Posted tagged ‘design’

Department of Cool: Housing Division

September 15, 2011

Not to go all MIT on y’all, but this piece from the news office hit my desktop today.

The gist:  a design studio taught within the MIT Department of Architecture in 2009 posed the challenge of coming up with a house design that could be built for $1,000, with the idea that such housing could be used in the wake of natural disasters like the then fresh-in-memory Sichuan earthquake of 2008.

Masters student Ying chee Chui came up with a 500 square foot dwelling that has now been built in a town in Sichuan for $5,925.  Dubbed a “Pinwheel House,”…

It has a modular layout, with rectangular room units surrounding a central courtyard space. “The module can be duplicated and rotated, and then it becomes a house,” Chui says. “The construction is easy enough, because if you know how to build a single module, you can build the whole house.”

Part of the boost in cost from the design target came from enlarging the original plan to 800 sq. ft., and part reflects prototyping costs — but the point is being made:  there are alternative approaches to both design and construction methodology that can produce good housing for a much larger swath of the world’s people than now possess it.

Two postscripts:  first:  this year’s version of the same studio course is looking at $10K houses for Japan in the wake of the earthquake-tsunami disaster.

Second:  the linked article is sadly lacking in the heart of the cool — the tech within and the details of the layout and production methods for the Sichuan prototype as it now exists.  I’ll try to track those down and post later.

Image:  Meister der Weltenchronik, Construction of the Tower of Babel, c. 1380

Quote of the Week (not for the weak of stomach)

May 22, 2008

From PZ Myers:

I don’t know about you, but a system that muddles excretion with reproduction and that allows random lizards to crawl up your butt and squat in your oviduct doesn’t sound like great engineering to me.

I’m so sorry I read that before lunch.  That’ll teach me to procrastinate by wandering the blogosteppes.

Image:  Aelbert Cuyp, “Rooster and Hens,” 1652.  Source:  Web Gallery of Art.


March 21, 2008

This is going to be all over the science blogosphere in a blink, so there is no real need for me to pile on, except that it gives me the opportunity to recycle one of my recent favorite political snarks,

I mean, if you have done something really dumb — like make an ignorant, ill-informed, duplicitous film that is so ineptly put together as to be unable to attract even papered full houses — and then you decide you want to make sure that none of your critics can actually see the film, it might be a good idea to know your enemy, just a little bit.

But nooooo! The producers of Expelled, Ben Stein’s formal notice of secession from reason knew they had a problem with PZ Myers. After all, they had interviewed him under false pretences to serve as one of a number of straw men to a bankrupt argument. He’s been pretty clear — brutally plain — about both that essential discourtesy, and the larger dishonesty of the project as a whole. They know he can dish the invective pretty well, and to the largest audience in the science blogosphere.

So I can understand why they wouldn’t want him actually to see the film. From their already morally (as well as intellectually) compromised position, that would be tantamount to giving not just ammunition but the whole damn arsenal to the enemy. So it’s no real surprise that they had a police officer at the ready to identify mild-seeming bearded squid fetishists in the line for a restricted screening of the film in Minneapolis.

But as I said, you have to be smart if you want to be safely dumb. And the problem with that, I think is obvious. Hence the result that PZ gleefully documents in the post linked above (and here again).

The thought police expel PZ from the line waiting to get into the theater. They manage to ignore his guest.

Richard Dawkins.

Stop for a moment. Think.

Richard Freaking Dawkins.

This isn’t just dumb, folks. To channel Eroll Flynn in Captain Blood “Bedad! It’s epic!”

(By the way — this really is not the way real film makers behave. When I, or any of the documentarians I know and respect, make a film, we promise –and deliver — DVDs of the finished product to those who have contributed to the project, for receipt right after the premiere.)

What happened in Minneapolis is like — and I’ve been struggling to come up with an analogy that isn’t just blood thirsty — corralling Mothra but losing track of Godzilla, or, f you want a reference to another bad science movie franchise perhaps, caging Velociraptor but failing to account for T Rex.

And it gives me the chance to make the observation that is the real point of this post. I don’t often read Ben Smith’s column over at, but at the height of the Spitzer schadenfreude orgy, he came up with this*: “When stupid gets to $200 a barrel, I want the drilling rights to Eliot Spitzer’s head.”

Not me, man. I want to tap into the fine wine of dumb these guys have got going.

(Eyewitness account of the scene inside the theater here.)

*Quoting from memory. Sue me if I missed a word.

Images: Inferred Dinosaur Behavior (Velociraptor and Proceratops) illustration in L. M. Chiappe, A Field Trip to the Mesozoic, PLOS Biol 1/2/2003. Licensed under a Creative Commons License ver. 2.5.

Piotr Jaworski, “Tyranozaur,” 2004. Licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License.