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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fundamental Questions

I feel guilty because I am pre-occupied with a new book and have not submitted new content. I am attaching part of the introduction (most recent version) as a result. It will give you a glimpse of my intent and hopefully justify my absence.


We live in space among objects that were once part of the Natural Domain. These objects have changed from those that were our home. The Built Domain has become a second world on a single planet, and it is composed of cells that shelter human activity. We call these cells lots, parcels, property, projects, real estate, and so on. We define them with property lines, but I’ve chosen “cell” to make the point that each currently represents a parasite consuming its source of life. This point of view raises several fundamental questions:

1)      What limits must be imposed on shelter sprawl to protect our source of life?
2)      What is excessive intensity?
3)      What is a symbiotic cell?
4)      What combination of cells is needed to create an economically stable Built Domain?

I can’t answer these questions. I can only raise them. My intent is to give you the concepts, design categories, and equations needed to evaluate the second and fourth from my architectural and planning background. The discussion, evaluation, and language that evolve will be up to you and future generations.

I’ve called the capacity of land to provide shelter “development capacity”. Capacity is a function of the shelter design category chosen and the values assigned to topics within its equation. These choices are design specification decisions. They combine to describe the contents of a project that is a cell in the urban anatomy. The values assigned to its topics define its capacity to provide shelter.

Shelter cells combine to form organisms we call neighborhoods, districts, cities, and regions. These grow into a pattern we call sprawl. The sprawling area, including agriculture, is our Built Domain. It contains four divisions: Shelter, Movement, Open Space, and Life Support that are slowly consuming the Natural Domain. This is happening because we don’t know how to provide shelter for growing populations within a geographically limited Built Domain; and we can’t define this domain with our current political, social, legal, and economic opinions. Even if we could, we would not be able to forecast the capacity of this limited land area to provide shelter for growing populations; and to protect their quality of life from excessive intensity.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the Built Domain consumes energy and discharges waste. It is polluting the planet, changing its climate, and destroying its ecology. This is why I’ve written about the need for symbiotic solutions. The term applies to a parasite that survives by providing mutual benefit. In our case, symbiotic solutions include the shelter we need for survival. At the present time this is a foreign concept. We do not think of ourselves as parasites, but our shelter solutions are driven by decisions that continue to consume our source of life with inadequate justification.

My objective is to explain the shelter design categories, topics, equations, and values that must be correlated within a limited Built Domain. I do not have the geographic and geologic knowledge to define these limits. I simply believe they must be introduced to protect our source of life. My goal is to help you visualize the concept of design categories and give you a mathematical vocabulary that can be used to pursue the question:

How do we provide shelter for growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their quality and source of life?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


This essay began with the following inquiry: “…I am a newly appointed AIA Repositioning Ambassador…I am curious to hear your thoughts, and any insights you may have to share.” 

Repositioning implies that a solution has been found. I'm not sure we understand the problem.  

A practitioner, including partners, must earn a living. I’m not surprised that they resist change when the benefits are not immediately apparent. 

The problem from my point of view is the relationship between profession and practitioner. The distinction between professional research and practical benefit became clear to me after reading James Herriot’s book, All Creatures Great and Small, years ago. He pointed out that his practice ability was limited by the tools and knowledge provided by veterinary education and science. His job was to apply the tools and knowledge. He wasn’t expected to create them. This wasn’t his area of interest and proficiency. He provided “intelligence” from practice. (I use the term based on its military definition.) Science converted intelligence into goals and strategy focused on the problems defined to give him the new tools he needed. 

The knowledge required to practice architecture is so vast that it cannot be mastered with the current format, and it often takes a lifetime to achieve the humility needed to reach this level of awareness. The term “repositioning” implies to me that the army will move to a new location. I don’t think this is the problem. The army must be reorganized. 

James Herriot lived during the introduction of veterinary science that began to translate experience into knowledge. This led to practical new tools for the practitioner. Strangely enough, I’m currently reading The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel with Bret Witter. It describes a similar transition in the artistic community. In the beginning it was a collegial collection of power and privilege that discounted art conservation. George Stout joined a small art conservation department at the Fogg Art Museum in 1928 (p.25) and proceeded to turn the topic into a scientific research effort. The result was knowledge with practical applications in the campaign to save looted art during WWII. It is another example of the continuing human effort to translate talent and experience into knowledge. 

