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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A small slice of social history. The Peckham Experiment was one of the grandest of the interwar collaborations between art and science. 'George Scott Williamson and Innes Pearse were a husband and wife team who believed that an individual's social and physical environment could decisively affect his or her long-term state of health.' The couple commissioned a building by Sir Owen Williams, the Pioneer Health Centre, a sleek glass, steel and concrete structure that would today be given a grandiose title like 'community health hub'. The diving board is a masterpiece of concrete design.

The Peckham Experiment set out to correlate the effects of environment on health, and the initial medical examination of the 3411 participating men and women was unsettling; only 14% of the men were without some form of health 'disorder', and just 4% of the women. The centre provided all forms of entertainment, education and recreational facilities, the likes of which most people, regardless of class background, had never seen. Williamson and Pearse were working within a tradition of hands-on healthcare that had begun with John Snow and his observations of the choleric properties of the Broad Street water pump (the subject of Steven Johnson's The Ghost Map).

This article at the Wellcome Trust (which holds the Health Centre's archives) reveals just how genuinely pioneering the project was. The belief that the availability of facilities would encourage people to take their health into their own hands. The building itself was designed to 'encourage informal contact, thus facilitating spontaneous development of social interaction and activities in an organic community setting as a major contribution to wellbeing'. There was even an organic farm in Kent to supply produce to members, run by Mary Langman, an early member of the Soil Association.

Ultimately, the arrival of the NHS, and the principle of free healthcare for all, did for the Experiment, and its volunteer-run ethos stumbled in the early 1950s years (after a wartime spell as a bomber parts factory). Williams' building was converted into housing in the 90s, with the addition of a couple of terraces of ersatz 'modern' houses on each side of the main facade.


Other things. Screw Asylum, a weblog about screws. Great stuff. via Boing Boing and now sucked up into the general ether of buzz and conversation, so also seen everywhere else. Also via BB, a gallery of Secret Rooms of the STASI, by photographers Daniel & Geo Fuchs / desktop background images of Antique Cameras / the Bibliophile Bullpen, a weblog / 17 Seconds, an mp3 blog.

Finnish artist Jan-Erik Andersson is creating the Life on a Leaf house, a rather folksy take on neo-organic architecture, a genre which occasionally sparks into life but usually remains on the fringes of residential design. See Laurie Chetwood's Butterly House, Ian Ritchie's Eagle Rock House and Niall McLaughlin's Shack (it's not really in the same vein, but the expansive Wikipedia entry on the Xanadu House in Florida is fascinating). A million miles away from all this comes an early architectural solution to genuine organic living - tropical heat, insects, humidity, etc.: Jean Prouve's Tropical House. One of three, which have since toured the world - a good advert for its flexibility of manufacture - it is being auctioned off on Monday. James Fenton wrote approvingly about the metal bungalow, and the Christie's sale, last week.

Microsoft's Surface computer looks pretty interesting. More at BBC news and a demo video on YouTube / a gallery of Chrysler concept cars, as the firm itself heads for the trashcan / Product of your Environment, neat twists on conventional objects / editorial minutae, a blog from the Guardian Reader's editor. 'Room mit ein view', a sub-editor's flash of inspiration. 'Your verdict: not funny.'

Postopolis has been going all this week at NY's Storefront for Art and Architecture. BLDGBLOG has the running orders: Day One, Day Two, Day Three (flickr pool) and Dan at City of Sound is doing his darndest to chronicle the whole thing in real time. Masses here to think about / a nice Archinect piece on Atelier Bow-Wow / the one-storey skyscraper (via Kottke). Comments reveal spiral buildings in Chile, 'The buildings in question are known as "caracoles" or "snails". They’re typically 5-7 stories high. They were built to serve as something like malls, before malls made it into the country.'

Last week the Times carried a piece about the upper middle classes (that slender social zone that's near-impossible to spot (or care about) unless you occupy one its extensive outer fringes): We used to have it all..., a stirring lament for a lost world of upper middle class comfort and security. Or a case of bitter fraternal jealousy? Either way, the comments are especially merciless / a charming story of an internet connection at Spoilt Victorian Child / 'how many trees are felled to produce the average suburban McMansion?'. Idle speculation at Where / like big crescendos? A bunch of music for you to download and trial.

