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Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The Forgotten...: the internet is littered with histories of the abandoned, although these tend towards the violent (war, victims, holocaust) or the geographic (lair, realms, coast, frontier). The term has become media shorthand for revisiting an earlier story, an indicator that here is a different spin on a familiar tale, the evidence of journalistic skill. At the same time, 'forgotten things' are one of the most prevalent subjects online, a self-generated history that makes the past personal. Related: Secret history, Robin Stummer on the Vienna flak towers, giant concrete accretions that dominate the city yet are invisible, for social and political reasons. On flickr.

The Fallingwater Movie, a compelling case for using computer graphics to help understand a complex building. This is presumably the kind of thing Margaret Hodge has in mind when she talks of creating virtual facsimiles of buildings so that they might be physically destroyed while still being 'retained' for future generations to wander around, virtual goggles clamped to their faces, haptic interface gloves set for the crumbling grain of poured concrete.

Hodge was much derided, but perhaps her comments also made an unwitting insight into how the modern mind works. Contemporary culture exists in a limbo between NOSTALGIA and POTENTIAL. Nostalgia for the past - expressed through the consumption of (A) and the anticipation of the future expressed through the consumption of (B). We'd venture that consumption (A) is about reliving the remembered moment. It's going to gigs, museums, films, buying old books and computer games, even to bars or pubs with old friends. It is everyday activity that has at its core the attempt to recapture and recreate lost sensations, sensations that have become magnified over time.

Consumption (B) is the purchasing of anticipation, the construction of an identity based on the idealist visions one imbibes through culture and society (e.g. if I buy X car then my life will be Y better). We're now seeing the evolution of objects that combine (A) with (B), managing to be simultaneously aspirational and nostalgic. Related. Objectified, a forthcoming film about product design. From the blog it looks like a collection of talking heads trying to explain the design rationale behind modernism, and maybe even reconciling their celebrity with the increasingly complex nature of the 'celebrity object'.


Other things. Surreal Madrid, a fine piece of abstract CGI / Gundam Architecture, Tokyo as machine. Both via Superspatial / useful collection of 20 archetypal computer images, used for scanning, compressing, modelling / le blog d'Evelyne Louvre-Blondeau is very Gallic - beautiful cartoons with frequently nsfw subject matter / Graffiti for Butterflies, 'Directing monarch butterflies to urban food sources along migratory routes in North America'. Some caterpillars. Thanks to Elliot Malkin.

I love typography, a weblog / Kottke flags up the radio wave adventures of the Judica-Cordiglia Brothers, alleged discoverers of the Lost Cosmonaut / how not to make a corporate video: 'at Volvo they worry, the Japs they just cry'. Unless this is a sophisticated example of the German sense of humour.

Travellers Back in Time, an Amazon list put together by Phil Gyford in honour of the 1000 AD survival tips / the Mugabe Mansion? Something about the highly gilded interior that induces envy and wild speculation. Is this the most coveted architectural style, or the most reviled? / on how 'the design of cars is basically broken'.

Saturday, July 26, 2008
Esotika, Erotica, Psychotica, 'sex, art, horror and experimentation in world film.' Some imagery may be nsfw / relatively alternative cinema in huge in the world of weblogs. We like The Exploding Kinetoscope and Moon in the Gutter / Concept Ships is a big, brash weblog dealing with concept art for spaceships, future cities and the like. See also the forum / a map of the USA's national gas temperature: prices coded by colour / Brake Burns, chronicling Canadian burnt rubber / the last few via Telstar Logistics (flickr).

How to publish an architectural monograph / Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, a new show at MoMA / Gloomy Sunday, on pulp fiction / Tsar Bomba, the world's largest detonation (video, wikipedia - 'the single most physically powerful device ever utilized throughout the history of humanity') / happy to advise on outsourcing oil paintings. One of these days we'll post details of our purchase.

MBV haven't really changed: 1990 versus 2008 (more: I, II, III, IV, V). It could have been this.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Premiere Issues, an online archive of magazine first covers. A snapshot of a relatively fragmentary culture, changing fashions in design and consumption (via magCulture) / related, the Nest Magazine archive / lots of hip people putting together the Arkitip Intelligence Page / via the former, photography by Andrea Durham / Google Knol has opened its doors. Right now, it looks like a hypochondriac's paradise, although the odd tech-focused article (e.g. 'Building Stanley') creeps through.

