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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
'Dutchman Johan Huibers is building a working replica of Noah's Ark as a testament to his Christian faith.' The Ark van Noach is a rather charming recreation. The video makes it all look very woody - you can practically smell the sawdust - and it's certainly sizeable, although apparently just a fifth the size of Noah's boat (which would allegedly have dwarfed that contemporary yardstick, the Boeing 747). But did Noah really build an ark? The metaphorical role of the story of the great flood has a place in many, many cultures. It acts as stage two of the creation myth: the role of natural phenomena in the purging of evil, the collation and consolidation of species, the re-shaping of land masses and the creation of the 'modern world'. Sadly, the ark also seems to re-surface as a means of escaping the modern world, and the inevitable catastrophes that will accompany man's fall; Huibers seems to fall into the 'Every liberal knows what their sins are' school of thought, so expect his next project - a life-size ark - to be a fully working model that will sail away from sin and sodomy, etc. etc.

Myth and literalism are rather apt to collide. The internet abounds with quests for the Biblical ark, which, legend has it, came to rest on Mount Ararat in Turkey, represented by the feature known as the Ararat Anomaly (still, apparently, unexplored), not to be confused with Ron Wyatt's Durupinar Site, an unusual boat-shaped geological feature that has inspired numerous books and websites. Check The Search for Noah's Ark, the shimmery-java enhanced Ark on Ararat and more. From here, open the floodgates to madness, and before you know it the occupants of UFOs start to rear their little pointy heads. Wyatt was both archaeologist and Biblical literalist, a colourful combination that leads, inevitably, to some startling conclusions.

While literalists argue about anchorstones, the ark finds a more contemporary role as a metaphor for self-containment, a place to store knowledge (or even architectural coherence - from Ralph Erskine's London Ark to the Biosphere 2, via the generation ships envisaged by NASA for long-term space exploration (and escape?)). The ark is an enormously powerful image, and also one which satisfies educational needs - we have 3 or 4 toy arks kicking around, in wood, plastic, cloth and book form.


Other things. All about Urville at the Athanasius Kircher Society, via me-fi, designed by Gilles Trehin, a 33-year old Frenchman with autism (see Dr Darold A.Treffert's homepage for more on 'Savant Syndrome'). Urville's in-depth history - 'with 11,820,257 inhabitants.... the financial capital of France... hosts the headquarters of more than 400 revues and magazines, 30 national newspapers and more than 100 publishing companies... more than 300 theatres' - speak of a utopian modernist community, the ultimate expression of the kind of thing Le Corbusier was coming up with, also in France. A braver person might allude to potentially autistic traits in Corb's personality, but we'll pass on that and link to Stephen Wiltshire, the British artist who combines a love of drawing architecture with a passion for cars

What's next for the Design Museum? / what is it about pixels? Flip Flop Flyin's World Atlas (a useful companion to the CIA's World Factbook - check their page on the whole world) strips people down to their bare essentials; our brain fills in the rest and makes us realise how much visual information is superfluous and is carried around in our brains to speed up recognition.

Spectacular glacier photos from Lightningfield / lost towns in NY / pictures of Pelican books / what modesty did next: which is hopefully to make a 3D version of Sandy White's classic Ant Attack / smokestacks made out of food / the X-Factor, a BBC documentary about the X Prize and the potential for commercial spaceflight / architecture of Germany's underground: U-bahn / sheep sequencer.

Friday, March 24, 2006
One of the works mentioned in Calum Storrie's The Delirious Museum is Chris Burden's 'Samson', 'A museum installation consisting of a 100-ton jack connected to a gear box and a turnstile. The 100-ton jack pushes two large timbers against the bearing walls of the museum. Each visitor to the museum must pass through the turnstile in order to see the exhibition. Each input on the turnstile ever so slightly expands the jack, and ultimately if enough people visit the exhibition, SAMSON could theoretically destroy the building'.

