Proof of the optimal size theorem

The definitive experiment, February 2008

Here’s the picture to accompany my comment on Nicholas’s post about big things. My point is just that, as a design dictum, ‘bigger is better’ does not supplant ‘all things in proportion’.

Malcolm Oliver, no doubt the undisputed authority in these matters, agrees with me.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
derrida derider
derrida derider
12 years ago

Oh yeah, the QM2 is butt-ugly. But I bet it’ll make a lot more money for its owners than the QE2.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
12 years ago

Yes, fair point in this case. Thx for the picture. I still would have liked to have seen the QM2 – which I haven’t managed to do, though I did trek out to see QM1 at Long Beach Cal many years ago. And remember seeing the corpse of QE1 in Hong Kong Harbour before they cut it up and took it away.

James Rice
12 years ago

I thought the main criticism of the Grollo Towers in Melbourne was more or less the “all things in proportion” principle, although not in relation to the building itself, which seemed fairly elegant, but in relation to the building’s relationship with the surrounding cityscape. And for lovers of symmetry, since it was to be built in the Docklands area, Melbourne’s skyline would have been lopsided from almost every angle for the next hundred years.

It might be worth noting that buildings aren’t the only things that are so big they make you go “Wow!”. I’m sure part of the attraction of natural formations like the ocean (or Port Phillip Bay) and mountains is the sheer, monumental size of these things.

One of the things I missed most when I first moved to Canberra (from Melbourne) was regular exposure to monumental things. There are no streets lined with skyscrapers in Canberra, no ocean… (Monumental egos don’t count – we’ve got plenty of those!) I do like the hilltop lookouts at the tops of Mount Ainslie and Red Hill, though, from which you get some sense of the immense landscape around you.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
12 years ago

I think the idea that the skyline itself would have been ‘lopsided’ is ridiculous. What city has deliberately engineered its skyline? Of course height limits have had the by-product of doing so, but if they were for that purpose alone it seems barmy to me. Can’t see the problem with a higgledy-piggledy skyline in Melbourne (as it is now and is in most cities) with one giant, quite elegant building down one end.

James Rice
12 years ago

Nicholas,

I think the idea that the skyline itself would have been ‘lopsided’ is ridiculous.

Can’t see the problem with a higgledy-piggledy skyline in Melbourne (as it is now and is in most cities) with one giant, quite elegant building down one end.

Well, some impressions of what Melbourne’s skyline would have looked like had the Grollo Tower been built can be seen here, here, and here. Needless to say, whether different skylines are beautiful or not is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

What city has deliberately engineered its skyline? Of course height limits have had the by-product of doing so, but if they were for that purpose alone it seems barmy to me.

I have no idea which cities have deliberately engineered their skylines – perhaps the city I’m currently in (Canberra). In any case, the question really is what should cities do, rather than what do cities actually do. At least I’m guessing that’s the question you’re interested in – what cities should and shouldn’t do isn’t something I mentioned.

But since you’ve mentioned it, in this case we have a project, the most visible building in a city of 3 or so million people, which has a large set of externalities associated with it in part because of its immense visual impact. Some kind of government regulation is one way of taking this large set of externalities into account. How do you think these externalities should be addressed, if not through some kind of government regulation? Or should we just not worry about them?

Perhaps it’s worth remembering that the Grollo Tower was, on the whole, an unpopular project amongst Melburnians at the time. Here’s an interesting article on that particular topic. You might be interested to note the gender difference in opposition to the tower – there is a gender difference, but it’s not overwhelming.

Poll Finds Few Friends For Grollo Mega-tower

Leon Gettler

The Age, the 8th of May, 1995

Most Melburnians don’t want developer Bruno Grollo’s $1.5 billion mega-tower and even fewer want to help him build it, according to an AGB-McNair AgePoll.

The poll found that only 38 per cent wanted Mr Grollo to put the world’s tallest building in Melbourne, while 53 per cent opposed the plan.

According to the poll, 83 per cent of people rejected Mr Grollo’s invitation to become part-landlords and invest $1000 for a share in the project. Only 13 per cent thought it was a good idea.

The telephone poll of 350 Melburnians was conducted on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It found that support for the 120-storey Grollo tower was strongest among 18-24 year-olds. Some 68 per cent of this group thought Melbourne was a good spot for the building. This compared with 62 per cent of people aged between 40 and 54 who thought this city was not the right place, as did 61 per cent in the 55-plus group.

The poll showed that females were more likely to oppose the proposal, with 56 per cent rejecting it, compared with 50 per cent of males.

While the poll found that 64 per cent of 18-24 year olds did not want to put their money in the project, 85 per cent of 25-39-year olds said no, as did 86 per cent of 40-54 year olds and 88 per cent of people over the age of 55.

It showed that 62 per cent of people on annual incomes of more than $40,000 disagreed with the proposal, compared with 50 per cent earning $25,000 to $40,000 a year.

Mr Grollo said last week that the building would not go ahead if the public was against it.

AGB McNair Age Poll

Do you agree that the Grollo Tower should be built in Melbourne?
Agree Disagree Uncertain
38% 53% 10%
Mr Grollo has suggested that one million Australians could invest
$1000 each to build the building. Would you invest $1000 for a
share in the project?
Yes No Uncertain
13% 83% 4%
Figures rounded to nearest whole number

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
12 years ago

Thanks for your response and the images James – and sorry for the rudeness – I was just letting myself go – and not intending disrespect.

I love the images, and think the disproportion makes a nice looking building more spectacular. I’ll display the pictures for you (below). But like you say it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

It’s also a good question as to how you manage externalities. In this case, for me anyway the proof of the pudding was in that we never got to eat it. If we ever got serious about aesthetics I’d have a very different view, but we have no aesthetic regulation, only anaemic substitutions for aesthetics like height limits.

If you meet the height limits it’s open slather. Now there may be a place for height limits, I expect there is, but height limits are imposed in a very rigid manner – if you build an ugly building within the height limit, no problem. If you want to do something a bit different and beautiful but it breaks the relevant number of centimetres (even if it adds amenity to the street – for instance by allowing more civic space below), you’re buggered. Sounds like pretty stupid regulation to me.

And I don’t really take the breach of height limits to be saying anything much about aesthetics. So when a magnificent building like this comes along, I’m afraid I don’t want to be stopping it with height limits.

Still, if the people didn’t want it to go ahead, that’s a reasonable reason for not going ahead I guess.

Here are the images – some or all of which seem to be represented at angles that seem to accentuate the disparity in size on the skyline.

[img]http://www.die-wolkenkratzer.de/pics/burj-dubai-05.jpg[/img] (It turns out the other two images are harder to display. NG)