Week of September 25, 2009

  • Steve

    The first question this exercise raised for me was, How far can I go? I would think that a condo reno would have significant limitations, though many of us felt free to move exterior doors, plumbing, utilities, and even structural columns. It’s fun to have a blank slate, but limitations can also bring out creative ideas. What are your thoughts about “reasonable assumptions”?

    Thanks, John, for a great week. Enjoy the weekend!

  • jim baer


    i think you have really opened a can of worms with this question and i only have random thoughts :

    if we stay within the bounds of the wwwth “assignment” we should be sticking to analysis and not wander off into redesign.

    there are always real limitations that a designer has to keep in mind.

    some limitations are more real than others. i.e. the structure in a high rise is VERY difficult to move and generally HAS to be worked around.

    whether you can move a door in a hall or not might be a question of what does it do for the design and how much convincing it will take with the “powers” that be.

    a designer also has to be “unreasonable” sometimes. i.e. by asking the “what if” questions. even if they seem to be way out in left field, they can sometimes open up possibilities that would not have been considered if the question had not been asked.

  • James Scott

    Here’s my unanswered question, “How long are high-rise buildings designed to last”?

    At first I thought this was way too off topic, but on the other hand many of the redesigns posted on The Slow Home site are condos.

    During the past number of decades many residential and commercial high-rise buildings have been constructed. As many of us are owners or know of owners of units in these buildings what are we buying? A 1200 sq.ft. condo on the 34th floor overlooking a spectacular view is great but what happens when the building turns 100 years old? Do we know the life-span of this construction?

    Remember the condo issues in Vancouver over the past 20 years, very expensive repairs with not much accountability.

    Any thoughts?

  • Louis Pereira

    James – in response to your question concerning the design life of buildings, i suppose that would depend on many factors. You may find the following article useful reading to find out more of what that entails…


    Although the article goes into great depths discussing the physical aspects of construction, materials and its environment, what it doesn’t account for is the viability of a high-rise building with respect to energy depletion.

    My own personal take on it is that not matter how wonderful the view, or how well contructed, that 1200 sq.ft. on the 34th floor will be rendered useless with the onset of resource depletion.

    That said we should consider one of Christopher Alexander’s (The Pattern Language) building patterns that address the issue of tall buildings, which to me makes more sense from that perspective.

    Pattern 21: FOUR-STORY LIMIT. “There is abundant evidence to show that high buildings make people crazy. Therefore, in any urban area, no matter how dense, keep the majority of buildings four stories high or less. It is possible that certain buildings should exceed this limit, but they should never be buildings for human habitation”.

  • James Scott

    Louis – Very interesting article, certainly something to be concerned about. I’ve haven’t read A Pattern Language as of yet, but maybe I’ll hit the library on the way home.