Recently by Scott Gabriel Knowles:

A building is a compromise — a bundle of risks safe enough to use, but dangerous enough to regulate.

   

How tall is too tall, how safe is safe enough? Before September 11, Americans thought little about such questions. And then the most extraordinary buildings in New York City burned and collapsed in front of a worldwide audience. Though the Twin Towers had long been scrutinized for their vulnerabilities (especially after the 1993 bombing), no one — not even their harshest critics — spent much time contemplating whether they would collapse as a result of catastrophic fires. Once people got past the simple explanation of the disaster — “the terrorists did it” — a  much more difficult truth emerged. We trust that our buildings are safe without knowing much about them.

The work of establishing American building… More…

If Shanghai isn’t really China (as I was repeatedly told by Shanghainese), and the Expo isn’t really Shanghai (in but not of the metropolis, they also insisted), then I really have no clue where I spent 10 days last month. I ate Swiss fondue, bought a Kyrgyz felt hat, and had my passport stamped “Trinidad” by a young Chinese woman who never looked up from her text messaging. It was thrilling to visit North Korea and pretend the guard watching me was compiling a surveillance report on “the American with straw hat and a digital camera.” I think he really was. The replica of the Trojan Horse was undeniably creepy, hovering in the ominous blue light of a well-sacked mock-Troy. There was a parade every night and lines all day and the staff drilled and marched in military display. I was encouraged to consider the universality of 21st-century urban life… More…