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Friday, May 27, 2005
A couple of broadsides against contemporary architecture, for argument's sake. 'Science, Pseudo-Science, and Architecture', by Catesby Leigh, states baldly that 'the social justification for the industrialization of architecture had evaporated'. The piece goes on to blame modernism for the destruction of 'traditional architectural culture,' and the corresponding rise of 'ersatz-traditional [housing] schlock', which reminds us of the architect who said 'But to blame Le Corbusier [for the Ronan Point disaster] is like blaming Mozart for Muzak' (cited in this paper, Home, by the artist and photographer Lisa Anne).

A similar story can be found in Dr Joachim Langhein's essay Proportion and Traditional Architecture, published at the International Network for Traditional Buildings, Architecture and Urbanism. Langhein kicks off with a contradiction. 'Twentieth century architecture sought above all to be "scientific", but it managed only to achieve the status of a pseudo-science'. Perhaps. But the very next sentence reads 'Guiding ideas like "Form follows function" or "Less is more" found broad acceptance with architects, those who teach architecture, and building owners.' These two famous quotes, attributed to Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe respectively, are surely the antithesis of a procedural scientific approach, sound-bites for a pre-media age that continue to be blamed for all of society's ills. But wasn't it quite the opposite? As Jan Michl's 'Form follows What?' speculates, 'form follows function 'inaugurated and legalized an era of a surreptitiously formalist approach to architecture and design'. In other words, things might not have actually been functional, but given modernism's infinite adaptability of form (contradicting both Langhein and Leigh above), the impression of a servile functionalist utopia was unassailable. We're back to Muzak again.


Other things. Two more provocations from Limited Language, 'Illustrators, rather like women in the Bible...' and 'Boredom, b'dumb, b'dumb...' / a la carte, tips, hints and recipes / Turquoise Days, an mp3 weblog / identifying classic Glastron powerboats. Related (as the TV batboat was also a Glastron), the history of the Batmobile (via me-fi and 0lll). More utopian-image puncturing at The Register. Noting drily that Burt Rutan apparently believes that 'Space tourism will save the children', Thomas C Greene writes disparagingly that 'suggesting that mass space tourism could possibly inspire the next generation of Alan Sheppards is to suggest that Carnival cruises have been inspiring the next generation of Jacques Cousteaus' (via Rossignol).

Monica, 'a really rare automobile' / consumptive changes focus / photographyblog / Modernista offers reproductions and originals of Czech and Bauhaus design / Re-visit the story of Joseph Zoettl's grotto / hi-tech guitar case / an amazing site about St Petersburg's Architecture / different lightbulbs create very different colours / Ex-soviet union music, an mp3 log.

Sunday, May 22, 2005
Dan at City of Sound has passed things the Musical Baton, and we feel duty bound to take up the call. So here goes.

Total volume of music on my computer: Not hugely impressive: 28.1 GB in the mp3 folder, comprising of 5,963 files. We don't have iTunes, so god only knows how many artists that is. Lots.

The last CD I bought: See below, sadly enough, along with this and this. There are a lot of re-releases about. Before that was the debut album by Justin Broadrick's Jesu and Nick Cave's B-Sides. Next up, Electrelane's Axes.

Song playing right now: 'All Cats are Grey', live somewhere summer 1981, from The Cure's recently re-released Seventeen Seconds

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me: Always a tricky one. Two recent songs that will hopefully endure: Rachel Goswell's 'Coastline' (buy) and M83's 'Unrecorded', off their first album, Dead Cities, Red Seas and Lost Ghosts. Three that have endured. Glen Campbell's 'Wichita Lineman', The Cure's 'A Strange Day' and Sonic Youth's 'Total Trash' from Daydream Nation.

Five people to whom I'm passing the baton: the following five will hopefully relish the challenge: i like, Russell Davies, bowblog, daily jive, no sense of place


Other things. heyblog / Area 10 is an arts co-operative in Peckham / I Love Old Maps, or how Middletown, Connecticut, used to be / The Gutter, a more architecturally-orientated offshoot of Curbed / excellent post on Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities / the Citroen CX penthouse prototype, via we make money not art / unusual aircraft in NASA's Dryden Aircraft Fleet. More unusual aircraft, this time models of secret weapons of the Luftwaffe.

