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Monday, November 28, 2005
From Lingotto to Larkin. 'Going, Going', written by Philip Larkin in 1972, includes the lines: 'I knew there'd be false alarms, In the papers about old streets, And split level shopping, but some, Have always been left so far; And when the old part retreats, As the bleak high-risers come, We can always escape in the car.'

Few people managed to express the end-century ennui with modernism more succinctly better than Larkin, and 'Split Level' was a swift rejoinder to the multi-level future of the architectural utopians. Although a spot of modernist nostalgia is no bad thing (we're fully paid up members of the Twentieth Century Society, wholeheartedly support their work, and adore it when we find the likes of 'modernism in the rain,' (a typically crisp Hyperkit gallery).

Those who fought tooth and claw to resist modernism always seemed a bit stick in the mud, reactionary for the sake of it. Don't get us wrong, as injustices continue to occur, but the early zeal of campaigners has been subsumed by a wishy-washy definition of heritage and what it's for. Consider Clough William-Ellis, who wrote angry polemics like England and the Octopus, apparently 'galvanising support for the newly formed Campaign to Protect Rural England in the 1920s'. William-Ellis has no contemporary equivalent, and the debate about town vs country is distilled into reports like Heritage Counts, a specially-commissioned EH publication that's a prime example of just how much hand-wringing and focus grouping goes on behind the scenes of our green and pleasant land, banging on about 'access' to 'rural heritage' as if a field is equivalent to a study collection of musical instruments.

We digress. Our current gallery features Matte Trucco's iconic Lingotto Factory in Turin, built for the Fiat company in the 1920s. Lingotto's most celebrated device is its roof-top test track. Here, freshly-built Fiats would be whizzed around on their maiden lap, high above the Turinese rooftops, on a celebratory lap before being sent off to the customer. It didn't take long for commentators and architects to extrapolate a new future from this incredible structure. By placing the car at the heart of the urban experience, the ideals and sheer exhilaration of Lingotto led in a more or less straight line to some of the most mind-numbingly bleak proposals that were realised in the latter half of the century. The car was king.

Consider the work of Robert Moses in New York (and his maxim that 'cities are for traffic'), or the heart-rending, whole-scale reconstruction of poor old Boston (via veritas et venustas), just one of countless cities obliterated in order to bring cars into town centres at the expense of historic streetplans and buildings. But then again, when one considers the unbuilt schemes, maybe the city got off lightly. Check the abortive plans for London Motorways, first mooted before the war and eventually spawning the short elevated stretch known as the Westway, rather than the whole of the GLC's ambitious Ringway 1. Consider too the Philadelphia Kahn / Bacon face-off (featured in in My Architect) to see how close we all came to be living in the promised land of the automobile.

Nowadays, such ambition is (usually rightly) discouraged, an opposition that's easy to understand when faced with Cumbernauld New Town, a place loathed even by its own inhabitants. The megastructure was apparently at fault, a fault-riddled architectural concept for buildings as monumental, near-continuous structures containing zones for eating, playing, working, parking, their access roads and walkways threaded through the concrete. Yet although Trucco's design was a precursor to multi-layered megastructuralism, its built legacy is relatively sparse, even more so when one focuses on residential schemes. Instead, the multi-level space found its true metier in super-sized commercial projects, from the Mall of America downwards, whereby the only justification for size and sprawl is as a consumer nexus, a honeypot stewed up mostly by one man, Victor Gruen, the high priest of mall culture (although admittedly Gruen also believed that his mall-centric consumer worlds would make the perfect basis for new cities).

For the most part, modernism chose to go up, and not out. The vertical city, a favourite of Le Corbusier, is a very different proposition to the dense, multi-layered horizontal city. Density would free up space, but to get to that space, cars had to be brought to the fore. Geoffrey Jellicoe's rather quaint and very English Motopia project was very much in thrall to his sponsors (the Pilkington glass Company) and the generally auto-centric nature of British society . We linked it before (the folks at British Pathe reorganised their database. You really have to jump through hoops to download a preview: 'this is a town of the future, a town whose 30,000 inhabitants will never know the meaning of road accidents'. Here are some preview stills) and have now scanned a few images from the book.

