[FoRK] Engineering rules of thumb and Amazon's HQ2 effort

Ken Meltsner meltsner at alum.mit.edu
Tue Sep 12 09:55:14 PDT 2017

I suppose this should have been expected from an architect who got his
start designing cardboard furniture[1], but it may be more of a case
of "Frank Lloyd Wright"-ism -- great-looking buildings designed with
little attention to durability (esp. roofs) or maintainability, or in
many cases, usability.

Here in Portland we have an iconic Michael Graves building which has
never been well-liked and needs extensive interior and exterior work.

Back to working on software which is likely to last a substantially
shorter time...


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easy_Edges
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland_Building

On Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 6:06 AM, Gregory Alan Bolcer <greg at bolcer.org> wrote:
> My "award winning" office building at UCI for a lot of years was disposable.
> They built it and then tore it down not soon after.
> Greg
> http://www.ocregister.com/2007/01/23/gehry-building-at-uci-razed/
> University officials contend that the Gehry building was not intended as a
> long-term, permanent structure, and that it was falling apart and needed
> major, costly renovations.
> The building helped bring UCI to national prominence in architectural
> circles.
> Time magazine featured it prominently in a profile on Gehry, and called it
> “improbably beautiful.”
> On 9/11/2017 7:02 PM, Ken Meltsner wrote:
>> Are our tech giants getting a bad case of edifice complex?  First
>> Apple with the "spaceship" HQ, and now Amazon putting out an RFP for
>> their second headquarters.
>> Last week, sdw mentioned one of the most famous engineering "laws"
>> (Postel's).  Well, way back at my first professional, permanent job
>> (GE R&D), Stephen Spacil, one of my colleagues, had come up with an
>> engineering "law" that ought to be better known:
>> By the time you build a new facility for an opportunity, the
>> opportunity will have passed.
>> There were many examples at GE in Niskayuna, like the coal
>> gasification building that wasn't completed until coal gasification
>> was shown to be a dead end both economically and technically, or the
>> lab space purpose-built for a division that was sold shortly before
>> the lab was completed.
>> And the corollary is that junky buildings, like MIT's famous Building
>> 20 [1] (built as temporary lab space during WWII, but used for more
>> than 50 years) are often the most productive spaces for novel ideas
>> because no one cared what happened to it -- labs routinely drilled
>> holes in walls and floors to make space or connections for unwieldy
>> equipment, for example.
>> Really makes me wonder about Apple's new headquarters which is
>> probably too beautiful to hack if a flexible space is needed, and now
>> Amazon's stated goal of adding a second headquarters.
>> Ken Meltsner
>> [1]  Brand, Stewart (1995). How buildings learn: what happens after
>> they're built. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-013996-9., cited
>> at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_20
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