What have you been reading? May 27, 2021

“Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Winston S. Churchill


Fewer  Babies’ Cries, More Abandoned Homes 

Last week I featured a story about declining sperm counts. This week it is an article about declining populations. If I were to ask you for a population forecast for China, what would it be? One model estimates China’s population will drop from 1.41 billion people today to 730 million by 2100. The article asks us to imagine paying large bonuses to immigrant families with lots of children.  Excerpt:

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

Damien CaveEmma Bubola and Choe Sang-Hun


What to do about a labour crunch 

Limits on immigration – labour shortages

Read the above New York Times article. Then read this piece in The Economist about the labour crunch. Negative populations growth plus limits on immigration will lead   to increasingly severe labour shortages. Excerpt: 

Next is passports, which relates to immigration. Temporary border controls to stop the virus make sense, but they should not last beyond the pandemic. In New Zealand annual net migration has fallen from 92,000 to 7,000. Australia is losing migrants. Britain is also reckoning with Brexit-related immigration changes. That is why in many countries industries, such as hospitality, that rely on foreigners face the most acute shortages. Politicians must be clear that closed borders will come with a painful price tag—or change tack


Corcoran, California

Subsidence caused by aquifer overuse

I have long held that man threatens its own existence through the abusive misuse of natural resources. This article looks at subsidence in the agricultural community of Corcoran, California. The Aral Sea should not have been allowed to dry up just to produce cotton for cheap jeans. At the risk of infuriating many, who ever thought that golf courses in the desert was a good idea? Excerpt:

Corcoran is sinking.

Over the past 14 years, the town has sunk as much as 11.5 feet in some places — enough to swallow the entire first floor of a two-story house and to at times make Corcoran one of the fastest-sinking areas in the country, according to experts with the United States Geological Survey.

Subsidence is the technical term for the phenomenon — the slow-motion deflation of land that occurs when large amounts of water are withdrawn from deep underground, causing underlying sediments to fall in on themselves.

Lois Henry with contributions from Ana Facio-Krajcer

DESIGN / UK – The Monocle Minute – May 27, 2021 

Constructive praise

Repair – Reuse – Recycle

For those who feel that architecture focuses too often on building from scratch, a new award from London-based charity Open City seeks to recognise the opposite: the “outstanding long-term strategic care of existing buildings, infrastructure and open spaces”. Open City, which made a name for itself through the popular Open House festival, argues that urban stewardship is the most important but least celebrated aspect of city-making. “Architecture remains one of the most carbon-intensive sectors in the economy,” says Maria Smith of international group Construction Declares, which is partnering on the award.

“The Stewardship Awards will celebrate those who are leading the change we need to see.” Applications are open until 17 June and an online briefing event at 15.00 London time today will detail the process. With architecture’s top honour, the Pritzker prize, having been awarded to refurbishment projects for the first time earlier this year, the industry’s new make-do-and-mend attitude is gaining some strong foundations.

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor  in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]

Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]

Vienna on Top Again

June 25, 2023

Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]

Large interior courtyards

From Hot Bedding to Superblocks

June 20, 2023

Many Viennese went from hot bedding to superblocks overnight. Could they even imagine  an apartment complex 1000 metres long built along two streets with even more massive landscaped courtyards? Could they conceive of 1400 apartment units built to house 5000 people on 56,000 square metres or 38 acres of land.  Or a vertical build-out that […]

Vienna – the World’s Most Livable City

June 16, 2023

Vienna had been a poor city even before the First World War. “Normal” housing arrangements  meant six to eight people sharing one room and a kitchen. Then, in early 1919, just after the Armistice,  the cost of living tripled in two months. Bed lodgers could no longer afford their 8-hours a day in a shared […]