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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Moving Serra, just how do you move and install Richard Serra's vast works? Back when the Saatchi Gallery was still in Boundary Road, 'the only solution was to knock down the caretaker's flat and knock a hole through the exposed wall into the main gallery space.' Related, an online biography of Damien Hirst, not updated since 2002. In recent news, Hirst is trying to create the world's most expensive work of art.

The British Board of Film Censors' website sets out the all-important UK certificate for the latest films. For the past few years the BBFC has also added little explanatory boxes revealing potentially offensive elements or sequences in the film. Which recent blockbuster 'contains sustained threat and images of fatalities that may disturb'? And what does the warning, 'Contains mild slapstick' allude to? Although the occasional spoiler is revealed, it's not quite up to CAP alert levels of thoroughness: 'excessive cleavage and focus on it including downward angles, repeatedly throughout' being a typical quote.

International round-up. There's something slightly Couplandesque about the Canadian Design Resource, which has an official gallery to bring together icons and classics from around the country / Val Bavona is a Swiss valley, and winner of the 2006 International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens / New Orleans is 'sinking even faster', with some districts deemed 'death traps.'

Two interesting segments in this week's edition of Radio 4's Thinking Allowed, covering Polish migrants to the UK, and the story of the shipping container, including an interview with Marc Levinson, author of The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger. Before the dawn of the 'box', Levinson quotes one expert as saying that "a four thousand mile voyage for a shipment might consume 50 percent of its costs in covering just the two ten-mile movements through two ports."


Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Tall stories, the International High-Rise Prize 2006. See also New York 2016, an insider look at NYC's future skyline (via curbed), predicting that the apparently contradictory ideals of Robert Moses ('Cities are for traffic') and Jane Jacobs ('It was the roads I saw as being the destroyers') will finally come together in perfect harmony. More like journalistic wishful thinking. Side note. Jacobs on the General Motors Futurama exhibit at the 1939 Worlds Fair: 'Oh, I thought it was so cute - it was like watching an electric train display somewhere, you know? It was just very cute' (that link was culled from the extraordinary 'Boozy: The Life, Death, and Subsequent Vilification of Le Corbusier', which begs further investigation). See also vanished New York.

A historical timeline that steps into the future / Time Travel Maps: how long does it take to get across the UK - 'warm colours indicate short journeys and cool ones longer journeys'? By rail from Cambridge, for example. We've mentioned these before, but the most interesting element of the research is how it reveals urban 'pockets' with generally poor travel links; looking at South London reveals how some of these pockets are actually rather desirable places to live, if, of course, you have a car.

Arkinetia, an architectural website that sifts through online portfolios for the new and notable / a shrine to David Hemmings, star of Barbarella and Blow-up; the latter is also the subject of an exhibition at London's Photographer's Gallery / Zillow is a US-only site that gives you the low-down on a prices for any specified residential address in the US. For European-based browsers, you get a set of famous addresses to look through / building Utopolis, a future city made of Lego. Via moco loco.

Dumb Angel revisits the haunts of California surf culture past. See also Capturing the Perfect Wave, a hefty collection of surf photography by LeRoy Grannis, one of the masters of the genre / BLDGBLOG chats to Mike Davis (part II).

Why does entering the full URL (e.g. http://www.thingsmagazine.net/index.htm) render all funny characters (e.g. the accent on cliché) correctly, but entering the basic URL (e.g. www.thingsmagazine.net) bring up accents as a question mark?


Friday, May 26, 2006
What is Beauty? Or, On the Aesthetics of Wind Farms, Justin Good on the philosophical implications of what has become quite a divisive issue in the UK. For everyone who lines up to berate their appearance ('Standing more than 100 metres tall, they have transformed our bucolic retreat into a futuristic film set'), someone else counters that they think turbines look great (and even offshore power has its vociferous opponents). Good's article raises the perpetual battle ground of subjective versus objective, a war of opinion that no-one will ever win, although he concludes that their marrying of form and function, closely allied to natural processes, makes a turbine objectively beautiful.

