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Over time, we have grown increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters. Each decade economic losses from such disasters more than double as people continue to build homes, businesses, and other physical infrastructure in hazardous places. Yet public policy has thus far failed to address the unique problems posed by natural disasters. […]

Drawing from philosophy, cognitive psychology, history, anthropology, and political science, this Article identifies and analyzes three categories of obstacles to disaster policy — symbolic obstacles, cognitive obstacles, and structural obstacles. The way we talk about natural disaster, the way we think about the risks of building in hazardous places, and structural aspects of American political institutions all favor development over restraint. Indeed, these forces have such strength that in most circumstances society automatically and thoughtlessly responds to natural disasters by beginning to rebuild as soon as a disaster has occurred.

{ SSRN | Continue reading }

photo { Ann James }

Penetrating vapor action




{ The Buzludzha monument, Bulgaria | Wikipedia }

From the deep pain of having to confess again and again that you never loved as you were loved


{ The Great Pyramid, built for the Pharaoh Khufu in about 2570 B.C., sole survivor of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, and still arguably the most mysterious structure on the planet. | Inside the Great Pyramid | Smithsonian | The Secret Doors Inside the Great Pyramid | Guardians }

The poem you live in


On a peninsula southeast of Beijing, developer Vincent Lee wants to copy New York City—literally.

Two years into its ten-year construction plan, Yujiapu is still a field of cranes, fenced along the perimeter and hazy behind the smog. The only thing that resembles New York City is a diorama in the lobby of Binhai New Area CBD Office, where bureaucrats like Vincent Lee of the Business Bureau, are working to deliver on their ambitious promise of making this 3.86 sq km area the “largest single financial center on the world.”

{ The Atlantic | Continue reading }

oil on board { Richard Estes, Staten Island Ferry Arriving Manhattan, 2011 }

We’re still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase. There’s nothing to figure out. This man is obviously a psychotic.


Recently, scientists have begun to focus on how architecture and design can influence our moods, thoughts and health. They’ve discovered that everything—from the quality of a view to the height of a ceiling, from the wall color to the furniture—shapes how we think. (…)

In 2009, psychologists at the University of British Columbia studied how the color of a background—say, the shade of an interior wall—affects performance on a variety of mental tasks. They tested 600 subjects when surrounded by red, blue or neutral colors—in both real and virtual environments.

The differences were striking. Test-takers in the red environments, were much better at skills that required accuracy and attention to detail, such as catching spelling mistakes or keeping random numbers in short-term memory.

Though people in the blue group performed worse on short-term memory tasks, they did far better on tasks requiring some imagination, such as coming up with creative uses for a brick or designing a children’s toy. In fact, subjects in the blue environment generated twice as many “creative outputs” as subjects in the red one.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

Rattle big black bones in the danger zone


{ The US authorities have discovered 20 tonnes of marijuana, worth tens of millions of dollars, in one of the most advanced illegal tunnels ever found. The passage is half a mile long and runs from inside a house in Mexico straight under the border with the United States and into a warehouse in San Diego. | BBC | video }

Slightly shopsoiled but you would never notice, seven fingers two and a penny


{ May 2, 1975: Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, left, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Baxter Ward hold a news conference in an old Pacific Electric tunnel to propose an 80-mile light-rail system that would use the former tunnel for part of its downtown connection. The project was never built. | LA Times | Continue reading }

Hypnosisss can cure you of your psssychosssis


Nobody asked me, but the building was designed for the Astor Estate by Herman Lee Meader, a Harvard-trained architect who gave legendary parties and kept a boa in his penthouse.

{ Christopher Gray | Photo: Ray Sawhill }

Herman Lee Meader (died February 14, 1930 at 55) was an American architect and author. He designed several prominent buildings in Manhattan, both commercial and residential, as well as much work on the Astor estate, including the Waldorf building located at 8 west 33rd St., then the heart of the fashionable shopping district. Meader lived in the Waldorf Building penthouse, where he created a surrounding rooftop Italian garden. There he held elaborate parties which attracted musicians, artists, writers, prizefighters, chess players and others—at one, Meader staged a fight between a black snake and a king snake.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

bonus [click to enlarge]:



{ NY Times }

‘A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe and 50 times: It is a beautiful catastrophe.’ –Le Corbusier


In late 1929, Alfred E. Smith, the leader of a group of investors erecting the Empire State Building, announced that they were increasing the height of the building to 1,250 feet from 1,050. Mr. Smith, a past governor of New York, denied that competition with the 1,046-foot-high Chrysler Building was a factor. “We are measuring its rise by principles of economic investment rather than spectacular standards,” he told The New York Times.