A publishing sub-genre exposed in the The Virtual Cube Book Library. Even academics were in on the game. From here, one gets to Dissections: Plane & Fancy, a book on geometric dissections, with occasional digressions into mathematical furniture / British Model Buses / Excellent Toys from Europe.

New technology changes cultural preconceptions: who looks better and who looks worse on HDTV? (via collision detection). Not exactly high art, that page / the ghostly rollercoaster / 'more than 7000 [little] guns pictures at / Ambit Magazine / Dot Dot Dot magazine / the Sinclair QL catalogue, courtesy of fuzzbucket / architecture in Half Life, via landliving / Drawn!, the illustration weblog.

'The ceilings of Jacques Herzog. Or: Swiss architects get emotional'. Hugh Pearman waxes lyrical on the sensuous architecture coming out of H and de M's studio ('They're so in demand, they don't even bother to have a website') / Montreal in the 60s, an exhibition at ArchNewsNow, with amazing archive photography.

Thursday, May 19, 2005
Paris in 1911, in the Baedeker guide (via the map room). For more vintage guide books, visit Baedeker's Old Guide Books, including London in 1905, including railways, the Zoological Gardens (i.e. London Zoo) and the Tower of London. The 1910 Great Britain page is good source material for students of town-planning.

Beverley Tang points to the ongoing debates over the Google UFOs. Conspiracy theorists go wild. Also at Google Sightseeing, rollercoasters / Flower Robotics mix robots and architecture. A contemporary update of Kenzo Tange's work at Expo 70. Check the Osaka World Exposition 1970 page for more / Futurismic, a weblog / Trump takes on the troubled WTC site / Stunt Design: Don't Do It! / tool kit / food photos by Sharon Core (originally via coincidences), a contemporary homage to Wayne Thiebaud. We also like pie / New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

The Way We See It, images of London. More London photos by StefZ, such as this (via Boing Boing) / get listed at Britblog / the ups and downs of Erno Goldfinger's Trellick Tower (more info) / tractor brochures / a huge collection of hearses / my collections, via metafilter / coming soon, the world's biggest megayacht (sic) / the CX Files / a sorry end for a piece of film history: 2001, a space station.

A great and chatty history of early web design, via the relatively freshly professional kottke. Includes a museum of early Russian web design rip-offs and some nice, old school, free backgrounds. Related, When Multimedia was Black and White, via metafilter.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
limited language has launched. A collaboration between Colin Davies, Oskar Karlin and things designer Monika Parrinder, the site promises to start up conversations and debates in the broad arena of design. You can read three of Monika's pieces on line, Shooting Images, from things 17, Move On, from back in issue 11 and Pregnant Pause, from number 14.

Mocoloco list their favourite offline magazines (and part 1) / what's coming next (or is it already here?): ubiquitous computing - 'one person, many computers' (as opposed to the mainframe era - one computer, many persons) / while we're on the subject of book covers, 'women's books decoded', the symbolic use of footwear (via design observer). The site in question, galleycat provides a good insight into the mechanics of the modern book cover / meat art by Victoria Reynolds / heyblog / The Power of Nightmares, torrents and transcripts.

Soils in paintings (scroll down). See also art and soil / eight Beatles / Anthony Lane on Revenge of the Sith - priceless / on satire - 'a masked ball where we can be devils or devils' advocates' - in design, yet another thoughtful design observer post / what is the Senster? Apparently it was 'the first robotic sculpture to be controlled by a computer', developed by Philips in the early 1970s. Here are some images of how it looks now. Thanks to Miles for the info.

Friday, May 13, 2005
Bookscans is a glorious compendium of cover art, with a special section devoted to Penguin, including the publisher's wartime titles (with books like What's That Plane?). You can also visit the Penguin Collector's Society, and try your hand at Penguin Remixed and chop up audio books (although quite why you'd want to do this is anyone's guess). See also Looking at Buildings. And we have a small Pelican gallery for your perusal as well.