Perversely, we'd like to imagine a ruined wind farm. When will the first turbine installation fall into disrepair? For now, these distant objects loom on the horizon like Tripods, stark reminders of the need to manage resources more carefully. The page with the Tripod reference also contains this chronology of Science fiction at the BBC from 1953-1998, as well as noting the UK's penchant for post-apocalyptic television. 'Dead pylons are something of a cliché in post-apocalypse television, as the most obvious symbol of the modern age on the rural landscape.' The imagined image of slowly-turning wind turbines, their blades generating power for a non-existent grid.

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The Ship that Sailed to Mars, an early science fiction classic online / Flickr's Single Leaf Extravaganza pool / a fine photoset of UN Studio's new Mercedes-Benz Museum at Kultureflash / a database of camera design / a great portrait at slower / drawings by Marcel Breuer and Street and Dime novel covers, two galleries at the Syracuse Digital Library.

Trevor Paglen's Limit Telephotography project uses 'unorthodox viewing and imaging techniques' to 'produce images of hidden and extremely remote landscapes,' namely Groom Lake (seen here from a distance of over 26 miles) / we're late to this one: International Urban Glow. Night photography / why Melissa Gould's Neu-York map is deeply flawed.

Book Covers, a celebration of the art. For a good insight into the process, read Chip Kidd's excellent Book One (and read the Birnbaum interview) / Creative Criminal is a weblog concerned with advertising aesthetics / Tango parodies Bravia / flying Aston Martin / moo box / new slang coinage in Ian McEwan's Saturday? No, geographical accuracy.

Modernism for sale. Berthold Lubetkin's Highpoint penthouse is up for sale. You can imagine the big B, gin and tonic in hand, surveying his contribution to 50s and 60s London, from gorilla house to mass housing. The apartment was apparently the model for Emma Peel's pad in the Avengers, although from the screengrabs it doesn't look as if it was actually shot there. Lubetkin's major private commission in London, Six Pillars, is also currently on the market. See also Connell, Ward and Lucas house on Hayling Island. I once got locked out my Austin Metro on the driveway of this house. It was very embarrassing. (related, a Flickr set featuring Dragons, a C,W and L house in Sussex, amongst other modern movement buildings). Across the Atlantic, Edward Durrell Stone's Richard Mandel House is still for sale. Here the modernist aesthetic has given up all pretence of any social relevance and has morphed into a grand style for the nouveau riche.

Worth re-visiting, as it's being added to all the time, the Kidder Smith Slide Archives on American Architecture. Staying with architecture, a collection of teaching images from a Chinese architectural website, complete with slightly amateurish drawings and models. The attempt to model Peter Eisenmann's House III is ambitious in the extreme.

Unboxing is the ultimate thing fetish, promising 'Vicarious thrills from opening new gear'. Personally, we've had it up to here with unpacking boxes and disposing of great sheets of polystyrene and cardboard (via gadgets.fosfor.se) / newspaper clipping generator / the Landscape Urbanism Bullshit Generator (via archinect).


Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Urban 75 has a good collection of London's lost and abandoned stations, including East Brixton (we also like the old Rye to Camber line, which would have been handy last weekend). Over in San Francisco, these urban scars are observed by tecznotes; the overbuilt and overgrown remnants of a railway line. Reminds us of aerial archaeology, which has a big presence online. Start with this useful guide by Alison Deegan, check out images of ancient settlements in New Zealand, England and Jordan, or read about the work of English Heritage's aerial survey team.

The Swapatorium unearths a wonderful series of photographs from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, c.1932. They have a certain surrealist, almost nightmarish, quality / more found things: a set of colourful cards setting out the code de la route, scanned by Agence Eureka.

A Short History of Acoustic Locators, the Kircher Society turns its attention to the skies, with a link to this well-illustrated resource on acoustic locators, depicting all manner of trumpets, tubas, horns and dishes. More about the Sound Mirrors in Greatstone, Kent.