I don’t think architecture can “reposition” without “reorganizing” to introduce a centralized scientific effort. I have been out of touch for too long, so I’ll simply ask if the National Institute of Building Sciences NIBS is performing a scientific function that is useful to practitioners. If it isn’t, I believe architecture must reorganize to include a centralized effort for mutual benefit. Increased credibility will be based on convincing scientific research. This will lead to a new position for architecture within the nation and on the planet, since we cannot survive without shelter and will not survive without symbiotic solutions. 

So what shall we study? We often jump to conclusions without adequate homework. Programming wasn’t even taught when I was a student. Neither was logic and research even though it is at the heart of every design solution. I don’t mean to enter the world of curriculum, however, since what we teach is a function of what we know; and what we need to know is the question in my opinion. 

I’ll mention three examples to illustrate my train of thought. First, the building code is essentially a spreadsheet document based on IF / THEN statements. At one time I converted a number of BOCA chapters to this format with templates posing questions. The answers produced a complete review and conclusion that was possible in a fraction of the time. BOCA was not interested in the concept and program however, since they are in the business of explaining complex documents and publishing books. It is an architect’s interest to simplify the code review process, however; and I believe this could be a productive area of research. 

Second, I always felt that home buyers had no idea what they were buying and were unaware of the value of specifications and bidding. These were benefits they could understand, but were part of a traditional design process that was too time-consuming and expensive for most. With the advent of computers I became aware that single-family programming could be a template. Cost could be a function of the square foot summary. The square foot summary could be adjusted by changing values entered in the template. Adjustments could be used to meet a cost target before the production of expensive drawings. Specifications and short form contracts could be included for editing to protect the quality expectations of the owner. My objective was to shorten the time required for complete design services based on the delivery of benefit that could be understood by the consumer. I never completed the concept, however; because I questioned its value. 

Third, the issue of development capacity and intensity has my current attention since the intensity created directly affects our quality and source of life. Development capacity has a mathematical foundation and I’m currently preparing the equations involved for presentation. 

I’ve written about the Built Domain on a number of occasions. It must coexist with a Natural Domain that is its source of life without compromising our quality of life in the process with excessive intensity. This is the issue of symbiotic shelter that I’ve raised. I intend to give you the equations needed to address the issue at the grass roots level of practice. This is where it happens, but it can’t happen without the organization needed to do the homework. Repositioning, credibility, and public reliance on the knowledge created will follow.

PS: I should have mentioned The Great Influenza by John M. Barry. It is a terrific description of the improvement in medicine that took place in the 20th century when professional research provided new knowledge and tools to its practitioners. This began only 100 years ago.


Monday, September 30, 2013

The Design Decisions That Matter

When the people are considered market share we have lost touch with humanity. When price becomes a question of what they will bear we have lost touch with value. When the land becomes a commodity we have lost touch with our source of life. When the atmosphere, rivers, and oceans become a dump we have lost our senses. When we believe winning is the only thing we have lost. 

An economy reflects the decisions of a nation the way architecture reflects its level of awareness. The architecture of cities is telling us that we face sprawl, over-development, environmental ignorance, and blight. When the message is ignored we have lost touch with the decisions that matter on a planet that does not compromise. We all must adjust to a new level of awareness before it will be reflected in the architecture and economy of nations. 

The Republic 

The republic is lost in a blizzard of issues sponsored by an increasing diversity of opinion that cannot agree on common goals. This is a breeding ground for those who divide to conquer and stalk the people looking for signs of weakness.  

When threatened from within the people remain somewhat complacent. They have been deceived and defrauded on numerous occasions. In fact, they are beginning to lose faith in the intent of the republic - and that leads to Imperial Rome. 

We will remain strong as long as the people continue to believe the promise, but trust is easily broken by the repetition of duplicity and deceit. The economy is only the most recent example.  

The lesson from Rome is that a nation’s goals must deserve the people’s trust or it ceases to exist. Individual wealth is no substitute. It is a threat that leads to monarchy of the affluent until the protection of excess can no longer be purchased. 

