6/20/2019 Notes

Japanese Gate at Boston MFA

The Carpentry Way is a gem of a blog written by Chris Hall. It’s a detailed look at what a dedicated craftsman can do, and his attention to documenting his craft is incredible. I believe I first came across his work when I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts – Chris built a fantastic gate at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. Chris has recently publicized his cancer diagnosis and provided a second update here.

Density is a hot subject in urban planning and zoning and quickly runs afoul of legacy zoning codes which designate large swaths of many urban areas as ‘single family only.’ There is a lot of ink spilled about the failed concept of the garden city, but if we look at single family zoning as a form of growth-restricting belt around cities, perhaps the garden city really does exist today. The New York Times takes a look at the prevalence of single family zoning and it’s truly astonishing how little density is zoned in cities like Portland, Oregon or San Jose, California. It reminds me of the argument that rural decline is just an artifact of the classification methodology – perhaps in the same way urban growth is partially just a misclassification of suburban growth. It’s simply not possible to have urban growth in a city dominated by single family zoning, because single family homes are not ‘urban’.

Kate Wagner is the voice behind McMansion Hell and she recently published a short piece on the history of open-vs-closed home layouts at CityLab. Open concept homes, like many aspects of home building, reflects class realities and aspirations – it’s more expensive to build open home with larger structural spans for example. With household sizes trending smaller and evidence of wage stagnation in many industries, perhaps open concept layouts will begin to fall out of favor.

A short piece in Fire Engineering on how the cladding at Grenfell contributed to the disaster in 2017. Take-aways: it’s astonishing that the cladding was sold in a ‘combustible’ and ‘non-combustible’ configuration. Even more astonishing that a real person saw those options and thought the combustible one was the right call. Second, the air-gap under the cladding directly contributed to the spread of the fire – a hidden pathway where a dangerous condition to develop. I’m reminded of why fire-stopping details are so important in balloon framing.

Medieval Skill of the Week: Scythe Mowing a Lawn (Video)