Strain Andromeda the is artist Anne McGuire's homage to the Michael Crichton thriller The Andromeda Strain. The film has an excellent Wikipedia page. This Italian poster makes the film look far older, and not the carefully art-directed masterpiece that it is / The Shipping Forecast, a weblog.

Yet more musings on the uncanny valley, this time over at collision detection. Compare, contrast and collide with this: War vets feature in US army game. The US Army is mapping real soldiers into the latest version of America's Army, so they can tell you about their experiences.

PartIV, an architectural weblog / high winds in Shanghai, how the city's skyscraper building boom is turning ground level into a wind tunnel / some useful hints about watching Siena's famous Palio / the full, eye-popping lyrics to R.Kelly's Trapped in the Closet / Jamie Hewlett wins the Design Museum's annual Designer of the Year prize.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Raccoon maps a work in progress, using Excel to track the various characters and actions in a dense novel. Also referenced is the work of Danielle Aubert, and her project 58 days of Microsoft Excel drawings as rendered for web (also in book form). Finding beauty of raw information, or even the building blocks for raw information. We're also reminded of the work of designer Daniel Eatock, which revels in systems and their subversion and intrinsic interest. See also planning through drawing, an attempt by Xanthe Wells to create 'a symbolic image that holds the outline and construction of my work within a single drawing'.

Hours and hours of music from the 80s and 90s, courtesy of this carefully compiled page / Plans, a photographic project by Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga (via kottke), 'an attempt to see everything at once in someone's apartment, without selecting or evaluating, an absolute X-ray of privacy / Chris Summerlin's excellent gig posters / many, many receipts scanned in for future generations to mull over at Sorabji. Other picture essays on the site include stuff that people write on money and soundcrap, found and forgotten sounds.

Living in a dream charts some of the woes and issues that have beset BedZed, the 'Beddington Zero Energy Development', architect Bill Dunster's innovative housing scheme in Sutton. See also A House Called Turbulence (architect link to NYT story, which will rapidly expire), the rather messy saga of a New Mexico guest house commissioned from Steven Holl. In the best tradition of avant-garde architecture by forceful personalities, it turns out the Turbulence House is unfinished, over-budget, over-designed, non-functioning, leaking, and either too hot or too cold. It also bears little resemblance to what the clients actually asked for in the first place.


Thursday, May 18, 2006
The Art Life has a post on the Dashanzi International Art Festival outside Beijing, housed in the city's vast 798 Space (more images: I, II), a vast former factory, 'designed by the East German's architects in the Bauhaus style in the early 1950's'. The exhibition is pretty visceral stuff; nevertheless, the Dashanzi festival was still censored by the authorities. Architect Bernard Tschumi exhibited a scheme for the site at Venice in 2004, overlaying the original factory with a horizontal tower containing, naturally, 'luxury apartments and hotels'. Tschumi's plan is actually an attempt to save the new art district, which is primed for Chinese-style total redevelopment.

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A strange, salacious little news story from The Northern Echo, of all places (via malbec). 'The sex slaves of Darlington' reveals a hidden subculture of subservience apparently drawing inspiration from John Norman's rather revealing Gor series: 'One neighbour said: "This is a Christian country and you don't really need that sort of thing here. This country's going down the pan."' See the wikipedia entry for more about this strange world. We wonder how the Darlington Branch of the Goreans and the Kaotians deal with Earth's resolutely normal gravity, for example. Why is it that prodigious writers of pulpy, elaborate fiction spark such complete devotion? L.Ron Hubbard and Ayn Rand spring to mind. If only there were some kind of Jilly Cooper based sub-culture.

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A weblog round-up: Short Story of the Week, which we found after it picked up on Markus Nummi's Adieu Paris from things 17-18 / Karen D'Amico's fluid thinking, on London art and more / unusual and imaginary maps, a resource / Resarch.net, the website of Brett Steele, director of London's Architectural Association. Steele is an unabashed futurist / i like transmogrifies into a fully-fledged weblog, which is rather satisfying / shop Scandinavian / the super-garage, a new architectural form? / the money pit: how the legendary treasure of Oak Island keeps eluding everyone.

