Skip to main content


The Case Against Resilience

$400 Billion in coastal defences for the US alone, what else could $400B buy?

This reminded me of the latest edition of Dan Carlin's Hardcore History. In the opening stages of World War II, the Royal Navy was dedicated to supremacy of the battleship. 30+ years of technical development had produced fighting ships with unparalleled lethality. That is, unparalleled lethality when compared to other surface ships. They had limited anti-aircraft capabilities of their own and there were very few land-based planes in the area.

Taking the Prince of Wales and Repulse into action without air cover proved to be virtually suicidal. They were quickly overwhelmed by a relatively small number of Japanese aircraft. 18 aviators for 840 sailors' lives. At the very same time, a slow and painful fighting retreat along the Malay peninsula was delaying the Japanese occupation of that area.

One was an utterly fruitless waste of lives and…
Recent posts

Open Borders

I caught wind of Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration by Caplan and Weinersmith via Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution blog.

A detailed critique is well beyond my abilities. However, one passage from page 8 of the preview currently available on Amazon lists this Q&A:

"The country is full. We no longer have room for mass immigration"

"There's ample room left. If the continental U.S. were as packed as a low-density city like Los Angeles, everyone on earth would fit."

Going to the notes on p. 217:

"According to the last Census (United States Census Bureau 2018a), Los Angeles County has a population density of 2,419 people per square miles. Since the continental United States is 3,119,885 square miles in area, this are would contain about 7.6 billion people, the current world population."

This is a horrifying simplification of a massively complex question and it has been bothering me for quite a while. The idea that the entire landm…

Operational Tension

When it comes to how we do our jobs, where do architects find inspiration? It seems to me there are three perspectives:Sui Generis - Treats architecture as a unique field, looking to other architectsCreative Orientation - Lessons can be found in other creative fieldsBusiness Orientation - Seeks to apply general management principals The limitations of the sui generis approach are self-evident (that is, I don't want to look for references at this moment). By focusing only on the practices of other architects, our ability to adapt and innovate relies on other architects to experiment and disseminate that information. How consistently do the major trade publications look at these issues? I suspect not often. I also suspect readership of more specialized publications is thin within the architectural community. This approach has the self-serving appeal of defining our work as special and by extension, we are special. Maybe architects aren't more prone to that sort of status seeking…

Shame! Shame! Shame!

Shaven heads, naked bodies, ringing bells, and chants of Shame! will not stop climate change. In fact, I think that sequence from Game of Thrones is evidence that most public shaming is either retributive or self-aggrandizing. Either way, the travel shaming movement is fundamentally misguided.
As Seth Kugel quotes in the New York Times:
“The more we try to change other people’s behavior — especially by making them feel bad — the less likely we will be to succeed,” Edward Maibach of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University told me. He does get at the heart of the matter later a moment later:
Instead — whether it’s global climate change or local vacation rental laws — the biggest impact a person can have comes from pressuring governments to address travel-related problems on a large scale. Likewise, so does engaging friends and family in conversations about those policies, and supporting research, advocacy organizations and candidates who take your issues s…

Resilience, what's that again?

Tonight's AIA Dallas Architecture on Tap focused on the topic of resilience (or resiliency). The Communities by Design committee put together a diverse panel, featuring Krista Nightengale from The Better Block, Tom Reisenbichler of Perkins+Will and David Whitley from DRW Planning Studio. Maggie Parker of the TREC Community Fund moderated. In my experience, resilience has been notoriously difficult to define and this discussion proved little different. Maggie offered the definition of the Rockefeller Foundation's (now defunct) 100 Resilient Cities initiative to open the discussion:
“the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”I found the conversation that followed to be interesting, but a bit too wide ranging to lead to any specific or actionable insights. David mentioned floating infrastructure in New Orleans. Tom reached beyon…

Resilience -> Adaptability -> Sustainability

I came across this draft from 2014. Seems like a pretty complete thought, so I'm posting it now: Sitting in a long meeting about sequencing a pipe replacement project gave me another example of how resilience, adaptability and sustainability are interconnected. If designed properly, connections for emergency chilled water, heating water, domestic water, etc. could also be used for temporary service during a renovation. This could avoid the cost and operational impacts of multi-day shut-downs. Those shut-downs entail weeks or months of planning, elaborate on-site temporary facilities or relocation to leased facilities, all things the operational managers of any company will not welcome. Avoiding them means that the renovation is much less likely to be deferred, the project moves forward, the building's lifespan is extended by years, the risk of systems failure is mitigated, maintenance stays up-to-date and operations are unaffected.
My conclusion is that we should build to suppor…

Boston vs Bostitch

I purchased the pencil sharpener on the right on December 22, 1995 at an Office Depot in Hoover, Alabama. I can't say I remember this but I did, for some grandmotherly reason, tape the receipt to the back of it. I imagine I was staying at my dad's house in Vestavia Hills over that Christmas break. The pencil sharpener cost $11.88 and served me through three and a half more years of architecture school at Auburn and another 16 of domestic life. It did finally stop working this past week and we got the one on the left, a "Stanley-Bostitch Quietsharp Executive" for $16.89. It certainly sounds more impressive and the industrial design, while definitely a failure, also aspires to something more aristocratic than the somber, vaguely Bauhaus horizontal red lines that adorn the Boston. I think the previous version had a textured plastic finish in this spot that simulated orange-peel metal. Perhaps this suggests a predecessor that was die cast? That would've been a beast…