Trulia Hindsight, 'maps of properties through time'. A US-only service that lets you view how urban centres have grown over time. Reminiscent of the slightly more flashy animation used by the Manhattan Timeformations at The Skyscraper Museum. Related, all over the internet today, the arrival of Google's Street View (me-fi comment). Clever stuff, which doesn't look entirely real most of the time, but then neither does much of America. Apparently this is the team behind the software, a little in-joke.

Two takes on the soon-to-reopen RFH: 'Gloriously, madly English: Festival Hall revamp and Pomp and circumstance, both broadly supportive of the anti-iconic, behind-the-scenes quality of the work (which came in at around £111m). Related, Love the Festival Hall / like everyone else, we're excited about the prospect of the BLDGBLOG Book / Labelmag, an Italian online style magazine.

The Guardian gets in on the paper plane racket, some eight years late / we love nature, says Kapitza / Swarm Sketch, 'Collective sketching of the collective consciousness'. View previous efforts / the Brickfactory (via me-fi), a plethora of brightly coloured Lego instruction sets.

Back when machines used to be big, the Stand of the Oerlikon Works at the Paris Exhibition of 1889 from Scientific American, August 17, 1889. The Eiffel Tower was built for the Exposition; 'There is no doubt that those who prophesied that the Eiffel Tower would be an abortion from an artistic point of view have been utterly put to rout.' The Scotsman, 25 April, 1889 / Printed Pages, an abundance of printed pages and advertisements, specialising in Asbestos catalogues and advertisements (it's from where today's title image comes from) / asdas

The Avion Travelcade Club, a treasure trove of information about 1960s caravans, including owner's manuals. See also the Tin Can Tourist website / early, beautiful slot cars, the AFX Super II, one of many, many things at the Toy Baron / re-making a classic: Interstate Outlaws / Game Set Watch, a game blog / amplifiers by Traynor / a sketchbook by actor Dirk Bogarde, who has a burgeoning posthumous web presence / the 1943 Disney Employees Handbook.

Music as Therapy's annual Secret Postcard Sale / Blow de la Barra blog, international art scene / photographs by Elger Esser hosted at Kulturflash. More Esser / oh yes, blogger users beware. The new auto-saving function is _not_ to be trusted at all - large posts just vanish regularly. Any way of turning it off?

Normal service was to start again today, but somehow an entire post has been swallowed up, perhaps by Blogger's 'autosave' function. Anyone else experienced this? The system is also moving at a desperate crawl. Other weblog software recommendations would be gratefully received at this point.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Apologies. What with one thing and another, things is being rather lacklustre at the moment. It's hard to keep a handle on the cascade of information, unearthed dead technology, modern ruins, failed futures, innovations and collections.

'We aim to tackle the human habit of automatically absorbing our surroundings without actually perceiving them. Our product ranges enable the viewer to realize relevant social developments through intelligent, entertaining design.' Sweet Dreams Security, a project by RCA graduate Matthias Megyeri. The 'Mrs Welcome' net curtains are our favourite / a wonderful showcase of Ekranoplan Technology at Dark Roasted Blend - the kind of over-reaching, highly ambitious project that has an incredible half life on the internet, endlessly cropping up in admiring posts.

Climate change: A guide for the perplexed / Where, 'a blog about urban places, placemaking and the concept of "place"', which links to this discussion about car-free cities, 'Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars...' / Ghost of a flea, a weblog / Alex's Space, a weblog / The Stupid Shall be Punished, a weblog that's mainly about submarines.

We made this, a weblog with a design slant / Dan Germain's weblog / The Whole Damn Mutha's Gonna Blow on Jonathan Meades' new TV series Abroad Again. The odd tiny snippet available on YouTube / a homage to Colin St John Wilson, who died last week. Wilson's art collection is now at Pallant House Gallery, near Chichester, in an extension he designed himself. On Last Word on Sunday, Wilson recalled how he bought his first piece in 1947, before swapping it for another painting a few years later. Overall, he said, he had 'lost' 50 paintings to swaps, 'and an Aston Martin, but that's another story.'

