ruminations about architecture and design

Friday, October 20, 2017

dreams of a better land


Towers of ilium is testing an algorithm that would replace its staff of costly journalists and deliver this blog's hard-edged commentary more reliably. A sample follows:

"Fear fear cats large doom Trump modernism betrayed calendar time time bulletin book book dead gone lost fear sky turning painted broken lies the bread of life pumpkin spicy write sing die repeat rinse shiny shattered drink child water rising"

The focus groups are delighted.



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.

catalonia


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.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

the imagery of the 1970's


It did not seem to be a happy decade. Vietnam, Chicago, Watergate, New York City Bankruptcy, Inflation, Oil Crisis, Jonestown, and bell bottoms. Women's rights made considerable advances, but in the context of retrograde positions that persist to this day (see Schlafly, Phyllis and Trump, Donald)

The architecture continued the awfulness of the 60's.

Friday, September 22, 2017

houses are a good idea


Why would this even be phrased as a question? Even the most hardcore modernists loved houses--especially when they were located in remote areas uncorrupted by neighbors. A house encourages some degree of social isolation, which in proper doses is necessary for sanity.

So, forward exterior insulation!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

are houses a good idea?


Let's look at this question from a slightly different angle. Assume that houses (detached, single family, car dependent) are indeed a good thing. Then what about having more than one house? What is the limit to the number of houses a person could own and still derive use or pleasure from? The very wealthy probably limit themselves to two or three, even though they could own a few dozen.
Costs associated with travel and upkeep become more burdensome with multiple properties. 

At what density level do single family homes become miserable? In some large cities property developers made the decision that density pays. Do all apartment dwellers yearn for a yard?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

one good thing perhaps


It is getting hard to keep track of the natural disasters in the Americas of late. Harvey, Mexican earthquake, Irma, Maria, Jose, Mexican earthquake.

This building was damaged in the most recent quake in Mexico city. It does not appear to have collapsed although it probably cannot be repaired. We can speculate that arched windows helped to even out the stress distribution and save the walls from buckling. The diagonal shear cracks in the stucco and brick are very typical.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

not quite the truth


The problem with sketches is not that they lie, but that they reveal the truth. (Picasso said that)
The rougher a sketch is, the more it is appreciated by people who speak the same language--i.e. belong to the peer group of the artist. The rough sketch captures emotion and relieves the creator of having to solve fussy details. Clients and consumers are frequently overwhelmed by the sketch--or unappreciative of the subtlety of its intent. Feedback tends to focus on what is left unanswered.
Don't stop sketching, though.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

tribute post monday

Occasionally--nay, frequently, towers of ilium has to acknowledge the genius of others. In this case, it is Katerina Kamprani.

https://www.theuncomfortable.com

Her efforts are in some cases more practical than common items at Ikea.

Friday, September 15, 2017

a fantastic sense of style


Towers of ilium is adding Bruce Lee's iconic film Enter The Dragon to its architectural movie list.
This shot from the panoramic scene of Hong Kong's Aberdeen Harbor is particularly relevant. It captures a moment in history that hints at the explosive power of the city. The film is a careful mix of order and chaos--Bruce Lee demonstrates the discipline essential to his execution of the martial arts. His enemies pretend at discipline, but are ultimately a bunch of poorly organized rabble. Characters frequently crash through walls and windows, or use the architecture around them as strategic props. An example of this is when Lee evades the gaze of a guard by hiding (improbably) behind pieces of furniture. The climactic fight in a room of mirrors is a heavy handed metaphor of the limits of deception in combat.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

respecting thorstein veblen

If something is efficient but inconvenient then people won't use it. If something is inefficient and inconvenient, then people will use it simply as a demonstration of consumption. An example of this is all fashionable clothing. High end restaurants are also a good example. Value is not assigned on the basis of logic.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

purity


Some forgotten industrialist was once asked by some forgotten architect what the ideal building for manufacturing would be. The answer was "no building at all." While such honesty is atypical of client/designer relationships the realization of that desire has distinguished a line of building types that is remarkably persistent. The single story "big box" model is as close to this ideal as we can achieve--and possibly represents a case of terminal design.

If the industrialist had been asked what the ideal worker would be the answer would have been: "not human." Progress is being made on that front as well.

