Saturday, September 25, 2010


To Swanson & Briggs Architectural Firm, greetings.

You are going to design me a scale model of a building.

I want the people to be about an inch = 6'. I have some rough sketches accompanying to get you started. You're going to take it pro bono.

But, you might ask, why would we do such a thing?

Here's how it goes down:

We're doomed. I don't mean in terms of global warming. I don't mean fossil fuels. I don't even mean molemen.

All civilizations fall. Take your long-runners, like Egypt. Egypt was essentially unparalleled for 3,000 years as a united empire. China, with some major gaps, was an empire for roughly the same length.

But we must mind the gaps. Some of those gaps were centuries-long. I'm not saying that America is going away for ever; but we are going to go away for a while. This is particularly interesting since we live in a time, the first moments of human history, when we are, in fact, a global civilization.

You know what's going to happen when the U.S. falls. Hoping that nukes aren't involved it won't be the stone age. It's not going to be Mad Max. There'll be population fluctuation, fighting, and, I predict, a sort of enlightened patchwork of princedoms.

It's going to happen fast, so the past won't be lost this time. Americans are too proud of their individual cultures and states to stay unified during such a disaster. There will be war as some inevitably try and take over. They won't succeed. Without modern states in place there's no way to hold such territory. Much less acquire it grass-roots when your neighbor is as strong as you.

When I think of enlightened monarchies my mind always goes to Spain of al-Andalus. The gardens, libraries, craftsmen, and learned princes ruling increasingly small territories.

That's what I picture: a modern al-Andalus. There will still be electricity (solar private generators and batteries) there will still be most of the background stabilizing ideals: egalitarianism, free speech, tolerance. Given that it is a kingdom, though, I predict some conservatism that's been dormant will arise.

These will be small, feudal, communities. Palaces built with modern designs. The reintroduction of the long-forgotten haggle in the market places.

When this goes down, in our lifetime (oh you betcha!) I want to be on top. I have every intention of holding one of these communes as a leader. And so that is what you are going to design for me: my palace.

Given the Sultanate quality of the world, and in my part to help stabilize the population after a severe loss, the palace works as a sort of John Dewey-inspired harem. There is the head lady, and I figure 24 other ladies who besides being mistresses will double as staff. In the spirit of enlightenment each lady gets their own studio suite. This is the bulk of the house, naturally.

If I know you, and I think I do, you're interested. You want to see this building as much as I do. It does occur to me however that you're probably busy. You have other projects.

Forget them. They're not as important as this. If you go down in history as the architect of this place it'll all be worth it. At least put the other stuff on the back burner.

It's a challenge. I want it to look finished, detailed, and structurally sound. When is the next time a job like this will fall into your lap?

I'll be in New York the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'll expect my model to have been started, if not completed.


Richard S. Johnson

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