Interestingly, the scanned Penguins are all American editions, and therefore far more pictorial and less typographic than their UK equivalents. Phil Baines' excellent new book, Penguin by Design charts the evolution of the company's cover designs, with particular emphasis on the involvement of Jan Tschichold. Dean Allen told the story well in a post a couple of years back, culminating with a devastating aside about the company's (then?) current attitude to design. This year is Penguin's 70th anniversary (a very elegant flash site, but also time for yet another box set), so perhaps the Baines book is an atonement of sorts. There have been other design-led ventures, most notably the beautiful Great Ideas series (the team for which included Baines amongst the designers, and who have recently been nominated for the Design Museum's Designer of the Year award). More infamously, the company did its best to scupper itself last year, with a catastrophic move to a new warehouse.


Three things sneetched from Coudal: I) Gionarle Nuovo on the fantasy architecture of Etienne-Louis Boullee and Jean-Jacques Lequeu, II), Free Online Graph Paper and III), Pop-Up and Movable Books, 'a Tour Through Their History' (see also the work of Jan Pienkowski)

Alfred's Camera Page, via conscientious, a collection of old Soviet cameras. Alfred is very down on LOMOgraphy. Unsurprising, when the Austrian-based company seems to come down heavy on anyone who tries to muscle in on their market. Because of course, there's no reason why one shouldn't buy a Lomo camera direct from the St Petersburg-based factory, the Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Organization. Lomojoe has way more info.

Some other Bookscans categories, including sleaze, different interpretations of the same book, and recycled cover art / dust devils on Mars (gif) / early aircraft design at the Adventure Lounge, an excellent weblog (via Kottke) / linked before but lost: Pixelyn's Premiere Issues, an archive of magazine first editions.

'I am filled with saline', AW zine's latest issue is 'a tribute to one of America's favorite icons the Bikini Lady' / the tin men gallery of Eric Joyner (via Rossignol) / 'Fictionology: offers its followers a mythical belief system free from the cumbersome scientific method to which Scientology is hidebound.'

Thursday, May 12, 2005
The Airline Bag Lounge (via AshleyB). I think we linked this before but didn't even go there. I used to have the top right bag / Sculpture Magazine / the BDM Classic Car Collection / icon magazine visit Grimshaw's Rolls Royce Factory in Goodwood.

Push Pull Bar architectural forum (via inflight correction), which is full of goodness. Like this immaculately rendered radio controlled car model, which links to this collector's page. The forum seems to be for users of the instant-architect software Sketchup

Leisure Centre magazine moves on to issue 2. Issue 1 is now available for download (and self-assembly) / Beatrice Neumann's landscape photography / oh no! It's the very last Letter of Gary Benchley, Rock Star / Roadmap art of the road, a flickr group via i like / Flip Flop Flying.

Found Photos from Argentina / literature found in a box / Misplaced Reliquary, a 'handheld curiosity cabinet' by artist Paul Catanese / m-city, hard to explain, but highly beautiful / mighty clever: the baby name voyager.

Jean Maneval's 1964 Bubble House, with more info over at designboom. Reminiscent of both the Monsanto House of the Future and Werner Aisslinger's Loftcube / Living Smart, 'A competition for narrow lot house designs of excellence'.

Interesting point made in this BBC story of the ghastly new 70m UKP mansion, Updown Court: "There are over 600 known billionaires in the world and probably twice as many as that who keep their names quiet." / stories of data loss disaster / looking down, by slower.

A couple of galleries from Russell Davies: a fair for those who love trains (check the ties) and all 89 channels from the Grand Hyatt Amman in Jordan. He did another one of these more recently, but we keep finding old links lying around.