Monday, September 11, 2017

it came and went


Sixteen years is not such a long time. The terrorist attacks resulted in a disastrous escalation of brute force American policy and the rebuild of the WTC site displayed the typical weaknesses of modern civic design methods. The recent hurricanes that pummeled the U.S. owe some of their intensity to human impact on the climate. A cynical reading of this recent history leads to some grim conclusions of what the future holds. Even our ruins seem to lack any romantic value. Yet, the end times of an empire don't have to be dramatic.






in the eye of the beholder


The house to the left of this one had a kumquat tree in the backyard. It may still be there, but we can be certain that many other things have changed here in the past thirty years. Currently, Irma is wrapping up its tour of mid-Florida and heading north. The destruction will be felt for at least ten years. In that span of time another storm is likely to pass over the state, bringing more change.

The Dutch don't have flood insurance--they spend their money on seawalls. The U.S. is too big to get a seawall. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

the rebuild


At this time damage from Harvey is still being assessed and Irma has yet to make landfall in Florida. In a previous post it was noted that not much will change as a result of a hurricane. Things will be rebuilt in much the same way as they were before. Specifically, houses in Texas and Florida will be site-built from conventional wood lumber. We might see an uptick in some pre-fabricated components, but more exotic and robust construction methods will not make appreciable gains. 
Curiously, even people with considerable wealth will probably not make an investment in elevated structures, concrete framing, or enhanced energy efficiency systems. Price point considerations will overwhelm memory of the storms, and few people--and organizations--will be able to change course.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

the endless detail


In architecture there is never just one way to do things. In the realm of detailing a major challenge involves balancing standard methods with evolving knowledge. One seemingly simple question to ask is: Did it work last time? Unfortunately, "last time" may be too recent to have fully tested the successes and failures of the design. Forensic awareness of critical parts of the building system is a responsibility of a designer who specializes in detailing. This specialist also has to be cautious about falling into the trap of prioritizing graphic excellence over an appreciation of the information that a builder actually needs in the field.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

nesting


Odds and ends here....

-Lack of zoning probably did not enhance the damage caused by Harvey in Houston. In terms of pervious surfaces the metro area is in better shape than New York City. 

-Kim Jong Un does not have a deathwish. He knows that every provocation improves his bargaining position--up until the point that China grows tired of him.

-On the subject of deathwishes, the reputation of Sigmund Freud continues to get more complicated. His theories of the division of the human mind are not original and he had no scientific rigor. He was downright unethical, in fact. Should his monuments be toppled? Civilization and its Discontents is still compelling.

-This staircase is non-conforming.

Monday, September 4, 2017

tempered skepticism on indoor farming


Because it works in the Netherlands does not mean it will work everywhere. Such is the case with indoor agriculture--which is making considerable strides. It is a form of growing that makes sense for high value crops like lettuce, tomatoes, and marijuana. The excitement over this growing method will not translate into a feasible replacement for conventional farmland. Even if LED lighting continues to improve in efficiency and fall in price the intensive costs of indoor agriculture will not result in a proliferation of vertical urban farms. A metric that such a system cannot overcome is calorie units produced per acre per unit of cost. An examination of this would reveal that cattle grazing on the American plains are a cheap source of food. (The fact checking department at towers of ilium accepts challenges on this point).

Sunday, September 3, 2017

the week ahead behind


Although this blog is strictly apolitical and avoids all controversy a few items should be noted:

-Trump will rescind DACA. It's easy for him to do and carries little risk. Steve Miller rules Bartertown.
-Harvey will delay the recession. The surge in demand during rebuilding will have positive nationwide effects.
-Gas prices will stay elevated through the fall.
-The proposed museum for North Adams by Frank Gehry will die slowly
-None of these items can be considered predictions.

Friday, September 1, 2017

but does it look good?


Windows are one of the most important and frustrating features of architecture. The Parthenon did not have any, and ongoing revolutions in artificial lighting relieve many modern interior spaces of the need for them. Windows persist because people like them. The ongoing infatuation with all-glass buildings shows no sign of diminishing. From an energy use point of view windows are a mixed bag--too many is bad and not enough can also be bad. It's curious that modernism never managed to kill the traditional looking window. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

retail churn


The overbuilding of retail space in the United States has caused more suffering than the rise of Amazon and other online shopping sites. This suffering, however, is not spread evenly. Good space in the right place will always command tenants. Bad space in the wrong place isn't immediately doomed, but it will resist improvements because of the difficulty of reassigning the space to other uses. The trend in retail has been towards scale--with the ultimate expression being the box store and the fulfillment center. The small shop will always have a place, even as a loss leader for a brand, but most buildings on Main Street don't have the scale or logistical capacity for the type of sales model that dominates current shopping habits.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

