Future Planning Committees

How far ahead are things planned? While it’s shocking to discover that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is primed to fill multiplexes until 2028, it’s not surprising to find that most major companies have long-term planning departments looking into what the markets of 2025 and beyond will look like. Pre-21st century futurology had the big millenial date to focus on – the perfect waypoint for achieving a certain goal (Transport 2000, for example, now the Campaign for Better Transport). 2020 is perhaps the next great ‘vision’ date, although it’s now too close to count as a long-range objective. It’s not hard to find plans for 2025 or even 2035 and 2040. Major infrastructure projects like transportation require long timescales and 2050 is now featuring pretty heavily, certainly in terms of planning for climate change, for example, or the London Infrastructure Plan.

Some cultural events are fixed (nearly) in stone, such as the Tokyo Olympics of 2020, the same year as Dubai’s World Expo, which precedes the 2022 World Cup in Qatar (allegedly). Wikipedia has a timeline of the near future, which tails off into mostly astronomical data by the end (and then segues into the timeline of the far future) and there’s also the much more dystopic (and obviously speculative) Future Timeline website. The above image is from System360, a tumblr.

Posted in history | Leave a comment

Don’t look back

Radio 4’s current book at bedtime, The Restoration of Otto Laird, abridged from the novel by Nigel Packer, is the Goldfinger-esque tale of an architect coming to terms with his past / related, Chisel and Mouse make sculptures and 3D prints of classic facades, old and new. Above, Willow Road in Hampstead.

Posted in architecture | Leave a comment

Bottomless cups

Floating Feasts, a wonderful piece about gluttony on the high seas, taking in demand, logistics, supply, infection and the technology that underpins life on the modern cruise ship:

There’s also a soft-drink-only package, which comes with an insulated cup. The cup has a radio-frequency identification chip in its base, which activates the ship’s Freestyle dispensing machines, introduced by the Coca-Cola Company a couple of years ago. The machines enable users to serve themselves more than a hundred different soft drinks and soft-drink combinations, and to add flavorings (such as orange, a favorite among passengers from the Baltics) that are otherwise unavailable in Coke products in the United States. In the soda-storage area, Brown showed me a Sprite Zero Freestyle cartridge. “It communicates directly with Coca-Cola headquarters, in Atlanta,” he said. “When it gets low, they will automatically generate a refill order for us to approve.”

Posted in ephemera | Leave a comment

Friday collection

DOS POP, the soundtrack to the games of your youth / CUMULUS is a new documentary about Imogen Heap / Spawn of Gerrymander: A Series, at Design Observer / Up Start is a student art competition / a bit more about the Balfron Tower, the latest chunk of concrete to be promised with physical and cultural rehabilitation / a big chunk of info (and fresh scans) on the Voynich Manuscript, everyone’s favourite visual mystery / be perverse, watch the new Sony 4k TV spot in 144px / Hatherley on the refurbished Imperial War Museum: ‘… narcissistic wallowing in fake poverty and barely coherent history as a way of avoiding any thought of how to drag ourselves out of our current, needless and far less egalitarian version of austerity’.

Posted in ephemera | Leave a comment

Round and round

Chelsea Hodson owns stuff. Marina Abramovic chronicled it / a beautiful sketch book by Kim Jung Gi / there is extreme mechanical beauty within: the Atari / Namco F-1 1976 arcade game (see above) / explode some songs; the process explained / a fine collection of images by photographer Joel Sternfeld / ceramics by Geng Xue / ‘A guidebook – and I use the term in as broad a sense as possible – is a proposal for action': David Knight on writing The Guide / installations by Cardiff and Miller / Lapham’s Quarterly has redesigned its website, and it’s beautiful / music: Gong keyboardist Tim Blake / abstract soundscapes by Chimères.

Posted in games | Leave a comment

Slice of life

Natalie Luder’s Fou Lard is 100% silk “Crèpe de Chine”, digitally printed to masquerade as thinly sliced meat: ‘The French word for a silk scarf is foulard. The word is composed by fou (insane) and lard (bacon).’

Posted in art | Leave a comment

To boldly go

In this era of funny-shaped mp3 players and Bluetooth speakers it’s refreshing to find a company still building music boxes. At least, that’s what the MusicMachine 2 claims to be (via Design42day). Designed by Maximilian Büsser and friends, a company better known for its elaborate timepieces, this is actually the second Music Machine. As before, the mechanism is crafted and manufactured by the Swiss music box specialists REUGE (known their mechanical bird automatons, apparently). The choice of music is also striking:

MusicMachine 2 doesn’t just look unconventional; it plays unconventional melodies as well: Themes from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek, on one ‘channel'; Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven, The Rolling Stones’ Angie and The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go? on the other. Small wonder: MM2 was conceived and designed by MB&F and its songs have been selected by their rock ‘n’ roll founder and sci-fi fan, Maximilian Büsser.

Posted in music | Leave a comment

Diplomatic bags

How much every embassy in London is worth, a speculative look at the value of non-sovereign land in the capital, conducted by Spears. From North Korea’s Islington semi (value c£750k) to the Americans’ £600m new structure in Vauxhall (their soon-to-be-vacated tranche of Mayfair sold for £500m), the total value is something in excess of £4bn (set against an estimated total value of £1.5 trillion for the city’s entire housing stock). ‘Russia pays only £1 a year, thanks to a 1991 agreement; conversely, the UK pays one rouble a year for our embassy in Moscow.’