Storrie advocates merging the museum with the city, a continuous space of memory and marvel that has no boundaries. Peter Campbell's In Paris, at the London Review of Books, explores the city's role as a repository, a museum of sorts that's constantly being refreshed, creating a 'contrast between the vivacity of the street and the quiet of the museum'. Any building can be a museum, although the architecture of museology is becoming more and more specific about function, role and status; a modern museum should conform to certain preconceived ideas, according to committees of artists, benefactors, town planners and architects.

Another Maisel project, Library of Dust: 'The canisters hold the cremated remains of mental patients who died at the hospital from 1883 (the year the hospital was opened, when it was known as the Oregon State Insane Asylum) to the 1970's'. The OSIA found infamy as the last resting place of the Holy Rollers, the 'Oregon Love Cult' initiated by one Franz Edmund Creffield / another cult, that of the Yakuza. This piece explains their car culture - and why ordinary Japanese get out of the way when they see a white S-Class Mercedes in the rear-view mirror.

A neat, but slightly less threatening installation: Moonraker / photos by Mitch Epstein / nuclear time capsules discovered on Brooklyn Bridge / 'Riot by migrant workers halts construction of Dubai skyscraper': the monstrous Burj Dubai is turning into a bit of a PR nightmare (something it shares with another mega-construction, for the UK anyway, Wembley stadium). As buildings get bigger, so do the projects. The widely-reported 900 faults in the Scottish Parliament are pretty much par for the course when snagging a building of that size.

Cryptozoologists rejoice! ABCs are real. Apparently there's one near my parents' house in Wiltshire - ghostly giant eyes seen reflected in car headlights at dusk. Some more on the Lynx of Great Witchingham / Lux Lotus, a weblog / two excursions into a recent but distant past: Ansel Adams' Lost Los Angeles Found (see also on Flickr, found via me-fi). Car of the Century, the official Harley Earl website, which has a lot of jolly consumerist propoganda about the great man's ability to get to win the hearts and minds of the American consumer. Try this: Buick had the first SUV, ever.

'Staircases in Hitchcock's films almost always lead to trouble' begins Alan Vanneman's essay 'A Hank of Hair and a Piece of Bone', on the link between the step and the swirling vortex (via Theresa Duncan's The Wit of the Staircase) / Alex's Lego Technic workshop, via jalopnik. From here it's a short hop into Lego obsessiveness. Keppler Industries, for example, who have created their very own Lego universe / our ultra-lame brush with the law is up for your reading delight, care of the good people at tmn.

BLDG BLOG goes under Manhattan / Tactical geoannexations, shifting boundaries thanks to the ever-changing course of the Mississippi / just like Domus magazine's recent exploration of the editorial potential of Google Earth, pointing it now offers the Icon architectural trail, which highlights all that's new in the Tokyo districts of Aoyama and Harayuku, as seen in the latest issue of icon magazine / a 1954 Building Manual, in German and Polish, at Enerdowski, a Westerner-in-Japan weblog which occasionally has nsfw-ish content. See also Peter Payne, who can rarely contain his delight at yet another obscurely branded piece of chocolate/plush toy/soft pornography.

Just discovered, 1160 found dots.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
RIBAworld (frustratingly still only available to architects - why can't this excellent email newsletter become a weblog?) puts together some links and statistics on the Chinese city of Chongqing, which holds the happy title 'fastest-growing urban centre on the planet.' Apparently some half a million people arrive each year, as the shift from rural to urban continues to transform China. RIBAworld quotes the Guardian: 'If today is typical, builders will lay 137,000 square metres of new floor space for residential blocks, shopping centres and factories. The economy will grow by 99 million yuan (£7m). There will be 568 deaths, 813 births and the arrival of 1,370 people from the countryside...' Check the (relatively low-res) Google Earth location: 29°34'12.00"N, 106°34'48.00"E - the city centre takes up the beak-shaped spur of land between the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers,in the midst of a dramatic, striated landscape of vast fault lines. It's also at the head of the vast new 600km long lake created by the Three Gorges Dam project, and the refugees from the flooded land have helped swell the city's population (Edward Burtynsky's images are still the best overview of the impact of the dam). See also the Chongqing Flickr set.

