Castles in the sky

A Guardian report into the wretched 48-storey edifice that is St George Wharf Tower (official site) illustrating the off-shore ownership and generally vacant state of the building. Interesting snippet: ‘At 23,000sq ft, the Tower penthouse is 24 times larger than the average new three-bedroom home in the UK. It was bought in May 2014 but has yet to be lived in. As part of a lengthy refurbishment, Guriev is understood to be installing a Russian Orthodox chapel that has had to be carried piece by piece up the elevators.’ The same man owns Witanhurst in Highgate, the subject of a fascinating New Yorker article, House of Secrets. There was more human warmth on the Vauxhall site back when it was a Cold Store.


Related. Nova Alea, via RPS, which describes it as a game that ‘explores/demonstrates gentrification and property market forces through a tiny patch of city land, its skyscrapers infecting one another with wealth as they climb, at first unimpeded, then with restrictions designed to slow or stem the tide of gamified buying and selling)’. Gentrification, played out diagramatically / definitely related: Infractus, architects Smout Allen on exploring whether the life, character and value of a building truly can be captured via 3D scanning, in response to Margaret Hodge’s suggestion that built heritage could be digitally captured in order that Robin Hood Gardens, etc., might be demolished.

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The beat of the drum

Cartographic London, an old post from the turn of the decade / London in 1870 / Celia Reisman paints imaginary suburban landscapes / Tom Tom Magazine, ‘the only magazine in the world dedicated to female drummers’ / architecture magazine the Real Review gets a new website / the ‘Coincidence Project’ by photographer Denis Cherim / the 40-minute car-chase from the original Gone in 60 Seconds / building Benny’s spaceship / nearly twenty years after the seminal DFW essay, cruise liners continue to operate as fantastical floating spaces for writers to muse.

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Worlds apart

Fantastical worlds created by the artist Simon Stålenhag / converting a Mercedes into a Rolls-Royce, Kazakhstan-style. See also the Geely GE, or this Nissan conversion, Lincoln conversion and Chrysler bodykit. Most of which are collected on this page of Phantom fakes / Daniel Benneworth-Gray’s Some Magazines celebrates the art of cover design.

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Raise the roof higher

A (partly used?) church for sale on Foulness Island / related: The New English Landscape, always worth revisiting / Andy creates alternate histories of American car design as well as offering pithy visual critiques of current trends / life drawing by David Longo / depicting the super-rich on TV – who gets it right? / music: Help me destroy our forefathers with Future Noise / Cold Pumas / the story of the Anti-Concorde Project / The London Column, a look back on the capital / changes in zoning, etc., mean that 40 Percent of the Buildings in Manhattan Could Not Be Built Today / A Scarlett Tracery, music and more / Four more ways the CIA has meddled in Africa / Neither here nor there, a weblog.

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Vultures circling the Square

A short history of death on EastEnders / the Urban Lab at UCL / Playboy Magazine and the Architecture of Seduction / interview with Todd Saunders / long read and interview with incoming CEO Brendan Bechtel on how the world’s infrastructure gets shaped / the sad demolition of Bruce Goff’s Bavinger House / another paean to London Brutalism.

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The city’s spiky skyline

One of our new favourite sites, Development Aesthetics looks at the culture of billboard imagery, glossy renders and lifestyle photography that surrounds the many hundreds of new residential developments ‘reshaping’ ‘vibrant’ neighbourhoods in London and elsewhere. ‘Proof, were it still needed, that selling a new development in London – whether commercial or residential – now has little to nothing to do with the qualities of the building and everything to do with the real or imagined qualities of the surrounding area.’ / closely related, 50 Percent Balfron has been set up to monitor the twisting pathway that a building takes from council housing to private development, a less-than-transparent process replete with accusations of ‘artwashing‘ and the ongoing, relentless and seemingly irreversible demonisation of gentrification. There must be a better way, and glory awaits the organisation that discovers it / also related, the exhibition Blueprint for Living looks at the Fitzhugh Estate in Wandsworth, built in 1956 and still going strong.