The extra 200 feet, it was announced, was to serve as a mooring mast for dirigibles so that they could dock in Midtown, rather than out in Lakehurst, N.J., the station used by the German Graf Zeppelin. Mr. Smith said that at the Empire State Building, airships like the Graf, almost 800 feet long, would “swing in the breeze and the passengers go down a gangplank”; seven minutes later they would be on the street.

But the Germans, who dominated dirigible technology, had not asked for a docking station, and passenger traffic on dirigibles was still minuscule. The mast camouflaged the quest for boasting rights to the world’s tallest building, an ambition to which it seemed indecent to admit.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

photo { Lewis W. Hine, Welders on the Empire State Building, circa 1930 }

His eyes on the black tie and clothes he asked with low respect: Is there any… no trouble I hope? I see you’re…


Green Buildings: Dow says many buildings are actually getting less efficient

Mike Kontranowski, Strategic Marketing Manager of Dow Building Solution’ Thermax brand of rigid insulating board, presented a sobering analysis of the direction of building efficiency during the Summit. Although buildings of all types have become more energy efficient on a per square foot basis for the past 50 years, many buildings constructed over the past decade have bucked the trend and have begun regressing on energy efficiency. This reversal comes despite newfound interest in “green building” among governments, occupants, and the building owners themselves, and despite the plethora of insulation, window, equipment, and other devices that yield far greater efficiencies. More surprisingly, many of the buildings are LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified, because energy efficiency is only one of many metrics that accrue points needed for certification.

The proximate cause of the backslide in efficiency is a switch to less expensive aluminum wall studs in place of wood or block in recent years. Because aluminum is such a good conductor of heat, walls that are otherwise well-insulated – with insulation batts installed between the studs – see an overall insulating R-value of the wall drop in half, from 11 or more to 5. Thermal images of walls are particularly poignant, showing relatively small amounts of heat escaping from between the studs, while the studs themselves were lit up like Christmas trees.

{ Lux Research Analyst Blog | Continue reading | via Josh Wolfe }

He approached a bench and seated himself in its corner, nursing his hat and newspaper



{ Frank Lloyd Wright, Johnson Wax Building, Wisconsin, 1936-1944 | Main room with lily-pad columns | more photos }

The construction of the Johnson Wax building created controversies for the architect. In the Great Workroom, the dendriform columns are 9 inches (23 cm) in diameter at the bottom and 18 feet (550 cm) in diameter at the top, on a wide, round platform that Wright termed, the “lily pad.” This difference in diameter between the bottom and top of the column did not accord with building codes at the time. Building inspectors required that a test column be built and loaded with twelve tons of material. The test column, once it was built, was tough enough that it was able to be loaded fivefold with sixty tons of materials before the “calyx”, or part of the column that meets the lily pad, cracked (crashing the 60 tons of materials to the ground, and bursting a water main 30 feet underground). After this demonstration, Wright was given his building permit.

{ Johnson Wax Headquarters | Wikipedia | Continue reading }



{ Bench by Kois Associated Architects | more }

In the muddy street with the fireworks and leaves


Heavy police sawhorses of rough wood with a stenciled warning — “Police Line Do Not Cross” — have been a visible staple of New York’s landscape for decades. But now they are being demoted.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said that wooden sawhorses were being phased out. The last ones owned by the New York Police Department, made by inmates in upstate prisons, are being relegated to dull duty at street fairs and other low-impact events.

The glory, the front-row seats to history, will go to the interlocking gray aluminum partitions that the police call “French barriers.”

It’s like a first-grade detective in Midtown Manhattan being busted to overnight patrolman on the outskirts of Staten Island.

From a few hundred French barriers bought in the early 1990s, there are now about 12,000 (seven feet long and $70 each). Just 3,200 veteran wooden sawhorses (14 feet long and $60 each) remain. Other cities like Chicago and Philadelphia also use both types.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }



{ Top, fake badges for assistant chief and patrolman; bottom, real detective and patrolman badges. | In New York, some officers don’t wear their badges on patrol. Instead, they wear fakes. Called “dupes,” these phony badges are often just a trifle smaller than real ones but otherwise completely authentic. Officers use them because losing a real badge can mean paperwork and a heavy penalty, as much as 10 days’ pay. | NY Times | Continue reading }