Linked before, but worth revisiting - incredible technical illustration of a cruise liner, the 'Empress of the Seas'. See also the image of the 'Brilliance of the Seas'. Don't cruise liners have wonderful names? These pictures conjure up Sims-like imagery, implying interactions and connections that, in reality probably never happen. David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (review) put the kibosh on the cruise industry's fun-time image, one that has been subsequently eroded by malfunctioning mega-ships, mutinous passengers and violent crew, pirates and sickness. Foster Wallace travelled on the m.v. Zenith, which doesn't look particularly impressive or overwhelming, especially when compared to ResidenSea, which will potentially spawn volume after volume of footnote-laden essays.

Other things. Archinect has an excellent in-depth interview with the photographer David Maisel, whose colour-saturated images of parched, soaked and spoiled lands are masterfully painterly, beautiful yet also extremely depressing / London Underground Geographic Maps (via haddock) / the art of the automobile. Related, page one of our wing mirror project is now complete, having taken ten years or so / a homage to Mies' Crown Hall at Coudal. Like all Mr van der Rohe's structures, Crown Hall is somewhat totemic, a perfect, unblemished object that embodies a high-minded principle (in this case the 'philosophy of a universal space building', with long structural spans allowing vast open floorplans). The fixed, immutable object fell out of fashion for a time, but has returned without the emphasis on technology (Mies' favoured glass and steel), and more on sense of place and materials / also via cp, Pre-pixelated clothes for Reality TV shows / the Cuboro marble toy, via Kevin Kelly.

Friday, March 17, 2006
The usual Friday random round-up. David Maisel's Black Maps, landscapes churned and scoured in the name of progress (via conscientious, who has a fine, valid post about the futility of believing in UFOs: 'It is quite the leap, though, from scientific considerations of extraterrestrial life to the idea that our planet is constantly being visited by spaceships, most of which look like kitchen utensils, and none of which bothers to actually say hello'. See Faking UFO photos for the twenty-first century).

How not to commit suicide (via me-fi) / vintage artwork revisited at Today's Inspiration / TFL gets pathetic. Related, Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, tube trivia / listen to extracts from the British Library's sound archive / a new documentary about virtual sweatshops / Famous for 15 megabytes, an online music magazine, complete with downloads (thanks Brian) / bike designs (via Jean Snow) / contribute to the The Visual Dictionary / Maximalism, design things and the usual round-up of snappy images / useful collection of hex codes / the art life, a weblog / The Cartoonist alerts us of ways to make things disappear.

We like the look of this camera: the Epson R-D1s / Carbon map for the UK / what's hot in the world of Comment is Free / further to the post on inserting buildings into Google Earth, Dan points out that Google have recently acquired SketchUp, an intuitive 3D design programme. The company already had a Google Earth plugin; greater integration is not far away.

Dave Gorman, the comedian who has made a career out of big trends in IT, unveils his flickr account with this Guardian piece. We like London In A Bag... In London. See also Faces, everywhere / pop semiotics: The iPod index to the next boom. Or how to take a bunch of disparate statistics and see how they can be extrapolated (via The Rat and Mouse). Interesting to read that 'London’s indolence street [is] Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, where fewer people visit the gym than anywhere else in London'. If memory serves, there are barely any private households on Charlotte Street. And does high games console sales equate to a stagnant marketplace, characterised by sofa-bound sloths?

Monday, March 13, 2006
How to build an Airbus A380 in about 7 Minutes. See also the photography of Mark Power, who documented the construction of the company's facilities around Europe. Power's book tracing the story of the Millennium Dome is also worth browsing through - some of the images look like ancient history now. Vaguely related, The Height of Ambition, a story from yesterday's Guardian about the new Wembley Stadium, the inevitable delays, and the site's long history, once home to the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 and, before that, the London Stump, better known as Watkin's Folly.

this mention reminded us of New York's hidden biplane: here's a more up-to-date image / flow, a game / Ken Rinaldo's 'emergent systems' / a Lego aircraft carrier / an interesting stat culled from this Slate slideshow on Spain: 'Since joining the European Union in 1986, Spain has received nearly $110 billion to improve its transportation infrastructure'.

