Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Designing for the Apocalypse: why many architects love a crisis

As reports and revelations about the diminishing credibility of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) continue to unfold daily, there is no question that it has major implications. If the science behind AGW were beyond doubt, it would provide a powerful argument for greater government regulation and economic participation. It would empower a worldview geared against greater personal liberty and a rising standard of living. Accumulating wealth would depend more on subsidies and catering to a marketplace in which supply and demand are dictated by government policy rather than actual needs and wants of free people.

As professionals who try to address such needs and wants in all of its variety, architects are very much subject to AGW's affect on buildings, both in the way they are designed and engineered and in the way they respond to government mandates. In fact, architects are very much wedded to AGW, as it justifies their guiding design philosophy and helps structure their firms' core values. Many signature designers, including a few that I personally know, have put global warming at the the center of all that their work aims to be about--whether it be in the aggressive employment of green technologies in their buildings, to their promotion of a planning solution (e.g. smart growth) or building type that can be shown to be earth-friendly (e.g. skyscapers). The issue's inherent demand for greater control over the environment in the hands of an enlightened elite complements well with architects' own (and as yet, unrealized) ambitions of becoming the major shapers of the built environment. Idealistic architects ultimately want to transcend the rough-and-tumble, at times crass, reality of the free market, and if the global warming issue makes this possible they will quickly jump on the bandwagon.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What Americans Really Want in a President...and Televangelists

As Sarah Palin reemerges in preparation for her run at the presidency in 2012, she has shown herself to be wonderfully transparent. Contrasted to the cool and calculating President Obama who rarely speaks sans script, Mrs. Palin is good at speaking off the cuff and in a folksy manner. Too folksy, for many. In separate interviews, I was reminded why she will almost certainly not be a viable candidate in 2012. She's folksy to the point of sounding crude or ignorant at worst or as having poor political instincts at best. I'm willing to ignore some of her less impressive moments during the presidential run of 2008, as it was her first time in the national spotlight. One gets the impression the McCain campaign didn't exactly support her and the media was clearly in the Obama camp.

By now, though, she should know better. Two moments in particular have not impressed me. First was an interview on talk radio, in which she used the phrase "screwed up" at least three times. Presidents should not speak that way. Governors should not speak that way. I'm pretty sure I will not want my daughter speaking that way. A few weeks later, she used the phrase "B.S." True, she didn't say the word, and even Dick Cheney famously uttered a far more graphic word, on the Senate floor no less, not to mention Rahm Emmanuel's latest foray into course language. But there's a difference in a Vice President or even President using salty language and a candidate who needs to woo voters. Something about that just seems undignified.