online: 27 may 2004
modified: 27 may, 2, 10 june 2004

26 may 2004 experience of the new

19:54 Greyish blueish sky, a jumbo climbing above cloud becomes visible for a few seconds and the thunderous roar of its engines is audible over several square kilometres... Yes, I've gone from wanting to design aeroplanes when I was a boy to attempting to design 'everything' 60 years later ... and the scale and complexity of the attempt is teaching me that we should proceed more by letting go and dispersion than by command and control and concentration...

I remember the late 60s when Joseph Esherick* was commissioned to design airports to accommodate the immense size of the first jumbos, each carrying up to 450 passengers, and how he, and others without experience of such a doubling or tripling of scale, doubted if it was wise or even possible. Environmentalists and air safety people predicted disasters of various kinds but the result was quite different. Safe travel at a lower price over immense distances was welcomed by many and the predicted danger and noise and airport congestion were accepted or overcome. And the effects on global travel and the internationalising of life are immense... for good and ill.

...and soon there will be superjumbos carrying up to 600 people - designed (according to the manufacturer's website) in collaboration with airport authorities 'for minimum change'...

...I'm not trying to put new technology beyond criticism, only to remind myself that our reactions to it have to be informed by experience before they make sense. That is the logic of the experimental city, or the imaginary world, or any adequate response to our unfamiliar creations.

As I wrote that, a woman I don't know called 'hello' as she walked by - at 25 metres. Is there something about the sight of someone writing on a park bench that arouses fellowship? Or do I look particularly harmless as I sit here (writing thoughts that might well disturb and to arouse everyone)?

Another noisy jumbo climbs eastward into the wind behind cloud... And yes, I prefer walking.

20:40 It's getting dark and I'm feeling cold now - I'm going.

*The late Joseph Esherick. He practiced architecture in San Francisco. With the guidance of C West Churchman and Russell Ackoff he endeavoured to combine architecture with operations research. He is author of 'Problems of the design of a design system' in Conference on Design Methods, London 1962, edited by J Christopher Jones and D G Thornley, Pergamon Press, Oxford, London, New York, 1963, pages 75-81. In this paper he wrote of the dangers of a more scientific design process:
we may ... so rigidly structure our enquiry, our analysis, and our decisions that all hope of freedom of decision by the man we design for is gone.

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