Posted in architecture | Leave a comment

Drifting a bit

Dan Hicks has an ‘occasional blog’ about interesting things like archaeology, museums and material culture / the Walker Art Center has a great cache of blogs / what’s your best nursing ghost story? / Razor Crazy Cart XL. 3m09s for the good stuff / the Grateful Dead tune their instruments for all eternity / Michelle Farro is an artist / Tim Allen is an artist / ambient, spacious sounds and music from New Amusements / Iggy Pop on music and the music industry / NASA has a soundcloud (via MeFi).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thinking small

Tim Dunn is the UK’s foremost expert on model villages. His weblog, The Model Villager, is a bit sparse at the moment but he has an excellent piece on Bekonscot Model Village and Railway in Buckinghamshire in the latest issue of the C20 Society Magazine. Bekonscot claims to be ‘stuck in a 1930s time warp’, but as Dunn reveals, most of its structures date from much more recently and its current picturesque Tudor stylings actually replaced rather more modern models that were deemed out of keeping with the quaint miniature perfectionism of its owners. He’s also the creator of a superb map of the UK’s model villages, including one of our favourites, Tucktonia, which has long since vanished beneath a real village.

Posted in architecture, history | Leave a comment

Industrial landscapes

Fire Face’s Small Radios Big Television is ‘a game about exploring digital places stored in analog media’. It has a beautiful aesthetic and sound design, although don’t expect swift and simple answers (via RPS) / A sale could end man’s time amid Packard Plant’s ruins, the tale of Allan Hill, the last resident of one of Detroit’s industrial gems, an old factory said to be one of the largest ruins in America. Check this then and now comparison and a Flickr set (via Autoblog).

Posted in architecture, games, history | Leave a comment

To keep heat flash out

One in Five‘ was an information leaflet issued by the Women’s Voluntary Service for Civil Defence in February 1957. A starkly terrifying document, it attempted to reduce the impact of the hydrogen bomb by suggesting that a bit of intensive house-work and careful organisation could somehow minimise the immediate effects and aftermath: ‘the nation would be strengthened if one-in-five women knew the simple things they could do to mitigate effects of nuclear warfare.’ Our copy is annotated in a precise hand by someone attending a well-meaning talk on ‘things to do’. ‘Drifting dust is known as the fall-out’, she writes, ‘every particle gives out gamma rays. There will be Royal Observer points at intervals of about 10 miles. To Keep Heat Flash Out. 1. Lime wash windows and skylights (3 coats on outside) 2. Or have shutters (white washed) or angle boards. A fire retarding solution can be bought for materials (or can be made).’ And so on.

Posted in ephemera, history | Leave a comment

Shining light on a conspiracy

The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy tells the tale of how early bulbs were essentially under-engineered in order to keep sales at a healthy level. This ‘conspiracy’ was set in motion by the Phoebus Cartel, an affiliation of big bulb manufacturers to plan obsolescence into their products and set bulb life at around 1,000 hours. Before the cartel’s actions gained traction, lightbulbs were tough old things that could last for a substantial amount of time – the famous 4-watt Centennial Bulb at Livermore Fire Department in California hasn’t been switched off for over a hundred years, becoming a celebrity object in its own right (Bulbcam). Some more light bulb Methuselahs. Related – we’ve recently been trying the LIFX ‘smart’ lightbulb, presumably a first step towards that all-consuming ‘internet of things’ everyone keeps talking about. The idea of linking light bulbs into your wi-fi network is not an intuitive one, but it could catch on.

Posted in design | Leave a comment

Driving and filing

Madle.org, one of those sites so filled with things (in this car car-related, although there’s also a sideline looking at cars on bags) that it’s impossible to know where to start) / The Paper City is a well-observed tumblr by architect Henry Stephens, pulling together imagery like this: Mies big and small / The Aphex Face, or how to embed imagery in your audio files, first practiced by The Aphex Twin himself / jog something with Kept Ephemera / video art by Petra Cortright / Light Reading, a weblog by author Jenny Davidson / ‘Left’ is the new album by Morton Valence and we highly recommend it.


Max Creasy takes photographs of contemporary architecture and makes photographic still lives, never losing sight of the oft-ignored relationship between buildings and people. His side project Nothing Matters ‘takes the narrative of image and text and connects it with the numerical rationale of filing systems through the camera and books. Pictures are selected from his own photographic archive, with their automatically generated camera file number, and referenced against the same sequence of digits from the Dewey Decimal System of the local Hackney Library. This generates a book that creates a relationship with the image that is random, fictitious and yet logical.’

Posted in art, ephemera | Leave a comment

Unsorted ephemera

Big bundle of things to sift through / Adventures in Stationery is a book by James Ward, a man who claims to like boring things / flickr’s Stationery Junkies pool / a fine selection of found favourites at Proof, the National Geographic’s excellent photo site / This isn’t Happiness points towards the fabulous Deep Space Rugs by Schönstaub. Walk on a tapestry of stars and all that / related, Andromeda and the Milky Way Collide! / The Maps We Wandered Into As Kids / see also Maps on the Web, which collates the best cartographic infographics / Books that allude to books that do not exist / FY, amps and pedals / related, pedal boards / Philip Greenspun has put thousands and thousands of photographs online, many of which are absolutely fascinating / Daniel Eatock’s pen portraits at Eatock / SE/SW, an online exploration of South London. Includes a great photograph of the fabulous Dawson Heights / on the other side of Europe, An Afternoon in Banjica, downtown Belgrade / and over to another continent: use the Google to watch Detroit slide into decay / or use Google to explore the world’s most dangerous worlds / also slightly depressing, Urban-Exploring Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch / sci-fi influenced paintings by David Palumbo / fine taxidermy by Sinke Van Tongeren / more Russian ruins at Sovietgoner.

Posted in ephemera | Leave a comment