The architecture of literalism: book facades. See also this flickr pic of Kansas City. There was a similar installation at the New Millennium Experience, we recall. As noted before, this event has left almost no digital trace behind. In fact, the Millennium Dome Collection, now based in the USA, appears to be the only archive on the web. Happily, it is exceptionally comprehensive: food stuffs, hats, phonecards, models, tickets.

Soundings from the Estuary, images of the 'archaic landscape' of the Thames Estuary, including photographs by Frank Watson, also responsible for The Hush House. Maybe related, we were a bit facetious about numbers stations earlier in the week. This Washington Post piece from 2004 is a good place to start. Also, via wikipedia, 'Listening to numbers stations in the UK is illegal under Section 48 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 as it is unlikely you could get official permission to listen to them'.

Thursday, July 24, 2008
A bit of background about the marketing of De Beers diamonds (pdf), and their tactics of turning the diamond into a powerful cultural symbol through being the 'marketer for the whole industry'. Tactics included 'giving diamonds to movie stars to use as symbols of indestructible love', and 'commissioning artists like Picasso, Dali and Dufy to paint pictures for advertisements, conveying the idea that diamonds were unique works of art.' See also The Diamond Invention by Edward James Epstein.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Tate extension concept gets another makeover. We think the new design bears more than a passing resemblance to another infamous ziggurat, the Ryugyong Hotel, which will allegedly now be completed. As archinect notes, the last time there was a flurry of online and creative interest in this building (thanks to Domus), it proved rather controversial, not least because any support for the crumbling concrete ziggurat was perceived as support for the crumbling yet still powerful regime in North Korea. Pop the hotel into Google Earth and decide for yourself. Which segues nicely into this post on abandoned cities and towns.

'In truth, the constant return of this Disney fatwa says more about the stagnation of the West's critical imagination than about the cities on the Gulf.' Koolhaas on current work and context / Do burglars read AskMeFi? / Bookendless, a blog about books / the exposure project, a photography blog / Trophy Size Matters, an infographic (dread word) at Good Magazine (via Eduardo Chang) as is this page on Pantone colour predictions / Tastespotting mixes food writing with photography, in a relatively successful way. See also Lunch with Front Studio, and also the long-running, which contains nearly 19,000 images of in-air cuisine. Are you still allowed to photograph airline food?

BD on the 'squiggle-driven' Serpentine Pavilion, the first bit of substantial criticism. A nice piece of architectural whimsy or 'poorly executed suburban cosmetics', with a concealed steel frame and no way of keeping the rain off? Archinect links this time-lapse video of the construction. In the flesh, the pavilion was rather underwhelming, not the cascade of complexity one might have expected from the initial model shots. It was also surprisingly Californian-feeling - helped by the glow of late evening sun flooding across the lawns of Hyde Park.

What can you buy for five dollars? See also under five pounds and Sam Hecht of Industrial Facility's Under a Fiver exhibition / manufacturing urban myths for fun and profit, on the faintly ridiculous allure of the Conet Project / correcting the last post. The Surveillance Saver Quad we linked to is a continuation of Michael Zollner's original Surveillance Saver. Sorry for the misattribution.


Gunpowder Magazine got us thinking about the luxury lifestyle magazine business. Go on, google it. There are, quite frankly, more magazines in this sector than in any other, especially online: MarQ, Rich Guy, Supercar, Lusso Luxury, Vivo Magazine, Black Card, Dolce Vita, Elite Life and Travel, Urban Life, Canary Wharf, Ocean Drive, Atlanta Peach, Quest, Broughtons, etc., etc. This is a woefully incomplete list, and that's before you've got to the in-house magazines produced by the various brands - Ferrari, Bentley, Aston Martin, Patek Philippe, Sunseeker. A marque without a magazine is in danger of knocking copy (although in practice this is relatively rare) and, horror of horrors, no control over their brand image. Around the world, the contract publishing market - companies like FMS, Redwood, John Brown - are creating bespoke publications that represent the idealised essence of a brand.

What's most striking is that the 'luxury' magazines listed above seem to demonstrate a lack of awareness of the world in general, beyond the little orbit of the place or product held in close focus. It's a lack of curiosity, perhaps, maybe created from self-satisfaction, or even fear that the media-bubble each product and reader occupies is in danger of being popped. The imagery is relentless - white sand/blue sky/bikini/convertible/powerboat/wine glass - a cornucopia of high net worth clip art that has the effect of flattening the entire lifestyle into little more than a low rent studio photoshoot.


