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Friday, November 29, 2002
Well worth a listen: the The Broken Family Band and the Folk Orchestra. Well worth a read: Qvest and Carl's Cars.


Thursday, November 28, 2002
Thinking about big, brash buildings, thanks in part to this selection of images (also good). Skidmore, Owings and Merrill are one of the world's greatest architectural practices (and their whizzy website is fun, too). We were musing through a book on their 60s and 70s work last night, partly to find out more about the threatened Connecticut General building, and the sheer, thrilling arrogance of the great International Style buildings - especially offices - never fails to lift the spirits. Of course, this is at odds with the activities that went on within these structures - the sinister machinations of big business, all the more obscured by the acres of smoked glass, ruthlessly precise facades and a finely tailored ambience.

This kind of architecture has been totally diluted through repetition, but the products of the heroic age of office building still impress. (Lever House, Pepsi-Cola HQ, United Airlines HQ). See also the wondrous archives from Canada's Expo 67 (via the ever-reliable Portage). Here we have the total application of modernism to ever aspect of life (including costume).

More nightmares from the fraught world of building preservation. Sproughton Watermill is a listed structure that has seemingly suffered at that hands of incompetent workers and an uncaring heritage body. Even worse, perhaps, is the ongoing story of Greenside, one of the best modernist houses (also listed!) in Britain, now threatened with senseless demolition. Join the Twentieth Century Society and protest!

Random nostaglia. Telluride, Colorado, in the early 1900s.


Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Today's grab bag is urban-infused (making the floral display to your left somewhat inappropriate). Church Crawler is a personal site devoted to ecclesiastical architecture (mostly British). As you'd imagine, there's a wealth of material here, complete with mystery churches and sites under threat. City Journal is a publication concerned with New Urbanism, the architectural movement that strives to create 'livable sustainable communities'. A few clicks will get you increasingly entangled in libertarianism, that highly vocal strand of American political life that tallies nicely with New Urbanism's conservative world view.

In stark contrast, Birmingham's Bull Ring would be the antithesis of the New Urban ideal - all concrete walkways and urban alienation. Now that the site is undergoing reconstruction, it's interesting to see that the official site continues to use the - freshly fashionable - aesthetic of classy urban blankness. Someone who could never be accused of blankness is the architect John Outram. Outram is committed to an architecture of symbolism and polychromy - witness his Egyptian House (for an Egyptologist!), or the bright colours of Cambridge's Judge Institute. Fashion doesn't enter the equation. He writes extensively. This quote about so-called sustainable architecture makes a salient point about the inherent problems of 'building lightly':

‘It is an illusion, a fallacy, and a downright lie to pretend that what one builds today can be readily and easily 'unbuilt' by 'future generations'. What is true, instead, is that if our regard for our successors is genuine, that we will build for them structures, in every department of human culture, whose 'project' our successors will want to take up and run-with into the future.’

Elswhere. Studio Blu make excellent architectural models. Zone Tour is a database of urban exploration. The University of Kent has an excellent map collection, amongst other things.



Tuesday, November 26, 2002
What does one do about requests like this? 'i would much appreciate it if you could possible send me info on the Mars Bar as i am doing a school assignment and desperately need secondary info. any info on the mars bar would do. thanx for your time and help'. We can only assume that someone stumbled on this chocolate piece and figured we were the best place to ask... Related - did this search on newthings find anything? '1986 dodge truck service manual'.

Lovely high line photography, courtesy of Lightningfield. We're as guilty as anyone of perpetuating the spiral of linking betwixt and between a finite number of weblogs. Is there a word for this? Last week we learned that 'Vetternwirtschaft' is the German word for cronyism. Perhaps 'Webvetternwirtschaft'. Or something.


Monday, November 25, 2002
One for Star Wars fans – spot the difference (and hunt the lawsuit): were set designers unduly influenced by a famous Dublin landmark? The photographic evidence is compelling. A collection of less litigious practitioners can be found here: architects in sitcoms.

