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30 August 2010


"Neglect of disregard of the relevance of the time factor in design is a frequent and yet fatal sin. It is responsible for a permanent cluttering of our constructed environment with elements that at best are enjoyable or endurable for only a relatively short time. We may not be able to stand them any longer, but they persist." - Richard Neutra, Survival Through Design

I've actually mentioned this topic before pointing out this article. The difference with architecture as opposed to industrial design is that buildings represent a much more significant investment and thus the lifespan is thought to be greater. I'm never quite sure where I stand on the issue of how long a building should last. I tend to lean towards the 'forever' side of the argument but there are of course problems with this. I was always intrigued by my father telling me that steel mills would design their plant to last a certain number of years - expecting them to be made obsolete by new technology. They were literally designed to be demolished on a certain date - even before construction began. If they wanted to extend the life of the plant they would go in on schedule and replace the requisite parts to increase the longevity for a certain extension of plant life. Is this necessary with architecture? If so, to what extent? Can the idea be reversed - perhaps extremely cheap buildings could (although they are) built that are only supposed to last a certain amount of time then they get recycled (or lived in like the US)?

Marina Towers, IBM Building, and Trump Tower looking north from across the river.

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