In the mid-90s, Stewart Brand published a fantastic book called How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built.
Buildings have often been studies whole in space, but never before have they been studied whole in time. How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis that proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time.
From the connected farmhouses of New England to I.M. Pei's Media Lab, from "satisficing" to "form follows funding," from the evolution of bungalows to the invention of Santa Fe Style, from Low Road military surplus buildings to a High Road English classic like Chatsworth-this is a far-ranging survey of unexplored essential territory.
In 1997, Brand and the BBC did a six-part TV series based on the book. Brand has put the series on his YouTube channel; here's the first part to get you going:
(via open culture)
Richard Rhodes recently gave a Long Now talk called The Twilight of the Bombs about the future obsolescence of nuclear weaponry. From Stewart Brand's summary of the talk:
How much did the Cold War cost everyone from 1948 to 1991, and how much of that was for nuclear weapons? The total cost has been estimated at $18.5 trillion, with $7.8 trillion for nuclear. At the peak the Soviet Union had 95,000 weapons and the US had 20 to 40,000. America's current seriously degraded infrastructure would cost about $2.2 trillion to fix -- all the gas lines and water lines and schools and bridges. We spent that money on bombs we never intended to use -- all of the Cold War players, major and minor, told Rhodes that everyone knew that the bombs must not and could not be used. Much of the nuclear expansion was for domestic consumption: one must appear "ahead," even though numbers past a couple dozen warheads were functionally meaningless.
In 1997, the BBC aired a three-hour documentary based on Stewart Brand's book, How Buildings Learn. Brand has posted the whole program on YouTube in six 30-minute parts: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six.
If you're hesitant about whether to watch the series or not, check out this two-minute appetizer of perhaps the meatiest tidbit in the book: the oak beam replacement plan for the dining hall of New College, Oxford.
(via smashing telly)
Update: An old version of the New College web site says that the oaks were not planted specifically for the replacement of the ceiling beams even though they were used for that purpose. (thx, emily, david, and phil)
Update: Google Video is no more, so I updated the video links to YouTube. (via @atduskgreg)