February 14, 2008

A Twin Cities Social Design Issue

All right, I admit it, this is taking the easy way out. But I thought and thought and for the life of me could not think of any other social design issue that affects the twin cities more than this. Perhaps you remember the US highway bridge that in August collapsed into the Mississippi River without reason. Only last month was a conclusion drawn about what happened.

Investigators found a design flaw in the US highway bridge that collapsed, killing 13 people and injuring 145. Steel plates that held the bridge's beams together at eight of its 112 joints were too thin, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. When the wreckage was recovered, investigators found that those plates had broken, the report said.

And that is a major problem, there needs to be better surveillance of what material goes into making our bridges and buildings, so nothing like this ever happens again. Had more time and more effort gone into building the bridge in the first place, no one would have needlessly died. Luckily, I'm not alone in my outrage, the agency urged highway authorities to check all major steel- truss highway bridges in the country, though it emphasized there was no evidence of a similar problem in other spans.


(A photo of the destruction)

February 7, 2008

Energy, flow and transformation through the city

When asked to describe the energy, flow and transformation through the city, a commercial immediately came to my mind. I've only seen it once, and I don't recall what it was an advertisement for, but it was a powerful image. In the commercial, it showed a city, similar to our own, looks like it may have been New York City, and there were tons of people. The peopled didn't walk though, they were all on individual tracks that they mindlessly flowed across. The ad showed a stop light, sped up, when the walk sign lit up, hundreds of people crossed the street, and then stopped when the don't walk sign lit up, and then the cars passed, and this imagery repeated itself a few more times. Everything was very uniform, all the people appeared to be going to work, but then one person stood out. He wasn't on a track, and he was walking in the opposite direction that everybody else was flowing.
I believe that the point of the commercial was you should find your own track in life. Regardless, the idea of everybody mindlessly following the same routine everyday is a good representation of city flow. While it isn't exciting, it is how a city works, barring of course some unforeseen incident such as a car crash or a natural disaster, at which point the flow is broken down, and to an extent chaos can ensue.
And that I believe is an important thing to take into consideration, if the flow of anything is ever disrupted, things will get confused and pandemonium will take place. Clearly flow is an important part of all of our lives.

The following two scenes are from the first episode of Futurama, in which the main character Fry is frozen in a cryogenic tube for a thousand years, I would have posted the video, but I couldn't find it anywhere:


As you can see, those are two pictures of the same place, but over different time, as the part of the episode went on, it showed 1000 years quickly go by in the background, at which time you saw the city be destroyed by aliens and then rebuilt numerous times, this is a great representation of the transformation of a city over time. Clearly as depicted by the two images above, a city will change tremendously over time (especially if aliens destroy it), man will always build and improve upon the structures that exist (even after being unfrozen from a thousand year slumber), and nothing seems to illustrate this better than this scene in this episode of Futurama. Transformation is a sign of progression and advancements in technology, they gradually happen over time, so we tend not to notice, but if we woke up a thousand years from now, the transformation we would see would probably be too much to handle.