Ludwig was one of those short before-the-news cartoons that you saw as a child and then struggled to recall during the following decades. Was it all a dream? Did it actually exist? This page lists quite a few of them, but strangely omits The Herbs (which, admittedly, was an animation). Via haddock.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
All these things feel vaguely connected. That's Enough Entertainment, thanks (via haddock). Armando Iannucci makes a point we can totally concur with: "I am publicly confessing that I've never seen - and probably will never see - an episode of The Sopranos in my lifetime". The piece also taps into what has been defined as a 'mega-trend': 'choice fatigue', or the feeling of being totally overwhelmed by the available options. It also reveals the inherent flaw with the mp3 player:

Having all this music in their pocket, they find it more difficult to be entirely satisfied with the track they've chosen to listen to. The urge to flick is greater across multi-channel TV, not necessarily because the programmes are bad, but because logic dictates there has to be something even better somewhere else.

A couple of things from design observer. Firstly, On Designer Bullshit, in which Michael Bierut recalls Richard Meier getting egg on his face (presumably de-yolked, ultra pure egg white). Secondly, from a while back, Leisurama considers the house of the future, via the Muji House and the new documentary, Leisurama (the site for which is dressed up in that irresistable mid-century sheen, all ephemera now palettes and style). The Leisurama House itself was a fairly conventional structure, designed by legendary beach house builder Andrew Geller, then chief architectural designer at Raymond Loewy Associates.

The house had none of the streamlining or technological zing that has come to be associated with Loewy's name - indeed, none of the geometric eccentricity that characterised Geller's later work (some of which is, sadly, facing impending demolition). But the houses - some 200 in all were built - were politically important, rather than aesthetically. As the author Tom Vanderbilt notes, 'what makes the Leisurama houses interesting, apart from their novel marketing, is that they seemed to have briefly stood as some kind of symbol of national superiority over the Soviets.'

Are gadgets still a benchmark of progress? Perhaps. On the other hand, you have LODA: the Law of Diminishing Amazement, coined by John Thackara in his book In the Bubble. "The more gadgets you cram into a simple product, the harder it will be to impress people, let alone to get them to pay a heap of money for it". I don't think we've reached critical mass for this particular law yet.

Increasingly, size matters. Average house sizes in the EU (pdf): the EU-wide average is 87 square metres (approximately 936 square feet). In the US, the average house size is 2,123 square feet (197 square metres). More interesting stats available at This New House, a piece in Mother Jones magazine: 'Since 1950, the average new [American] house has increased by 1,247 sq. ft. Meanwhile, the average household has shrunk by 1 person.' You can download one of the sources, the Housing Facts, Figures & Trends 2004 report (pdf) from the National Association of Home Builders.

There was a short piece on Monday's Today Programme about American businesses moving towards a more environmentally-friendly approach, the motto Capitalism + Technology being mooted as a solution to issues like global warming, rather than restrictive legislation (which makes companies scratch and wriggle like cats in a sack). This Land+Living post, What Can I Do? therefore seemed timely, especially as the main pdf linked comes via a company called Natural Capitalism. Try Grist for more grit.

Mr Beller's Neighbourhood, a walk around literary New York / vaguely inspired by literary New England: kill zombies with de-animator / Larry Carlson makes strange animations / Las Vegas Gambles on Growth, aerial photography by Alex S. MacLean.

Full Speed Ahead, the Russian Avantgarde from 1910 - 1934. Followed by Soviet Socialist Realism at the Virtual Museum of Political Art / installation-like furniture by Fredrikson Stallard / fine art scans at Olga's gallery / via NYC London, Webesteem, a Polish art and design magazine / also via L+L, Urban Roof Gardens.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Women - as portrayed in British World War II advertising, 'A brief look at how women were represented in popular advertising in the wartime Britain of the 1940's.', via PCL Linkdump (currently awol) / fine mp3s at Vinyl Journey / Rossignol, a weblog / some more virtual drums, this time a bit more analogue, via music thing, of course / the art of Zohar Lazar / Eviota sigillata, the coral reef pygmy goby that lives fast and dies young.