Predators cannot live without a healthy population in the Natural Domain but their symbiotic existence has been a gift. We must learn from the gift that has been given. This is the challenge since we are all parasites who must create a new way of life or follow in the footsteps of those unable to imagine the consequences of ignoring the gift we have been given. 

The goal is survival with dignity. Democracy and free enterprise are simply a new format for debate based on a vanished Greek ideal that respected the people. It has encouraged a blizzard of issues that distract us from the goal. For instance, we debate the sanctity of life but what good is saving the life of an individual when you can’t save a population from polluting and consuming the planet? What good is free enterprise that is free to ignore the physical and social consequences of its decisions? When the concept of freedom threatens the goal of survival with dignity we need to protect the people. 

I challenge you to think about the goals that matter. Issues are simply objectives without a strategy or a goal. It’s like giving Patton the freedom to assault any objective on the plain. He wouldn’t know where he was going or what he was achieving but he would do a fine job of winning each melee.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Greatest Invention

I recently watched a television program focusing on the world’s 101 greatest inventions. I tuned-in too late to see the entire list, but the Wheel was number one. The program contended that progress can trace its source to the wheel. I cannot help disagreeing. Our progress began with seven gifts and one invention. The gifts were Food, Water, Light, Land, Air, Fire, and Life. The invention was Shelter from threat.

I don’t believe there would be a Wheel without Shelter; and when Fire was captured, the fire circle became the next great invention. This is why the hearth is such a tradition in the home. It was a place of refuge where progress could be considered. In fact, in my imagination the invention of the fire circle could have stimulated the invention of the Wheel.

Shelter remains our most fundamental concern because demand is a function of population growth on a planet with limited resources. I’d like to close with a quote from my introduction to a new effort. I hope it will represent a contribution to progress.

“At the present time, architectural design is a tactical effort -- in my opinion. At this level the objective is limited to a single project. At the strategic level I have suggested that the goal is shelter for the activities of growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their source of life from sprawl and their quality of life from excessive intensity. I for one believe that architectural contributions are needed in the campaign for a symbiotic future, but architecture is unprepared for the responsibility at this time. It has been using a leadership thought process for centuries, but has yet to become a strategic force with the tactical tools and information it has available.”

My intent is to offer a classification system, design specification format, and predictive equations that can expand the tactical methods of architecture and construction to the strategic level needed for shelter design on a planet with limited land and resources.

The equations will predict development capacity options based on the values assigned to their topics. Topic values represent tactical options at the project level and strategic options at the planning level. Options can be evaluated based on topic research at existing locations and accumulated knowledge can be applied to future topic decisions. The goal is to predict realistic shelter options based on a complete set of topics and inter-active relationships. Alternative decisions will affect survival – as they always have.

I've enjoyed this foray into imagination of the distant past. It has served to solidify my opinion of architectural value. I’ll now return to the work at hand.


Saturday, June 22, 2013


This previously appeared as "Reflections" but has been substantially edited.
The following are comments I’ve recently received. Comments always make me ponder and I hope the following responses are useful. I am attempting to grapple with the puzzle we call architecture because I believe it must contribute to the invention of symbiotic cities within a limited Built Domain that protects our quality and source of life. If it accepts this goal it may not only contribute, but lead the effort since coordination is a skill it takes for granted. This skill is now applied to tactical objectives, but leadership is a skill that is a function of the goal.

(We need) Ideas that can help architects find more productive, and rewarding, alternatives.

If I understand this comment, it means that our education and knowledge must become more valuable to a larger market. Shelter is an essential need that is developing into a sprawling threat to survival. This is a public threat and there is no larger market. Addressing this problem with a symbiotic goal and strategic research will make the contributions of architecture a public imperative. This can only be accomplished with an agenda that correlates the skills and knowledge of many related professions.

Medici quote: “We are not good enough. We must build like the Greeks and the Romans!”

A quote from another time when population growth was not an issue and appearance was mistaken for Greek and Roman knowledge. It discounted the artistic accomplishments and structural advances made during the Middle Ages, in my opinion. Leadership always requires a focus and the Medici’s provided one. Increasing awareness changes the focus and we borrow the term “adaptation” to describe the process.

Today the schools of architecture are ascendant, forwarding an increasingly irrelevant version of architecture.

