Sunday, August 29, 2010

One last time.

Run away! Run away!

Leave here, go to

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A reminder

Leave here, go to

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let's Blow This Popsicle Stand

Google deigns to restore this blog after deleting for it no reason - again - and that's my limit. New blog, old content at . To the many ones of people who've linked, please update to the new address.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Details 4

Went to see Salt this weekend. It has a decent first half before it descended into complete stupidity; I amused myself watching Jolie closely while Mrs. __B amused herself watching Schrieber closely.

Like most people in the design professions, I have a good visual memory. It was obvious from the beginning that Salt's "Washington DC" apartment was on Riverside Drive in NYC; when we got a look out her window, you saw the roofs of the pseudo-Acropolis of Audobon Terrace, which puts the building around 154th or 153rd St and Riverside.

During the car chase that is supposed to take place in DC - and most of which was filmed in DC - there's a scene on a complicated series of highway ramps that are in downtown Albany. I recognized three buildings on the Albany skyline (one was a project of mine) and the interchange itself is distinctive if you know it.

If this had been a better movie, it would have been jarring, but given the low quality of the ideas it was just amusing. The record for movie-makers assuming the audience wouldn't catch on to a detail is still a piece of 80s crap called Over the Brooklyn Bridge which has a shot of Elliott Gould driving a car over the Manhattan Bridge during the opening credits.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

WTC advertising

You can't blame people for not knowing the future. But as Copyranter points out, you can blame them for spreading their carcinogens around: The Joys of Asbestos.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Other Rear Window...

...and get your minds out of the gutter.

The view NW from my office is the previously-posted view of the new construction at the WTC site. The view due west (from the window closest to my desk) is the demolition of the Banker's Trust Trading Building / Deutschbank Building on Liberty Street.

The overview (click to engorge):

The tall building dead center and the similar one to the right are World Financial Center 1 and 2, on landfill west of the WTC site that was created with the excavation spoil from the WTC. The gothic building in front of WFC1 is 90 West Street, the building that was most heavily damaged on 9-11 that was repaired rather than demolished. The "construction" in front of 90 West is the demolition of Deutschbank. This was a 50-story building and is now down to about 6 stories.

The concrete is broken up, the steel is burned off, and the dumpsters full o' crap are hoisted down to the street. This building received some serious structural damaged on 9-11 - a chunk of steel falling from the south tower gouged Deutschbank's north face for about eight stories, cutting a dozen beams and destroying one column - but that was repaired by 12/01. The glass facade was pretty much shattered, and this allowed rain in, and the interior of the building turned into a huge mold farm. Since (a) no one really wanted the building, (b) Deutschbank was able to claim it as an insurance loss, and (c) it's in a prime spot for redevelopment, it's coming down.

The geniuses first hired to demo it managed to create an interior maze (the steel fireproofing is asbestos, so the whole building had to be abated) and cut the standpipes, leading to the deaths of two firefighters in the summer of 2007. The current demo contractor is being ever so careful.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to Feel Superior

I spent the morning at a client's place. He plays with money for a living and is rich enough to afford a penthouse apartment in Chelsea (prob 1.5 to 2 million), to contemplate spending $100,000 or more on a basically meaningless alteration, to waste a few hours of my billable time, and to buy some expensive-looking art.

But at least my place isn't entirely decorated with Ikea furniture.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The List, Part 6

Tourists who are so intent on getting pictures of the FDNY at work that they get in the way of the firefighters and encourage their entire families to join them.

AKA morons.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reuse and Zombies

I'm not going to be shown up by a shambler.

In my business, you hear a lot of nonsense about old buildings: "They don't build them like they used to." "What a piece of crap." "It doesn't meet code."

Here's the thing about old buildings: they exist independently of our opinions of them. Codes change, but physical reality does not. About fifteen years ago, the U.S. wood code (AKA the National Design Specification from the American Forest & Paper Association) revised downward the allowable stress on nearly every commonly used species and grade of construction lumber. The code had been based on research performed using 2" x 2" pieces, which, it turns out, are not statistically representative of the 2x10s and 2x12s used in construction. A house that I designed before the code change would contain beams that, according to the new code, don't work. Did the house become unsafe because the code changed?

This has happened before. Cast iron columns were common in the 1800s and now are excluded from structural use. Ditto unreinforced structural concrete and concrete columns reinforced only with longitudinal bars.

Old buildings are full of structure that we no longer use or now use differently, but that doesn't mean they're unsafe. It means we have to understand how they actually work rather than blindly applying the latest codes. Most old buildings, if they're in fair or better condition, have greater load capacity than modern buildings because they were designed using more conservative codes, rules of thumb rather than codes, or both.

Engineering analysis is about creating a model of reality that can be easily calculated, because actual reality is too complicated for efficient (read: economical [read: I have to charge fees that clients will pay so I have to stop analyzing at some point]) analysis. But the model is not reality and the code is not a building. Analysis of old buildings for reuse more closely resembles the trial-and-error work of Dr. Gregory House than it does that of the Bernoullis or Euler, even though the Bernoullis and Euler actually created some of the mathematical tools we use.


So, the good guys include "architects" and the bad guys trying to kill DiCaprio are "engineers." One of these days, Mr. Nolan, when you least expect it...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Upward Mobility

Here's a nice career arc:

I blame the gradual decline of the image of engineers on (a) the computer geeks and (b) engineers dumb enough to confuse conservatism in design (meaning fail-safe design or minimizing the danger from failure) with "conservatism" as defined by Republicans.