The only Shalampaxian with any knowledge of building design is
Decayingdeadbird, who earned a PhD in architecture by answering an
email message about an online university program that, as the email
stated, "doesn't require any coursework, reading, essays, theses or
tests." Naturally, we turned to her to solve our architectural
problems. (See architecture.)
Putting her 30 minutes of architecture education to good use, Decayingdeadbird immediately identified the answer to the question of how to squeeze housing for our entire population onto our tiny island, while still leaving room for a small coconut palm patch. She designed one large building that occupies the western two-thirds of the island. It employs straight lines and 90° angles exclusively, but the building staggers narrower toward the west in order to make fuller use of the island's oval shape (see geography).
To ensure that the building would stand up to our near-apocalyptic gales, Decayingdeadbird called for the exterior walls to be built of thick granite blocks. Holes were drilled horizontally and vertically through the blocks. When an appropriate height of one section of a wall was assembled, heavy steel reinforcing bars were run through the holes and cemented in place.
To maximize interior space, Decayingdeadbird specified that the interior walls should be built using the thinnest of aluminum sheets. This construction has the unfortunate effect of not only providing no acoustic insulation, but actually amplifying sound. Consequently, when two lovers whisper sweet nothings in each other's ears, all Shalampaxians in the building at the time — which typically means all Shalampaxians — start gossiping about it immediately. To maintain our privacy, we usually sit quietly in our apartments listening to the television through noise-canceling headphones. When a great many lovers are whispering a great many sweet nothings in their lovers' ears the only way the rest of can carry on a conversation over the ambient cacophony is to use a phone that works through our television headsets. This is necessary even when the conversation participants are sitting next to each other.
Decayingdeadbird put lots of windows in the outer walls because she assumed that, since most of the condo units were windowless interior ones, the windows would greatly increase the value of the outer units. Scholars could fill great tomes with explanations of how wrong Decayingdeadbird was about this. (Scholars are always eager to fill great tomes with seemingly intellectual gibberish that the rest of us don't care one fig about. Don't ask us why. We don't understand it either.) The fact is that the weather is so dismal that people would rather spend all of their time watching television, glancing at pictures or staring at bare stone walls rather than spend one instant looking out the window. On most days, our newspaper is filled with classified ads offering enormous wads of cash to anyone willing to take the outer units off the owners' hands.
To ensure that they will withstand the winds, the windows are made of thick bulletproof glass and mounted in heavy steel frames that are cemented into deep grooves cut into the surrounding granite blocks assembled around them. Decayingdeadbird didn't think that hinges or sliding mechanisms would be able to withstand the forces arrayed against them, so our windows don't open.
Because Decayingdeadbird mistakenly thought that it would be impossible to find curtains, blinds or shutters that were fireproof, she provided privacy by using one-way glass that shields the interior from prying eyes under all lighting conditions. From the outside, these perfectly reflective windows flawlessly mirror the surroundings, which is extremely depressing for anyone caught out there.
To accommodate Shalampaxians' aversion to diaper-changing, Decayingdeadbird designed some units specifically for families with infant children. Each of these apartments has a built-in box filled with child-safe kitty litter. Infants, who are always left naked, spend almost of their time in this box until they are fully toilet trained. When they poop or pee, the parents briefly lift the child and press a button to activate a rake that extends across the width of the box. A motor moves the rake along the length of the box, scooping any offensive clumps into a trough. A gush of water washes the clumped excrement and/or urine into a sewage drain. Because these are all outer units with windows, families with newborns have no trouble finding one that's available.
Fire is always a major concern because destruction of our one building would leave everyone homeless. Therefore, no flammable materials are allowed in the residences. Even our clothing is made from fireproof cloth.
Our library (all books must be kept and read in the library) and communal kitchens are situated in rooms that have double walls of thicker aluminum sheets. A wide layer of asbestos sits between the two walls. These rooms are protected by double fire doors. A locking system makes it impossible to open both doors simultaneously. If the smoke and heat detectors located between the doors detect a fire when one of the doors is open, powerful motors immediately close it, crushing and cutting in two anyone in its path. Both doors are then automatically locked and fire-smothering chemicals douse the flames before the outer door can be unlocked. Mourning over anyone caught in the fire zone begins immediately.
Our fire regulations require that pictures on the walls of the housing units be tightly sandwiched between two sheets of special glass that can withstand exceptionally high temperatures without melting or cracking. The two plates of glass must be clamped together tightly enough to eliminate any air that would allow the pictures to burn.