Miles Thistlethwaite's excellent 'Washing Line Portraits' go on show at the Candid Arts Trust in Torrens Street, London EC1 1NQ, from today until Friday. If you can't catch them there, we have compiled a gallery of the Washing Line Portraits for your perpetual enjoyment. Thanks Miles (and Tom) / Slow Walk, an Artangel event in celebration of five years of the Longplayer installation.

We've just bought one of these: Lomo 135BC. Whether it actually works or not is another matter / beautiful cityscape / intense architectural drawings by Volkan Alkanoglu, which bring to mind Daniel Libeskind's early AA Portfolios / blackbeltjones creates an appropriate set of tags for yesterday's muppet quote: culturedeath / buy an X-Wing, and relish in your small contribution to preventing culture death.

A large collection of German Radios / Kronos: A Chronological History of the Martial Arts and Combative Sports. Enormous and exhaustive. And exhausting / Thomas Meyer has many photos of Frank Gehry, the man and his work (via incoming signals).

Monday, May 09, 2005
A perfect run of Corvettes, from 1953 to 1989, is found in a Brooklyn garage. Collated and given away in 1990 for a competition held by music channel VH1, the cars were purchased by Peter Max, a New York artist who pioneered marketing his own work and was apparently the stylistic inspiration behind the Beatles' Yellow Submarine cartoon. Nonetheless, the imdb has Heinz Edelmann listed as the film's creative director, and a quick dig around reveals these illustrations. This 1993 interview with Edelman:

So, the Meanies, in a way to me, represented a symbolic version of the cold war. And originally they were the Red Meanies....and only because the assistant who came in to do the coloring, she either did not quite understand my instructions, or deliberately did not understand them, but it also could be we didn't have enough red paint in the place. So they became the Blue Meanies.

Visit Beatlebay for Fab Four collectables. Back to the Corvettes. Max planned to paint the cars, perhaps in a fine swathe of perfectly matched Pantone colours, but he never got round to it. It was also said that he inspired BMW's celebrated Art Cars, which ran the stylistic gamut from pop to abstract expressionism. Related, make your own art car. Or buy a legend: Lot 802, a 1958 Plymouth Fury.

This recent Times article on the Disneyfication of the Muppets contains a gem of a quote, from an unnamed Disney executive talking about the company's recent aquisition of the Muppet 'intellectual property': 'Disney has deemed irreverence as one of the five core equities of the Muppets (humorous, heartwarming, puppet-inspired and topical being the other four).' And who knew that Dr Bunsen Honeydew (seen to the right of daring lab chemist Mr Beaker) was based on media impresario Lew Grade?

Images of Mars exploration, taken from orbit / the art of David Ostrowski / the art of Catherine Vase / Archidose's bad building round-up / Christopher Mayhew says / Plastic Bugs, a weblog, which links this handy eBay feedback generator / every channel: this is the reality of hotel TV.

Friday, May 06, 2005
Kottke provides a comprehensive set of links and information for Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson's entertaining rebuke to those who accuse the modern world of dumbing down. In a way it's a shame that the book is just that - a book - because the dead tree format fails many readers who might feel Johnson's ideas are the start of a discussion, rather than the last word (his subtitle, 'How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter', neatly sums up his argument. In fact, it's such a succinct summation of the book that it almost negates the need for the book itself). Another discussion. In the end, our favourite bits were the little diagrams illustrating narrative depth: Starsky + Hutch versus The Sopranos (although some critics railed at even those).

Even a weblog post like Kottke's showcases the limitations of this kind of cultural analysis - a form of criticism and theory that exists partly because of the way the internet has democraticised information availability. The point being that the internet seems to encourage books, yet the books themselves inevitably add more noise to the signal, encouraging yet more books and so on. Another example of this genre is Curtis White’s The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don’t Think for Themselves (which seems to be subtitled Why Consumer Culture is Turning Us into the Living Dead in the UK). Interesting only for the opposition it sets up against Johnson's book, neither really get to the crux of why so much contemporary culture - be it 'high', 'low', good or bad - has the feeling of high fructose corn syrup.

