Sunday, November 28, 2004

Meadows, Randers & Behrens:

The other day on NPR there was a piece about the new MOMA in New York, and how they had greatly expanded their available space to exhibit art. What struck me was the fact that they had remodeled only recently (in the '70's , I think), and that this time they had made sure they would have space for a longer time before another remodeling/expansion was needed.

It made me think that there are certain institutions or pieces of social infrastructure that are particularly vulnerable to stress from exponentially increasing populations, and others that are more adaptable, and scale well.

Examples of things that scale well fall into a class of things that are easily (and sometimes unfortunately) replicable: roads, housing tracts, and shopping malls.

Other classes of things really only can exist as single instances: subway stations, heads of state, and collections of original art. All of these are individual organizations or institutions that are supposed to serve the whole community, city, or nation. The only way yhey can continue to serve an exponentially increasing population is by increasing in size themselves (and when I refer to heads of state, I don't mean to imply that presidents become portly, but to the fact that the Executive Branch, and specifically the Executvie Office of the President has to deal with more issues with more or less the same sized staff).

I suspect that it was vastly easier to double the number of malls than to double the size of the MOMA in New York.

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