I don’t think they are in ascendance beyond the internal policy levels of the profession. Enrollment has to be in decline (an assumption) because I think a growing percentage of the population is beginning to understand the poor return on an increasingly large investment. I don’t think they realize, however, that one reason for decline is the inconsistent and unfocused education provided. Another is a lack of research that adds relevant knowledge of increasing value to an expanding market area.

If we make environments and buildings that support human life and the specific goals of each project, and if we emphasize that as our primary goal, without downgrading in the least our aesthetic concerns, we will become much more important, and valued.

Built environments and buildings support human life but they sprawl to consume their source of life. A building is a tactical objective. Architecture needs a strategic goal to serve the public beyond its current client base, in my opinion.

There is no sustainability if the people and the built environment do not complement each other. It is time for architects to take back the mantle of built environmental sustainability based on our expertise about how people and buildings interact. We need to return the engineers to their rightful roles as supporters of this, the main mission.

I don’t think we ever donned the mantle of built environment sustainability. (Energy conservation is not a solution. It is a delaying tactic.) I also don’t believe we have a strategic goal and agenda at the present time.

People and buildings combine to produce levels of intensity and/or sprawl. The word “intensity” has not had a decent definition in my opinion, let alone research that would produce “expertise”. “Sprawl” occurs from annexation we do not recognize as another “Ponzi” scheme using the Natural Domain as its victim.

Engineers are not the enemy. I think at least a majority would agree with the need to achieve a symbiotic future, and they have the natural inclination to pursue the scientific research needed. We can lead by mobilizing opinion and coordinating the efforts of many related professions. This will require a symbiotic goal with a global perspective.

We are the experts at how people and architecture interact. That is why we should lead the team and that is what our schools need to teach.

We have not built the knowledge to become experts. We use intuition and expect opinion to be considered expertise. We are the leaders of a process that includes experts, and cost estimation is our Achilles’ heel. We have focused on talent that reflects opinion, but must improve our ability to support opinion with fact and logic. This means we must decide what we need to know based on a goal we wish to achieve. When we do, the goal may elevate tactical leadership to strategic leadership and education must support the goal.

We need to teach our students the “facts of architecture” and how to ferret out the client’s and community’s needs.

The neglect of “programming” in architectural education has been a great disservice where it has occurred since it involves the leadership question, “What do we need to know?”

A lifetime is too short for one person to learn all of the “facts” involved. That is why strategic leaders coordinate. Tactical leaders specialize.

Education must understand the difference between tactical skill and strategic leadership. It has not emphasized tactical skill or recognized the components of strategic leadership, in my opinion. The result has been haphazard, independent interpretation at each school of architecture, in my opinion.

Building and zoning codes are an essential part of architectural education. They are actually “friends” that can be used to defend decisions. They should not be ignored.

Leadership involves an evaluation of options and attributes, not a calculation of technical engineering detail. An architect is not an engineer. He must be trained for a purpose that is clearly understood within the profession and the population.

Everything for a reason, artfully done

Everything for a symbiotic reason – eventually. Appearance will follow and some will be considered fine art.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Delusion is a walk into a blind canyon. The options are to remain, retreat, or rappelle to a new ledge of awareness. Is it any wonder that the search for a symbiotic ascent to the sustainable rim meets with reluctance and resistance below?  

Anticipation is the responsibility of leadership. Its challenge is to recognize delusion and reach symbiotic decisions that will lead to sustainable survival before they are imposed.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Leadership and Design

Leadership begins with a creative question that is often prompted by intuition, organized by logic, served by information, answered by imagination, and memorized by those seeking to filter knowledge from talent. The difference between strategic and tactical leadership is scale. Strategy seeks to achieve a goal and tactics seek to achieve an objective.

At the present time, architectural design is a tactical effort -- in my opinion. At the tactical level the objective is limited to a single project. At the strategic level I have suggested that the goal is shelter for the activities of growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their source of life from sprawling consumption and their quality of life from excessive intensity. I for one believe that architectural contributions are needed in the campaign for a symbiotic future, but architecture is unprepared for this responsibility at the present time. It has been using the leadership thought process for centuries but has yet to become a strategic force with the tactical tools and information available.

