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28 June 2010

Brief Overview as to the State of World Economics

G-20, the worlds 20 largest economies accounting for something like 85% of world GDP and 80% of trade, got together and agreed to reduce their debt loads to incoming revenue by 2016 - among other vague but hugely influential measures. Debt is the new buzzword politically and economically, but it's a double edged sword given the fact that by lessening debt right now a country very seriously risks hurting its economy for a very long time. Whereas by not doing anything one risks a Greece type situation, no one is willing to lend money to the government and essentially their financial system stops, at some unknown point.

Other current issues include:

Chinese workers don't spend enough money and China won't let its currency fluctuate. Thus, its kind of a black hole for world currency that everyone keeps feeding. Recently the Chinese government announced it would begin letting their currency float but... only time will tell.

Not entirely dissimilar, Germany is pissed at the rest of the world but mostly the US even though - and listen closely - Europe is just as complicit in the world financial crisis as America is.

Wolfgang Franz, who heads the German government’s economic advisory panel known as the Wise Men, tore into Krugman — and the US — in an op-ed in the German business daily Wednesday, titled “How about some facts, Mr. Krugman?”

“Where did the financial crisis begin? Which central bank conducted monetary policy that was too loose? Which country went down the wrong path of social policy by encouraging low income households to take on mortgage loans that they can never pay back? Who in the year 2000 weakened regulations limiting investment bank leverage ratios, let Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008 and thereby tipped world financial markets into chaos?” he wrote.

They are an export economy much like China, which isn't necessarily bad but it fueled Spain and Greece's ability to consume in much the same way that a bar tender continues to serve drinks to a clearly inebriated person. Europe's housing bubble was as big if not bigger than the US's.

And during it all there are a large number of people calling for "tough measures" to right the economy. You know: smaller government, less spending, higher rates, etc. which sounds logical given the circumstances. Except for the fact that all of that is what will plunge us only further into ruin. It takes a bit of counter intuitive logic to arrive at, but contractionary or "belt-tightening" policies are not the right way to go right now - they just sound good as "tough times call for tough measures." Yes they do - running large deficits to stimulate the economy in the short run to ensure long term gains takes courage.

Krugman thinks that a lot of people are focusing too much on the long term and not enough on the short. Or as Keynes said:

"The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again."

26 June 2010

Bonn & Cologne - Day 23 & 24 - 2010-6-23,24

The Kölner Dom (Cologne Catherdral). It's massive. Oh yeah, it took 632 years to build and is 157.3 m high (515').

Beyer Headquarters by Helmut Jahn. Werner Sobek is more or less always his structural engineer.

This mechanical room uses waste heat (they say waste steam but... well I work with steam, there's rarely [with the exception of nuclear] such thing as waste steam) to heat and cool the building. It's so efficient that the building isn't required to have any photovoltaics or other zero emissions energy production as is usually required by German building codes.

Serious double facade.

Japanese garden.

Inside the Dom. 97m tall - so about 315'.

28cm x 21cm sketch on newsprint with india ink. This is BIG's Figure 8 building that's still under construction. All I did was draw that day... finals.

Berlin - Day 22 - 2010-6-22

The Church of Reconciliation (Kapelle Versoehung). It was located in the no-man's land between the inner and outer portions of the Berlin Wall, and thus it was demolished in the 1980's. What you seeh was recently rebuilt in its place using the surrounding dirt and debris from the former church to make walls out of rammed earth (similar to concrete but earth from the site makes up most of the mix) on the inside.

Rammed earth on the right. It forms a circle that contains the chapel in the center. You can make out the layers that were added and rammed. It ends up looking like a mix between rough concrete and a sedimentary rock.

The only remaining section of the Berlin wall with an in tact "kill zone" - that is, no-man's land that was cleared so that guards could shoot you if you tried to cross. The memorial is stainless steel on the inside and cor-ten steel (steel that rusts to form a protective patina) on the outside.

The 1936 Olympic Stadium. Designed by Werner March.

Le Corbusier's Unité d"Habitation. Corb's idea was to create a sort of mechanized living habitat, not entirely dissimilar to his fascination with planes; cars, and boats, which contained all the functions needed to live. Commercial space was supposed to be included but it ended up not happening... making it a 17 story high rise in the middle of a field. The German codes required that he raise ceiling heights by at least a meter. All the proportions, based on the golden section, were thrown out and by the time it was completed Corb basically washed his hands of the entire project. Not a big fan of him or this project, but you do have to be semi amazed that this was one of the first buildings (3 of these were built here) of this nature that would soon cover the earth and affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people for generations (see: south side of Chicago).

