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Sunday, August 06, 2006
The man-made island is perhaps the last remaining bastion of megastructural thought, be it Dubai's absurd yet very real ventures into land-shaping - Palm Jumeirah, The World, and many others erupting out of the country's coastline under the direction of the Nakheel development company - or the smaller scale of the Maunsell Towers off the Kent Coast (sea forts that although militaristic were no less inspirational to visionary architects).

Since 2003, Terry Farrell has been working on an epic plan to create a new National Park in the Thames Estuary, north-east of London. Farrell writes of creating a 'truly sustainable eco-region,' noting that London is 'significantly further away from a National Park than any other major conurbation' (the nearest is apparently the Norfolk Broads, 120 miles away). So what would the The Thames Gateway Plan comprise of?





Here we have three imaginary islands, albeit on a smaller scale to the Palm, attached to a causeway linking Kent and Essex (or, to be precise, Southend-on-Sea and Sheerness). Each two mile spur would serve as parkland and recreation space, a piece of wedge-shaped reclaimed land adrift in the estuary.

If all megastructural isolationists get their way, this area could get busy. Ongoing plans to site the Thames Estuary Airport a bit further out in the North Sea (plan (pdf)) haven't been completely abandoned, although a rival scheme for a land-based Thames Reach Airport nearby has probably been scuppered by the proximity of protected birds. But the area is rich in local history (and smuggler's tunnels), and the marshes are bleak and remote, so it's hard to really get excited about thousands of tons of concrete and steel obliterating it all.

The most likely upshot of all this projected civil engineering is nothing at all, but the imagery has been a good distraction. For islands occupy precious space in our imaginations, even though our mental images tend to be divided. Countries like Dubai and Japan have the money to make artifical islands as reflections and exaggerations of our wildest dreams (although why not go the whole hog and make islands shaped like a bear or more?). See the island-like isolation of the Ocean Dome and Recreation at Seagaia, the world's largest artificial beach at Miyazaki in Japan, for example.

In contrast, the British island mentality has tended to see floating chunks of land as places of escape or imposed isolation. Islomania, a appropriately long-abandoned website, presents a timeline of island exploration and fantasising, from Shakespeare's Tempest onwards. Since 2001 (when the site was last updated), islands have also become a staple element in popular culture, through cinema, computer games, TV drama and, in particular, reality TV. 'Lost', the prime example, is set on an island that is a place of confusion and mystery, rich with dense narratives and using emerging sophistication with new technology to supplement the on-screen story with on-line extensions.


The small channel island of Brecqhou, home to David and Frederick Barclay"


In this culture, islands generate fascination but ultimately antipathy. They are places of exile and failure (hence, perhaps, the schadenfreude at the alleged slow sinking of Kansai Airport). In fiction, as in life, the island is a place for fortgetting and transgressing - a laboratory for Dr Moreau, a place to house lost children, forgery operations, reclusive billionaires, or slave workers (Gunkanjima Island, the subject of an excellent post at BLDG BLOG).





*

Other things. Lukira presents some fabulous images of Nike Savvas' new installation ''Atomix - Full of Love, Full of Wonder' at Sydney's New South Wales Art Gallery. We also like the Moscow Panorama, a '16m wide model of the city centre'. Many more images over at haha.nu, which found them at the frequently nsfw ziza.ru (that said, this is a great picture).

Islomania found via Laputan Logic, which presents occasional but image-heavy posts, such as this one, Monstrous impostures of the Indian seas / Michiel Angelo's Projective Iconography weblog, architecture as visual metaphor / flash experiments by Hartmut Bohnacker / flash games by Tony Pa / Chris Summerlin's flickr page is filled with entertaining rock and roll debris.

Charlantantric is an excellent mp3 blog, with the emphasis on epic instrumentals / Loop - Collision / been before, will go again, Architechnophilia, plenty of interesting practices highlighted, including the Sustain Design Studio and Alchemy Architects / Ethical Reputations, on corporate ethics.