Motopia was ambitious, but essentially bucolic at heart. Gordon Cullen's typically evocative sketches showed a new world rising up out of the English landscape, the perpetual mechanical conversation of commuting uniting all sectors. Far more realistic were the proposals suggested in Traffic in Towns, just two years later. Containing the results of a Working Group from the then Ministry of Transport, the document, known as the Buchanan Report, advocated wholescale restructuring of towns and cities to accommodate the car (more details here; Buchanan's winning coinage was 'car-owning democracy', which he used 'to warn how, as individual mobility increased, there would be inevitable conflict between those demanding more freedom of movement and those opposed to the road building programmes that would be needed to meet demand').

The schemes presented in the report were all speculative, but informed subsequent major bypass works and city centre reorganisations the length and breadth of the UK. We're most interested in the touchingly ambitious plan to rip apart the then rather down-at-heel London district of Fitzrovia. Three plans were suggested, minimum, partial and complete redevelopment, the latter reducing the existing Georgian streetscape to a series of thick motorways and flyovers, interspersed with a few nodal living spaces and recreation areas. A more 'piecemeal' redevelopment was also explored, which noted the council's provisions for about 7,000 parking spaces. The report reckoned that by 2010, this area alone would need about 15,500 parking spaces, 8,500 of which were for 'commuters and shoppers.' Today, the whole of Camden has just 1,127 parking meters and 2,591 pay and display spaces (source: Hansard).

It's pretty easy to pick holes in Traffic in Towns. The graphics are gorgeous, the renderings seductive, yet the entire conceit has been totally subsumed by changing perceptions. What's surprising, though, is that the heavyweights of modern architecture continue to be saddled with a reputation as the destroyers of urban life, progenitors of inhuman architecture that ushered in social and physical alienation. Traffic in Towns shows that it was government agencies and the media, not to mention lobbyist groups from road builders and car makers, who thought an automotive future was the only way forward, and, if necessary, huge swathes of the city would need to make way for progress. Nonetheless, blaming Corb continues to be fashionable, as the author of this NY Times piece, 'Revolting High Rises' makes clear. By condemning residents to modern developments that fail to factor in changing demographics, social movement or desire, culminated in last month's riots. Clay Risen rightly takes issue with this in his recent piece in the New Republic, 'No Fault'.

A postscript. The thing about Lingotto is how sad and lonely the whole place feels now. Even Renzo Piano's much-vaunted additions feel underused. To gain access to the roof one asks for a little key from the hotel reception (it's billed as a 'jogging track' in the brochure'). You're then instructed to traipse through the shopping centre, up a lift and then unlock a door with a scrawled paper sign on it. And that's it. Atop this icon of contemporary architecture there are only concrete bollards for company (placed to prevent any adventurous joyriders from testing the steep banking): it's about as disconnected from the real life of the city as it is possible to be.

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Other things. We've obviously had our head under the sand for a bit. Metafilter Projects is a space for me-fi members to announce web-based projects. Samples include The Road Online, 'part of a project to gather ambient sounds (sounds that happen to be in an environment) from locations mentioned in Kerouac's On the Road' (the manuscript of which, famously typed on a 120 foot roll of paper, is currently on tour). Also via me-fi projects, Oh Blast!, who make things.

Related. Thanks to nick at Blanketfort for signposting wikipedia's page on field recording and collection of external links / modern music mag The Wire has a collection of images from the Her Noise exhibition, as well as videos from the launch event. We re-visited it on Saturday and might be persuaded to post our second attempt at 'reverse karaoke' / Reelstreets features GB film locations from the 20s to the 80s (thanks to scattergun). The straightforward list is gradually being updated with images, then and now, such as this entry for Ken Loach's Poor Cow or Night and the City / People Will Always Need Plates make beautiful chinaware.

The autograph man: a collection of celebrity signatures with a twist. Paul Schmelzer has so far persuaded 70 celebrities to write his own name. See the results at Hello, my name is Paul Schmelzer. Thanks Cam / the Best Word Book Ever, by Richard Scarry, a then-and-now comparison between the 60s edition and the 90s edition (via me-fi) / i luv mags have a huge pile of glossy magazines, all of which they will sell you / all sorts of things flagged up at the ultimate insult / structurae, 'works of structural engineering, architecture or construction through time, history and from around the world.'