Music as Therapy is holding a Secret Postcard Sale in South London on Sunday. A good cause, well worth supporting. This kind of sale originated at the Royal College of Art (see the site for RCA Secret 2005, which featured 2,700 cards with a fair smattering of famous names amongst them).

Hot on the heels of the modern house, our favourite slice of internet-based imaginary real estate, comes the Singapore-based UrbaneSpaces. However, there are bizarre undertones to the site, not least the subtitle, 'Urbanites Uber Alles', with its link to the German national anthem, the and the shaved head image bearing a quasi-fascistic seal. Are we reading too much into this?


Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Contemporary arcana: the blast door map from Lost (assume spoilers for non-bittorrent UK viewers). Fulfilling a contemporary need for unreason, we seem to lap up this type of carefully crafted, focus grouped and drip-fed mystery, a desire for the unknown that counters the sheer weight of real digital data that's created every day, heaping layer upon layer on our environments until all the mystery is banished forever.

Delve into the National Archives, whose featured documents sound like the site is an old-school version of the Smoking Gun - 'Girl absconders from approved schools soliciting American soldiers in the streets and spreading venereal disease'. Sadly you can't actually read these online, so try the exhibitions section for scans and images.

Tropolism, an architecture weblog we don't link to nearly enough / Over at Ping Mag, the remarkable imagery of architect Luke Chandresinghe, whose Institute of Ideas turns the Patent Office into a combination of Gormenghast castle and the Autostadt car towers; ideas move up one storey each year: "After 20 years they reached the 20th floor where the ideas are no longer protected."

Michael Wolf's latest photographic project, 100x100 (seen on me-fi). Hong Kong living, captured, the interiors of the exteriors Wolf was previously known for. See the Architecture of Density, previously mentioned / Gallerisation will sell you map imagery, with that old chestnut, the tube diagram surfacing once again / 'map of the various paths of life,' 1805 / another imaginary map.

Staying small, Fiat are currently undergoing a big PR push for the forthcoming Fiat 500 city car, launching a site that claims to 'want your ideas to help us build the new icon of Italian motoring'. The whizzy flash site has sub-games that allow you to pimp your ride, change colours, etc., all based on the Treipuno concept that was shown two years ago at Geneva. This gives the general form language of the new 500 (far larger than the original, of course), but doesn't reveal that far from being a unique little piece of modern motoring technology, it'll share a large amount of technology with the next generation Ford Ka, making the clip-on components of the website an accurate reflection of today's car market: choose your product according to your taste and self-perception. There's also an incredibly open-ended competition held in conjunction with Designboom.

The 2006 Turner shortlist has been announced: Rebecca Warren, Phil Collins, Tomma Abts and Mark Titchner. Let the brickbats sail forth / Sun Zi, The Art of War (via) / card tricks for beginners / make papercraft motorbikes, if you have the patience / a history of the yellow legal pad.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The droodle-logo'd Road Witch Trials, where Zappa, Mark E.Smith and the surrealists combine to battle traffic and congestion in Oxford. This doesn't make a lot of sense without the images, but involves leaving dummies - 'road witches' - in places were persistent pavement parkers are likely to be annoyed / Pavement parking is a modern manifestation of some kind of innate violence, perhaps. 'Early Neolithic Britons had a one in 20 chance of suffering a skull fracture at the hands of someone else and a one in 50 chance of dying from their injuries.'

Bulgaria's fleet of fast police cars appear mostly to be vehicles stolen from Western Europe and then confiscated. Nonetheless, ever since the classic Polizei Porsche (something to do with autobahns), the act of putting a badge and stripes on a high performance car is deemed simply hilarious by the Gumball crowd. Even manufacturers are getting in on the act, like the celebrated Gallardo police car, worth countless thousands in free publicity for Lamborghini. On the other hand, this probably won't garner as much good will (but we like the machine translation of the page from whence it came: Lobster the USA).