We shall continue to contribute to the soundbitatisation of practically everything with our traditionally random 'elsewhere' section. Charlie emails with details of the British Library's Texts in Context website, a rich collection of original source material. Our favourites include 'Books for Cooks', which has a recipe for jelly and custard from 1575 and tips on repelling bugs from Hannah Glasse's 1747 best-seller, The Art of Cookery. Her recipes seem to endure. Some more rare cookery books page 2from the Kansas State University's collection.

The Amaztype page has snared quite a bit of publicity (even in places like Creative Review magazine) / wanted, back issues of wallpaper magazine. Ah, but do they have the magazine's Russian edition? / Fashion Projects, isn't an online publication, but looks intriguing all the same / The Physics Behind Four Amazing Demonstrations: how to walk on broken glass, dip your hand in molten lead, break a concrete block, etc. / one wants these images to be much bigger: Plan, by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga. There are some better reproductions at Raster, which specialises in Polish art, as well as at Artnet. They also bring to mind this drawing of 221B Baker Street (as well as a fair few of the entrants in this list of the top 100 Spectrum games).

Italian automobilia at Barchetta / scattergun, a weblog / all sorts of artistic chaos at / does anyone own a chair like this?. If so, I am jealous / sandsational / Chris Jordan's photography includes his series 'Intolerable Beauty — Portraits of American Mass Consumption' / a guide to the first 50 singles issued by Creation Records, via indie mp3. Teenage Kicks 3000 and the Peel Tapes are two of a burgeoning collection of tribute sites to the late John Peel, comprising of sessions and even whole programmes ripped from old audio tapes.

Allianz Arena Munich, a striking new structure by Herzog + de Meuron, in a photo gallery by 0lll. The Allianz plays up on the stadium's essential otherworldliness, an alien object that has descended into a (fairly featureless) landscape. Although the exterior is highly faceted, it's no match for the architect's National Stadium in Beijing, a highly complex structure that is rumoured to be suffering design changes thanks to budget cuts. The official Allianz Arena site, with its own image gallery.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Still playing catch-up...

Having experienced a week of Soviet-era architecture in St Petersburg, it's interesting to see what might have been: 'The Architecture of Moscow from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Unrealised projects' (via Coudal) / redesigned... plasticbag / google maps UK / some writing on sound. 'The Death of Dynamic Range: A Chronology of the Compact Disc Loudness Wars'. The Tao of Esteban, or how a classical guitarist created his own mythology. A virtual AKAI MPC2000XL (all via music thing).

Los Angeles, an architectural photo library / movie-themed fonts, and many more / (now ageing) me-fi round up: post-rock suggestions / retro space games, re-made for today's PCs; Reptilian Imagery and Demonology. Also, a nicely composed Metafilter post on various London Underground things, such as this morphing tube map (flash).

Modernismo, a group photo pool at Flicker, via i like / abandoned Japanese lounge bar, also via i like / the factory architecture of Olivetti / Mini performance conversions / Chinese copy-cats, or how the burgeoning auto industry in China is rampaging over Western copyright laws to get cars built / many models of Mercedes.

Side by Side, a photo project by Bridget Walsh Regan at The Morning News, who also links to the incredible site of Brian Berg, Cardstacker. See also speed stacking, which takes paper cup dexterity to new heights. And the more cerebral will welcome this Card Model of Henry's Cabin, one of many at Fiddler's Green, 'the world's largest collection of downloadable cardmodels'.

Giant Steps, a film by Michael Levy (thanks, Brian) / mister charlie has a weblog / artist Noriko Suzuki-Bosco's Good Mother's Institute: just what is it that makes a mother good? Having some bacon strip bandages might be a start.

A new(ish) issue of AW Zine / Heroes of Atheism, now available on a tea towel / things contributor Laurel Blossom has her own website. Read Tchotchke schlock, her piece on museum souvenirs / Marshall Sokoloff's excellent photography.

Bittiness will continue, at least until the posts start shape themselves into a more coherent narrative. Changing circumstances mean that things 19, which exists only in our heads, will start to slip from its projected Autumn 2005 cover date.