Found Mattr, 'messages from the past', is our kind of website, a repository for postcards and other ephemera that would otherwise be lost / Her Noise website up and running, with weblog / I have a new piece at tmn, entitled 'Vexed in the City' (great title, but sadly not our doing) / the gadgetification of America (thanks to sachlichkeit) / Urban Country Lanes, a website 'created to record and appreciate the phenomenon that is urban country lanes'.


Friday, November 25, 2005
Epitonic has a large field recording section. More field recording selections, see also the Freesound Project / the car music project / Saab Videos, exactly that /Synthosium, a synthesiser weblog and the hexagonal room, when electronic drums were geometric, both via the ineffable music thing. See also Fetish Guitars, an Italian site devoted to chromed six-strings / Enzo Mari's wooden puzzle is very beautiful indeed, but also way too expensive / 'sonic memories,' collected, re-composed and played on the Living Wall, an installation by Asmund Gamlesaeter and Alexander Berman.

Something for the weekend: Animal Families, card game from the 1960s.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005
LeaderJar.com is part of the Fruit Jars Collectors Webring. Their publication library is very extensive - this is a collecting market that pre-dates the internet by a quite considerable time. Other collectors offer copious images of round boxes and fruit jar rubbers, or the Aussie Bottle Digger site, with its helpful colour charts.

All About Nothing isn't exactly that, but they're developing an eye for arcana and scanned pop culture / get the most out of contemporary technology at A Consuming Experience. If only it could tell us how to enable something called 'packet data' on our phone, then we could use the thrilling looking Mobile GMaps / Annoyances.org, 'the most complete collection of information assembled for and by actual users of Microsoft Windows'.

The Folio Society has been making handsome limited editions for nearly sixty years. They're one of the few publishers who really care about cover art, harking back to the days when riches often lurked beneath the dust jacket. Some fine bindings from the past / Pirelli's calendar page is pretty decently done. The calendar has always tracked pop culture pretty closely, slavishly imitating pop art, fine art and cinema, yet is also a rather cyclical affair, with styles popping up over and over again. Look out for stark, Newton-esque black and white (1990, 1999, 2005), theatrical, extravagant and surrealist (1988, 1992, 2004), cinematic romping (1872, 1985, 2006) or vogueish pop knock-offs (1969, 1973).

Digg, a technology news website / more tech news at Joi Ito / modern photography for sale at Villa Grisebach / incredible paperwork (via plasticbag) / what is brand hijacking?, a question asked into the void. The void hasn't responded as yet / we contributed a little bit of holiday hell to tmn. Also via the mn, clouds that look like things / after the post on Courchevel's steep runway, some videos of planes landing on mountains (including Courchevel, mpg) (via) / Andrew Brown on Owning Ideas: 'The difference between ideas and things is obvious as soon as someone hits you over the head with an idea - so obvious that until recently it was entirely clear to the law.'

'"Lost" is "Baywatch" for the New Millennium', according to Off-Grid, a web publication devoted to solutions for living outside convention. It seems to attract everything from survivalists to hybrid-loving Yuppies, a fairly broad church / London, 2005, a video installation by Pipilotti Rist. Kultureflash's archives are well worth perusing / mods always promise so much, then vanish into the ether. This Interstate 76 version of Battlefield 2 would be lovely right now. Odds are that it'll never happen / photos of Greenwich Village by Robert Totter / houseblinger catalogues those little neighbourhood spikes in the National Grid / for your seasonal entertainment, Coudal offer the Portable Fish, their celebrated puzzle in pdf form.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005
'Not building: the lure of desolation,' Hugh Pearman's paean to the slow erosion of abandoned buildings. Compare and contrast with the unfortunate Villa Real in Consett, recently named as the country's 'worst new development', by CABE, which is tracking down the most mediocre piece of contemporary housing design. Handing out this kind of award always seems to be a closing the stable door exercise. If the Housing Design Awards can hand out gongs to proposed schemes, why can't CABE pre-empt mediocrity before it's set in bricks and mortar? Then perhaps these 'truly awful developments' wouldn't get built in the first place.

