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Friday, February 18, 2005
We're going to take a few weeks away from the weblog, pressure of work and all that. When we return, in early March, there will be a few design tweaks, plus a host of new galleries. And, hopefully, renewed vigour on the commissioning, collating, editing, designing and eventual production of things 19.

Before we go, we implore you to enjoy these scans from the Architectural Review's ManPlan issues, courtesy of no, 2 self.

Thursday, February 17, 2005
The renovation blog over at Brownstoner is at the tip of the trend for chronicling building work (via Coudal). The web is awash with building sites, such as this gite in Brittany, or the original House in Progress, who have coined the term 'HouseBlogging' for this particular genre (and who have been selling off the existing contents of the house they bought).

Links aplenty: the Brickman House Journal, self-building in Ireland, for example. Victorian renovations are popular blog-topics: 1902 Victorian, This Decrepit Victorian House and Karl and Lisa's Victorian Page to name but three. If you want stories about building a modern design, try the page after page of projects at LiveModern blogs, where people post their plans and renders and get feedback. You can also read about the construction of the Wieler Residence, the very first Dwell Home. There's also a website accompanying this inverted roof house in the Chilterns, Cloud 8.

Other things. The Independent goes in search of the real Nathan Barley, and rather unsurprisingly finds a lot of new media types who 'know someone exactly like him,' but stop short of being everyone's favourite trust-fund enabled four-letter word. Vaguely related, and kind of addictive, 'Pictures of the people attending NYC Gallery Opening Parties'. Not quite in the slower class, though.

A nice bit of schadenfreude as a burglar is caught by the object he is stealing / design things at Lift Blog / the Vatican offers exorcism lessons / liven up your powerpoint presentations with a heavy metal font / dog icons / i like's flickr account.

Thanks to Ace for pointing out our mistake with the new Boeing. Repeat after me: the 777 is not the 7E7. The 7E7 is now the 787. Bring back nice names like Stratoliner and Stratocruiser (actually the 307 and 377, but never mind). Somehow 'dreamliner' doesn't sound quite right.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Which are better, blogs or mags? (via gallery hopper). Is the instant gratification provided by web publishing really the end of paper production? The death of print has been called, wrongly, before, and there are probably more magazines on the newsstands than ever, with more being added all the time (e.g. Wonderland, a forthcoming lifestyle title that was seen receiving funding on BBC2's Dragon's Den last week. Or Grazia, a 'weekly glossy' that debuts today).

But clearly print magazines can't match the lead times of a website, for 'blogs are instant transmitters of thought and, more importantly, forums for instantaneous response.' It takes a magazine with a rapid-moving website to keep up, but then the latter threatens to undermine the raison d'etre of the former. Compare autoblog to autocar magazine and it's clear that the weblog format is perfect for snippy comments about new car launches and the instant transmission of images from PR's in-tray to screen to reader. Magazines, even weekly magazines, can't compete.

The usual criticism is that the instant nature of the weblog denies it a consistent editorial viewpoint or the space for considered reflection, but anyone familiar with contemporary magazine publishing knows that the process of sifting and distilling information is just as rapid, only slightly more torturous. Another issue, in design writing at least, is that online writing is separated from a tangible physical object. Objects convey authority, or at the very least help us identify with the subject. Perhaps this is why the number of online object galleries is growing at such a rate; it's nostalgia for physical form from a medium that can never attain it.

Elsewhere. Notes Quotes Provocations and Other Fair Use presents links and digressions in a journal form, rather than as a weblog. It contains all sorts of visual delights and thoughts, including the poster art of Charles Loupot and the Landscape Coin Project / 24 Photography has a bold agenda: 24 hours, 24 photographers, 24 images, 24 years. Participating photographers include Sarah Lucy Brown, Kathryn Faulkner and Yvonne de Rosa

Invisible UFOs - are they all around us? (via J-Walk) / visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Darwin D.Martin Complex. Related, rare FLW images found on eBay / Urban Adventure in Rotterdam, including deserted Prague / the art of Alice Neel, via Cipango / replace Windows notepad with TED notepad / Les Autos de Tintin / Landmark East encourages the creation of highly visible public artworks, like the project to recreate the ghostly lost churches of Dunwich. Related, an account of All Saints.

A strangely compelling picture / teejayess, a weblog / Martin Liebscher, including his Unidentified Foto Object series / The Bus Station: buses on screen / we covet a Hyperkit-designed Caro Kit / Gordon McLean's fine weblog / Boeing's 777-200LR, more snappily known as the 'Dreamliner' tries to put glamour back into the industry. Great big windows should help / Now Then, what were professional artists like when they were young?

Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities as a Viewmaster reel (via No,2 self, via Boing Boing). More Viewmaster / a collection of early Bakelite objects / Pan Am heritage / the ongoing saga of Michael Heizer's massive 'City' art/earthwork in Art's Last, Lonely Cowboy in the New York Times. See our post of 29 December 2004 for some more information, as well as the comprehensive website double negative.

Monday, February 14, 2005
Designing Britain 1945-1975 at the University of Brighton, a history of Britain's post-war industry and the origins of consumer 'design', from the Britain Can Make It exhibition of 1946 onwards. The title of Andrew Jackson's essay From solving problems to selling products neatly sums up 'design's' narrative arc. By the 70s it had all gone to pot and the idea of 'design' as a social force was being challenged.

ManPlan was an iconic series that ran in the Architectural Review from 1969 onwards. The latest issue of Eye magazine re-visits the articles, 'a tactile reminder of a time when magazines lived dangerously' (via City of Sound). Manplan was the first 'official' kick against the dominance of modernism, and used stark photography by the likes of Magnum photographer Ian Berry, Patrick Ward and Tony Ray-Jones to illustrate a divided Britain, a landscape that was far from the modernist utopia envisaged by the profession (as photoLondon relates, this was a time when reportage photography was being accepted by the art institutions). The Manplan issues were hugely controversial as Simon Esterson explains in Eye, with gritty urban imagery that 'turned [the magazine's] back on large-format heroic photography of buildings'. Ultimately, however, the heroic clawed its way back and the architecture of the period still divides people.

Some more Ian Berry images, this time of Apartheid-era South Africa. See also London and Photography. More Ray-Jones. We must get into flickr, now one year old. Check the amazing flickrgraph. The BBC has some amazing pictures of the Madrid skyscraper fire. On the other hand, you could also use Flickr for instant reportage: I, II, III. The Edificio Windsor before the fire.

An interesting debate at autoblog: Do manufacturer sketches help or hurt the debut?. One could draw parallels with contemporary architecture's reliance on the computer-generated render, that most seductive of mediums. Although the apparent exaggerations of the concept car sketch are often close to the finished model (see for example, the Lexus LF-C concept sketch versus finished car), the sketch inevitably involves distortion for dramatic effect. CGI architecture isn't about distortion of form, but the abstraction of materials; glass becomes impossibly reflective, and the public realm antiseptic.

Elsewhere (it would be nice to discover a universal theme that binds all these links together. But I don't think there is one). multi-coloured night vision / John Bonham drum outtakes / Milton Bradley's hand-held games / take Jungle Larry's Safari / Coustau vs Zissou / concrete underpass / 16 Objects, ready or not, an online project by Michael Craig-Martin / today's metafilter selection: the story of the Lena Image.

The Penguin Collectors Society (via, naturally, I Like). As well as Penguin, there were Pelicans, Peacocks, Peregrines, Puffins, the decidedly non-avian Porpoises and even Ptarmigan Books. We found the very first Ptarmigan at the weekend, the snappily titled Ask me another, written, like almost every book in the series, by one Hubert Phillips.

What's that, Mr. Shuttleworth? You want to show the ladies and gentlemen another trick? / old but good, A visual history of whispering IMPS on magic posters. Very Carter Beats the Devil / the history table, the domestic application of electroluminescent displays. The irony of today's modernism is that technology is being used to apply surface decoration, once deemed the enemy of progress / the gates in New York (mostly).

Friday, February 11, 2005
Ed Ruscha: Internet Search Pioneer considers the similarities between the artistic output from Amazon's A9 service and its new 'Block View' and the work of Ed Ruscha, in particular his 1966 book Every Building on the Sunset Strip. The new 'technology' (a camera strapped to an SUV) hasn't changed much since Rucha's time, yet the way this data is digitised and catalogued has endless possibilities for tracking urban change. Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn took a simliar approach (see Phil Gyford's comprehensive notes). We tried a similar thing a while back with the Bellenden Project, which we intend to revisit one day (that page doesn't work at all in Firefox - any ideas why?).

