Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Linkages

A couple of possibly disconnected morning thoughts via twitter this morning:

First, was it the Curious Incident of the Dog in Night Time where the protagonist [spoiler alert], an autistic child believed/joked that economists were dolts and mathematicians were the true geniuses? I'm reminded of this as mathematicians and physicists are increasingly turning their gaze to understanding the complexities of the city.

Meanwhile, economists (that I really like) like Matt Yglesias, Edward Glaeser, and Ryan Avent seem obsessed with the idea of skyscrapers as density. As economists do, I suspect they're glossing over, ie externalizing, the negative externalities of skyscrapers, which are highly energy intensive no matter the supposedly green properties. Penguins don't huddle in low and compact groups to avoid weather extremes for sh1ts and giggles.

So I posted this simplification as well:
New York City (five boroughs) population/square mile: 27,000
Barcelona: 42,000

If we want to cherry pick Manhattan and its 71,000 ppl/sq. mi.
Then we can cherry pick the high end, centralized equivalent L'Eixample: 92,000

Barcelona only has a few buildings over 10-12 stories, mostly concentrated along the beach, tourist oriented.

If you're wondering how awful L'Eixample must be being so dense, you should know that it is the highest value area of the city. Where most of the corporations locate and old money locals reside. Diagonal, the equivalent of Broadway, cuts a (what else?) diagonal swath through the city. The street that all others connect to. The crossroads of Barcelona.

File:Eixample aire.jpg

File:Barcelona districte II.svg

People often think of the medieval Barcelona, near Las Ramblas as the center, but it isn't. Not the center for locals, but the center for tourists rather. Diagonal is the true heart of the city as it as expanded away from the coast to the mountains, much like Manhattan and Broadway is the epicenter of New York.

Furthermore, skyscrapers may add "density" (perhaps theoretically since many of Manhattan's are empty at night), but they also disconnect from the street, which is where the metabolism of a city is made visible. The complexity. Instead, it is shuttled up and down within internalized elevator shafts as we once again attempt to avoid the street. "Everything is right here where you need it!" On the 13th floor.

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Ok, maybe relatedly. Time to recycle a two-year old post on Museum Tower now that it is almost finished and apparently frying the sculptures in the Nasher Sculpture Center. Sure, it's sleek. Don't confuse my argument. People often distort criticisms pointed as specifics as deriding every aspect, particularly those aspects that people like. Such as the shimmering glass tower. Yes, it's sleek. It's also the least important aspect. And that's what we're wrongly focused on with most new projects, the irrelevant.

I don't get: 1) the economics and how this is a good investment of the police and fire pensions and 2) the "green" aspects. Perhaps, glass towers that concentrate solar and wind loads aren't the best solution to the local Dallas climate. To combat the solar load, the glass is made reflective. Thus, frying everything outside of the building. At least the building is convex rather than concave and not causing severe burns like that hotel in City Center in Las Vegas. This is not uncommon for reflective surfaces acting ignorantly and belligerent in urban environs where we must all get along. The Disney Concert Hall in LA had to be coated in non-reflective material as its titanium cladding raised ambient temperatures on surrounding condo buildings 15 degrees.

Of course, putting a building inside a highway exit cloverleaf isn't a great idea and they did that anyway. As Homer Simpson would say, S M R T.
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Lastly, what's the Mega Millions lotto up to, $600 million? Maybe the city of Dallas can play a few numbers. I take that back. We'd end up spending it on 14 giant ferris wheels. One for each city council district.