The Her Noise exhibition at the South London Gallery is well worth a visit. Curated by Lina Dzuverovic Russell and Anne Hilde Neset of Electra, the exhibition features work by Emma Hedditch, Christina Kubisch, Kaffe Matthews, Haley Newman and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon. Although we missed Christina Kubisch's immersive Electrical Walk, Matthews' Sonic Bed installation envelops you in a series of high and low frequencies, gently rumbling through your back. Gordon's installation replicates a recording studio, complete with bass, drums, guitars and vocals and invites you to play along to her pre-recorded vocals and receive a CD of the result. Our rather hapless 2.5 person effort can be downloaded here. Related, Amy Spencer's DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi Culture looks well worth a read.

Other things. NoNeedForAHelmet.com is brilliant marketing. Up until this moment, I wasn't even in the market for a superbike, let alone a Roland electronic drum kit / doodleblog brings you daily doodles / the remarkable airport at Courcheval, with its steeply sloping runway / a vintage Sears Catalogue / photography by Donald Tetto / my private tokyo, a photoblog / is this the end of blurry photos? The multi-focus camera / photos by Anna Kari / Misofunky, contemporary crafts / Soviet stamps.


Friday, November 18, 2005
Loughton Station in Essex is the Twentieth Century Society's Building of the Month. For even more vintage architectural goodness, visit RIBApix, the recently launched image portal of the RIBA, which currently contains 6,000 images to browse through (although they're at the small to medium scale of generosity, with larger ones available for a fee, of course). Nonetheless, it's good value browsing: architect's houses, for example. Here's Erno looking suitably heroic. In the latest issue of Wired, Momus draws parallels between the giants of modernism and cinematic villainy: 'Dr. Evil's Lair Evolves'. It repeats the fun but sadly mythical origin of the name of Bond's most celebrated villain, Auric Goldfinger. Ian Fleming did know Goldfinger, but was he furious at the latter's striking new terrace in Hampstead (close to Fleming's own home)?: 'Itís not true. Fleming was simply a golfing friend of a cousin of Goldfinger's English wife Ursula, and he borrowed the name, as he did with another villain he named after an acquaintance, Blofeld.'

However, the underlying theme, that 'popular imagination has often drawn a direct line from such "total design solutions" to totalitarianism,' stands up, largely thanks to the actions of the architects' themselves, rather than their representation in popular culture. But the era of bold but unthinking high-rises happened a long time ago and today the trend for stand-alone towers has reversed (sometimes entertainingly, sometimes creatively). The modernist-loving art director's fascination with evil interiors is a minor distraction, especially as there is renewed interest in the warmer, less dictatorial elements of modernism: even the good guys get great furniture these days.

Staying with archives, this is truly brilliant: Design online (via, although originally via design weblog). Design came to be a bit of an anomaly, a government-sponsored magazine that ultimately found itself railing against the slow atrophying of British industry, the rise of overseas manufacturing and the decline of the title 'designer.' Today the government fiddles about with Creative Forums, and there's a strong but generally suspicious independent design press. That 'design' is lumped in amongst the DCMS's many remits is rather telling: architecture and design are now expressions of culture, not industry.

Plasticbag on the number one media story in the UK right now, the Space Cadets 'Reality' show: sending 9 'suggestible' contestants to a windswept RAF base and TV studio but tell them they're heading off into low earth orbit. As one of the comments point out, it's Capricorn One in reverse, with all manners of psychological nasties just waiting to unspool if it goes even slightly wrong (or perhaps if it goes right - a win-win situation for reality TV these days). And it is a gamble. The amount of detailed, advanced publicity material given out - such as the technical information revealed by this Independent piece ('Unreality TV: The final frontier' - the headline writers are having a field day), shows a disturbing amount of faith in the ability of fame-hungry ordinary people to keep things quiet in this age of long lens journalism, spoilers, weekly gossip magazines, satellite imagery. Another article. If nothing is revealed in advance it will be a miracle.

It's all about imitation these days. For example, Martin Parr, we love you, a flickr group (via i like) / simulate a range of mobile phone handsets / Z+blog, design and culture / sort out files with Snif / more collections from the AHDS Visual Arts library: Damp Ruins Ammunition.