Microsoft's MyLifeBits Project got a little bit of press last week. Ostensibly a look at the future of seriously high-volume data storage, the company has hit upon the idea of the ‘life catalogue’ as a way of ensuring that our multi-terabyte future remains hungry for more space. As the BBC story noted, the idea of a universal, all-knowing, fully-searchable database goes back to the early days of computing, most notably Vannevar Bush's Memex proposal. A desk-like device, the Memex was an extraordinarily prescient proposal for a document storage device, fully searchable and annotable. It was the latter function, which suggested that researchers create associations between related documents, that many hail as being the origins of hypertext. (more links: I, II, III)

A few more choice selections from the irresistable Pathe archives. We still haven't actually watched any of these, but happily the thumbnails (and very drole captions) evoke more than enough atmosphere. The Bankside power station, in pre-Tate days. Caroline Carr's model aircraft collection. Motopia, a 'Glass City of the Future' (1959) designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe in conjunction with glass manufacturers Pilkington.

Doggy origins. See also here.


Friday, November 22, 2002
The appearance of a site for the British Pathé Film Archive has been noted in detail elsewhere (notably at exploding fist and the BBC). Here are a few of our choice pics from the archives. The New York World's Fair, from 1964. Chimpanzees in the home. Cheap camping solutions with the Scooter Tent. Old town face lift, the story of Hemel Hempstead. The seminal This is Tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel in 1959. A competition to find Miss Soho Sex Kitten, from 1960.

Luckily the people at Pitchfork made the correct choice for their number one album of the 80s (although anyone who has whose whiled away a few hours in the alarmingly seductive world of GTA: Vice City might want to disagree).

One for the 'Do They Never Learn?' department. Flat-pack pioneers IKEA are threatening the demolition of part of Marcel Breuer’s Pirelli Building, a competent slice of international modernism. We weren't familiar with the building before the furore, but this definitely deserves more than replacement with yet another yellow and blue box. Elsewhere: IKEA expansion plans under threat in the UK. Demolition galleries, to sate the desire for destruction (via Archinect).


Thursday, November 21, 2002
Random grab-bag today. Arts bookshops in Paris and London. Carrying on yesterday's 'culty' theme - religious mp3s courtesy of the notorious Family, exponents of dubious tactics (via Sharpeworld).

Time to spare? Build this hugely complex paper aeroplane. It makes our effort look exceptionally minimalist. Will this be the definitive list of top ten songs? Highly unlikely. For parcel-sized chunks of very individualist nostalgia, I remember is worth a browse. This aviation crash database takes us back to Doug Coupland's piece in things 10. The soothing sounds of Gee'd Up are well worth a download.

Google gallery of the day: love seats.


Wednesday, November 20, 2002
Modern architecture is a cult argues Nikos A. Salingaros in an essay on INTBAU (The International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture & Urbanism). Salingaros claims, amongst other things, that ‘contemporary architecture, like any other belief system not founded on rationality and experiment, is susceptible to catastrophic system collapse because it cannot tolerate minor changes.’

Salingaros's assertion that modern architecture is all about destruction is interesting, but really can’t pass without comment. Although he (correctly) identifies the occasionally cultish nature of early schools of architecture, notably the Bauhaus and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin (this picture was taken just outside the gates - on the one day in the week it was shut!) - it is nevertheless simplistic to extrapolate that, due to its cultish origins, modern architecture is hell-bent on destroying the world, banishing ornament and proposing we all live in a deconstruvist society, utterly bereft of historical and social context.

There are numerous other contradications, the most obvious being his contention that, ‘For several decades, architectural novices have been conditioned by the message that sensual gratification from ornament and architectural forms, surfaces, and colors is a criminal act.’ To (correctly) claim in one paragraph that Wright’s desert retreat was cultish and insular and then to boldly state that the proponents of that cult were anti-ornament is patently false. Not only was Wright obsessed with ornament, but the Wright industry never misses an opportunity to exploit this (I, II)

To cite just one more (intentional?) mis-reading. Salingaros’s insistence that the cult-like status of modernism mis-uses both science and religion and in doing so deny the scientific, rational associations that underpin classical (or ‘traditional’) architecture. The modern architectural veneration of Corbusier, for example, goes hand in hand with an acknowledgement of Corb’s admiration for systems of classical proportion. And as for cultish associations, Salingaros chooses to totally ignore the relationship between classical architecture and ritual symbolism.

(via Archinect, via Coudal, who should also be credited with uncovering Aspen (or was it Sharpeworld?))


Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Lilly Heir Makes $100 Million Bequest to Poetry Magazine. This means two things. Either we've not been publishing enough poetry, or we haven't been turning down enough poetry. In fact, from now onwards, submissions to things will be strictly means tested - the more you've got, the less likely you are to get in....