The recent exhibition Learning from Ruscha and Venturi Scott Brown explains how Ruscha's book also influenced the seminal Learning from Las Vegas, which took a similarly documentary approach to urban form, 'almost anthropological in its spare, non-judgemental rendering of previously unnoticed elements of the urban experience of Los Angeles and Las Vegas.' (Ironically, as William Drentel noted over at Design Observer, the original book design for Learning was wholly rejected by the authors). Related, someone (I forget who) pointed out that a9local tags have started to appear on Flickr as well. Worth visiting as well: Etheridge's stunning photo series Sky Hi: small signs.

Elsewhere. The Last Clock (via collision detection) / an empty house / yet another beautiful gallery by Marshall Sokoloff over at tmn. See also Salt and Sugar / the Trinity Site, then and now / Fresh Bilge, a 'salty journal'. Their essay Painted Skies looks at the conjuring up of weather and atmosphere in (pre-impressionist) art. For the effect of abstraction on atmosphere, visit the new 'blockbuster' (how we hate that term when applied to exhibitions) Turner Whistler Monet at Tate Britain. Originally via 2 blowhards.

In Search of the Lost Lighthouse of Shinnecock at the Scroope Lighthouse Guide. The lighthouses of London, all of which are rather spindly. There's a proper, albeit small, lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf: the Blackwall Lighthouse, 'a miniature lighthouse ... built around 1880, and it was used for the training of prospective lighthouse keepers.' The complex is now an arts centre and is being restored. It was the original home of the recent Container City installation / Metropolis appears to be no longer updating its talk2us letters page, which is a shame as it was turning into a nice collaborative weblog.

Ross Cooper Studios create concept car dashboards, amongst other things, for the Ford Visos from 2003, once billed as the next Ford Capri ('the car you always promised yourself') / Jaguar Builds an Aston, an irritable column from the influential the Truth About Cars, which believes the new Jaguar is essentially an Aston Martin knock-off. Both companies are owned by Ford and both cars were styled by teams headed by the same man, Ian Callum. Yet the piece fails to note that the much-heralded F-Type concept from 2000, canned by budget cuts and dozy management, was also overseen by Callum, and omits the R-Coupe concept altogether. Related, Phil Seed's Virtual Car Museum / Mercedes-Benz Accidents and Crashes. Buy David Beckham's Mercedes.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
According to this discussion thread at ask metafilter, we've been doing our links horribly, horribly wrong since for ever. We'll try and make amends / Jason Kottke's London Photos / a shoe tree / Insects and Spiders in Poetry and Prose / photographs by Lewis Wickes Hine: The Construction of the Empire State Building, 1930-1931

Two more web puzzles (thanks to Blanketfort): the classic Samorost and Hapland. No time to try that, but it looks quite Lemmings-like. Naturally, you can play Lemmings in your browser. Jakub Dvorsky, the creator of Samorost, is interviewed at Splatterlink / imagery of the 70s, via xblog.

Japanese Microcars / Museum of Soviet Calculators / the new Toronto / Multiples by Artists / design and urbanism weblog at Unbeige / gorgeous paintings by Cynthia Poole / Fantasy Aeroplanes, including the Rotodyne-like Convertaplane.

Still a bit disorganised, hence the bitty linkage. Obscure British mailing restrictions / The Dunny Show, artists and designers tackle Dunny, a 'a 20-inch tall action figure made of soft, smooth vinyl', a 'toy with attitude'. / upmarket knicker shop Agent Provocateur has its own 'online magazine' / are you a cheeky biker? Then you need Cheeky Trails - sort of guerilla mountain biking. There's a code of ethics to observe ('Alarmingly garish clothing is to be discouraged').

The Electronic Museum of Mail Art / pixel art at DELAware / usher in the future with the Avcen Jetpod. The Fairey Rotodyne for the 21st century? Urban VTOL is an ongoing quest. Visit the The Worldwide Rotorcraft and VTOL site for more concepts / the Generator Blog will help you generate things (via), from sound effects to pimp names to the celebrated Postmodernism Generator / Spoilt Victorian Child has moved..

Google Maps is the company's latest strike in its quest to control all the world's information (via). So far it's only the US. So who'll win the Microsoft v Google war? Search me, says John Naughton. Google might raw horsepower personified, but it's still dumb. Until we get the semantic web up and running to provide some context / 99 Rooms, a Myst-like puzzle / panoramas of the Moon.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Posting will resume tomorrow...

Monday, February 07, 2005
A writing match made in heaven? Author Alex Garland is to write the screenplay of the movie based on Halo, the XBox's most popular game. Best known in the UK for his debut novel The Beach, Garland was widely believed to be suffering from post-Blockbuster Writer's block (although he subsequently wrote The Tesseract, the film 28 Days Later and the graphic novel The Coma). In 2001 he was quoted as saying 'at the moment I am playing on my X-box an awful lot.'