Thursday, November 17, 2005
A skeleton sketch (both via Boing Boing). See also this (wmv file) and this (gif file) / whatever you do, don't press. Visit the blue ball machine (both via haddock / a gallery of imaginary machines / deceptively entertaining: grid game / the lost numbers. Obsessive. Also a bit ahead for UK viewers / the 'shame cam' at 2 Columbus Circle, Edward Durrel Stone's brutalist marble NY skyscraper (not a combination you get every day), which is being controversially re-built. Someone should set up similar cams at Battersea Power Station. (via) / Design Spotter, new work by designer/makers.

Candida Hofer's Library series / photos by Stephen Shore / Edward Burtynsky's images of China are remarkable, especially the factories / photos by Piotry Zastrozny / Blind Spot is a high-end photography magazine / after the all flights movie, flash artist Aaron Koblin has created Flight Patterns, which animates FAA data into spectacular forms that swell and shrink as the day goes on, the flights fading out as night falls, then bursting into life as morning breaks, the thousands of dots suddenly illuminating the major cities and coastlines of the USA.

Rotational on the inherent thingness of Nicolson Baker's The Mezzanine / the work of sculptor Rachel Kneebone / the nonist / the Vinyl Engine, a world of amazing turntables, old and new / a host of fascinating projects at Radical Cartography / Nostalgia and Technology: Embracing the New through Art and Design, a forthcoming exhibition at the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University:


Monday, November 14, 2005
Anesthesia and Pain History Resources on the Internet collates links and articles on the early history of anesthesia, including frequently heartbreaking stories about accidental overdoses as pioneering physicians struggled with the unknown. The site also clued us in to the etymology of the word 'mesmerism'. Franz Anton Mesmer was, by any century's standards, a charlatan and a quack. Fascinated by the world of magnets, Mesmer believed that these strange forces were mirrored by forces that flowed around the human body, and were occasionally blocked and obstructed - causing illness. He coined the term 'animal magnetism' to describe the inherent powers of those who could seemingly draw out these obstructions themselves (althogh he seemed to prefer real magnets, making his patients 'swallow a preparation containing iron... and then attached magnets to various parts of [the] body').

Animal Magnetism was apparently distinct and Mesmer believed the magnetic properties emanated from the body of the physician involved. Even by the minimal knowledge of the age, this was a dead-end for scientific discovery, yet while Mesmer's focus on the influence of external forces on the human body (be they planets, tides, magnets, or whatever) didn't result in fame or fortune, his many followers eagerly expanded on his ideas of a magical, all-enveloping life force that could be shaped and controlled. His chief disciple, the Marquis de Puysegur, ultimately invented hypnotism, the power of auto-suggestion, which was dubbed 'Mesmerism' in honour of his inspiration. While hypnotism and various states of consciousness eventually found their way into healthcare through the new science of psychology, confusing definitions of hypnosis persisted, linking the state with hysteria and even the burgeoning spiritualist movement (which continues to surprise and delight). Robert Wozniak's essay, 'Mind and Body: Rene Descartes to William James' tells the stories of the early hypnotisers and psychotherapists.

As for magnets, they continue to hold a special place in the minds of alternative healthcare practitioners, with bracelets designed to 'increase circulation' just one of many direct descendents from Mesmer's theories. Ben Goldacre's Bad Science frequently comes up against devices like magnetic bandages and many other things professing to use the magical abilities of magnetism. If you must believe in inanimate objects giving off invisible power, try the mysterious Q-Link, 'the most advanced personal energy system available today': the investment will at least focus your mind. On the same theme, consider this spot of information about crystal 'power' from the Skeptic's Dictionary.

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Other things. Kratky Films has a huge catalogue of short Czech films / plug and play gets take to its logical conclusion with the TALON, a handy military cyborg that can not only sniff for explosives but can also handle an Anti-Tank launcher. Whatever happened to Asimov's three laws? (via) / all about Spring Heel Jack (previously mentioned, but always good to be reminded of London's lesser-known myths and legends, rather than just the usual suspects) / stop the letters, a minor distraction.

k'alebol presents an eclectic selection of links, like this one on witchdoctors / Eso Garden, an 'esoteric blog' (via All about nothing, a visual weblog) / Sachlichkeit, 'a blog on the intersection of design+management+life'. Sachlichkeit is defined as 'objectivity, objectiveness, clarity, relevance, no frills,' a word usually associated with Die Neue Sachlichkeit ('the new objectivity'), the artistic movement the Nazis saw as most degenerate / Phamous 69 is glossy porn, a bit like Richardson (both links NSFW).