Other things. Catherine Baker on the politics and aesthetics of Eurovision. Altogether now, ‘Love, Love, Peace, Peace / the miserable future of universal facial recognition software. No good can come of this: the Russian art of meta-stalking / the Google Art Camera (via MeFi) / the Buchla make modular electronic musical instruments / a history of weird music online / the blog of the BA in Spatial Design at the London College of Communication / a Peckham Festival is afoot / views of changing London by Mr Cladding.

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Towering or tottering

In the same vein as BCM’s recent Brutalist London Map is the new Art Deco London Map / a project that falls somewhere in the middle, the Tate’s new Switch House is now just a month from opening. See also our gallery of the building’s construction / Bunkerama, a photographic survey of France’s lingering WWII bunkers, a project by Jason Guilbeau / republished, Michael Sorkin’s Skyscrapers from A to Z, originally published in 1991 / 10 projects that look to a future of robot-built architecture / Etch a Sketch art from PrincessEtchaSketch / ‘The Feminist Stiletto?‘ Can high tech high heels from Thesis Couture make style and symbolism less painful? ‘Heels, indeed, are thought to be the cause of much of the roughly $3.5 billion that women in the United States spend each year on foot surgeries.’

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The Association of American Publishers records that by 1984, between 40 and 50 percent of American authors were using word processors‘: The New Republic reviews Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing. The Track Changes Tumblr (via MeFi) / related The Most Dangerous Writing App. Work fast, or lose / see also the Freewrite, a ‘smart typewriter’ that promises to be a ‘distraction-free writing tool’ (via The Atlantic) / also related, Guide to Computing, a set of vintage prints offered by Docubyte and INK.

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Shrouded in mystery

A few links about NK’s wretched Ryugyong Hotel, unfinished, unloved and potentially doomed to stay exactly as it until such time as it can be turned into a ghoulish museum of the regime / happier things: let’s get swimming, contribute to the campaign to bring Peckham Lido back to life / related, Peckham in Vogue / the loneliest plant in the world / the most influential gadgets / an interactive study of the pollution crisis facing the Ganges / the world of high-end coffee / an auction of fabulous Bande Dessinée / ranking Radiohead / architectural paintings by Dean Monogenis / China Girls / Leader Ladies, ‘the photographs of (most often) women that sometimes appear in the countdown that begins every reel of motion picture film meant for exhibition, often accompanied by color bars’. More information / ‘Archiving Our Online Communities, ‘On the closing and archiving of‘.

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Stripped back

Designboom on the New York model created by artist Spencer Lowell / save Oslo’s Y-Block, a building by Erling Viksjø / the Futuro House at Central St Martins. More / the landscapes of Uncharted 4 / art by Jules de Balincourt / revisiting the Wayback Machine, the font of nostalgia / cars reduced to bare branding at Auto Icons.

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Yet more then and now

Pearl River Delta, then and now / London During the Blitz: Then and Now Photographs / the Peckham Peculiar on Nunhead Cemetery / beautiful animated environments by Carl Burton / the Peckham Zine Club, illustration / Unstuck Pixels, retro gaming and other imagery / global submarine cable map / recommended music: Ratboy / Tim Forrest’s E & A, a blog about art and antiques / The Red List collates and presents visual inspiration.

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Side by side

The Subtle Design Features That Make Cities Feel More Hostile / gallery upon gallery of pristine 70s and 80s metal for sale by KGF Classic Cars / Ye Olde Medieval Tube Map (via Kottke) / see also Side by Side maps, old and new (London, for example) / Cate Blanchett in spoof tourist brochure for Orkney’s ‘Mama Westray’ / ‘Judas animals‘, sterilised and released into the wild as a means of population control / Cliffe Fort, Kent / the Airstream Nest. More / the Top 10 classic synth presets in the wild / At War with War, a book by Seymour Chwast / Thoxt, a tumblr / Tea and Tuppence, the story of the ‘Fortune of War cafes, run by wounded ex-servicemen during the First World War / art assembled by Robert Hadley.

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Technology won’t necessarily save us

The economics of metafilter. Our traffic fell of a cliff in February 2013 and never recovered. Weird / inside the Apple Mac / Death by GPS, when technology leads you astray / a modern house in Rye / kickstart a game of crazy golf in Trafalgar Square / how autonomous cars map London / searching for the Nazi gold train.