House Trucks collected by Mr Sharkey (via the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, which has gone from zero to cult in a very short time indeed. See also / he just looks so sad / should one wash recycling? / f(m)ake your own tiltshift photograph / news, mainstream and not, at Stryder / photography links and more at 1mag3.

Seriously, whatever did happen to boredom? There's just no excuse any more. Boredom today means you're somehow not fitting in / Geoff is never bored, seemingly. BLDG BLOG investigates the San Francisco Bay Hydrological Model, 'a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta System', 1 and a 1/2 acres in size, from the days before computer simulations... Bay Model Visitor Center / four-eyed bitch, a litlog / thoughtwax, a weblog.

Dan floats the idea of a Design Thinkbelt (big nod to Cedric Price) in South London, as discussions continue about the future of the Design Museum. Now that Deyan Sudjic has been appointed the new director, what will happen? Will it be subsumed into the Tate?

Friday, March 10, 2006
Harry Seidler has died, aged 82. A few recollections from the Australian press: Herald Sun, The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age (all links via ArchNewsNow). Chris Bevan reveals that Seidler drove a Citroen XM, such a typically architectural choice of car (dramatic looks, ultra-modern, technically innovative, low efficiency). Jonathan Meades used to have one. Blame Roland Barthes. And the Smithsons.

The nocturnal landscapes of Florian Maier-Aichen, at KultureFlash. More by Maier-Aichen / Mary Ann Sullivan's epic Digital Imaging Project brings together 12,000 images of 'sculpture and architecture, from pre-historic to post-modern'. Browse selections of work by practically everyone, with special pages like Philip Johnson (who had a fair few off days, by the looks of things) and Frank Lloyd Wright's Annie Pfeiffer Chapel at Florida Southern College. Sullivan took every photo herself.

Rail Europe's weblog keeps track of new technology in the rail industry / American railroad maps at the Library of Congress / the Home House Project: 'the future of affordable housing' / DIY submarines in China / weblog round-up: Oskarlin / sex and the library / the world of kane / Futurismic / Lipstick Librarian.

How do you escape a skyscraper? Escape Rescue Systems think they know how. New York disagrees: 'the system would be prone to the Titanic effect -- chaos over who would be first in line for a limited number of spots in each cabin' / elegant design by Practise / deans animated desktops. Not necessarily conducive to work.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Use Google Earth to visit the Devil's Punchbowl in Surrey, and you'll see it contains a low-flying airliner, clearly heading in to Gatwick: right about here: 51°06'57" N 0°43'11" W. Another nice discovery, although not ours - check the bizarrely high-res images of this small settlement in the middle of Niger: 19°00'11.32" 12°53'27.37" (via The Register). So detailer that you can clearly see pots on the ground. Go east a bit for some more - incredible architecture. While we're at it: this page lets you track, in realtime, inbound flights to US airports. Navigating in 3D amongst each aeroplane's purple trail is quite a Pushing Tin moment. Throw in the 3D polygons representing Special Use Airspace and you're off. Related, where are all the ships? Here they are. Via kottke.

Twisted Map, 'maps based on time rather than space', at Curiosity Collective (via Tom Carden's Computing for Emerging Architecture, creator of the amazing Time Travel Tube Map. Other recommended links include the Personal World Map and Playground / a flickr set of Citroen's restoration workshop, just outside Paris / Sat nav blamed for village jams / photography by Benedict Redgrove / the secret life of objects: the music of the scanner (via curiosity collective) / dog show at Slower.

Ivor Cutler has died. Very sad. One of the most mellifluous voices ever heard on radio, full of sound advice about just about everything / New York photography at A Test of Will. More NY pics at the Curbed Flickr pool. And via tmn, some views of Revealing Chicago / Tweak the limbs, a weblog / moment to moment, a weblog.