'La Tonnara and the Chamber of Death; Arabian floating architecture in Sicily'. Oh to have the time to put together a post of that quality. On intensive tuna fishing, Islamic city planning, the aviary at London Zoo and more / ' There are more than 2,000 dead towns and villages within a radius of 250 kms (155 miles) around Chernobyl reactor. Each year I travel, I see more and more ruined places.' More from Elena Filatova, the atomic biker.

Italian Soundtracks, devoted to collecting those ultra-rare movie LPs with garish covers and impossibly chic (to modern ears) bossanova beats / Cardboard Spaceship, a weblog / Bluurb, a weblog with an advertising commentary slant.

Preservation activists discover a home on YouTube / a potted history of expanding storage requirements / collect the set: Hieronymous Bosch figurines from The Garden of Earthly Delights (image via Bosch Universe). One of many bizarre objects for sale at the Talaria Enterprises Museum Store.

Future Shock, the film of the book (by Alvin Toffler), narrated by Orson Welles and thick with the raw paranoia and fear of tomorrow that characterised that decade. Revised here. Definite zombie movie overtones. See also Threads, which still looks cold, bleak and brilliant, with the slow drip of broadcast news the only thing to cling to. Related, Pear Tree House, an innocent block of flats that once housed 'the former control centre [in the event of Nuclear War] for South East London in the basement'.

Albion Drive: a saga of modern Britain, anecdotal data about London's frazzled housing market (via me-fi / Tiny Homes / Dear Internet, re: SmithsonianImages.SI.Edu / neat gifts and toys for sale at Thorsten van Elten / the Built Environment Blog, seen before, but worth going back / Ceiling Height Can Affect How A Person Thinks, Feels And Acts / AUDC, 'a research group dedicated to using the tools of architecture to research the role of the individual and the community in the contemporary urban environment.' / a ghost marina, near San Jose.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

NASA hopes that this thrill-packed feature short, 'Back to the Moon' will spur on fresh lunar frenzy. Visualisations have certainly got a lot better in the past 38 years, but without astronauts trained in Steadicam operation, the reality is unlikely to match up. There's plenty of Mars speculation available if you just want to dream / excellent architectural photography from Hagen Stier / a big balloon, It Happened features the art of Pawel Althamer.

Chinese fake brands; check our latest gallery of the Shanghai Motor Show for a couple of other intentional 'homages' / N55 are a Danish design studio who make micro dwellings and all sorts of other things / sketches by Gottfried Böhm / Bartholomew's notes on religion, 'Researching religion and current affairs since February 2004' / stark black and white images and French text.

Some good Google Maps downloads at Barnabu, via me-fi. See also this map of Graham & Greene properties (via projects). While we're at it; animal noises are soon to be added to GE (via The Reg) / Jonathan Meades is back on TV. Hooray / slower's visual weblog / a collection of the Lamest 'Value-Added' Products / Today's questions. How do I say thank you to my mentor, ten years later?, Blair's Cabinet of '97 - where are they now? / Ye Olde Metal Days. No Ugly Rumours, though.

Riding the Rails, a photo set (via ask) / art by Thomas Ehretsmann / illustration by Ray Fenwick / the Imperial Club website never fails to delight - if only all car models had such a resource. The 1966 brochure is particularly fine. From 1963: 'The LeBaron cloisonne crest on the roof makes this the only car on which this federal jewelry excise tax is paid'.