Leadership involves many functions. As an example, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were leaders who mobilized sentiment to support decisions in WWII. George Marshall was an advisor. Dwight Eisenhower was a planner. George Patton was a manager. “Wild Bill” Donovan and Bletchley Park gathered intelligence. Intelligence was understood as a priority by all at both the strategic and tactical levels of leadership. In the civilian world “intelligence” is called knowledge. Creativity may stimulate the formation of knowledge but it dies with talent. The knowledge that remains is a contribution to increasing awareness.

I have argued that our goal is to provide shelter for growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their quality and source of life. A strategy is missing because the goal has not been adopted as policy. This has left us with tactical efforts consuming our source of life with “sprawl”. The goal, however, simply represents an expanded awareness of the symbiotic message Louis Sullivan included in poetry and Frank Lloyd Wright implied with the term “organic”.

The leadership process should sound familiar since architectural design is leadership practiced at the tactical level—again, in my opinion. Construction is mobilization, maneuver, and adjustment organized to achieve the objective with leadership. The result is a unique invention that has had no full size mock-up and testing at a remote location. The same is true for every military plan in my analogy. (This analogy is quite different from an automobile industry that spends millions/billions on research and testing before a single car rolls off the assembly line.)

The anatomy of the design process is not revealed by the appearance of success, but when the process is applied to a strategic goal we will be using the mind we have been given to contribute to symbiotic survival in a battle with ourselves.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sound Bytes from Architecture (revised)

Architecture remains an artificial creation imposed on a natural world. 

Architectural design is presently learned from experience that reduces the odds of repeating success across the entire profession. 

Opinion will remain hypothesis for architectural design – until it can be supported and defended by a foundation of knowledge. 

Opinion is instinct, intuition and hypothesis. It can lead to knowledge but dies with talent and has difficulty repeating success. 

We travel through context and survive in buildings. An architect who is forced to sacrifice context for capacity introduces intensity that is not a public benefit. 

Intensity is the measurable context of place. A single place is created by architecture. A collection of places is created by chance. Improving the odds is the goal of city design. 

Architecture has spun-off entire professions until its success now shelters its greatest challenge. 

Architectural design that considers open space a “left-over” leaves random intensity and potential over-development in its wake 

A building has its roots in the land but it will not flower while it consumes resources and discharges waste without redeeming ecologic value. 

Modern architecture theorized that form was a product of function after misreading Louis Sullivan’s organic intent. Natural function became an obstacle and form followed invention while speculation responded with sprawl. 

The Symbiotic Period began when we saw a small blue planet surrounded by an atmosphere at risk – and infinite black punctured by points of light that have always led the way.  

The Natural Domain has become an environmental asset and the Built Domain has emerged as a threat to survival. 

The Built Domain continues to expand its presence and the intuitives among us sense the presence of a threat. 

Creativity responds to a voice that is heard by intuition, interpreted by logic, answered by imagination, and memorized by those seeking knowledge. 

Fine art is intuition and imagination organized with composition and expressed with talent that cannot be memorized.  

The design components of intensity can be identified, measured, evaluated, and forecast to improve future decisions that intend to shelter activity within a limited Built Domain. 

Design excellence is currently measured with the yardstick of opinion. If a convincing explanation of public benefit is an architectural objective, a new measurement system will be required. 

Excessive shelter intensity has often been a response to land ownership limitations and free enterprise objectives. 

Architectural design excellence is not a product. It is a collection of decisions represented by a product that will successfully serve both private and public interests when the options are more thoroughly understood. 

Shelter is an essential element of survival but it consumes our source of life with the appetite of free enterprise.

A parasite consumes its host. A symbiotic parasite achieves a state of mutual benefit that ensures its continued survival. We have the power to choose the path we wish to follow and have named the decisions adaptation.   

City design is an issue of intensity and survival that is beyond the present scope of architecture, but the shelter it builds will express the city design decisions we make. 

The goal is to shelter the activities of growing populations without threatening their source of life with sprawl, or their quality of life with excessive intensity. Architectural form, function, and appearance will express the level of success achieved within sustainable geographic limits. 