Monday, March 06, 2006
File under 'new discoveries that everyone else knows about'; we didn't realise you could create your own 3D data for Google Earth. Thanks to yesterday's comments, we've been alerted to ZNO, 'digital architecture for the virtual world'. Run by Jason Mill, the site makes available those crucial .KMZ files to enable you to see new architecture (mostly of the tall and imposing variety) and how it fits into its surroundings, be it new, forthcoming or abandoned. Our favourite thing is The Shard, lording it over a rather flat-looking London. Recommended.

See also these London Models (via Google Earth Blog), created by Digitally Distributed Environments. Lots of interesting things here, like a QT panorama of the classic red phone box (totally lacking in tart cards), or a stereo view of the Euston Tower (it really works! We have our handy 3D glasses nearby), hidden London roofscapes or, best of all, a KMZ file of the Skylon and the Festival of Britain. This brilliant weblog is the work of researcher Andrew Hudson-Smith, who has an impressive page of movies, papers and more. We'd like to see the movie of Virtual London running on the Far Cry engine.

Some more great London files: Swiss:Re, an absurdly detailed map of Fitzroy Square, Tate Modern (with Paul McCarthy's wretched inflatable 'Pinnochio' out front and no members' terrace), London in 1690. Naturally there's a tube-related project in the offing, as well as a sister weblog, World's Worst Urban Place and Space. Surely it won't be long before this kind of London map is at our fingertips.

Elsewhere. Two recommended music weblogs: the Charivarious Section and Daughters of Invention / Ernest Howard Shepard resented Winnie the Pooh, and that was long before Disney totally bastardised his drawings / the Spring-like weather has brought out the paragliders. Check the National XC league and click on the green entries to see GPS-generated maps of cross-country flights / a brief history of hand-held video games / Information Aesthetics, 'towards creative data visualization'. How to make sense of all this wretched information.

The Hidden Persuader, Ads and how clever they are. The title refers, of course, to the late Vance Packard's seminal expose of 50s adland / the wayfinding place / a list of the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions. See also the tale of the 'Peckham mine, currently lurking under a slice of rural French real estate / patterns and numbers at the Albarn Series - watch how contemporary trends in facade design emerge from mathematics.

The question is do we want our (inevitable) robot future to be governed by giant electronics and automobile companies, who naturally have a vested interested in being first to market with a consumer-sized product that will set standards for the next few generations, or do we want devices that descend directly from specific roles in the military-industrial complex, and end up looking damnably creepy as a result? The BigDog is hellishly frightening (via me-fi. Also in the Guardian).

Red rain could prove that aliens have landed: the blood-red rain that fell on Kerala, India, in July 2001. Does it contain extra-terrestrial bacteria? More information available at the New Scientist, if you're willing to pay for it. At the time, the rainstorms were accompanied by 'sonic booms', as reported in the local press. All very Fortean / 'creative home engineering' at Hidden Passageway (via pb)

Modernism 101 sells (expensive) copies of the classic texts and journals of the mid-century era / Art of the Abyss / Wired have a dedicated music weblog / visited before, I'm sure: The Culture Archive, especially the scrap books / add imagery to the Scrollable Landscape / all you need to know about Krautrock / snipe away at Lastminute auction, via sachs.

Friday, March 03, 2006
Domus magazine gets in on the Google Earth Architecture Tour fun, with a Domus dataset for each issue's featured projects. Worth it just for the spectacular view of the Ryugyong Hotel, Pyongyang (what's to stop Google from putting out really high resolution images of North Korea, for example? Surely the information is there but of no commercial use to anyone). Also good to finally 'visit' Saunders and Wilhelmsen's amazing Aurland Lookout. See also here.

i like points us to Julian Opie's website, which is a little out of date yet now looks rather self-consciously old-fashioned. Opie is - perhaps unwittingly? - a figurehead for a type of art that has been popularised by the internet; vectored, simple, pared-down. The flipside is that he has many imitators (although they don't necessarily know what he looks like), some of whom create 'instant art' to furnish empty modern apartments, etc.

Climate Change and Travel is a feature from Rough Guides aimed at 'encouraging responsibility in air travel'. Slightly pots and kettles, seeing as they get to travel more than most. It takes you to the Climate Care website, where you can do quick and dirty (sorry) calculations on how much it costs to offset your CO2 output. You can then cough up and contribute to projects around the world.