It's the end of era, etc. etc., Currys to eject audio cassettes. One more analogue technology unceremoniously booted off the British high street. 'Last year Currys sold just 100,000 tapes compared with 83 million in 1989.' The days of C86 (and C81) are long numbered. Say goodbye to this ultra harsh aesthetic, or make your own.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dezeen helpfully plots upcoming Gulf architecture on Google Maps. Wait until this is combined with the kind of imagery coming out of Microsoft's Virtual Earth - check the flyover of Brighton shown on Digital Urban. Should be good, once places like Abu Dhabi get their $400bn worth of property projects underway. God only knows how Microsoft gets hold of its data - it really is remarkable. But the compression and - presumably - digital guesstimation that must be going on gives the cities a strange, Expressionist air, almost Gormenghastian in their crooked expansiveness.

A BBC news piece about Helvetica, now 50 years old. The comments degenerate quickly into typographical slanging matches. What is the collective noun for a group of typographers? A leading of typographers. Something hefty and obsessive-sounding / The Doorbells of Florence, a book inspired by a website / the Sceptical Cook, a food weblog / the San Francisco Emotion Map, a Google Earth project by Christian Nold (also responsible for the Mapping Fulham project). In SF, 'People go for a walk around the Mission distict in San Francisco with the aid of a Bio Mapping device which records the wearer’s Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), which is a simple indicator of emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location'. Mapping is really where it is all happening right now. Here are some London Pub crawls.

Snowsquare, 'Urban postings from Moscow, Russia' / Bird to the North, architecture weblog with a sustainable slant / Art Torrents, short films by artists / an epic profile of Banksy in the New Yorker, via Archinect / an ultra-interactive video game (maybe nsfw) - a solution to what the creator calls 'gamer widowhood'. Originally seen at we make money not art, but the type of thing that memes are made of, so now sweeping across the internet like a virus / the ongoing saga of the Shanghai World Financial Center, originally mooted as the world's tallest building, but now having to settle for being somewhere lower down the rankings, when it's finally completed. The design has also seen numerous changes, from this to this to this. More construction images.

Catalog Tree, a huge collection of art projects and infographics. We like Unpaid Diplomatic Parking Violations, December 1997 to October 2002), It is not going to stop, displayed in '43 different programming languages of the last 50 years', two familiar sound clips, a Mercedes poster, and more / Motel de Moka, an mp3 blog with quite a bit of nudity tucked away in there / I guess I'm floating, another mp3 blog / and one more, Shake Your Fist.

Dreamland, a tmn gallery of new photography by Marshall Sokoloff / Jerry's Auto Upholstery Shop, evocative image set at Intersecting Images / 3D printing inches towards reality. Is there anything we'd actually like to print in 3D? / The Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy, sci-fi debunking / the Priority Boxes Project, a mail art project that is all about sending nothing but an idea. Materialists that we are, we'd rather have something.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The story of cinematic smoke and mirrors: Human Computer Interaction in Science Fiction Movies, a paper by Michael Schmitz (via me-fi). The above image is from Vintage Computing and Gaming. See also the Heathkit Virtual Museum / The Re-Birth of MG, a weblog by Paul Stowe, in charge of quality at Nanjing Auto Co (NAC)/MG. Fascinating look at cultural and economical ties and differences, and how MG, a relatively marginal marque towards the end of its life, is projected to do big numbers in the Chinese market / the Monocle Skeppshult bicycle is rather lovely / Cognitive Daily, developments in cognitive psychology.

The end of the road for the Nakagin Capsule Tower, a slice of early 1970s utopianism designed by Kisho Kurokawa. Few architects have clung to their early theoretical and aesthetic statements like Kurokawa, but the main problem with the Metabolist movement in architecture - essentially a forerunner of high-tech that foresaw cities formulated as vast collection of removable components - was that the theory contained the seed of its own destruction. Whereas someone like Cedric Price would simply have harrumphed and called for the structure's removal, Kurokawa wanted the Nagakin to be refurbished - 'unplugged' and rebuilt with units that reflect modern materials and technology (micro compact homes, perhaps?). Kurokawa's Sony Tower has also bitten the dust recently.

Over at tmn, A Mystery of Violence, perceptions of London. Not my title, but a good one / the Fife Slide Collection of Western U.S. Vernacular Architecture, e.g. ornamental mailboxes / random knowledge, a weblog / Marginal Utility, a weblog / design your own roller coaster / a power station that harnessing the sun.