Perhaps related, Mike Tyson's abandoned mansion. If nothing else, this shows you that zebra skin does not make a good repeat pattern. These images are properly Ballardian. Sadly the website is a forest of broken links and dead images / also from the seen-everywhere-but-none-the-worse-for-that section. 30 Most Incredible Abstract Satellite Images of Earth / Brief Epigrams, an art and photography weblog / 365 days of free games.

A project that promises much but doesn't deliver just yet: TinEye, an image search engine. Their example searches aren't easy to replicate either. Because it purports to match like for like it's a limited tool. What's needed is a 'fuzziness' slider that distorts your uploaded image in real time to find approximate matches. The site is potentially an amazing copyright fighting tool. We'll leave other applications up to your imagination. See also IM2GPS, 'estimating geographic information from a single image', via half bakery / online manufacturing, is it the future? Or just a little diversion for designers? / Heading East, a photography weblog.

Lost in Showbiz, 'where PR howlers come to die', a compilation of the scattergun, opportunist, tenuous and just plain tedious / images from 'Ricas y Famosas', photographer Daniella Rosell's tour of the money-struck and taste befuddled. At Mafia Hunt / The Commodification of Photographic Archives, muse-ings on the selling of imagery online / Theme Magazine, 'contemporary Asian culture' / artifacts from the future, a labour-intensive compilation of Wired's future gazing / The Zombie in Art History, Art Fag City on artistic representations of the undead / Travelling Still, blurred horizons and splashes of colour / correct, yesterday was indeed Flying Ant Day in South London, albeit not quite as anty as previous years.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008
These diagrams of the Burj Dubai at Skyscraper Page gradually get larger and larger as it became apparent the building work was not yet over and yet more structure was being added. Check the official Burj website. Unofficial Dubai construction page, with recent construction images. A list of tallest buldings and structures in the world.

There needs to be a word for the thrill of doing a google search on an odd combination of words and getting less than 100 results. Like stumbling on a vast tract of virgin rainforest / celebrity lookalikes are now having to generate stories about their 'famous' doppelgangers in order to keep them both in the public eye, and therefore maintain their own careers.

Julien de Smedt's Project Mermaid versus Vincent Callebaut's Lilypad for Global Warming / Till deaf us do part, on Godflesh and God / things to look at, blogging print design old and new / Casas Minimalistas, pushing modernism for the masses / QBN, 'design industry news'.

The Dominion Part 1, a sound piece by The Shawn Institute, 'a composition that comprises of layered recordings taken from the internal foyer sections, of each of the Toronto Dominion Centre, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.' Part 2.

Philip Cristofor's Lost and Found produces digital artworks, including Surveillance Saver, 'a screensaver for OS X and Windows that shows live images of over 400 network surveillance cameras worldwide. A haunting live soap opera.' Download it here / Linda Peanberg's Sense and Sensibility project is one of several Jane Austen-themed visual projects by the designer / power boats of the 1970s.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

A New Bus for London, the official call for entries that will apparently kick-start Boris Johnson's campaign to oust the allegedly hated Citaros. The thrust is 'Could you create a new iconic bus for London? (our emphasis), with an ideas competition pitched at schoolchildren ('It must be red!') as well as a serious call for entries. The problem will probably lie with that word 'iconic'. No-one sets out to create an icon of mass transit. If there's one thing that the rapidity of contemporary design and media practice has taught us it's that deliberate iconism is short termist thinking.

When Autocar commissioned a modern Routemaster from Capoco the compromises were plain to see; vaguely retro styling (check the Quicktime movie) that says very little about looking forward but everything about our fetish for the past. There are more bus websites than you can possibly imagine (e.g. the London Bus Page in Exile and its predecessor), implying there's a strong collective cultural memory about what a bus is and what it should be. That's all very well, but to imply that any continuation of this tradition must be instantly iconic is to ignore the way affection for inanimate objects ebbs and flows over time

Closely related: the Skylon must be stopped,NBS on the latest attempt at re-writing architectural and social history, reclaiming a lost statement of optimism as an utterly de-contextualised little piece of iconism, a placemaker for a memory. There's even a kitschy little piece of retro-futuristic nonsense from Squint/Opera to accompany a quasi-official Vote for Skylon campaign (from the comments, 'classic baby boomer angst-drivel'). The thrusting form endures in the recently opened Aspire, Ken Shuttleworth's steel lattice sculpture that 'reaches for the sky', naturally. Maybe related, should Piano build at Ronchamp? Choose carefully where you want to place your architectural aspic.


