Architecture sends a message

Architecture sends a message. Pierre Charles L’Enfant understood this back in the 1700s, when he designed the National Mall in Washington DC. Here’s a quote from his biographer: “The entire city was built around the idea that every citizen was equally important,” Berg says. “The Mall was designed as open to all comers, which would have been unheard of in France. It’s a very sort of egalitarian idea.” The democratically-elected Congress was given the prime location, instead of the White House.

Copyright madness

I just discovered something interesting. Under US law, buildings constructed after 1990 are copyrighted. That means our house is subject to copyright, and as legal owner I can demand licensing fees from anyone who wants to take pictures of the street that happen to include our house. The more corporate interests force ever-stronger copyright laws on us, the more I find myself questioning copyright. For example, the RIAA lawsuits against MP3 downloaders have made me wonder: why should artists continue to get money every time someone plays a recording of their music?


I first visited the USA in 1990, travelling with a Japanese friend. We wanted to visit New York and Boston. Most people would have stayed in New York, and travelled to Boston; but I remember having a hunch that things would be better the other way around. So we spent more time in Boston, and reduced the New York visit to a long weekend. Perhaps my problems with New York stem from the fact that we were politely relieved of our excess cash by a gentleman who had taken it upon himself to introduce visiting tourists to the city.


This is the Hancock Tower in Boston’s back bay: It’s easily my favorite building in the city. It was designed by I.M.Pei’s firm of architects—but not, I believe, by I.M. Pei himself. Most long-time Boston residents remember that when it was first constructed, the large sheets of glass in the windows began to rain down on the streets below. Sheets of plywood were used to replace the missing windows, and there was a long and expensive lawsuit.