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weblog archives
eXTReMe Tracker
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Airport designers are designing the kernel of a future city at Rodcorp, on former things contributor Hugh Pearman's new book on airports. Are airports really 'modern versions of the medieval fortified seaport'? This is a wonderfully romanticised notion, bringing to mind the fantasy urban airports of the pre-war era, when it was envisaged that huge runways might be mounted above the city streets. The reality is sadly different.

J.G.Ballard's Going Somewhere?, from 1997, seemed to predict the paradoxical nature of these non-places; destinations you want to leave, open spaces that are incredibly secure, shopping centres in all but name. Back then, Ballard was still inspired by the airport's inescapable futurism (citing Michael Manser's Hilton Hotel at Heathrow) and believing there to be 'no half-timbered terminal buildings or pebble-dashed control towers.'

If only. I remember seeing one of the most miserable examples of aesthetic muddle-headedness at Manser's Southampton Airport, a small but beautifully detailed little terminal for this modest little airport. At one end of the high-tech, lightweight structure was the most miserably ersatz British pub, complete with balsa-thin panelling, brass fixtures and knobbly barstools. I doubt it's still there (replaced by this branch of Aura?). But examples like this and the continuing bastardisation of Stansted's interior by the retail-fixated BAA have always hobbled any claims that airports might have to bear comparison with great urbanism.

At the end of his piece, Ballard notes presciently that he suspects 'that the airport will be the true city of the next century,' concluding that 'I look forward to .... the transformation of Britain into the ultimate departure lounge. After all, we have every reason to leave.'

Elsewhere, futures past and imperfect. A great gallery of images from the Swiss Cottage Library at the Margaret Howell shop in central London. Not so long ago you could buy original desks and tables from the library at the Howell shop. Now it seems they're only available from Retrouvius.

'Tomorrow's Transportation: New Systems for the Urban Future' features excerpts from a 1968 Congressional Report, part of the Innovative Transportation Technologies website at the University of Washington. The illustrations are lovely. Check the Personal Rapid Transit system, which is startlingly reminiscent of the ULTra Urban Light Transport system current under development.

The Staley Wise Gallery includes Drivers, automotive photography by Jesse Alexander and fashion shots by Melvin Sokolsky / mp3 search engines: mpee3 and espew / daft: Windows RG / diagrams / this is chancing it somewhat.

The Buran, or Russian space shuttle. The 1997 page reads 'The manufacturing plant is scheduled to be converted for production of buses, syringes, and diapers.' Much more here. I think this is a double post.

Music thing, music gadget weblog, from where we find JarreLook, the 'UK Jean Michel Jarre tribute band'. Related, the sounds of Monsieur Jarre rendered in MIDI format. Surprisingly authentic.

A good read: Andrew O'Hagan at the Republican Party Conference in New York, from the London Review of Books / Andy Goldsworthy installation on the roof of the Met.

Les Voitures des Presidents de la Republique, official cars in France. Related, images of old France, via Ramage / car models for the Mafia computer game / infinite cats.