Some more magazines (probably not still smarting from their omission in the latest hot bequests). Aspen magazine was billed as a 'multimedia magazine in a box.' Started in 1965, the great UbuWeb now hosts an extensive archive of the ten issues. Content veered from the period ('Ten Trip Ticket Book') to the sonic (Peter Walker and John Cale's 'White Wind' and Cale's 'loop'). Each box was beautifully designed and the archive deserves a long browse. Artist index.

Another form of artistry: grafitti. But how different are these tags from some artless idiot scratching his tag into the window of a South London commuter train? Not much, we'll hazard. Two exhibitions at the British Library. The first, Aspects of the Victorian Book, brings together Penny Dreadfuls, wood engraving and the early years of the novel, as well as background information on printing technology. The second exhibition is Magic Pencil, a look at contemporary children's book illustration. We mentioned this topic in passing a few issues ago, in connection with a rather delightful exhibition at The Prince of Wales Insitute for Architecture, now seemingly part of the Prince’s Foundation.

And finally, another local studies photo collection, this time in Bexley.


Monday, November 18, 2002
A vacant house, complete with period furnishings, produces eerie artwork. The highly styled look is reminiscent of many recent movies - Magnolia, Mulholland Drive, etc. etc. - a sort of Hollywood hyper-reality, accentuated by the use of real movie stars. Even more interesting, perhaps, is the behind the scenes portfolio. Add this to the David LaChapelle documentary we saw the other day (in conjunction with an exhibition somewhere in London - which we can't find) and last week's edition of Faking It and we've almost got a complete understanding of how fashion shoots work. Early LaChapelle interview at designboom (Unseen Vogue looks good too). (thanks Caterina)

Snarky anti-SUV review at Popcult. Sample quote: ‘The EXT defies style, value, sense, and human decency… Could the EXT be the only SUV with flying buttresses?’ More about the excellent California Coastal Records Project, this time in Wired. The site's creators, Gabrielle and Kenneth Adelman, link to this amusing mp3 of an irate local resident. Vaguely related, Alcatraz gallery at Artkrush.


Friday, November 15, 2002
For sale. One emergency operating table. The online museum of the Public Reference Office (via Portage). Some autumnal photographs - a bit late, now that all the leaves have been blown to kingdom come. An obsessive page charting the various design elements in 2001. And that's all.


Thursday, November 14, 2002
Poster day, focusing on music rather than anything else. Aesthetic Apparatus design the kind of super slick, design-intensive posters that you can imagine framed on the wall of a large loft-style space. That's not a criticism, but the studio's aesthetic does seem to inhabit the grey area between analogue and digital - fetishising the bright colours, imperfect alignments and thick ink of the screen-printing process while also owing a debt to the clip-art friendly, Mac-based graphics of the past decade.

The one-off gig poster has undergone something of a revival in recent years, making it the fly-poster's equivalent of vinyl (in direct opposition to the sterile, tissue-thin bulk-printed output of the major venues: the compact disc of the poster world). Artwork is lavish and runs are limited. Websites abound. The Underground Art of Marco Almera is what happens when design veers towards Day-glo, while Methane Studios are fully immersed in the analogue/digital paradox, with a website that even looks like a handbill. This is a peculiarly American tradition, melding the pop sensibility of Warhol and Lichtenstein with the collage elements of punk, not to mention the dynamic layouts of stock car and demolition derby graphics, all finished off with the crisp, screen-printed aesthetic that is also a hallmark of early Quark/Photoshop layouts. Gigposters has a huge collection (over 10,000), and invites submissions from bands, labels, venues and collectors to maintain its archives. Here you'll find everything from relatively mainstream (I, II, III) to bands and venues you are guaranteed to have never heard of (I, II, III, too many to mention).

That punk and post-punk music should have developed a poster tradition is all the more unusual given punk's stated desire to sweep away the aural and visual excesses of the 60s and 70s. Of course, the best-known rock posters remain the luminous psychedelic graphics produced on the West Coast during the heyday of the hippy movement (again, on-line resources are pretty spectacular, in particular I, II, III). Swirling, intense graphics and lettering, with patterns and colours were seemingly derived from acid-trip visuals, made these posters stand out (this has often been dubbed the first psychedlic poster) and remain influential (not to mention highly collectable).