We’ve been given a mind and we’re expected to use it.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Symbiotic Knowledge

I am working on a series of equations involving design topics that combine to produce levels of shelter intensity among buildings, within neighborhoods, and throughout cities. The value assigned to each topic represents a design decision. An equation collects these decisions and predicts the intensity implied. Intensity in turn falls within a range beginning with sprawl and ending with over-development. When equations are not written and parameters are not assigned to each value, the outcome is completely unpredictable. This is where we are today as we promiscuously consume our source of life.

The key terms are equations, topics, and values. They are meant to support talent and improve its persuasive ability by focusing on site plan and building mass relationships that produce levels of intensity. Values assigned to topics within an equation represent architectural design decisions. Acceptable parameters represent city design decisions. Persuasive parameters will require an evaluation of the options. Parameter decisions will define desirable shelter intensity options within the limits of a Built Domain that protects its source of life, the Natural Domain.

At the present time equations do not exist. Random topics are scattered throughout zoning ordinances without mathematical coordination; and values are often copied from other ordinances or enacted from limited experience. The result has been over-development, sprawl, and economic decline with occasional success that is rarely attributed to the prevailing ordinance or plan.

We have been searching for additional knowledge and I believe it begins with intensity. We cannot live without shelter for all of our activities; but its expanding presence threatens our source of life. Restricting expansion for growing populations will increase the intensity of shelter provided and threaten the quality of life introduced. It is a design problem requiring decisions that cannot be addressed with the current tools and research available, in my opinion.  

Improvement will begin with an understanding of the topics, relationships, and optional decisions defined by the equations of intensity. I hope this will contribute to a Symbiotic Period of design. It will be required to adapt once again to the voice heard by intuition, answered by imagination, and memorized by those seeking knowledge.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


If you can see the land or sea beyond your pavement, look around you. This is our source of life. Even a small yard and a single tree contributes to its integration and our benefit. It is a Natural Domain challenged by a Built Domain of Shelter, Movement, and Life Support. The Built Domain has led us to believe we live in a separate world; but the reality is that we are competing with the planet and neither domain is free from a universe beyond our comprehension.

We are not free to compete without consequence since the evolution of a threat to the planet will not prevail. The results consume and pollute the land and sea, not to mention the atmosphere, which I think all recognize as our source of life. Among us, a completely free market is free to cannibalize vulnerable populations. This is not Darwinian evolution and improvement of the species. It is predatory competition disguised as evolution that consumes the planet based on a Ponzi concept of growth. It will eventually lead to extinction. The course must be adjusted with the responsibility we often choose to ignore. Competition with five fouls to give only applies to sport and war.

A building has its roots in the land and will not flower until its functions are in harmony with the planet’s ecologic functions. Until then it will remain a parasite consuming our source of life. This means that a building and its occupants must recognize the sovereignty of the planet and contribute to its health and welfare. This is the question before architecture and it must expand its knowledge, skills, and correlation with others before it can begin to address a question that is part of our evolutionary responsibility. The challenge is to design cities and shelter that represent a new period of symbiotic awareness on an evolutionary path we are expected to define.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Architectural Equations & Strategic Design Decisions