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Ribbons, anniversaries, re-imaginings

X-Palm, SMAQ architecture on re-shaping the luxury refuges of the past / the relationship between Ping-Pong and Tech Bubbles / storing energy in railcars on a gentle incline / Chernobyl: Atomic City, a piece by Will Wiles from 2012. Related, one of many 30 years on pieces posted last month / a huge collection of typewriters for sale / related, the Mclaren F1 is tied to a 20 year old laptop / lengthy exploration of Google Maps and their new, sparser style / this page puts Google and Bing side by side / bad drivers are a good indicator of a corrupt government / art books from Nobody’s Bookshop / archiving goes mainstream with Clixta, an app designed to share your family history / twentieth century British prints / After eight years, the actor playing London’s comedy mayor Boris Johnson is quitting the role.

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Hiding in plain sight

Hiding in Plain Sight, a visual history of camouflage by Josh Kramer at Wilson Quarterly / concept designs and new wheeled things at Motorcove / a collection of publications at PDF mags / GM’s Moon Buggy Design of 1964, via Moonbase Central / early aviator Jan Nagórski was not only the first man to loop the loop in a flying boat, but he popularised the use of red paint for Arctic aircraft / related, Wikipedia’s list of missing aircraft / 48% Of People Who Buy Vinyl Don’t Even Listen To It, Study Finds. Of those, ‘7 % don’t even own a turntable’ / browser based experiences by Pol Clarissou, especially the haunting Offline.

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Piles of things moved from there to here

Ongoing link dump, apologies for random stream of thought. Brutalist Websites, or rugged style that transcends fashion. See also anything built in Indexhibit (via MeFi) / the life of designer Alan Bartram / visual musings on the Apple Car / Our Unfinished World, a web writing project / Music Thing Modular is a welcome reprise for one of our favourite sound blogs, with a collection of how to videos and demos / the World of Waterfalls, created by an enthusiast for cascading water / get away from it all: Private Islands online / Zaha Hadid Architects has 36 projects in 21 countries still to complete / paintings by Stephen Magsig / where did the Good Life go? What happened to the self-sufficient people of the 1970s? / art: Smiths Magazine is produced by Goldsmiths students / drawings by Cameron Martin / Untitled Projects is a project by Conrad Bakker / Cycle Spanners, art by Peter Baker / music: Xiu Xiu plays the music of Twin Peaks. A chance to link to the Twin Peaks Synthwave tribute / also related, the striking anime-style video for Gunship’s Fly for your life / all things Blues Explosion at Pop Catastrophe / a little snippet of music history past, Project Ford Timelord / a few tumblrs: art, etc., at Thunderstruck; No Context, a blog of art, design and more from Christopher Kosek; more art at Elividal.

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Death on the file

Facebook is a growing and unstoppable digital graveyard: ‘By 2012, just eight years after the platform was launched, 30 million users with Facebook accounts had died. That number has only gone up since. Some estimates claim more than 8,000 users die each day. At some point in time, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones.’ See also, a web service that ‘preserves your most important thoughts, stories and memories for eternity’. A better bet than cryonics (via MeFi).


The Dark Side of Guardian Comments. Miserable / Dodos, not fat or even particularly tasty. Still dead, though / The Last Mission to the Moon: undertake ‘a real-time journey through the Apollo 17 mission’ / see also the immersive Apollo 11 VR experience / Velocipedia, bicycles drawn from memory then rendered, a project by Gianluca Gimini (via MeFi) / Stuart Haygarth’s treasure-from-trash survey of British beaches / the impending end of MoMA’s architecture and design galleries / the graphic art of Anton Repponen.

