggest issue is the view of the audience (not very many people) towards the performance area. Should the audience be elevated? Or the actors? Will renting equipment break the budget?

architectural moment #404

An example of how the backside of a building can be more interesting than the front. The combination of brick, stone, grape vine and classical trim is almost always a winner. The human scale proportions of this building element are important as well.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

crooked sketches tuesday

I was sober when I drew this. I think I need to work on my parallel freehand lines a bit.

With any luck, I'll be teaching drafting to aspiring architects this fall. Hand drafting is not quite dead, and since I started off in the profession as a hand drafter I still cling to it with a misguided sense of nostalgia. Maybe I can be cured of that someday. Probably when I'm selling appliances at the Home Depot--which might not be a bad idea.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

random old forts blog post

Government investment circa 18th century--somewhere in Maine--serving as proof that our nation has kept itself invasion free by having strong coastal fortifications with plants growing on them.

Friday, July 20, 2012

a/c or not a/c

I jsut read an interesting article about air conditioning, which does not make me feel that optimistic about our efforts to curb CO2 emissions and curtail global warming.

As prosperity in developing nations increases, they use more A/C. The author of the article, Stan Cox, tries to make the argument that the desire for cool air isn't natural. Based on the heat wave we just had, I beg to disagree, and we aren't even in a tropical area. Building ventilation systems should be improved and we could do many things differently in design--i.e. less glass and more exterior shading--but dropping the indoor air temperature from 100 degrees to 75 degrees requires equipment and energy. There is no way around that.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

what $500 a square foot gets you

A super dooper, LEED Platinum building in Melbourne that is net zero everything. The confetti on the outside serves as solar shading. As usual, I'm not jumping out of my seat in excitement, even though I am impressed that they were able to make the building nearly water neutral--which in Australia seems to be as important as making it energy efficient. There were no details in the article on Arch Record where I got this photo about the building enclosure details. However, this part of Australia has such a mild climate (other than the lack of water issue) that the thermal properties of the building are less of an issue.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

the cape

Yesterday, for maybe the first time, I understood Cape Cod. We'll see where towers of ilium goes with this.

Monday, July 16, 2012

film review special

I was not overly impressed with the recent film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy that starred Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, etc... The British loved it, the critics loved it, and it's actually a pretty good artistic assembly, but if I hadn't read the book I think I would have been lost. The film relies heavily on images--Smiley sitting in a chair, Smiley swimming, Control smoking, Prideaux getting shot, an elevator in the Circus headquarters--and what dialogue is used reveals that the British do speak a type of foreign language that Americans will never relate to.

It should have been at least as long as the BBC version, maybe longer. Also, Percy was mis-cast.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

doping, drama, and inconsistency

Should athletes take drugs to improve performance? Well, gosh, what's a drug? How do we define an athlete? How can performance be measured? These categories do not make for a clear-cut situation.
I have used caffeine as a stimulant on more than one occasion, but I can't determine whether it made the difference in an outcome at the time. I've also never been a caliber athlete.

I'm wondering if there's a new model for dramatic performance. I'm toying with the idea of a parallel pit theatre---similar to a black box, but even more claustrophobic. John Milius would understand what I'm going for here. I happen to like small venues, but they have obvious economic restraints.

What is the purpose of performance? Do we like to see excellence in action? Is there an upper limit to our expectations for performance and does that even matter. The world records in some track and field events have stagnated, but that doesn't discourage people from training for the Olympics.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

prediction department #49

Towers of Ilium is not afraid to make predictions. The track record for success is limited, but this blog is not discouraged by failure, truth, or facts.

I predict that the recent fare increase by the MBTA will have no impact on ridership levels within the bus and subway/trolley system. Commuter rail usage will probably decline, but that's small stuff compared to the hundreds of thousands of trips provided by the Red Line. I make this claim for a few reasons:
1. The cost of using public transit is still less than using a car if the destination is anywhere within a dense, urban area.
2. Many users are habitual riders, and don't have the desire to change their commuting patterns--or can't.
3. Conditions in the metro-Boston economy determine usage rates to a greater degree than fare costs. Right now, economic conditions are slowly improving, ergo people will use subways and buses.
4. Gas will stay above $3 for quite a while (barring a complete European led depression exacerbated by a collapse of the Chinese economy).

We'll see how this prediction plays out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

flight #404

This is a picture of an airport terminal in Spain that was closed because of the collapse of the real estate bubble. I'm not sure how it can be put to use again as anything but an airport. In many respects, airport architecture resembles a machine more than a building--the most appropriate metaphor is a pumping and filtration system combined with a telephone switchboard.

I read an article in the Economist about how Canadian regulators are taking steps to soften the deflation of their residential property bubble. We'll see how that works out.

Day1849 of the Great Recession.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

meanwhile, in california

This is a building by Architect/Developer/Builder Jonathan Segal. It was originally conceived as an office building, but economic conditions made him change it to residences. It works by virtue of its narrow floor plate. The floor plans look a bit contrived, but that is what happens when you reverse engineer something. In architectural tradition, I only offer a picture of the outside. A lot of glass for California, but he seems to have made some investment in solar shading devices.

On a side note: To what extent is the Canadian real estate bubble being fueled by foreign investors? Condo towers in Vancouver and Toronto are being sold as investment properties. Canadians claim that their strict lending laws and down payment standards make their market more stable than the U.S. How much leverage do you need to have a bubble?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

two posts in one day

I poached this photo from someone else's blog. It is a ruined church in Scandinavia--Finland, I think. Curious how we lump those three very northern countries together. I am sure that they have deep cultural differences.

Whoops. Towers of Ilium has made one of its frequent errors. Finland is not considered part of Scandinavia. I could go back and correct this post from the beginning, but I wanted to share this learning experience with my readership. We are all a little bit wiser now--unless of course, you already knew that Scandinavia did not include Finland. In any event, a warm thanks to the fellow who took this dramatic picture.

where are we?

It's only a model.

In other news, the Quincy Center Station parking garage will be closed because of structural problems. If they had done a better job on maintenance, if they had the money to do maintenance, if they had built it better, if, if, if.....and it would have still failed. I wonder if they will try to repair it or take it apart piece by piece while the station operates below it.

No big loss.

Monday, July 2, 2012

in search of an audience

I might have another opportunity to design a stage set, which means I'll get to create temporary architecture that has to perform with a high level of indifference. What do I mean by that? A stage set has to be subordinate to the human actors. It has to conform to the directions in the script. It has to be sturdy, cheap, unsentimental, and portable. In many respects, all architecture is subordinate to more important actions, but on too many occasions, a building is overloaded with symbolic value and false importance.

O, for a muse of fire.