Tag Archives: remembering

remembering to forget

As a society, we have forgotten how to forget. We are addicted to storing everything forever. Why?

New Atlas had an article recently on the demise of skyscrapers in favor of new ones which starts off,

The Great Pyramid of Giza has stood at a height of around 460 feet for 4,500 years, but these days we are ripping down tall structures without even batting an eyelid. A new study looking at the average lifespan of demolished skyscrapers illustrates just how quick we are to pull the trigger, raising the question of how we could reimagine tower design so that they last centuries rather than decades.

I ask, first: why should we design things to “last centuries rather than decades”?

Yes, the future impact of decisions made today must be carefully evaluated (“concrete cannot be recycled, and most of the tallest buildings in the world use concrete for their main structural system”).

But designing for “centuries” is not the answer.

Or, at least, it’s not the answer.

It’s not a panacea – though there may be some occasional use cases for expecting a structure to last generationally.

But since time immemorial, buildings have mostly been built with at least an unconscious knowledge they would not exist “forever”.

Sure, there are interesting historical sites (such as these now-destroyed Mayan ruins) that we might have liked to keep. But reuse of old materials is part and parcel of civilizational progress.