BLDGBLOG, City of Sound and Subtopia come together to present Postopolis, a NY-based event to discuss how 'blogging has helped to expand the bounds of architectural discussion; its influence now spreads far beyond the internet to affect museums, institutions, and even higher education.' See also City of Sound's Penguins. Mental note to do the same / architecture, 'and anything else that matters...', a weblog / Process Recess, illustration.

Retroviews / terrifying development: the Minisode, a 5-minute long distillation of a 'classic' TV show for mobile phone users (via X-Series Blog) / Inside the Hollow Earth, at strange maps. See also the TOry Atlas of the World / The roundest objects ever built by hand, '... only the size of a ping pong ball, but its surfaces are so smooth that were it blown up to the size of Earth, the tallest mountain would be only eight feet high'. Collision Detection on ultra-precision engineering by NASA.

To Dye For. Why do Australian cricketers prefer blondes? 'Freud's conclusion, according to Melbourne academic Dr John Armstrong, would be that they were all, in fact, one woman. "The men are bonding by having one woman who they share between them," Armstrong says.' (via Sleepy Brain) / play dress-up with Gucci's Spring 2007 collection (via kottke) / the world's shortest music video: You Suffer, Napalm Death's opus, finally set to moving images to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Scum. You can download the song here .

Thousands sign up for journey beyond death: Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds is inspiring people to get themselves plastinated / one of the last ever British airships was called The Bournemouth, built for the Festival of Britain but destroyed in the late 1950s, according to a historical nugget found on Blimp Info (which is the only web reference to the intriguing 'English Airship Club'. Related, Festival Object list / Snowcruiser, the story of the original land yacht. Found via Avi Abrams' Blend images contain hours and hours of Photoshop time. The reference pages are also worth flicking through; Russian Presidential Plane interior.

Festoon, a photographic project by Katrin Kur, 'depicting personal possessions remaining in private cars parked at night [in London], which become more than indexical and, depicted in these images, gain a cinematic charge.' (thanks Sean) / Cardmation is an analogue company in a digital world. Check this old Wired piece from 1999 on punchcards and discover the Douglas W. Jones Punched Card Collection (found via Coudal). Punch cards have a certain beauty. Punch cards also crop up at the Columbia University Computing History. Off for a few days, updates erratic.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Chris Jordan's series 'Running the Numbers', which 'looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on' (via Drawn!) / USB roll up drum kit. Yes please / Strange Harvest maps hell, now that limbo has been consigned to the history books. Another map of Dante's Inferno / the Phantom Index, tracking the price of an equivalent Rolls-Royce around the world's markets / interior paintings by Andrea Ventura / a gallery of deep sea fish / Squalor Survivors.

Creative Review blog / Architecture re-housed, an exploration of the design process by No.2 Self / Against the Grain, an mp3 blog / Mundaneum, the Index Card Internet, at the Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society / Brella, an independent artists' co-op / A Test Trial, 'works from students at the Higher Study of Photography at The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School'. More artists here, like Jozef Robakowski or Alexander Honory's 'One World with many faces' project, which gives you the people of Buenos Aires, Vienna, Bogota and more / Fortuitous, a new site from me-fi's Mr Haughey.

Local Life, 'an audio journey of the places, people and history of the UK' (brought to you by A Doodle a Day) / Eating Bark, architecture and more / the flippers are out in force / our first wikipedia cite in the entry for the Townley Vase / an abandoned city in Russia / Amazing Filtered Things clips all those strange and unusual news photos, so you don't have to, and builds up collections, like the World's Most Beautiful Bridges / Tijuana Bibles are very nsfw.

Broadcasting House, as it was back in 1932, a short-lived blossoming of modern architecture that proved hopelessly unable to keep up with the rapid-fire strip outs and refurbishments demanded by constant technological upheaval / more images of RRP's Barajas T4 in Madrid (featured recently in our photos) / a tour around the Midland Grand Hotel, circa 1999. More pages on the edifice, currently being MLC-ised into St Pancras Chambers. All links via magsllhalliday.