The only house Zaha Hadid ever designed

Zaha Hadid Architects interests me because, Zaha Hadid having herself died, it is now run by a libertarian, Patrik Schumacher. People like this are rare, and we libertarians must make much of them. Also, they are interesting.

So, this house interests me:

That looks rather small. Rather disappointing.

But look at this:

That being, I presume, a faked up photo beforehand of how it was going to look. Now you’re talking. Because of the rather odd procedure I found myself using to get that photo from here (where I found the above two images) to here, I found myself emphasising the darkness of the place where this house was going to be built, making it look even more like a spaceship than, I presume, it actually does.

The bit at the top is not the Bridge of Starship Enterprise. No.

The 36,000-square-foot home, formally dubbed “Capital Hill Residence,” has many unique features, but one of the most outstanding may be its narrow tower, and what it supports — namely, the master bedroom, situated over 100 feet high. The tower’s supporting column includes a glass elevator and staircase.

Now that’s a Master Bedroom. Feminists: cower in terror. I love that it’s a woman that designed this. Would any male architect now dare to create such a thing? I also wonder, did Zaha Hadid ever have any run-ins with feminists? That would have been fun to see.

I particularly enjoyed the bit where Zaha Hadid first got the job, from the Russian oligarch who paid for all this:

“She drew a sketch on the napkin and I said, ‘You’re hired.'”

Classic Because-We-Can! architecture. In my version, La Hadid does her sketch on the back of a restaurant menu, but otherwise, it’s just like I said.

More urban picturesque

To add to the collection. Although the second one here is maybe more urban gothic, because in it, a piece of innocent roof clutter looks more like some kind of science fiction monster:

Those were taken at the top of my block of flats, way back in 2006, just as I was starting to get the hang of this photography thing, both in the sense of what was worth photoing, and what would photo well.

I often read about how photos “communicated the excitement felt by” the photoer, and am typically skeptical. If the photoer was excited, it was because he was excited by the photos he’d taken. They made him excited rather than vice versa. Nevertheless I do recall being very excited by my first visit with a camera to that roof, which for a long time I was not able to get to, because the vital door was locked. And the above photos were taken on one of the earliest visits to this spot.

On the whole, the close-up roof clutter proved more diverting than the rather distant views of the tops of Big Things, with dreary vernacular boxes getting in the way in the foreground. The fun I get from photoing Things Big or Small is when they are combined and seen in new ways. But every time I go up to that roof now, everything looks pretty much as it always did. On account of everything being pretty much as it always was.

Flying cars are stupid

Apparently some idiots in Japan have tested something they describe as a flying car. What it really is is an aircraft capable of lifting a car. Big bloody deal. Why would you want to combine a car with an aircraft? They’re two different things. Cars are compact, to avoid occupying too much road. Aircraft reach outwards into the air, with big propellers or with big wings, to grab hold of the air and push themselves upwards. Two totally different things. Oh, you can build a “flying car”, that is to say a car which always carries a huge set of wings or propellers around with it. To put it another way, you can make an airplane capable of travelling on a very long runway shared with lots of other vehicles, by, you know, folding up its wings or propellers really really tightly. Yes. And you can make a baby pram that can also mow your lawn, really quietly so as not to enrage the baby. You can make a toaster that can also do the ironing. You can make an umbrella that doubles up as a snooker cue. But what the hell is the point of doing two such distantly related things, both very badly? Why not just do each thing separately, and each thing well?

I tried googling “flying cars are stupid”, for the first time just now. The least silly thing I read was this called that exact thing, by someone called James McNab. McNab ignores the point I just made and makes a whole other point, which is that flying cars would need to be driven by people as careful and skilful as pilots are now, rather than people as careful and skilful as car drivers are now. “You can’t handle flying cars!”, is how he puts it, referring to that movie where Jack Nicholson says “You can’t handle the truth!” Which, now I think about it is actually the same point as my point, but put in another way. Why waste a pilot driving a mere bus with hideously low mileage for half his working day, merely because, if you are rich enough and stupid enough, you could preside over such an arrangement? Makes no sense. We’re back to cars and planes being different.

Another big flying car idiocy is that flying cars will get rid of traffic jams. No, they’ll just create bigger and jammier traffic jams in the sky.

McNab also makes another point, which concerns why people who ponder innovation often start thinking that innovation has slowed down and may soon stop.

One source of innovation pessimism would be if you “invent” something that you think ought to have happened by now, like a flying car, note that it still does not exist, and say that therefore “innovation” itself has stopped. No mate. It was just a stupid idea, that did not happen for bloody good reasons. There’s plenty of non-stupid innovation going on nowadays. You are just fixating on stupid stuff. McNab accuses Peter Thiel, no less, of this non sequitur, when he goes from the non-arrival of flying cars to the slowing down of all innovation.