Artistic (and geographical) representations of the unknown sea: La Mer Inconnue, an online exhibition (via Borborygme). Early image of the Mediterranean. King Alexander the Great, under the sea (more information here at this underwater exploration timeline) / Norway's greatest structures. See also panoramas in Norway.

C90 go!, 'the origin of the species'. Is there any contemporary equivalent to carefully making a taped selection of music from the radio? / strangely satisfying / in the spirit of last week's most-wanted time capsules, someone's going to have a real shock when they open up these walls / Lostshot, a weblog focusing on web design standards / the world's toughest runways (via gadgets.fosfor.se). Actually, maybe they're the world's easiest runways since there's nothing around them to distract you?


Thursday, November 10, 2005
Josh Simpson's Infinity Project will tax the archaeologists of the future when they come to excavate places like this. His glass 'planets' are hidden in many more locations around the world. Leaving a legacy is usually better documented; if you're thinking of doing a similar thing, then the The International Time Capsule Society would certainly like to hear from you. The organisation is based at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia, famous for housing the Crypt of Civilization, a mysterious sounding place that is the time capsule to end all time capsules. Sealed in 1940, the Crypt contained 'twelve gigantic, treated glass jars in which sundry items were hermetically packed for storage... On microfilm are classics in the arts and sciences totaling over 640,000 pages'. The entire inventory is listed, including '1 Donald Duck, 1 set toy tools, 1 toy tank, 1 pacifier, 1 bubble pipe, 1 rattle, 5 Iconoscape television tubes and 200 books of fiction' (or about one fifth the capacity of a conventional CD-ROM's worth of information). The Crypt was the brainchild of Dr. Thornwell Jacobs, the university's president, a veteran self-publicist. Thornwell decided the Crypt (a surplus-to-requirements swimming pool) should be opened in 8113, a seemingly arbitary date arrrived at because the earliest date in recorded history was 4241BC, 6177 years before 1936, when the idea was first mooted. 8113 was thus 6177 years in the future, making 1936 a mid-point in human civilisation.

Today, 8113 seems a long way off, the date reflecting a genuine optimism in humankind in the pre-Atomic, pre-global warming age. Even the New York Times' much-vaunted Time Capsule is only intended to be sealed for a lowly millennium, and most twentieth century time capsules are eagerly seized upon when they're uncovered. But in the early twentieth century, eternity was there to play with. At the 1939 New York World's Fair the time capsule was intended to last for 5000 years, so the organisers called in Westinghouse Electric, who developed the wonder material Cupaloy, 'a copper alloy as hard as steel.' The name Westinghouse only lasted for 58 of those 5000 years.

You can also read the sad stories of the 10 most wanted time capsules, abandoned, lost, forgotten or simply built over. Our favourite: the 'City of Corona seems to have misplaced a series of 17 time capsules dating back to the 1930s. Efforts to recover the capsules in 1986 were in vain. "We just tore up a lot of concrete around the civic center, "said the chairman of the town's centennial committee. A Los Angeles Times reporter has called Corona "the individual record holder in the fumbled time capsule category."' It happened in Fillmore, too.

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Other things. A trawl through boing boing brings this giant collection of toy robots: the collection of Paul Lips, on sale at Christies and this collection of stupid comics / the Pulp Zone, classic vintage magazines, art and fiction / naked people and their cars (nsfw), photographs by Rabea Eipperle / Nose Jobs in Iran, just one series from photographer Zed Nelson / turning small things into big things, one red paperclip / AnswerBus, a clever thing that tries to be a bit more conscientious about those random questions you feed into Google in despair / this really is what Clapham Junction looks like. By Scarlett Barry / the architecture of Basil Spence.

Vintage Women's Magazines, via krazydad / the complete Calvin and Hobbes / Treehugger flags up environmentally-friendly products / decidedly not environmentally-friendly: C'est un Rendezvous via Google Maps (via this slightly irritable me-fi discussion. Previously mentioned) / the of mirror eye, an mp3 blog / Hoard Mag, SF culture and visual art / the disillusioned kid, a weblog / Multistorey makeovers, or how to make over a car parks. Not that they're all 'architectural scum', mind you - at least their have been good car parks.