a world hidden


The impact of the damage caused by Harvey defies analysis. This blog made an insensitive series of remarks yesterday expressing optimism about recovery and rebuilding efforts. A formal retraction is being considered by the editorial committee, but in the meantime it's worth considering the relative vulnerability of significant urban areas. New York City had localized flooding as a result of Sandy, but the topography of the region protects critical areas from everything short of a Biblical event. New Orleans is always in the cross-hairs. Los Angeles and Chicago are probably at near zero risk. Miami and Boston deserve close scrutiny--the former is already coming to terms with sea-level rise, but Boston has no comprehensive pre-planning efforts. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

there's not much rain here


Towers of ilium predicts that Houston will recover much more quickly and with less drama than New Orleans did following Katrina. It's rare that floods reach biblical proportions, and although the media has some dramatic images, the extent of severe water intrusion is not citywide. The region has a robust construction economy, decent administration, and a certain degree of experience. Efforts to prevent the next flood--or to lessen its impact--will not be implemented of course.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

architecture and productivity

Photo Levittown by Jon Smith

An effective method of increasing productivity in construction is by reducing the role of the designer. A design is required, but if interaction between client and architect is minimized--or eliminated--then the construction delivery process becomes the primary objective of a project. Does the end product suffer? Aesthetically, the consequences are often banal instead of disastrous. Functionality can be impacted, but not necessarily to a greater degree than when intensive design efforts are wasted on trying to predict future needs. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

building architecture and productivity


The technical research department at towers of ilium has been asked to comment on a recent article in The Economist magazine about the failure of the building construction industry to match the productivity gains of other manufacturing industries. The research department (which has no research budget) will recycle the following arguments:

-Buildings are large--large things make precision difficult to achieve and transport costs high
-Buildings are frequently unique to program and site. Even subtle differences in topography require re-design
-Building systems are more complex than in the past. A concrete wall with some single-glazed steel windows doesn't meet code and doesn't satisfy client/user expectations
-Architects are still involved. This point will be developed in later posts. Please do not adjust your set until Tuesday. In fact, do not stop staring at your computers for the next 24 hours--you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish!

Friday, August 18, 2017

reality is a harder place


Architecture that comes to life in a sketch frequently dies in the details. Sometimes, a compromise can be reached, but if heroic efforts are required to massage a design idea into something that complies with code and construction methods, then the potential for error increases substantially.
A sketch is not a holy writ--it is tool that informs the goal of getting something built. The ability to produce and abandon sketches is the mark of a healthy design process.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

why castles?


A castle is the ultimate expression of secure domestic architecture. Although modern survivalists tend to favor lodges in the empty places of the American West, the European tradition retains the most evocative and prominent examples of the type. To live in a castle is to achieve fantasy. Those who built them were clearly engaged in a visual arms race. Practical features are subordinate to an obvious need for more turrets and towers. Disneyland has cemented the imagery so thoroughly that we cannot conceive of a princess living anywhere else.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

building science and the grenfell fire

As predicted, Joe Lstiburek wrote some good commentary on the Grenfell Fire. It can be found at this link here. He makes several interesting points about fire safety in the context of cladding systems with exterior insulation. Among these are a criticism of excessively large rainscreen gaps--3/8" is plenty-- and  the importance of fireblocking between window heads and combustible exterior insulation. He doesn't comment on the overall thickness of the poly-iso insulation used in the cladding retrofit. They could have used a little bit of the money saved by using only 4" of insulation to buy a non-combustible aluminum composite panel.

Monday, August 14, 2017

the value of the one-off


People who commission works of art should be aware that the artist draws a paycheck with the expectation of being able to work without interference for long periods of time. This isolation requirement is also implicit in arrangements made with tradespeople. It reaches an extreme when we deal with mass-produced items--which have been carefully designed with only filtered input from potential consumers. Acceptance of the design decisions is measured at the time of purchase.

Unique efforts, however, are as necessary as they are dangerous. The artist defines certain parameters in negotiation with a client or patron--or as is more often the case--such parameters are defined by the previous body of work. The client wants to be surprised. It's like buying a car without getting a chance to test drive it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

finishing things-part III


Continual maintenance is a philosophy in search of an application. To what degree? At what costs? For how long? By what methods? A general rule is that maintenance should be a small fraction of purchase cost--i.e. a tank of gas is worth less than the car. Accumulated tanks of gas can eventually cost more than the car, but that merely demonstrates how the car is not a source of value unless it is moving people and things around.

