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Monday, September 01, 2008


The art of Francois Schuiten, creator of Les CitÚs Obscures (together with Benoit Peeters), a fantastical series of books about an alternative reality, obsessively detailed and chronicled. The sort of thing that might be lumped in with Steampunk, although the emphasis is more on urbanism and technology. The official site, Urbicande, is lavish and inclusive, opening a whole world of fansites and source material. Obskur is another very good place to start, although there's are rather clunky sites at Les Cites Obscures and Tram 81. The Obscure Cities page is also a good English language resource, while the obscure dictionary chronicles the micro-managed history, objects, places and people that make up their world, like this gazetteer of the imagination.

Schuiten and Peeters painstakingly created a world that was part Metropolis, part Art Nouveau fantasy, extrapolating alternative histories, physics and even biologies (animals specific to the world include the aquatic Spongias, the bunyips and the Boustrophedon). Part of the world's internal consistency derives from the use of real people and places, intermingled with the fictional, but integral to the narratives. Thus Victor Horta becomes a central figure in the series. Schuiten and Peeters own the architect's Maison Autrique in Brussels, which they saved and restored. Through the restoration, the artists purported to find a 'passage' to the 'Obscure World' chronicled in their books, using historical characters as passeurs ('often artists, writers or architects') to facilitate moving between the two worlds.

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Other things. 50 books, a weblog / a modernist doll's house / photography by Benedict Redgrove / the flickr page of Michael Surtees / car company logo rip-offs, at cartype / ebay to go (via bowblog) / photography by Ilona Jurgiel / A bit of curating. Lost and Found photos, a dissertation project / House 2.0, a weblog / now voyager, a weblog / Polanoid, 'building the biggest Polaroid-picture-collection of the planet....' / Hi + Low, a weblog / Bevel and Boss, a weblog / mafia hunt, a weblog / The Brand New Honda, a weblog.

Is it just us, or is everything lists? Listophilia has infected the internet to such an extent that the dominant mode of weblog post is the illustrated list / adaptivereuse, 'contemporary metamorphoses' / hyperscale, a resource for modelmakers / 100 years of illustration / Rad Library, book plans / Le Cool Books, a slick set of travel guides / The Toolbox Book / Unknown Knowns, a weblog / The House Vote, one way of rating the link stream (via Coudal) / Odd Instrument, self explanatory / does the Livescribe actually work?

The origin of the Apple key symbol / Things, a new task manager for Apple products. Looks slick. On the other side of the divide, we are boggled as to why Yahoo seem unable to integrate a calendar into their new Yahoo Go 3.0 application / Tuvie, a useful repository for the constant stream of conceptual products / the reality is shaped more like Paroxody, which produces physical things, eking novelty out of strictly analogue processes, rather than digital ones.

Thanks to Paul K for pointing us towards the concept of Greebling, ably explained in this tecznotes post as 'all those little nubs on the Imperial Star Destroyer and other ships make it look big, and real'. A (Lego) modeller explains: 'We greeble to break up boring areas'. The tecznotes post is interesting, because it posits links between greebling and tiling, each sleights of hand devised in order to deceive us into reading the parcelled up city as one continuous piece of flowing data.

A Layperson's Guide to Graphic Design, a talk by Adrian Shaughnessy / Squob, our new favourite website, looking at mobile architecture 'beyond the white box'. Traditionally the realm of conceptual renders (like the multi-faceted Mehrzeller caravan concept currently doing the rounds), there is still a massive gulf between 'designed' travel travels and the industry's definition of 'designer' products.

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