Around the campfire with America's elite, Sir Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to the US recalls visiting Bohemiam Grove. Is this Californian retreat the sylvan cradle of the New World Order or is it just a place to hear Steve Miller jamming, watch a mariachi band comically interrupt Henry Kissinger and attend informative lectures by William 'Exorcist' Friedkin. No-one listens to Henry, though.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005
London and Photography. See also the European Visual Archive contains 20,000 images, including nearly 10,000 from the London Metropolitan Archive. Shame the site is riddled with bugs and dead links, because what you can preview is extremely tantalising. BLDGBLOG creates another excellent subterranean post, London Topological. Diversions include this article, 'Seven riddles suggest a secret city beneath Tokyo' and the tunnels below the Shorts Brothers Seaplane Factory in Kent. See also the entry at the Subterranea Britannica. A short history of Oswald, Horace and Eustace Short.

Elegant stencils at Interactive Wallpaper / Fast Matt bends circuits / movie of all the flight movements in one day over the US / the work of Paul Noble (thanks Brian). Also seen at the Whitechapel Gallery a couple of years ago. A poster of Acumulus Nobilatatus is available to buy from the Cabinet magazine shop / rather unsurprisingly, the Prada Marfa installation has been broken into. Article on the project. Marfa.org weblog.

We have a small mention in the current edition of the Architectural Review / great hoax of audiophile obsessiveness. We think / let my own lack of a voice be heard, a weblog / Admire the lunacy of this gallery of scanned cassettes / Clay Risen looks at the New Urbanist response to Hurricane Katrina, previously mentioned here / these are not meteors / computer generated art at image savant.


Thursday, November 03, 2005
Pruned takes us to Dugway Proving Ground, a piece of accidental land art in the American west / Tropolism is an architecture weblog / big things is the feature of the current issue of Metropolis, including a look at the McMansion to end all McMansions, the Rennert House, a 100,000 square foot monster on a near 65-acre Hamptons plot, designed for financier Ira Rennert. The house has even inspired a novel. It's still unfinished, although Rennert has apparently moved in. Malcolm Gladwell on the ire that Ira caused: 'It just never occurred to [the citizens of Southampton], until Rennert came their way, that they also need to protect their community from people who Have more money than they do.'

Clever stuff: Kempa has attemped to decode the hidden sounds in the cover art of Kate Bush's new album, Aerial. More here on the quest. See also the Aphex Twin Spectrogram, which is the same thing, but in reverse / strategies of accretion, and an accretive newspoem created by raccoon / San Francisco in Jell-O, via Kev's News / punk and cut-up culture links as well as custom t-shirts from parasite clothing / the sounds of the arcade.

Coverpop sucks image data out of amazon and turns them into great collages. For example, every guitar on amazon (via music thing, who also exhorts us to Behold the Mighty SpecDrum). Staying with images and open APIs, a great flash-based tag browser for flickr / two fabulous sets of Shanghai photography / Triangular Sun, a weblog with wonderful photography / photography by Stephen Hughes / Portland Modern, a periodical publication focusing on the city's art scene. We like the work of Holly Andres (pdf). Thanks to TJ Norris, author of the Is It Art? column.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005
NYCLondon continues to walk the Circle Line, documenting it with the usual sumptuous photography. This segment takes in the short stretch from Paddington to Baker Street and includes this dramatic image of Abbey House, Baker Street. The building has been part-demolished with its listed facade propped up awaiting a new shell to be inserted behind it. The building stands on what would have been number 221B (although in reality this never existed).The owners, the Abbey building society, employed a secretary to Sherlock Holmes to ensure that the near-constant stream of correspondence received at the address was given a proper response. Obligatory wikipedia entry on 221B, and another chance to link the great 221B axonometric created by Russell Stutler. One more image, this time by Sarrah, who takes strong, saturated images of London facades. See also flickr's enormous urban decay pool.

Finally, the story of the 1951 Sherlock Holmes exhibition, which included a full-scale mock-up of Holmes' sitting room, with great attention to detail, including half-finished afternoon tea: 'As a matter of fact, this tea had caused some problems. The exhibition was to open in May. Muffins tended to be rather scarce in the summer months then. So buttered toast was substituted. This was severely criticised by visitors to the exhibition! So - a baker had to be found to supply fresh muffins each day. After all, Mrs Hudson would never have considered serving stale muffins. Jack Thorne duly found an accommodating baker - in St Albans! Then, two separate members of staff had to take a bite out of two of the muffins. Holmes and Watson may have shared the same rooms, they did not share the same set of teeth!'