Interestingly, the writer of a book called The Rational Optimist has since written a book about innovation which ends rather pessimistically, in just this kind of way that McNab talks about. Matt Ridley’s fixation is on genetically modified crops, which don’t now work as well as they could because a lot of governments don’t like them. But those same governments have allowed plenty of other new stuff to happen. One of the features of a successful innovation is that it doesn’t piss off politicians too much. It sneaks under the political radar, and by the time the politicians have noticed it, the people already have millions of the things.

As you can surely tell, I am stream-of-consciousness-ing about this, thinking in internetted words. Which is one of the things this blog is for.

“A revival of ultrafast supersonic passenger jet travel is inching closer to reality …”

Boom:

Will the fake photos of the Boom Supersonic XB-1 ever get real? Will I live long enough to photo Concorde 2.0 over London? It’s starting to look like they and I might.

How noisy will it be? I absolutely do not care how loud it is, but others will, so actually: I suppose I do.

The USA aerospace industry is having a magnificent renaissance now, and of course I have libertarian friends who have been chattering to each other about little else for years. I agree with them, even as I have taken more of an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it line. But now that we’re starting to see it, this could be the big take on 2020 when the historians look back at it. Plagues and riots? What’s new about that? They’ll surely get a mention, if only for the panic-stricken reactions. But, meanwhile: Supersonic travel is back! Space travel is back! Last time around, as I now enjoy saying, it was money no object Cold War dick-waving. Now it’s getting real.

Unicorn island

According to this January report, this has just begun being built, in Chengdu, China:

This great agglomeration of Things was designed by Patrik Schumacher, for Zaha Hadid Architects. (Although maybe that just means that Schumacher was in charge of all the people who actually designed it. I genuinely don’t know about that, i.e. what “designed by” means in a context like this.)

It will be most interesting to see how the relationship between ZHA and China develops in the next few years. Will the above weirdness ever get finished in the above form? I rather doubt it, somehow.

Meanwhile I note with approval that ZHA have managed to make designboom refer to them as ZHA rather than zha, despite designboom’s capital letters phobia (“patrik schumacher”, etc.). There should be a campaign to start calling designboom dESIGN bOOM.

Will AI become intelligent enough to figure out how to perfectly organise our economies?

Alex Tabarrok:

No …

The main reason is that AIs will themselves be part of the economy. …

One of the things I’m doing today is getting rid of lots of interesting links that have hung about on my computer since I don’t know when, without actually getting rid of them, in other words by putting them here. The idea was I’d have clever things to say, somewhere, about each of them, but all I really have to say about all of them is: Hmmm interesting.

Scott Adams asks …

His question, and his answer:

If invading space aliens shut down the economy of Earth and forced us to become breeding slaves for our conquerors, how many deaths would humanity be willing to risk to regain its freedom? If your guess is fewer than a billion, it sounds low to me.

Cheer up mate, it may never happen.

Bryan Caplan – Hayek Memorial Lecture – photos and an instant summary

Earlier this evening, I (and a great many other people) attended the 19th Hayek Memorial Lecture:

Photo 1: I got there very early, hence all the empty seats.

The Official Photographer was Jean-Luc Picard. Not really, but photo 3 makes him look a bit like the noted space voyager.

Photo 4: The (large) room fills up.

Photo 5: Celeb sighting. Dominic Frisby. And is that his dad Terence he’s talking with? I think it just might be.

Photo 6: Syed Kamall, a recent IEA appointment. He gave someone a prize.

Photo 7: IEA boss Mark Littlewood does the intro.

Photos 8 and 9: Professor Bryan Caplan gives the lecture.

Photo 10: The first questioner was Vera Kichanova, one of the very few people in the audience whom I recognised.

Photo 11: Someone else photoing from the audience.

So, what did Caplan say? Briefly: poor country governments are often to blame for their bad economic policies, rich countries are often to blame for their bad immigration policies, and poor people, especially poor people in rich countries, are often to blame because they make bad decisions, especially bad decisions which hurt their children. That last one is the one you aren’t allowed to say, but most people still think this. When questioned about this, Caplan pointed out that refusing ever to blame poor people for their poverty is often a cause of bad policies. Instead of doing nothing (because it should be up to many poor people to help themselves), governments often do bad things. To “help”.

Another interesting thing about this lecture was that big multi-national enterprises came out of the story very well, basically for doing very well in poor countries, thereby proving that lots of people in poor and otherwise badly governed and badly managed countries could be doing far better, if they got the chance. That being why restrictive immigration policies do so much harm. They are keeping people who could do far better out of well governed countries.

There was also a guy videoing everything, so you won’t have to rely for ever on me to learn what Caplan said.