25 June 2010

Berlin - Day 21 - 2010-6-21

The Sony Center by Murphy/Jahn. Structural engineering by Werner Sobek. Cost - 1 billion DM.

Hung glass facade with vertical tension cables and horizontal structural glass.

This building complex has multiple structural tricks. This one forms horizontal beams with tensioned steel cables to add rigidity to this glass facade. It's extremely materially efficient.

Good view of Mitte.

Jahn keeps his offices here too... so we took a little tour.

The same automated louvered aluminum blinds seen in Neues Kranzler Eck/DIFA.

Murphy/Jahn's library.

Hung glass facade held up by massive steel truss work, suspended by steel cables, and held down by huge springs attached to a massive buried concrete beam.

Glass bottom pond over an angled glass ceiling with terraced garden... must have been a bet over a couple beers.

The kingpin. This pin is the only compressive member of this canopy that translates the tensional force of the white teflon/fiberglass sheathing and steel cables into a positively sloped roof. Imagine standing on a trampoline and holding a sheet over your head - in this case you are the kingpin - that's basically how this building works.

One last note. Why is the kingpin tilted? Imagine the canopy as a cone. If you were to cut out a section perpendicular to the base the cut edge would form a circle as it does at the top. The courtyard is actually an ellipse so the "cut" was made at an angle... clever. Also, the canopy is only fixed to the surrounding buildings at two points, the rest are sliding plates. This allows for expansion and contraction.

Terracotta clad Renzo Piano buildings. It forms a whole complex replete with indoor "canyons" and outside water parks. The terracotta slowly recedes as it nears the edge.

Berlin - Day 18 & 19 - 2010-6-18,19

A Philosophy Library by Norman Foster. It's bigger than it looks. One level is sunken but abutted by a berm. The shallow ground is then covered in rocks and ground cover.

There's a double facade that is computer controlled with operable windows and glass on the outside and a translucent membrane on the inside. The effect is a very soft light and a large amount of energy savings because of the air gap.

The floor plates undulate inside without touching the dome for the most part.

Every project in Germany gets a report card. The big arrow is this building and the little arrow is a typical building of this size.

A really well done slate roof. The shingles curve up instead of forming 90's near the fenestration. I wonder if that reduces the need for flashing (the point where most leaks occur)?

I didn't take any real photos on our day off so... here's one of the train.

Berlin - Day 17 - 2010-6-17

The Berlin Crematorium. I didn't like it much at first. Just seemed like a rectangular concrete box.

But the the space it created was... well, amazing. The inside is filled with randomly spaced columns with subdued light coming from the capitals. Light from the exterior walls passes through a double louver system controllable by the user.

This is a detail from Egyptian temples. The sand is supposed to represent time and the fact that we return to sand/dust and the doorway created is for the deceased to pass through.

One of the nicest cemeteries I've ever visited. Just small and unkempt. A lot of the headstones are weathered and turned over.

Best strawberries ever.

When the Soviets took Berlin they lost 20,000 men in the battle, so the first thing they did once the war was over was build a huge memorial. The granite used to make these two flags comes from Hitler's Chancellery Building - quite the fuck you.

The statue is huge, it's just hard to get a proper photo of. It's a Soviet soldier with a baby in one arm and a sword in the other. All the mounds are mass graves of Soviet soldiers.

Each rectangle holds the bodies of 5,000 Soviet soldiers.

22 June 2010

Berlin - Day 16 - 2010-6-16

All of these photos are from Humboldt University in Berlin's campus.

This is the physics building. The exterior is a testing ground for climbing plants that are watered via a rain collection and hydroponic drip system. The horizontal white bins are the plant beds. (Institute of Physics/Augustin und Frank Architekten/2003)

Same building on the north side. This is all channel glass.

An interior court yard.

The first vertical wind tunnel test center in the world (I think). It's part of the Aerodynamic Park.

The different colors are just automatic shades which form kind of a pho-double-skin facade... really odd from a cost benefit or engineers point of view. (Photonikzentrum-Technologiepark Adlershof/Sauerbruch + Hutton and Ortner + Ortner/1996-1998)

I just liked how they handled their dumpster area.

This building is covered in manually operable louvers. You have to go outside and turn this big intricate crank.

Almost all the pavement in Berlin is permeable. This is just another example that was very nice.

Another view of the building with the operable shades.