The Totoro Forest Project, helping preserve a slice of Tokyo's urban forest, inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki's 'My Neighbor Totoro'. Are there any historical examples of cities planned around existing woodland, or is urban forestry purely about re-populating areas with trees after the event? Urban forests always remind us of the Asterix book, Mansion of the Gods / Form Follows Dysfunction: Bad Construction and The Morality of Detail, Sam on those much-circulated images of 'bad' architecture, commenting not just on their 'wrongness', but on the way these ham-fisted details tell us more about a building's ongoing changes of use and aesthetics of necessity.

Frank Gehry gets prickly with Pearman: 'The shapes left on the smoking page could be dancing figures, snowcapped mountains, a line of trees, blossoming flowerbuds, leaping salmon, marching elephants - you know how it is with Frank Gehry buildings. You see in them whatever you want to see. I'm left with no real idea what Bono's stores - profits from which go to provide AIDS-tackling drugs to Africa - are going to look like, but I'm wondering what the squiggles might fetch on eBay, if auctioned for the cause.'


Other things / Douglas Adams' typewriter (via). Related, typewriters of the literary elite / Flight illustration forums / Glancey on Zaha-bashing / art by David Ostrowski / a history of Mercedes-Benz buses / a papercraft Catbus / Frames Per Second, an animation blog / Infinite Thought, a weblog / art by Pascual Sisto / more fish than man, a weblog / North Sea Airport proposal. More islands / minutae, a weblog / Glimpses of John Chinaman, the lot of the migrant worker in 1870s California / Shao Kelake, a weblog / some suggested cultural and functional reasons for the perpetuation of outdated technology: why do so many lawyers use WordPerfect?.

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Monday, July 14, 2008
At the risk of banging on about Beijing, now that the whole world is focused on the city and will likely remain so for the next months, there do seem to be ongoing issues to tackle. The glaring omission in almost all the recent media fawning over the completed structures is cost. There's no doubt that the signature Olympic buildings, together with the Andreu theatre and CCTV, have far exceeded expectations for their designated roles as high-profile architectural icons. Nicolai Ouroussoff's NY Times piece (with its fine interactive map), 'In Changing Face of Beijing, a Look at the New China', rhapsodises over the formal and structural innovation on display, concluding that 'there is no question that [China's] role as a great laboratory for architectural ideas will endure for years to come, undeniably influential and inevitably copied. One wonders if the West will ever catch up.' Budget is immaterial. Wikipedia puts a figure of around 500 million dollars on the Olympic Stadium, about half as much as the current budget estimate of 496 million pounds for the HOK stadium proposed for London 2012. Vanity Fair notes that CCTV is costing around '$130 a square foot, a third of what it costs to build an ordinary skyscraper in the U.S.—and about a ninth of the square-foot cost of New York’s Freedom Tower.'

What is the issue here? The Chinese government is accountable to no-one; budgets are vague, build costs are low and there are no committees of scrutineers eager to declare political failure for cost overruns. Instead, the wow factor is acting as an admirable insulator against ongoing criticism, encouraging engagement, not stand-offish dismissal. Kurt Andersen seems to struggle with this position in his Vanity Fair piece, 'From Mao to Wow!', buying the current regime 'the next few decades' to get their house in order. Because, like, these are amazing buildings and amazing solutions. Without the combination of architectural and ideological totalitarianism, would the world be losing a vital cradle of 'innovation'? Or is Chinese iconism skewing the experience of modern architecture for the rest of us?

Compare and contrast with the sorry rumble of discontent attached to the London 2012 aquatics centre, where hand-wringing seems to be the default mode. The current concern is practicality, with the accusation that the ZHA designs were not properly thought out before the ODA committed itself to the design. Yet while CCTV is touted not just as an audacious piece of structural engineering but as a metaphor for shifting global power (should the cultural weight of architecture be 'given' to the 'undeserving' Chinese authorities?), any debate surrounding role-playing architecture in Britain stumbles at the spreadsheet (mostly due to woefully underestimated budgets in the first place, which were again down to maintaining political profiles).

Is the Aquatic Centre a metaphor for anything beyond the relentless cost benefit analysis of modern culture? We'd wager that even the runners up - apparently dismissed for not having the requisite wow factor - would be equally expensive to build. Bennetts Associates' design, in collaboration with Studio Zoppini, ('dismissed for its "practical approach"') is on their website, and there's a glimpse of Faulkner Browns' 'functionally mundane' proposal on their splash page. One can only wonder whether these very public spats about cost, practicality and ability would happen were it not for the endlessly fascinating character of ZH and her work, a complexity that some people are willing to fail.