There's a hint at where Michel Gondry gets some of his ideas from in this vintage Jean Michel Jarre video for Magnetic Fields 2. Related, download Jarre in MIDI. They make corking mobile ringtones for the socially cavalier / all about the Goodyear Blimp, with historic photos aplenty / things to keep you on your toes, part 5: Flying suicide bomber drones could be almost unstoppable / turn Google cityscapes into 3D prints (via).

Evan Penny works in a similar vein to Ron Mueck, only with far less media attention. We like Aerial, which is not all it appears to be at first / we were recently quoted in a Forbes article on the world's Most Expensive Penthouses 2006, not the height of social responsibility, admittedly.

Anyone have any experience of Myseasonpass.com? An rss torrent aggregator, by the looks of things / eversion's excellent set of rss feeds at bloglines / a graph of historic house prices / yet more images of the Bagger 288, one of those 'internet objects' that exists in the global subconscious (and can also be spotted in Google Earth if you zoom in close enough; look up Garzweiler, Germany).

Visit the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's Virtual Museum, which includes blue plaque maps / Britain's biggest new country house. Above a certain scale, even the most modest of architectural approaches starts to lose coherence and integrity. This scheme is by Feilden Clegg Bradley (now sadly without its founding partner) / more on UK architecture at the excellent B******s to Architecture, which recently had a spirited rant at Kevin McLoud / 'there are 200,000 slums in the world', amongst other statistics.

Rbally's mp3 weblog. Live indie stuff / Bend Me, Shape Me, Louis Goddard on the joys of circuit-bending / space colony artwork: where's our Stanford Torus? / the bizarre ergonomics of the combimouse, via / Knickers Blog is all about underwear / a new issue of Leisure Centre magazine, intriguingly themed around technology and its failure / buy a chunk of Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation.


Monday, May 08, 2006
An ask me-fi question: 'If you had to warn people 10,000 years in the future to stay away from a site, how would you do it?' Read the self-explanatory linked report, 'Expert Judgement on Markers to Deter Inadvertent Human Intrusion into the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant' and consider the problems of long term communication. Also, via this linked me-fi post, 'The monumental task of warning future generations, which deals with proposals for scattering warning symbols across the proposed Yucca Mountain Repository for spent nuclear fuel.

The YMR is designed to 'continually isolate nuclear waste and protect people and the environment for at least 10,000 years,' ten millenia during which the unique combination of inquisitive and greed that characterises the human mind must be kept at bay. On past form, this won't be easy. 'We decided against simple "Keep Out" messages with scary faces. Museums and private collections abound with such guardian figures removed from burial sites,' notes the Expert Judgement. Guardian figures and objects might have proved benign, except perhaps in Tintin, but even blatantly dangerous things can still hold an often tragic fascination. Imagine the lure of a radiation warning sign, however strongly worded or graphically rendered.

Instead, some have suggested embedding the memory of these poisoned spaces into oral traditions, be they myths, children's rhymes or popular songs, creating a collective cultural memory of the warning that would ultimately be passed down from generation to generation. It's a romantic idea, but as one of the posters points out, "How many oral traditions that have been transmitted to you orally are you familiar with?", the answer is: none. All the oral traditions I know about have reached me through books, magazines or the web.' In other words, you need the back-up of available media, and even that is far from reliable (something we've touched on before).

An example of the relative failure of oral tradition to impart important, enduring information is the whole farrago surrounding UFOs. Why does no oral UFO tradition exist? In the past few days, an MOD report into UFO sightings concluded that, frankly, there's not a lot out there (a question that's also recently been bugging the SETI movement, 'But what if no one's out there at all?), although the soon-to-be extradited 'dangerous hacker' and UFO buff Gary McKinnon would have you believe otherwise. Check the USA report density on this UFO sightings map, a place where oral tradition long ago gave way to other far more influential forms of media.

Nonetheless, myths will inevitably surface. Assume the possibility of ensuring an uninterrupted span of 10,000 years, and that the dangers inherent in long-term nuclear waste storage manifest themselves somehow - leaks, perhaps. Just twenty years after Chernobyl, the whole truth from that particular incident appears to have acquired a thick layer of concrete, its very own sarcophagus. The truth will perhaps never be known, and the myths have already started.