Eventually, the most useful thing becomes an artifact. At that point, it may have achieved artistic value, but at what cost? Is it in the way of something better? Portable objects can retain value for as long as they exist. Architecture and infrastructure need to be assessed frequently. Much is found wanting.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

finishing things-part II


Should architects become more specialized? In practical terms, this has already happened. Large firms will have various studios that can function as distinct offices. A sole practitioner will tend to find a niche--usually in house design.

What is the end point for all this? Specialized licensing requirements? The dangerous thing here is that no matter how specialized an architect becomes, he or she will always maintain the posture that design skills can be transferred to any type of project or client. This attitude makes lawyers happy.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

finishing things-part I


Architects would do well to adopt Facebook's motto: Nothing is ever finished. A general contractor can occasionally feel finished, but service calls can persist for the lifetime of a building. Replacement planning should start at the schematic design stage. An effective method in large building planning is to divide the structure into self-sufficient zones that can be isolated for renovation. Having an elevator with a depth equal to ceiling height is a good idea. And, for life safety it is wise to have redundant egress systems. These functional aspects pale in comparison to the attitude adopted by the client. If a renovation target is established for 10 years after initial opening then it will have a profound effect on finish selection. Durability will be weighed against ease of replacement and lifecycle costs will be tempered by the expectation that better products will be available sooner than expected.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

charm and efficiency



The small house craze in America is probably winding down--mostly because it never wound up.
While the building code defines minimum sizes for room areas, conventional design wisdom favors a considerably more generous set of proportions. There will always be something alluring about the very small house, however. It evokes a childlike joy that can overcome various inconveniences.

Monday, August 7, 2017

process vs product


Should architects seek to educate clients or feed and nurture the most irrational impulses? Most great buildings have resulted from the latter collaboration. Most ordinary buildings-which constitute the vast majority of architecture,  have resulted from a process of mutual education. The client presents a program and budget, the architect oversteps, the client and architect work on a suitable approach, and so on.

But, even the most hard-nosed, function oriented client excepts to be surprised by the designer at some point in the process. Without the ability to surprise, why would design even exist?

Friday, August 4, 2017

more on circulation


A previous post about hallways failed to address a critical issue in all architecture: any space not occupied by furniture or equipment is circulation. The circulation experience can never be minimal even if people spend most of their time occupying furniture. Architects can create delight by concealing the purpose of some circulation elements. They can also create disappointment with circulation that leads to uninspired places--like a hallway that leads to an elevator.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

what dreams have passed


It is useful to remind ourselves that Boston' bid for the Olympic Games had little association with reality. The deficiencies of the city when it comes hosting such an extreme event can be easily described:

-Lack of good transportation infrastructure
-Lack of sporting venues--and land suitable for building new venues
-Lack of popular support for the scale of the undertaking (and hence, lack of money)
-Lack of good weather

Hosting an Olympic games is an expression of ego. For the  democratic city of Boston, the collective ego already has a focus--Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins--and despite the international character of many local institutions there was no incentive to pay for a large party.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

circulation ponderings


Here's a brief observation about residential design--for the major living spaces rooms act as circulation, but for private spaces you need hallways. A problem with low cost residential design is inevitability of minimal circulation space for the private zones. Going to a bedroom or a bathroom is a purely functional event. A window in a hallway is a good idea, but the argument will always be made for putting that window in a bedroom instead.

hoofbeats


This is from the famous Calculated Risk blog, and it is not good news. Although construction spending is healthy in the U.S. the growth rate is slowing. Most noteworthy is the slump in public spending, which speaks to the ideology of austerity in state and federal governments. Although Ayn Rand might be pleased by that trend it demonstrates a misunderstanding of what value should be placed on civic buildings. Many municipal structures are very old, poorly maintained, and miserable for users and staff. A more robust replacement and repair rate would improve efficiency and experience. We can hope that the next recession might see a surge in public spending, but if recent experience is a guide, that's a thin hope.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

catching up


A question to ponder is this: How will London't financial markets survive Brexit?  So far, there hasn't been a mass exit of firms and the real estate market in the city hasn't collapsed. The "just you wait" crowd could be disappointed by the general inertia that accompanies such events, as well the possibility that Theresa May won't be the person negotiating the Brexit terms.