I believe that shelter is a threat to the planet more fundamental than the effect of climate change. Shelter is a cause that consumes resources, discharges waste, and is home to many activities and much equipment that lacks redeeming ecologic value.
All shelter can be divided into six generic design categories.  Each category is differentiated by the parking system present or planned. This makes it possible to write equations for gross building area potential (development capacity) based on a given parking system. It does not solve our symbiotic problem, but it lays the foundation for shelter capacity evaluation within sustainable limits.
Solving the symbiotic problem without addressing the sustainable shelter issue is not possible. Sprawl will simply consume the solutions.
Architectural equations define the relationship of design topics within a parking design category. I’ve called the potential options development capacity (gross building area per buildable acre) alternatives. These alternatives are influenced by the values entered in a design category equation, and each set of values defines a level of intensity. Choosing a design category and set of topic values represents an intensity decision. These are the strategic decisions needed to shelter growing populations within geographic limits that do not threaten their source and quality of life.
Intensity is the gross building and pavement area present or planned per buildable acre. It is a function of the design category and topic values chosen. The topics in an equation can also be measured at existing locations to evaluate their combined implications. Topic research can produce a language of architectural intensity and urban composition that is unquestionably in the public interest. City planning and zoning have made an attempt; but they have had arbitrary results in my opinion.  Their language and regulations are simply not based on an understanding of design categories, topic values, and architectural equations. These are the tools that can lead individual shelter contributions toward successful city design objectives with a symbiotic goal.
It’s not enough to govern land use separation and building design detail. Land use allocation and shelter intensity decisions are inseparable elements of urban form and must be correlated to protect the physical, social, psychological, economic, and environmental “welfare” of populations within sustainable geographic limits. Unfortunately, some elements of urban form have been overlooked and others have been arbitrarily combined to produce misallocation, over-development, and sprawl in many cases. This lack of correlation has not laid the foundation for a symbiotic future and has led to my belief that any effort to protect the public health and safety which overlooks welfare is a recipe for misery and extinction.
Development capacity (architectural mass or gross building area), pavement area, and project opens space area can be defined by the values entered in an intensity equation. These values are the mathematical recipe behind shelter composition and appearance.  Research has not correlated design categories and topic values with their intensity implications, but intensity has an undeniable impact on our quality of life. This oversight has occurred because category equations have not been published to define topic relationships and talent has been treated as fine art.
The equations of architecture can be used to guide shelter research, build knowledge, repeat success, strengthen talent, defend opinion, and justify claims of benefit; but this will require measurement and evaluation of existing conditions that produce levels of shelter intensity. When knowledge is compiled, strategic advice will be sought to shape the quality of life for growing populations within sustainable geographic limits.
Louis Sullivan’s poetry noted that form follows function in the Natural Domain. In the Built Domain of the future, architectural form must follow symbiotic function to survive in a limited field that is not overgrown with intensity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Problem Solvers

In the essay below, I do not mean to say that architects do not solve problems. I hope it becomes clear that I am talking about the level of problem solving involved. In my opinion, the level is adequate to serve but not to lead and this is the “problem”. Architects do not presently define leadership goals. They achieve leadership objectives. A better architectural vocabulary is needed to address shelter goals within urban form at a scale that is unquestionably in the public interest. Architects have the resources in their files to begin the research and build the knowledge, but the challenge has never been issued.
I have long felt: (1) That there is a leadership vacuum where urban sprawl and core congestion are concerned; (2) That this is a threat to survival since sprawl consumes our source of life and congestion (intensity) degrades our quality of life; (3) That inattention stems from an inadequate architectural vocabulary capable of recognizing and expressing the “problem”; (4) That an inadequate vocabulary leads to inarticulate city planning solutions; (5) That our present vocabulary cannot efficiently and comprehensively correlate two-dimensional land use separation with three-dimensional intensity; (6) That a lack of correlation leads to promiscuous annexation blindly seeking economic stability; (7) That land is our source of life, not to mention water; (8) That asphalt paving is the largest remaining oil spill on the face of the planet; (9) That municipal land use allocation must be correlated with development capacity and intensity within limited geographic areas; and (10) That development capacity can be mathematically measured, forecast, evaluated, limited, and correlated with many other city planning objectives.
We are all problem solvers. Architects do not have a monopoly. The “problem” is often a lack of anticipation. It overlooks the question and substitutes assumption.
The question is how to provide shelter for growing populations within a limited Built Domain that does not threaten its source and quality of life? The strategy will require a new leadership vocabulary. Fortunately, the many faces of architecture have a surprisingly limited mathematical anatomy, and common concerns may begin to coalesce around sustainable solutions for a symbiotic future. 


As Claudio Velez, AIA has pointed out, there are many "problems" in life. The challenge is to organize and prioritize the hierarchy. I understand that architecture is a design problem to be solved, but the word "problem" has created confusion. It is too general. Architects do not define leadership problems. They achieve leadership objectives by correlating tasks and activities to solve project design "problems". The solutions represent solitary accomplishments with unconvincing social contribution in many cases.
Architects coordinate tasks and activities to achieve an objective called a“problem”, but a building is often only part of the problem. It is a step on the road to a client goal. In fact, architects are part of the client’s problem until their work is complete. 
The architectural problem is that a building benefits an owner and occupant but can be considered an intrusion that threatens the public health, safety, and welfare. Architecture is on the wrong side of the equation and the imposition of building codes, zoning codes, and public review are evidence for my claim. 