Related, the world takes its first steps towards the introduction of augmented reality courtesy of software and hardware from the French company Total Immersion. The company has developed technology that allows you to insert computer-generated imagery into the 'real world' (albeit the real world as displayed on a monitor or goggles). See also the invisible train and this Scientific American piece. Applications are endless: all that is solid will truly melt into air.

Related, but from a different angle: Query Letters I Love, which claims to be 'Actual, honest to god query letters I've received in Hollywood'. (via bloghorrea) / From the Bottom Up: 'popular reading and writing in the Michael Zinman Collection of early American imprints' (via scribbling woman). From the same site: Picturing Women, on the history of the representation of women, and Every Man His Own Doctor, 'Popular Medicine in Early America'.

Very Small Objects, a taxonomy (via evenings on the lake) / the official 5.25" disk sleeve archive. The machine room is also pretty amazing if you hanker after old images of old computers. See also Old Computers, which has a fine advertising section / Marina Warner has a new website. What we'd really like is for her to have a weblog.

Minor 9th is one of the most elegant weblogs we've ever seen / high speed photography, via various sites / are these the sounds of Bigfoot? / photos at Crossing London / Bring the Noise, 'the evolution of portable audio' (via gizmodo) / Davies on Gladwell / Retractable, a site dedicated to folding hardtops.

More on Philip Nobel's Sixteen Acres at Design Observer / yet more weblog awards / the The World's Longest Tunnel Page / are search engines and constant access to information a good thing or a bad thing? / images of Dubai's Megaprojects and aerial photos of the country's increasingly surreal construction boom, e.g: 'The World, rising 5km offshore'.

Reversing Vandalism, ' destroyed books transformed into art' (via that rabbit girl). See also Vintage Vandals, transforming thrift store art into, well, more art / Kapitza have designed this beautiful book to accompany David Mabb's exhibition on William Morris at the Whitworth Gallery.

Friday, February 04, 2005
The Paris Review have scanned their volumes from the 50s and 60s, and made the pdfs available for download. Who says today's media is all about surface? 'Mr Eliot looked particularly well... He was tanned, and he seemed to have put on weight in the three years since the interviewer had seen him.'

The Chicago Cryptogram. Try the American Cryptogram Association if you're stuck / Skippy's self-amplifying record / the Pramulator, a twisted object from Bent Fabrication (via the cartoonist). See also the history of the classic Silver Cross pram / Paper Doll Heaven. Dress up your favourite celeb. Surely better than stalking? / Pianist punished for prison song. An mp3 is available here / the medical illustration of Patrick Lynch / Head Magazine / the Ayn Rand / Incredibles connection? Via this me-fi discussion.

Britain's 10 best kept secrets looks at the cases, mostly sad and tragic, that were buried by the full weight of the Official Secrets Act, mostly due to incompetence and official embarrassment. Far more intriguing are the swathes of land wrapped up in barbed wire, their usage swathed in mystery. Consider Orford Ness, a lonely spit of land that was once the site of military tests and is now owned by the National Trust. There aren't many bits of unexplored Britain, a small island that only gets really mysterious when the military get involved (see past posts on Imber). There's also the wonderfully-named Foulness Island.

Thursday, February 03, 2005
Bits and pieces today. Amusing tales of script writing, Hollywood Style, regarding one of this year's biggest stinkers so far / Turquoise Days, an indie mp3 blog / this is a lovely photograph / Paul Rudolph's Umbrella House to be Auctioned as Art. Perhaps that 'Art' should be in quotes. Also noted at Preservation Online, the news that Gettysburg Restores its Cyclorama. See our post of July 5, 2004 for background.

A fascinating computer ephemera sale at Christie's, The Origins of Cyberspace, 'A Library on the History of Computing, Networking & Telecommunications' (via Bowblog). Lots include the first sales brochure ever published for an electronic digital computer (the ENIAC, with more information available at The ENIAC Museum) / skyscrapers in London.

Snopes adds a new feature, the 25 Hottest Urban Legends / distilling popular university courses into just seven words: Who studies what: the truth, at last, via TimTom, who also links Switzerland's mandatory laws regarding the need for bunkers in private property / make a painting with Artpad, then play back your brushstrokes. Addictive. See these three examples: I, II, III.