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The unwieldy-sounding NaSoAlMo takes its cue from the well-established NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which has practically entered the mainstream, having spawned a book, countless articles, many participants, the occasional published author (and, apparently, some 2,953,954 words already this month). NaSoAlMo is for those of a musical bent: the goal is to produce a half-hour long solo album in a month (that means you have to record just 30 minutes of the 43,200 that fly by this month, or 0.7 percent). We'll enjoy checking the results come the end of the month. Sometimes brevity is good in music composition and recording, although we doubt Kate Bush will be applying. Via me-fi.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Kit Williams' Masquerade was a minor obsession in early eighties Britain. We were too young to appreciate the frenzy that accompanied the book, as the country became caught up in the quest for a golden hare, buried in a secret location (in the presence of Bamber Gascoigne, no less) as a prize for the person who decoded its location via the densely illustrated book. Despite Williams' carefully devised riddles and illustrations, the hare was eventually found through luck and lateral thinking, at Ampthill Park in Bedfordshire, round about here (close to the Millbrook Bowl high speed proving ground). The findee was a man who'd spent time researching the artist and his life, where he had lived and the likely places he might have used. He had also used a metal detector, despite Williams' attempts to bury the treasure beyond the reach of such devices. Nonetheless, it had proved a taxing quest; two years had gone by since the book was published, and it took a few more months for the real solution to be revealed. All this, and more, was gleaned from Dan Amrich's site.

Williams followed up Masquerade with Untitled, also known as 'The Bee Book'. This time the illustrations were mixed with intricate marquetry and the puzzle was to divine the book's actual title, then express it without words (the answer is at the bottom of this page). We actually have this book somewhere, and can remember not even knowing where to start. Williams' most recent activity has been the design and construction of magnificent clocks, reminiscent of the whimsical constructions of Roland Emmett (images here. The 'armchair gaming' community still exists, via sites like Quest4Treasure and the Armchair Treasure Hunting Club. Here you can find obscure events like the Miglia Quadrato, which 'takes place entirely within the square mile of the city of London, with knowledge and kind co-operation of the City of London Police', and was first held in 1957. Here is a list of hunts for the general public.

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Other things. Quipsologies, idiosyncratic links / videos.antville links to the most innovative recent music videos, some of which aren't bad at all / an interactive Map of Narnia. CS Lewis gets the JK Rowling/World of Warcraft/LOTR treatment. Roll out the lunchboxes. The style owes a lot to Pauline Baynes, the original and best illustrator of Lewis's chronicles (and who also illustrated Tolkien: see this map of Middle Earth) / Carolina Vigna-Maru runs a weblog linking to artists and photographers, such as the work of Tim Lowly.

Dramatic pictures of suburban sprawl. Via archidose, who also post 'measuring design excellence', musing on the role of photography in architectural presentation, specifically the work of Hedrich Blessing, a Chicago-based agency of nine photographers who seem to have sewn up the market in glossy international style imagery, and other outfits like the rather Tolkeinesque-sounding Steinkamp/Ballogg. Robert Elwall, curator of the RIBA's photography collection, covered the rise of heroic architectural photography in his book Building with Light, which is highly recommended. The work of photographers like Dell and Wainwright were instrumental in shaping the public's perception of new buildings.

Drains of Britain at BLDG blog / 80s mix tapes / a database of Modern Finnish Authors / Junomods, a web magazine that flags up (heavily sponsored) design festivals around the world / The Blue Car, a delightful (but expensive) deco model / the world's tallest chimneys, just one diagram of many at the ever-growing skyscraperpage (via me-fi). Or try this site devoted specifically to the buildings of Richmond, Virginia.

A huge collection of photos of Burlington, the undercover city discussed a few days ago / blurry photos (some nudes) at defocused. The landscapes are especially beautiful / electricityinfo.org tells you exactly how your (UK) supplier generates your electricity / Paul Craig's weblog / frappr melds Google maps with architect location data - find out who and what's where / art and music links at mine.not.mine.