It does not need to be this way. Medicine has a public and private face. The same is true for law, engineering, accounting, and so on. These professions have recognized that public benefit accrues from improvement in private practice and have effectively explained this to government. Their institutions include goals, strategies, and research involving public benefit. Private practice focuses on the skills and detail needed to deliver that benefit by achieving a project objective. It took a lot of military organization to succeed at Normandy, but the tasks and activities were part of a management objective. The objective was part of a planning strategy to achieve a leadership goal. Architects must join the general staff and build the knowledge required to earn the position.  

A building is an objective. Shelter for the activities of growing populations in a geographically limited Built Domain is a leadership goal intended to protect their source and quality of life. A planning strategy is needed and we are missing the architectural language required. 

If architecture seeks to improve the demand and public esteem for its knowledge, this issue offers an opportunity. We cannot survive without shelter, but we can consume our source of life with buildings. Architecture can decide to lead or follow, but most will agree that the problem must be solved and that the goal is a worthy public priority. I happen to believe that architects are ideally suited to correlate this monumental effort - if they can reorganize their priorities. If not, they will follow others who lack much of the intuitive preparation that must be translated. 

I’ve written about this on many occasions and published two editions of a book and software that offer the tools and language needed to proceed. I sound like a salesman when I mention this however, so I will keep it to a minimum. Equations were embedded in the software provided. I’m working on a second book that includes derivation of the ten equations at the heart of this effort. They represent the knowledge I have to offer. The book will attempt to explain the intent and conceptual foundation for others who may be interested in continuing the effort. An equation is a good definition but an inefficient interpreter of concept and intent.  

On this note, I’d like to close with a quote from the fourth chapter of this work in progress: 

“Land has development capacity that can be expressed in terms of its gross building area GBA potential per acre. Capacity is a function of the parking design category being considered and the values entered in its related design specification template. Capacity options are produced by changing the values entered in the template. A decision to adopt a set of specification values represents a decision to limit the GBA capacity of land and create a level of intensity.  

Buildings shelter activity and are the nucleus of cellular urban growth. We refer to these cells as lots, parcels, property, real estate, and so on. Each Shelter Division cell includes building mass, pavement, and project open space that is connected by a Movement Division, integrated by a Life Support Division, and surrounded by an Open Space Division. The Open Space Division includes agriculture, public open space, and undeveloped land. (Remember: Project and parking open space are contained within each cell.) The Built Environment is currently a threat to the Natural Domain because it is not contained within the sustainable geographic limits of a Built Domain.  

We refer to an “urban cell” as a project. A collection of cells is called a neighborhood, district, village, city, or region depending on the quantity. At any scale however, these cells are not natural and are currently sprawling across the face of the planet without restraint. 

A “shelter cell” contains design specification topics in various quantities related to the parking category involved. Parking choices and quantity relationships determine the gross building area capacity of land and the building mass that emerges from the cell. The relationship of topics and quantities within a cell is defined by development capacity equations. The challenge is to contain these cells and use development capacity equations to design shelter capacity for growing populations within them. In fact, the objective of all forecast equations is to predict either the gross building area GBA capacity of a given land area (cell), or the buildable land area BLA options (cellular options) that can satisfy a given gross building area GBA objective. All other related information such as, but not limited to, population, traffic generation, cost, revenue, expense, and return on investment is based on these gross building area and land area predictions. 

Land area combines with land use and building capacity to produce intensity. Intensity directly affects our physical, social, psychological, economic, and environmental quality of life. The land use allocation of activity and intensity cannot be considered independently. They must be correlated to survive within a limited Built Domain by wisely using the land available.” 

Copyright: Walter M. Hosack, 2013. All rights reserved

In the end, there is only one design “problem” that matters. How do we use the land and its resources so that we do not consume our source of life in the pursuit of food, water, and shelter for growing populations? I use the word “land” loosely in this context, since it includes the sea and all environmental resources we currently deplete and despoil with an outdated definition of “survival”. 


The note from Michael Malinowski, AIA regarding recent research confirms what many have suspected for a long time. Architectural priorities do not match client priorities. I would argue that the architectural priority list needs expansion as well, since it is not clear that architecture protects the public interest from client abuse. In my opinion, practice improvement (architecture) and public service (city design) are worthy objectives along the road to a professional goal of public benefit.