Strangely, this kind of thing just never really took off in the UK, and certainly not in the post-punk era. Even more unusually, British bands touring the US were frequently granted the design-poster treatment (I, II, III), gracing them with an aesthetic that they could barely have carried off back home.


Wednesday, November 13, 2002
After yesterday’s moans about disappearing modernism, here are some links to concerned organisations in the US: Modcom, Recent Past (with their list of individually threatened buildings), Los Angeles Conservancy, the Society for Commercial Archaeology (visit the latter's Texas gallery) and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Also standing in the way of someone's demolition ball. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill's iconic Connecticut General office complex, Johnnie's Broiler restaurant and the Monrovia Public Library. It seems that a website really is essential to drum up support for threatened buildings…


Tuesday, November 12, 2002
We talked before about the wanton demolition of a modern movement classic in Palm Springs, muttering darkly about how it couldn't possibly happen here. Of course, we spoke too soon. Greenside is a 1937 house (I, II) by Connell, Ward and Lucas, the pre-eminent exponents of modernist residential architecture in inter-war Britain (movie clip here, images of other work: I, II, III). Only Greenside is now scheduled for demolition, despite its Grade II listed status. Somebody, please, please stop this madness.

Spotted on the poster for Rabbit Proof Fence, the warning: 'contains scenes of mild emotional intensity'. Also spotted, someone reading the newsletter (A5, single colour photocopy, cheap-looking) of SEDA, the South Eastern Discotheque and DJ Association, the organisation for mobile disco providers. Organise parties like this!

Internal Memos is full of sad little pep-talks ('we hope that your need to grow and be successful is great, because you are the company'), although bizarrely you have to subscribe to read most of these pearls of management wisdom. Built St Louis does a good job of making an unknown city (to us, anyway) appear infinitely fascinating.


Monday, November 11, 2002
Some time ago we mooted a things metaphor project, a look at the way objects insinutate themselves into our language through metaphor (‘However much we may wish to believe that we can escape into the world of pure language, pure representation, the real world comes back to haunt us’).

Perhaps this is a start. This site at the University of Berkeley (found, as usual, on me-fi), investigates the world of the conceptual metaphor. A very early web project (the site is dated 1994), it uses basic hypertext to make relationships between different metaphorical expressions, with a master index of definitions leading to individual metaphors that use each structural approach. For example, in the ‘People are Machines’ section, one gets ‘I feel all run down’ and ‘he’s wound up tight as a spring’.

Monika Parrinder’s article in things 16, Objects of the Imagination (hopefully coming soon to the web - or buy a copy...), looked at the ways in which the processes of the mind are abstracted through metaphor, both as a means of conveying emotions and expressions, but also as a form of social control – the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ of the Victorian woman’s mind, all confused and unclear. More thoughts soon.

Elsewhere today. The excellent exhibition of Arthur Lavine's photography at the Computer Museum perfectly captures the starched shirt, pencils in the top pocket, crew cut style of early computing. And buttons, so many buttons!


Friday, November 08, 2002
More random commentating, trying, as ever, to weave some kind of narrative from the confusion that is our links file. First up, press kits from the Apollo missions. These large pdf files of hugely comprehensive details about the moon programme seem like information overkill now - did the press of the time pore over every last nut and bolt?

Two landscape links. The first is Danish Soundscapes, an audio/video project from the ordinary kids design group. Melding stunning photography with sound makes for a sublime experience. This history of landscape architecture could certainly learn a thing or two about presentation from Danish Soundscapes. But no matter, for it is a huge collection of images (mostly small) charting the various strands of landscape design, formal, classical, pastoral, even paradisic.

Moving swiftly on. Halycon Days compiles interviews with classic video game programmers. A niche area to be sure, but it makes interesting reading for those interested in the origins of creativity. Where do video game designers get their ideas? (apart from other video game designers).

Two vinyl-related sites. The first is a comprehensive gallery of 45rpm record designs, scanned in all their lovingly scuffed glory. For fans of slightly stranger sounds, this novelty records gallery is unbeatable. See the Disneyland/Mattel musical map! Thrill to playable record stamps from Bhutan!

Finally, buy a slice of late twentieth century modernism in Sheffield. The former home of cutlery designer David Mellor, designed by architect Patrick Guest in the 60s, is up for sale. And very elegant it is too.