London will still be a haven for rich foreigners to park wealth in the form of real estate. A smart kleptocrat would spread some purchases of residential and commercial real estate around between Vancouver, London, New York, and Miami.

Renzo Piano knows how to design a nice skyscraper.






Friday, July 28, 2017

the last home


Finding a reason for any design decision is a sure path to insanity. Typically, design starts with precedents that establish a base for a handful of novel distractions. In the case of the bathroom shown in the picture above there seems to be an effort to make a statement about the intersection of domestic expectations and industrial products. Why isn't the sink blue, also?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

we came, we saw, we lost

Discussions of a memorial for those who died in the long-running Global War Of Terror have managed to touch on some important issues. Chief among them is a realization that the war is real and unending, and that those who fight and die in far off lands do so for reasons that have drifted into obscurity. No one has energy to support the troops, except for some "Like and Share" posts on Facebook and the ubiquitous "Thanks for your service" that is mumbled mechanically. To those who have lost much, the irony and stupidity of the situation must feel like a hard pebble that cannot be shaken out of the inside of the shoe.

That anything architectural should be suggested by this fiasco is appropriate if only for its cynicism. Unfortunately, we can expect a Maya Lin knock-off, a long debate, and nothing built. That is the memorial.

Monday, July 24, 2017

hungry lion in upper right frame


Lo, yonder lies the green hills of England; shaped and re-shaped by the human hand until nature complies thoroughly with our collective sense and sensibility. In more practical terms, the mind likes what the eye sees, possibly because we've inherited a rough genetic memory of prehistoric landscapes similar to this one. This theory is bad news for modern architecture because if innovation promises a break from traditional expectations then the mind will be staging a small rebellion against the design.
What if there's a glass tower rising from a green field? Will such an image convey a sense of security or threat?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

patience is the soul of progress


The only way to get things done is to wait out the people who can't get things done. Another feature of getting things done is to not try to get things perfect. If perfection was the only acceptable outcome God would still be reviewing design proposals for the Garden of Eden with his architect.

But what if it fails? That too, is necessary--we just hopes that it works for a little while.

Friday, July 21, 2017

mexico city parks here


Towers of ilium is late to this news party, but we still want to acknowledge that Mexico City has scrapped minimum parking regulations in its zoning code. Concurrent with this, they have adopted regulations that set limits on parking spaces with taxes on spaces constructed above a certain threshold. So, it's still a bit of the nanny state but moving in a refreshingly opposite direction than nearly all zoning codes worldwide. 

Great cities do not depend on cars. The depend on people, they depend on density, they depend on diversity. They depend on trucks. Parking spaces are dead weight.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

the limits of metaphor


One of the reasons that humans play games and sports is that the final outcome is perfectly defined. The winner wins and the loser loses--or, in non-combative sports, a number is achieved that is reassuring in its absence of ambiguity.

Using chess as metaphor for political negotiation is dangerous and misleading. In chess, there is no information asymmetry, whereas in politics information is fluid, unreliable, and carefully guarded.
Chess has an endgame, and the only endgame in politics is nuclear annihilation.

Monday, July 17, 2017

good enough for the passerby


Historicism is architecture. No designer really innovates--he or she simply nudges a previous design in a different direction. Some architectural elements have no origin because they are responses to necessity-- like columns, beams, bricks, windows, and doors. Decorative details often trace their origin to some convenience of manufacturing--e.g. columns are round because tree trunks are mostly round. A sufficient accumulation of details eventually gets regarded as a distinct design language. Nowadays, though, it's all about eclecticism.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

the truth


Courtney Humphries of the Boston Globe wrote an excellent article about the use of glass in modern buildings. She correctly identifies how a high rise with extensive curtain walls underperforms in terms of energy use and occupant comfort. It is good to see popular media catching up to building science: 

https://buildingscience.com/documents/insights/bsi-006-can-fully-glazed-curtainwalls-be-green

Humphries does a good job of pointing out the pressures that designers face when trying to balance concerns about building performance with client aims. Developers like glass, so glass towers continue to be built.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

performance


If you were to transport any human from the past to our modern era the one thing he or she would still be able to recognize and understand would be performance venues--stadiums, stages, arenas, theatres. Humans gathered around the spectacle of another human is fundamental to our existence. Even the most dedicated hermit would make a point of going to see  someone that excited or entertained.