January 15th, 2011
Dan Hill has posted an epic tale of life in Brisbane as the floodwater started to rise:
We spot a large advert for chocolate milk adorning a building. "Dive into chocolately fun" it says. It seems newly relevant as we see the river, looking exactly like a vast, smooth soup of milk chocolate. The Brisbane River is famously brown at the best of times, being an extremely silty bit of river, but is now browner than ever.
The landscape round here is distinctly suburban. Not quite the manicured suburban of rich Los Angeles suburbs, or even 'Erinsborough', but the slightly more raggedy Australian version, with cars parked on lawns, rampant foliage growing in and around the low, angled roofs, set against straggly gum trees and paperbarks, a most unruly genus. But it's distinctly suburban nonetheless, which adds to the surreal aspect of views like Witton Road, where that chocolately fun engulfs a training shoe, some wheelie bins, and a box of breakfast cereal, and most of the street.
The most striking observation, for me, came as he recounted a trip to stock up on sandbags:
We've run out of sandbags [...] so we have to drive out to Kedron to pick up as many as we can load in the boot of the car. Plotting routes in and around the city is relatively complex, as you're listening for road closures on the radio, looking for the blue wriggle of creeks and rivers on the map, and trying to remember the topography of the city, all those swoops of valleys.
When was the last time you had to stop and think about whether your route took you uphill or downhill as you drove around a city?
December 24th, 2009
Geoff Manaugh proposes an alternative use for the Burj Dubai, just in case that whole hotels/offices/apartments business plan fails to work out.
September 13th, 2009
After World War II, St Nazaire on France's Atlantic coast was left with a huge concrete eyesore: a U-boat base big enough to house 19 subs and built to survive Allied bombs. The question is, what can you do with 480,000m3 of concrete?:
In the former U-boat pens you can find the Base Bar, the tourist information center for St. Nazaire, a theatre, exhibition space, a museum of Trans-Atlantic ship travel, a night club/performance space, and just some kick-ass concrete caverns. It makes under-the-freeway spaces look pretty tame.
The photos at the linked article are impressive, not least the shot taken directly in front of the U-boat pens that turned out to be so big it had to be posted sideways.
August 4th, 2009
July 4th, 2008
May 25th, 2008
There's a YouTube channel devoted to the inimitable Jonathan Meades.
I may be gone for a little while…
April 29th, 2008
I now know what a SchwerbelastungskÃ¶rper is:
It's a massive cylindrical block of concrete, standing 18 meters high and weighing in at 12,560 metric tons. It is located in the Berlin neighborhood of Tempelhof, where the eponymous airport is found.
The name is translated as "heavy load-bearing body," although someone in the discussion page has suggested that "heavy load-exerting body" might be more accurate. It was constructed in 1941 to test how well the marshy ground upon which Berlin sits could handle the massive projects planned for Germania. More specifically, it was built to see how the landscape would react to Hitler's gigantic Triumphal Arch, whose opening would have accommodated Paris' Arc de Triomphe.
The results were not encouraging:
The SchwerbelastungskÃ¶rper sank 7 inches in the three years it was to be used for testing, a maximum depth of 2.5 inches was allowed. Using the evidence gathered by these gargantuan devices, it is unlikely the soil could have supported such structures without further preparation.
Hitler dismissed these findings, perhaps confident that the landscape can be subjugated with fine Teutonic engineering. But Hitler's capital had to wait. There was a war to be waged.
April 19th, 2008
Elevator design is an exacting discipline:
[Veteran elevator designer John Fortune...] carries a "probable stop" table, which applies probability to the vexation that boils up when each passenger presses a button for a different floor. If there are ten people in an elevator that serves ten floors, it will likely make 6.5 stops. Ten people, thirty floors: 9.5 stops. (The table does not account for the exasperating phantom stop, when no one gets on or off.) Other factors are door open and close time, loading and unloading time, acceleration rate, and deceleration rate, which must be swift but gentle. You hear that interfloor traffic killsâ€”something to mutter, perhaps, when a co-worker boards the elevator to travel one flight, especially if that co-worker is planning, at dayâ€™s end, to spend half an hour on a StairMaster. Itâ€™s also disastrous to have a cafeteria on anything but the ground floor, or one floor above or below it, accessible via escalator.