THE WEEK’S BEST: Design, architecture, and technology

What I wrote last week:

Boston’s Seaport: Would you pay $500,000 for a studio condo that might be underwater in 10 years?

Neighborhoods are all unique. Do you like glassy towers, all the trappings of moneyed millennial life, massive investments and growth in jobs from companies like Amazon and… checking notes… an entire neighborhood that might be underwater in a decade? Let’s take a tour of Boston’s Seaport.

What I shot last week:

Design, architecture, and technology digest:

Architecture and Design

Blokable’s Quest to Disrupt Prefab — Architect Magazine

Miller, who got his architecture degree at Tulane University and went on to study design strategy and business, spent a few years at the Seattle office of Teague and, like Holm, is a veteran of the Amazon Go project. He thinks of what he’s doing at Blokable as developing “architecture for manufacturing instead of architecture for construction.” Miller doesn’t regard himself as the designer of the final product, whether that’s a cluster of single-family homes or multifamily developments constructed from stacks of Bloks. Rather, he sees himself as the creator of a tool kit that architects can use to design their own bespoke projects. “It gives them the puzzle pieces,” says Miller, “the Legos for them to build with.”

Cities and the Vertical Economy — CityLab

Not only do rents rise by floor as tenants pay more for status, prestige, and view, but the rate at which rents increase, or the rent gradient, is higher than the price premium tenants pay for being in prime locations in the central business district. In other words, vertical clustering is a bigger deal than horizontal clustering, at least in terms of the premium on commercial rents that tenants are willing to pay.

Cape-to-Connecticut ride shows progress, bumps on Greenway — AP

It costs an average of $1 million per mile to build the Greenway and can take up to 20 years to complete a segment, but officials say it is worth the investment. A recent study by the planning and design firm Alta in North Carolina showed the East Coast Greenway generates over $90 million in total benefits annually in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle.

How Many Square Feet Does $200,000 Buy You? — New York Times

For $200,000, you could buy a nearly 2,200-square-foot house in Fort Worth — or a room measuring about 16 by 16 feet in San Francisco. Apparently location really does matter. It was no big surprise that Manhattan topped the list, with $200,000 (the approximate U.S. national median home price) buying 126 square feet of space — less than half of what you might get for the same amount in San Francisco.

America Has a Lot of Parking Spaces. It’s a Problem. — Bloomberg Opinion

Investments in public transportation and innovations ranging from ride-hailing services to self-driving cars to electric scooters can all reduce these cities’ dependence on cars that need to be parked somewhere. But in the end, asking car owners to bear the full costs they impose does seem like an essential part of the solution. Trying to get rid of auto subsidies can generate a lot of opposition, though.


The Rise of “Urban Tech” — CityLab

Contrast that to cities, where offices and homes sit vacant much of the time, where cars sit idle, and where congestion is rampant. The third great economic transformation, which we are going through today, is a shift to a knowledge economy that is concentrated and based on cities. Just as farms and factories of previous epochs were optimized for efficiency, the offices, apartments, cars, and other elements of cities that sit unused much of the time will be adapted for greater productivity.

Can Cities Shape the Automated Future? — CityLab

According to one popular estimate cited by the World Economic Forum, for children today approximately 65 percent of jobs they may do have not yet been created. There’s a wide swath of new jobs that are still to be imagined.

Frankly, the kids who will be doing these jobs get it. This is the world they already live in, and their expectations reflect the reality that these changes will largely happen through a process of co-creation between human and machine

Taste-Testing Walmart and Trader Joe’s Wines: Whose Are Better? — Bloomberg

After studying the big data Walmart accrues on what its customers want and buy, Simpson says: “I saw a gap in the market.” Her 18-month process, from concept to bottle, included months of tasting hundreds of wines to find winemakers to work with in various areas. These are not repurposed bulk wines, she says, but—in today’s buzzword—highly curated regional selections.

$800 Million Says a Self-Driving Car Looks Like This — Bloomberg

The company has six prototypes, or mules, in auto industry lingo. They’re named VH1, VH2, and so on—the VH being short for “vaporware horseshit,” which is how a car blog once described the company’s technology.

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