Thursday, November 07, 2002
1 Mile North are a band with a finely honed aesthetic sense. They don't sound too bad, either. The Illegal Audio project is a free CD to accompany the show Illegal Art: Freedom of Expression in the Corporate Age, currently at CGBG's 313 Gallery in New York, before moving on to Chicago. Happily, in keeping with the free spirit of the venture, all the songs are also available as mp3 files - including quite a few where permission hasn't necessarily been forthcoming...

Keeping with the free ethos, David recently linked to the breath-taking cynicism that is Coca-Cola's now abandoned (?) H2NO campaign, which urged restaurateurs to broaden their customers' 'enjoyment' of their meals by with-holding boring old tap water. Guess which company's products would be offered instead?

Dead London is an online rant about the seemingly senseless round of demolition and reconstruction in the city. This Waterloo station site is infused with a bit more humour, as it chronicles the station's slow decline from twenties majesty to shambling, shabby concourse. Check back here for updates on the Mexican street graphics project, which puts a positive spin on urban shabbiness - crumbling plaster being an essential component.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Not just for trainspotters, a comprehensive calendar of UK-specific ‘transport events’ from 1987 to 2001. Sadly, any comic potential this might hold (see Mandament’s comments at the bottom of the page…) is wholly overshadowed by the sheer bloody violence of the past 15 years. And it wasn't train, car and plane crashes - there were also fires and bombs to contend with.

Staying with depressing thoughts. Yesterday's trawl through the world's cities was partly prompted by a recent read of Roy Porter's London: A Social History. If nothing else, it also reminded us of the sheer scale of destruction - both wilful and accidental - that the city has been subjected to, such as the V-2 attack on New Cross on 25 November 1944, when over 160 people were killed (the last two links from the comprehensive - and highly disconcerting - Ballistic Missile Image Gallery).

We have a new gallery: Bangers.


Tuesday, November 05, 2002
A round-up of web-based architecture/landscape chronicling projects. These are our favourite kind of website, a combination of devotion, obsession and history, mixed in with a bit of voyeurism. First up, the World City Project is a huge database of imagery of the world's cities (as you'd expect). This data isn't very well labelled - much less dated - but if you fancy seeing postcard-type snaps of Baghdad, Riga, Caracas or Chisinau (Moldova), this is worthwhile desktop tourism (via plep, which also linked to Virtual Britain, a commercial-looking site promising 360-degree views of various British cities, and the extraordinary Unseen London, apparently put together by a boiler engineer).

Naturally, more architecture-specific pages are available. We particularly like the structures section of SEAiT the South East Asia images and Texts project. A contemporary gallery of Chinese rural architecture can be found at Atlas magazine.

Some architecture pages are more comprehensive than most. The Willard Public Library in Battle Creek, Michigan, has a complete street by street index of the town thanks to a 1940s photographic survey. As well as houses, there are also images of commercial buildings, both in their heyday and at the end of their useful life, as well as the odd postcard (I, II). We would kill for a London version of this site. The Ross-Kammerer archive is also on-line, also this is a more people-centric look at Greenville, North Carolina. There's still the odd building, though.

Finally, California Coast Line comes courtesy of this morning's Metafilter: one man's quest to provide a photographic record of the West Coast. For beach house aficionados, this is endlessly fascinating.


Monday, November 04, 2002
Huge thanks to those who organised and attended this splendid venue at the weekend. Many exciting sights were seen, although sadly the hitherto unknown practice of Dutch Reverse wasn't on the menu. We also missed the event where these are the unwary fodder for destruction. Another time, perhaps. The retro galleries here give a good taster, with images so vivid you can smell the engine oil (especially this one). Stripping out specification details here (.pdf).

Elsewhere. Tatlin's Tower is an online fiction magazine that gets points for its name. This seems a little bitter, but is probably justified. New York Social Diary is your link to the parties, events, openings, launches, shindigs, bashes, and general social whirlwind that is the East Coast social scene. Jump to the galleries and count your lucky stars.

Update. The retro links don't seem to work any more. Oh well. Try these instead - retro vinyl styled CD-Rs. Oh yes.


Friday, November 01, 2002
Our rabbits are now in place. Please visit them. More details of the film can be found at the following links: I, II, III, and IV. Official movie site.

Also just seen, The Story of Rabbits in Western Australia, with more lagomorphic background detail, as well as some maps (via plep).

Rabbit rabbit.