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High Desert Test Sites 5, an art event in the desert / how architects build brands; are 'built brands' good for the built environment? Probably not / Fiat 128 articles. Bring back bright green cars / Nothing To See Here has launched, no thanks to us / designs and concepts at Inhabitat, including a link to the BOB, a mobile home concept by prolific Australian architect Andrew Maynard. Related, Pragmatic Experimentation, an interview with Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity over at Eyeteeth / lesser known facts of World War II / buy 'Exclusive soil from Doel, Belgium. The city that will disappear!', an auction which bizarrely links to us.

Kathryn Cramer's website, 'Overt Intelligence Operations and Wildcat Cartography' / the art of Tom Phillips / yet more cartographic and artistic musings at Moon River (where we found that UFO sightings map)/ London hasn't changed, the psychology of the cityscape considered from Charles Booth to the present day / a large selection of paper models.

Atlas (t), an excellent mapping weblog / a huge set of photos from The Sultan's Elephant (official site). Flickr has over 4,000 photos with this tag. Ours is a bit young for this kind of thing, so our viewing of the whole spectacle was confined to seeing the elephant being prepared in the vast open space that surrounds Battersea Power Station (see things past).


Wednesday, May 03, 2006
It's all about the attitude: 616 is the new 666 (via me-fi): 'By using 666 we're using something that the Christians fear, [said Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan in New York], 'Mind you, if they do switch to 616 being the number of the beast then we'll start using that.' / more numerology: it's all in the numbers.

Watch for The Sultan's Elephant, stalking London this weekend. Inevitable galleries to be linked next week / North Korea's Ryugyong Hotel is one of those internet icons that inspires endless digital fascination and speculation.


Monday, May 01, 2006
The Aspen Movie Map was an early experiment in recreating a real location as a virtual space, a precursor of today (and tomorrow's) in-car navigation systems yet also a tool with a military application: 'to solve the problem of quickly familiarizing soldiers with new territory'. Nowadays, it's not just territory that can be previewed, but whole scenarios: 'This is Urban Warfare'.

The Cricketing Yak, a mapping and data compiling project for cricket obsessives (via me-fi projects) / a collection of Disney self-plagiarisation / quakes caused by spyplanes? / a nice addition to the genre of crop art: Sycamore Farms, a project by visual artist Matthew Moore / the monome 40h, 'a reconfigurable grid of sixty-four backlit buttons', configurable for pretty much whatever you like.

When in Rome... don't listen to the Romans: on Richard Meier's new Ara Pacis Museum / wind turbines from space / staying with Google sightseeting tours, some giant holes / 'My god, it's full of stars,' all about Olber's Paradox / a different kind of glitter: hysterical upmarket car bling by Strutwear / Dumb Angel Magazine and weblog tracks the traces of West Coast surf culture.

We like the idea of a mis-guide / go and buy a castle in Europe. There are lots / don't you love it when a hoax comes together / driving on three wheels on a Citroen GS / rats, the site looks much better in this rss reader / the Golden Fleece Awards, angry responses to big budget state projects in 1970s America some of the things that got them all riled seem commonplace today / all about the wah pedal.

Photo Book Guide is exactly that, a project that tries to 'show the history of photography reflected through the photo book', with detailed reviews of such gems as William Eggleston's Guide (currently riding a wave of popular interest thanks to simultaneous use by both Primal Scream and Ali Smith) and Martin Parr's One Day Trip, one of thirty books Parr has published in the last 20 years apparently. Oh yes, the site is by Rob Gardiner of NYC London, no mean photographer himself.

My Home Our Place, a surprisingly link-less site concerned with 'better housing and Neighbourhoods for the North East...' / the latest issue of Blue Eyes Magazine includes Allison V.Smith's essay on Marfa, Texas, home to the late Donald Judd, his foundation (and, until recently, this lonely little desert outpost of high fashion and noughties irony) / a set of four KLF videos. Well worth it / linked before, but an ongoing project: Evening Standard doom and gloom.