A Word A Week Challenge – Square (“Luxury” Apartments in an Oil Boom) and a few tongue-in-cheek thoughts about squares

Posted: September 12, 2013 in Architecture, Commentary, Digitally Manipulated Images, Humor, Landscapes, North Dakota, Photography, Places, Random Thoughts
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Luxury Housing - ND Oil Boom

A square is an interesting geometric object and as usual serves as an interesting subject for the word a week photo challenge. The photo above shows in rather stark relief what is one of the most common uses of the square (or extended square otherwise known as a rectangle) – construction. In this case we have what appears to be the rapid construction of apartments, which I shall call “Luxury” apartments because they are located in the oil boom area of North Dakota where 800 square foot apartments have been known to rent for $2500 – $3500 per month (when they can be found at all) and since these units appear to be new who knows what rent the landlord will be able to demand. Personally, if I was paying in the neighborhood of say $4000 a month for an apartment I would think it should be a luxury apartment but as the realtors all say, price is based on three things: location, location and location.

Thoughts about squares vis-à-vis circles.

You might ask what is so interesting about a square? At first glance, I suspect most people would say not much. For example, a square self-evidentially lacks the elegant turn of a circle as, in the same manner, a sphere is generally going to be viewed as more beautiful than a box.  Further, while a square seems so, well, utilitarian the truth is that when it come to its ability to put in a good day’s work the circle (let’s call is a wheel here) wins hands down. If we were all moving around on squares they would likely be pushed over skids in the manner of the Egyptians who built the pyramids.  This is fine if you are a Pharaoh. However, without the circle, where is the pulley and the water wheel (critical for the Industrial Revolution) and eventually the steam engine. It seems to me that the world of squares in all likelihood the world would have to have waited for the ripple of sentient intelligence to course through some other species before we got to the technological wonders we experience today.

So why do I say that squares are so interesting? First and most important, squares are easily constructed. If you want to construct an apartment building such as the high-end luxury housing shown above you  will make it a box-like shape and not a sphere or a cylinder. This is because not only are boxes more easily constructed than spheres or cylinders, but the cost to construct them is likely lower. Second, while an extended circular shape, let’s call it a pole may be quite useful in moving rapidly though a fire house and in certain types of entertainment establishments catering generally to men, such devices are rarely safe for use by the elderly, the very young and people with certain illnesses and injuries. The box-like elevator is quite safe and is usable by all age groups (although some require supervision). I have never seen a circular elevator although it is possible that one might exist (my point here being they are quite rare if the exist). Further, it would be more difficult to build vertically without using the square because of the challenge of making steps out of circles or cylinders (okay maybe a few lumber workers  and others can during log-rolling contests walk on cylinders floating in water but generally going up and down stairs that are shaped out of round cylinders would be pretty tough. (Rather remarkably, there is a governing body for the sport of log-rolling with standardized rules, log sizes and the like.) Second, try getting a good night’s rest on a mattress that is made out of sphere. Forget it. Third, although a circle/sphere is the most efficient way to contain a given area/volume, it is not the most efficient way of packing most things. Squares (boxes) offer huge advantages over circles (spheres) in and most shippers have realized this. For example, there is the effort to grow square fruit to make it easier to ship. The rectangle is of course the poster child for efficient transportation by sea or rail – most people have seen at least pictures of the giant container ships filled to the brim and seemingly far above it with rectangular containers. There is a reason those containers aren’t cylindrical — the owner of the ship would be wasting huge amounts of space between the containers – space that he would otherwise be selling to someone else to transport their goods hither and yon.

So there you have it. Just a few moments of reflection allows us to see at least a bit of what makes squares interesting. There is of course much more, but I’ll leave that for another day.

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