How To Build Modern Furniture, uploaded by no, 2 self, who is on a bit of a roll at the moment / depressing graphic of death in Iraq. Another depressing graphic, of tax dollar distribution (via Sachs Report) / Immortal Sole will sell you old trainers, in immaculate condition / modern furniture at Inside Originals.

Dan Dare and doll's houses, a piece by Lord Richard Rogers on the need for quality design in the Thames Gateway development area. Subtext, hire more architects. The Dan Dare references are a slight case of pots and kettles, I think (that last link is a pdf of RRP's new building at 122 Leadenhall, which might not be quite as space-age as 30 St Mary Axe. However, it's still about 'creating a dramatic silhouette on the skyline').

Wired looks at Space Art, the concepts that stirred the public's enthusiasm for exploration. See also Dreams of Space (via i like) / the Williamson Tunnels are extraordinary, the creation of Joseph Williamson, the 'King of Edge Hill', who devoted his life to tunnelling beneath his humble terraced house. With links to all sorts of underground delights / spot the difference: X vs Y (via Mocoloco). It would be more amusing if we weren't responsible for writing Y.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
The ongoing emasculation of a design: Will the Freedom Tower's Spire Survive? Philip Nobel's (a things alumni, no less) new book, Sixteen Acres, is subtitled Architecture and the Outrageous Struggle for the Future of Ground Zero. Clay Risen's review of the book in the New York Times notes that its central theory is that the 'art' of architecture is ultimately subsumed by commerce. Modern architecture's obsession with the grand statement, with style triumphing over substance, ill equips it to deal with the commercial imperative, which, inevitably, will triumph.

True, there was an outpouring of the architectural avant-garde in the weeks and months following the destruction of the towers, culminating in a show at the Max Protetch Gallery entitled 'A New World Trade Center'. From Risen's review, "Nobel mercilessly needles the participants in the January 2002 show at the Max Protetch Gallery, who presented a cornucopia of avant-garde architectural wit but also a ''fatal distance from public need,'' unbuildable designs that responded to problems ''too conjectural, too personal, too obscure, too sensational . . . to be of much use when utility comes calling."

Nonetheless, the Protetch show set the bar high and raised expectations that the new scheme would be something special. And so the debate began, see-sawing between avant-gardism and naked commercialism, with the mutterings over the spire just the latest in several legal spats. Nobel's book has come perhaps too soon to unravel the true story; there will be others.

Perhaps surprisingly, Philip Johnson didn't take part, even though Nobel notes he went to lunch with Protetch as the gallery owner was gathering initial support. Johnson was an opportunist, but even he, maybe, would have been aware of the paradoxes in generating instant icons for such a potent site. In the early modernist period, Johnson was instrumental in propogating the image of architect as superman, yet the wild disparity between his early politics (see Form Follows Fascism) and later commercial asuteness ('whoring', as he termed it) seem to confirm the slow death of the architect as all-encompassing creator, a Roarkian figure to whom we all must kowtow.

Over at Archinect, Javier Arbona has written an angry rebuttal of Andrew Saint's 'venomous obituary' for Johnson in the Guardian, accusing Saint of homophobia: 'Nevertheless, [Saint's] message goes something like this: architecture with a social commitment is difficult, requires consistency and can only be produced by very masculine men, not fairies; leave the decorating to the queer eye.'

Arbona's anger and offence is understandable, yet I think he's being unfair to Saint. Johnson never abrogated his social responsibility, any more so than the architecture world's 'masculine men' (suggestions, please, as to who they might be). Instead, he was just more astute, realising that the statement architecture of the 70s onwards was International Modernism's true destiny, the corporate HQ as icon. Mark Stevens goes further, claiming that "Mr. Johnson's main flaws as an artist - his tastes for razzle-dazzle and overweening scale - are equally the weaknesses of American secular culture. His main strengths - his openness to change, playfulness and urbane rejection of the Miss Grundys of the world - are equally it's strengths."


Other things. Tiny pong / learn to drive on your PC with 3D Fahrschule. Although it seems to play fast and loose with geography (and architecture) / a passion for American motors at Arctic Boy / ongoing, a weblog / civil unrest in the World of Warcraft / the $498 knob (via daily jive). Because "micro vibrations created by the volume pots and knobs find their way into the delicate signal path and cause degradation". So there.

The Custom Fibonacci Spiral Generator, via Panabasis, the weblog of the Janus Museum. Every now and again you stumble on a weblog that seems to perfectly encapsulate a way of life, an environment, people, characters, whatever (although the Janus Museum is not all it seems, we think).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
We'll post again tomorrow.