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Back from the brink

Apologies for the long absence. Architecture: ten Zaha Hadid designs that were never built / Peter Zumthor’s first project, from 1970, ‘available to rent for a weekend at half the price of the latest Zumthor 850-page long monograph‘. At the great OfHouses, ‘a collection of Old Forgotten Houses’ / Bluecote, the (mostly) British experience of Modernism / the quest for the world water speed record has an 85% fatality record / Wikipedia in Angola is a place where pirated films are hidden in image files / a review of Rowan Moore’s Slow Burn City (monumentally unwieldy URL, will probably die soon) / NY after the collapse, ‘the plants take over when the humans leave the city‘ / Fotomat, ‘a pioneer in rush-processing, and became massively popular by offering one-day turnaround, which had previously seemed unheard of’. At Lost Laurel, a blog devoted to the history of Laurel, Maryland.


Photography by Alec Dawson / The State of Kuwait, linoprints by Dan Howden / Tracking Time, by Camilo José Vergara (via Kottke), a deep-level ‘then and now’ exploration of New York, Chicago, Detroit and more (see also Phil Collins past and present, also at Kottke) / James Mollison’s series on Libyan Battle Trucks / photography by Chris Dorley-Brown / Allen Jones Loves Women, But Can Women Love His Art? / The dead water parks at the heart of Disney World Florida, an exploration by photographer Seph Lawless / exquisite urban details from Matthieu VenotInstagram / Øystein Sture Aspelund’s architectural series ‘Cyan‘.


Design. The ultimate exploration vehicle / the home of typographer Alan Kitching / an early book by Nikolaus Pevsner, Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things / Beyond the Sea: unexpected vistas of the world’s coastlines / Project Greenglow and the battle with gravity / Have fun with these Chrome Experiments / Plastic Surgery With a Mouse Click, on the increasing use of digital body changing in film / the terrifying possibly of the Ostagram / Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch Camera E-8 / Design Facts.

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Captain Crunch

If making toast in the modern style doesn’t appeal, why not try Grub, a new service selling crunchy crickets, grasshoppers and worms, either as snacks or cooking ingredients (beginner’s guide to roasting insects). Will it catch on? Possibly not, but Grub is simply following on from the classic nineteenth century tome, Why not eat insects? Vincent M. Holt’s 1885 pamphlet extolled “entomophagy” but acknowledged there were cultural hurdles to climb:

The general abhorrence of insects seems almost to have increased of late years, rather than diminished, owing, no doubt, to the fact of their being no longer familiar as medicines. At one time the fact of their being prescribed as remedies by village quacks and wise men made people, at any rate, familiar with the idea of swallowing them. Wood-lice, which conveniently roll themselves up into the semblance of black pills, were taken as an aperient; centipedes were an invaluable specific for jaundice; cockchafers for the plague; ladybirds for colic and measles.


Other things. (Press release) + (word cloud) – (make and model name) = a whole lot of marketing jargon, analysing auto cliches at The Drive / some fascinating supersonic history in a post about Boom.Aero / a next generation SST is the perfect place to listen to music by Nicolas Godin, one half of Air / notepads from fictional hotels, from Herb Lester / cityscape drawings by Daniel Greenfield at Architizer / architectural paintings by Mandy Payne / the story of Jacobin magazineofficial site.

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Digital nature

If you want to create a totally artificial world, there are multiple tools at your fingertips. The leading terrain generation software used to be Bryce, but it hasn’t been updated for many years. Bryce was launched in 1994 and used fractal geometry to create realistic-looking worlds, the likes of which had never been seen before, especially on humble desktops. Today the alternatives include World Machine, Planetside and VUE, the latter forming the digital-organic building blocks for a whole host of movies (it is deeply disappointing that no-one has created planet-building software suite called Magrathea). Drilling down to individual pieces of vegetation is the next logical step. Packages like SpeedTree and Plant Factory allow you to create intricate planting schemes, from flowerbeds to forests, with ‘precise wind and breeze algorithms’, seasons and growth animations. We were set off on this silicon sylvan path by this RPS feature on the landscape building of Firewatch, the wilderness-roaming adventure set in the pine forests of Wyoming. From the comments, the concept of Prospect-Refuge Theory, or the idea that we interpret a landscape through our innate desire for both’opportunity (prospect) and safety (refuge)’ and how this impacts on our aesthetic appreciation of landscape / related, buy specialist Lego vegetation at Alt Bricks / also sort of related, this concept art for Zootopia (bizarrely renamed Zootropolis in the UK) shows inclusive world-building at its finest.

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