Dwelling on Exploration in Design…


Why do architects work up and present grand un-built concept projects?  They are entertaining. They are inspiring. They exercise one’s ability to solve problems, develop solutions, and defend ideas, especially during tough times where there are spare hours over the drawing board.  There is unrealized value that builds on the inspiration.  It would be fantastic to know how many people saw the article linked below, and were inspired to the point of actually improving their life by pursuing a relatively daunting project like the earth-scraper, where architects designed a mostly transparent and entirely underground 65-story building 300 metres below Mexico City’s Main Square (Zócalo Capitalino).


I am drawn to the readers’ comments on articles about projects like this.  Among quips about seeing up skirts, questions about seismic damage, concerns about ventilation and natural light, there are these:

What if there’s a tsunami? Or even a water main burst? I wouldn’t want to be down there if that happened!

– Mike in U.S.A., U.S.A.

What happens if a meteorite crashes through the glass roof?

– captain science, uk

Now, simply looking at Mexico City’s elevation above sea level can satisfy the first concern.  Statistically speaking, if we yield to the second concern about meteorites, we might as well not be here at all. But why not consider the worst case scenario?  All these concerns, questions, and fears can be addressed by thoughtful design, application of modern technologies and codes, and upon further refinement, application of age old passive methods. Passive methods really are the original green design.  It takes Architects, Engineers, and Contractors to make all that into a 300 m earth-scraper.  Mike, Captain Science and the rest of the apprehensive readers should know they put their trust in these professionals and journeymen every time they are under a roof, on a bridge, or near any large structure.  You are on your own when it comes to end-of-time waves and being in the trajectory of meteorites.  Emergency drainage and UL listed fire rated paths of egress will be provided for those that survive initial impact.


Looking past the renderings and rising above the intrigue and controversy of such a bold undertaking, notice how visionary projects play a critical role in the big picture.  Look back on past projects with the same daring disregard for cost, customs, and common knowledge.  There are plenty of examples flying overhead, tunneling underground, and floating on the high seas. Sure these projects faced similar critique, and the usual cast of opponents, but their fate was sealed in history by hard work, applied knowledge, and most importantly, the determined desire to plow through failures and foul opinions to find a solution that was always there.


Once these grand visions become a reality, the usual cast of opponents go about the routine of defending their arguments and shunning the the final product.  The visionaries and their team continue to evaluate the final product, to improve their practice, and move to the next project.  The rest of the world rejoices in yet another amazing accomplishment and proceeds to celebrate inspiration, and capitalize on the advancements in the wake of the spectacle.


So, whenever you see something like the earth-scraper, you might feel the urge to dismiss or ridicule. Recognize that reaction to the new, the daring, and the challenge.  Let the  juices of possibility flow.  Be entertained.  Be inspired.  Exercise your ability to embrace problems, believe in solutions, and defend your ideas to the bitter end with well researched facts, proven methods, and creative imagery.


Until next time, live nicely.