Eye of the Goof gets an update and a new URL / Spore, a forthcoming video game, looks impressive; create entire eco-systems and then zoom out from the microscopic to the galactic / Holga photography, Japanese style / Photography by With Louis / reappropriation, reuse of street furniture, hard surfacing etc., by Steven Hamilton, BMX rider / google maps found on the street: expect this to be the next big thing / buchillustrationen, imagery / patent drawings of diners, gas stations and novelty buildings / 8 feet of pure Jenga at shepherd's pie, who have also found some radio-controlled spiders.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
One of the earliest (and clearly the most uncritical) features I ever wrote was a puff piece for San Francisco's Metreon, a Sony-sponsored excursion into themed architectural zones, a kind of 21st century Fun Palace, albeit one dubbed an 'urban entertainment destination'. However, the Metreon's days are now numbered, and the company is washing its hands of the business. Metreon was very much an idea of the late 90s, an entertainment hub that was highly 'interactive', bringing together a bunch of intellectual properties, striking architecture and, above all, plenty of retail opportunities. The SF project, which cost about $85m, was to have been the first of several; there were even plans at one point to have a Metreon Centre in the Reichstag.

Inside, there were originally three 'entertainment experiences', designed by the illustrators David Macaulay ('How Things Work, etc.), Maurice Sendak ('Where the Wild Things Are, the genesis of which is dissected here) and Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius and a national hero in his native France. The Moebius attraction was a future world called Airtight Garage, once mooted as an Akira-style movie back in 1994. The non-appearance of that movie and the subsequent creation of the Metreon zone are most likely.

In the end, even an 'urban entertainment destination' failed to lure enough punters to what was little more than a dressed up mall, large chunks of which were gated-off and accessed only for a fee. The whole concept of 'event architecture' continues to percolate through discussions about the built environment, with the idea being that this kind of artificially generated activity is a fundamental aspect of urban regeneration. In very simplistic terms this is described as the 'Bilbao Effect', the corona of fresh cultural and commercial activity that follows a flagship piece of architecture. While plenty of cities sought (and still seek) their very own Guggenheim-inspired urban renaissance, in the real world, it's apparent that it's not just culture that can generate economic activity. The reality is that it might just as well be a new Tesco that acts as the node for activity, not 'culture' or even 'architecture', and planners are, sadly, aware of this, however much some clearly disagree. The eternal battle between commerce and culture.

Other things. A bit more about Cedric Price / related, the Kircher Society is having a week posting about 'visionary architecture' / collages from Donna K. Check the flickr collage tag for more artworks / it's a bit late to vote for a new bridge design in Maine. Neither of these two concepts are especially exciting. Public voting for architecture never goes well, but still it continues; for example, have a say in the future shape of Downtown Mississauga. These designs, by Boyarsky Murphy, Michel Rojkind, Quadrangle Architects, MAD Office and (to a far lesser extent) Zeidler Partnership, seem to fulfil the biomorphic futures seen in this BLDG BLOG post.

Penn and Teller's frustrating video game (via waxy via jk) / clever marketing: ensure your slightly risque site becomes an instant viral must-have / pretty impressive photo tour of Mayan ruins / H.G.Wells' future man (via Branko). A bit more about future evolution / thanks to Tom Carden, author of the Travel Time Tube Map and Tube Contour Map for pointing out Ruairi Glynn's Interactive Architecture / Varnelis on Philip Johnson's Empire (via Archinect) / a moving set of before and after images around post 9/11 Manhattan.

Culture Watcher, part of the Digital SSALLZIP site. See also Bookshelf and Media Watcher / David Naylor is obsessed with the Koenigsegg CCX, the world's only Swedish supercar / Marja-Leena Rathje is an artist who tracks show openings and other events / Vitriolica Webb paints and draws / why do firemen slide down poles? / Hollywood by the numbers, or how 'above' and 'below the line' expenses are worked out. Jet allowances, for one.