33. Hydrology is destiny

Hydrology is destiny

I’ve written before about topography, but without expanding on the fact that all topography is shaped by plate tectonics and water. Every ridge and valley was carved by rain. Settlement patterns, cultural links, trade have all been shaped by hydrology. Sorkin already mentioned “the rate at which the seas are rising” (#16), and this prompt may simply be reiterating the impact of rising seas.

On the micro scale, ‘hydrology is destiny’ has a different connotation. Moisture in soils freeze and thaw every year, cracking and chipping away at concrete. Moisture attacks steel and rots wood. No engineer ever designs a structure to be ‘permanent’. Everything is slowly degrading – eaten away, mostly by water. Everything is designed to fail in a manageable way.


32. Prevailing Winds

The direction of prevailing winds

Prevailing winds play an important role in siting/orienting a building, as part of a larger effort towards passive cooling. (Taliesin West, in dry hot Scottsdale Arizona, is laid out to catch prevailing wind in an effort at passive cooling. The devoted and zealous disciples/tour guides made many a mention of this fact. For a much more in depth look at that project read this article from Architect Magazine). As for measuring the prevailing winds, using a wind rose allows the direction and speed of wind on any give site to be measured (note- the direction is where the wind is coming from, something I can never keep track of).

31 Mud Construction

The basics of mud construction

Not rammed earth, but mud construction. With all the concern about maintenance and US infrastructure (see John Oliver clip) mud construction offers an interesting solution: make maintenance so involved that it becomes a communal activity (Youtube clip of the film Powaqqatsi). Or, like the Djinbuereber Mosque in Timbuktu, make the scaffold used to perform this frequent maintenance a permanent visual element.

By KaTeznik – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49789

30 Migratory Birds

The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travelers

See an animation of bird migration over Northeastern United States, and a visualization of global bird migration. In Washington DC the City Wildlife organization (independent, no government affiliation) has a ‘Lights Out’ program which tracks and collects birds that crashed into windows and window walls:

“Flocks of birds end up in populous urban environments like Washington dense with glass buildings and towers that pepper the skyline. Frequently, birds are lured by artificial lights or become disoriented by smooth, transparent surfaces and slam right into the glass. Most die on impact; those that are maimed often fade overnight before the Lights Out crew can come to their rescue.”

29 Code of Hammurabi

The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi

21 & 25 cover crimes committed on someone else property

38-41 cover property rights (men only) and transfer.

“228.   If a builder build a house for some one and complete it, he shall give him a fee of two shekels in money for each sar of surface.

229.   If a builder build a house for some one, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built fall in and kill its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.

230.   If it kill the son of the owner the son of that builder shall be put to death.

231.   If it kill a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.

232.   If it ruin goods, he shall make compensation for all that has been ruined, and inasmuch as he did not construct properly this house which he built and it fell, he shall re-erect the house from his own means.

233.   If a builder build a house for some one, even though he has not yet completed it; if then the walls seem toppling, the builder must make the walls solid from his own means.”


28 Interior Environment

The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses

Off-gassing (AKA outgassing) means any chemicals in a material or product can and will release those chemicals into the air (chemicals with a high rate of off-gassing are considered volatile organic compounds). It is an important part of maintaining healthy interior air quality (see description from LEED). Problems with interior air quality can sometimes warrant the use of the term ‘Sick Building Syndrome‘, indicating that being in a particular building can have an adverse affect on your health.

The good news about carpet is that it has gone out of style. The bad news is other flooring has their own off-gassing issues, along with more acoustical problems (carpet does do a good job absorbing impacts). With any material, building codes, local laws and green building standards have made it easier to check and reduce off-gassing issues.

27 Palladio’s Proportions

The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda

Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio is considered one of the most famous and maybe the most influential architect ever, in part because he wrote a book of his work (helping control the narrative of his work) and because he did a good job synthesizing precedent which made so many buildings look ‘Palladian’, whether he designed them or not.

A paper by Raymond Chau and Ruogu Liu explore the use of mathematical concepts in producing the ratios used by Palladio to size rooms and facades and most architectural elements. See their graphics below: 27 Room Proportions27 Mathematical Ratios

27 Ratios

Another paper by Tomas Gracia-Salgado looks at the difference between the proportions Palladio used to build the Villa Rotonda and the proportions he used to describe the building in his book The Four Books of Architecture, published 20 years after the building was completed.

27 Villa Facade 27 Villa Volume