The Third Law isn’t nearly as universal as the first two, but it does suggest some possibilities. One thinks, for example, of the magnificent railroad stations that were built as late as the 1930s in far-flung American cities like Buffalo and Cincinnati, just as rail was, you’d think predictably, about to give way to the car and the plane. Or think of the imperial architecture of Britain, in London and New Delhi, as the Empire began to weaken in the early years of the 20th century. Photo ' Jeff Goldberg/Esto Polshek's Newseum opened as newspapers face threats to their survival.
There are a number of Campbell’s Laws of Architecture; they tend to take the form of paradoxes. Campbell’s First Law, for example, states: “The faster the means of transportation in any society, the larger will be the portion of the average citizen’s life that is spent in getting from one place to another.” Photo ' Bettmann/Corbis The Moors built the Alhambra in Granada as they were losing control of Spain to the Christians. Peasant’s walk to the fields? Twenty minutes. Commute from the suburbs? Fifty minutes. Plane to the coast? Six hours. Rocket to the moon? Four days. As the
The bigger picture There needs to be a caveat here, though. Density is a plus word today, and it’s often said that New York’s Manhattan is the greenest community in the U.S., because its high density leads to low per-capita consumption of energy for heating, cooling, and transit. But throw the frame a little wider, and you realize that a lot of the food for New York is coming in carbon-powered trucks and airplanes from California, or even Brazil or China. Maybe there’s a more optimal city size, one that would permit us to raise more food nearer home. Photo
President-elect Obama, we’re informed, intends to create an Office of Urban Policy. Obama is a lawyer, and I’m sure he’s thinking more about social issues than about architecture or urban design. But at this writing (in early December), nobody knows who will occupy the new office, or what its brief will be. Maybe architects will begin to have some influence on public architecture? It doesn’t happen often. Architects aren’t known for their political skills. My friend Dick Swett, who used to be a United States Representative from New Hampshire, believes he was the only architect to serve in Congress in
Making new demands It’s important to understand that this kind of sophisticated climate control was still fairly new at the time Otto was designed. Art conservators were making demands that neither the world of architects nor the world of engineers and contractors had quite caught up with. Okay, that’s the art guys’ story. The weather guys—the architect, his engineering consultants, and the builder—created pretty much the kind of wall they’d always built. Its primary purpose was not to nurture the art but to keep out the weather. They built a cavity wall, a sandwich of materials including a vapor barrier.