Other things. Continuity in Architecture, an excellent weblog / Hitotoki, 'a narrative map of London'. Small textual fragments from the city. Hitotoki is 'an online literary project collecting stories of singular experiences tied to locations in cities worldwide' / Ylowek Scavel-Cronek, a weblog containing mp3s, live performances and Jackie Chan soundtracks / Unisync, a Whovian website. Not really our thing, but pages as comprehensive as the Tardis gallery deserve a mention / a set of classic Las Vegas demolitions. The architectural culture of such rapid renewal is surely coming to an end.

Thursday, July 10, 2008
The Tomorrow Museum has put together a set of Rules for an American fantasy road trip, an exercise in visual curation, stitching together the online tapestry to give these images some kind of focus / Detour, yet another Moleskine sponsored weblog. This brand is trying to make the small moment of personal creativity into its legacy / a set of design blogs: Deuce 27, Swiss Legacy, design: related / Lost at Sea, music and more / cabinet of wonders, a weblog.

An Otl Eicher flickr set / via Andy Cropy's favourites (which we're honoured to join), the one and only Soviet recreational vehicle, based on the YA3 van / see also the Atlas Mobile Home Museum / ID please, a flickr group pool. Mostly flora and fauna.

Lewism on the Wuxi Opera House. Discounting Paul Andreu's almost anti-iconic blob in Beijing (actually the National Theatre), this feels like the first Chinese icon to embrace the traditional Western exponent of the form (most recently seen in the Oslo Opera House), rather than impose iconism on the quotidian. Related, a Jorn Utzon flickr set.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Enter Lively (unless you're on a Mac), Google's latest application: a virtual world that synchs with all your other personal data stored in the Googleverse - Picasa, etc. Apparently pitched at the teen market (if the bobble-headed avatar design is anything to go by), it looks like you'll be able to import SketchUp'd objects into your own room designs. The things catalogue is already groaning with 'modern' chairs and kooky furnishings. Basic 3D modelling is very adept at churning out cookie cutter modern/baroque/goth (delete where applicable), which might go some way to explaining why real world product design is so obsessed with surface and material complexity (via wonderland. See also this rather dismissive me-fi thread).

This isn't England, Ben Terrett on the wild variations in the cartographic form of the British Isles, although the basic shape remains instantly identifiable (via kottke). Brings to mind the spinning globe from the opening credits of The Day Today (they start about 15 seconds in), which did a certain amount to restore any size issues the British might have had in the post-Empire era.

The Blueprints, a massive database of line art / Secret Projects, exploring the history of black budget aviation / Misprint, a weblog / BibliOdyssey reproduces a stunning set of work by Edward Bawden (Bad Banana). Buy Bawden prints at Merivale Editions / Enrico's Maserati Pages.

Our love and congratulations to Hildi and Chris on the birth of their baby boy.


Monday, July 07, 2008
'We're getting really good at distracting ourselves', reads a poster pitched to ffffound. Distraction appears to be the number one product of the modern era. A fine example can be found in Top gear, please, and step on it, Cadwalladr and Parr's trip to the 2008 Beijing Auto Show (review), a wonderland of aspirations, blatant rip-offs and pointers towards the economic and social factors that are re-shaping China, and as a consequence, the rest of the world. See also our gallery from the 2007 Shanghai Show.

Enter distraction, in the form of the myriad technological and social stories - mythologies, almost - that are integral to the marketing of cars in the West, filtered through the thick gauze of cultural and commercial stereotypes: 'On a huge TV screen, I watch a film exemplifying Roewe's brand values. A Chinese version of Hugh Grant is shown in a number of typical English scenes: smoking a cigar while playing chess, fencing, dancing with a pretty lady in a tiara, and lounging around in cricket whites'. In new markets, distraction takes the form of mutated versions of imported distractions, a sybaritically-driven culture where something called 'The Official Private Islands Blog', which apparently tracks the twin obsessions of privacy and technology, presents a future permanently in retreat of the present, scuttling away from mass consumption into the arms of new technology. And then the whole cycle begins again.


Other things. Can we please have a universal typology of objects? Russell Davies on the Science Museum's Object Wiki experiment (currently containing only 133 items, including the Design made by Barry Bucknell, TV's DIY destroyer of worlds. See also then and now). There's also the Thinglink project. How about something like the post-war taxonomy developed by NATO and thoroughly investigated by artist Suzanne Treister.

New York in black and white, via Griffin-ator / collected visuals / thoughtwax on Nicholson Baker: 'Put it this way: if Nicholson Baker had a blog, nobody would read it.' Perhaps. We think the opposite is true / Salfuman, an illustration blog / Planet Shanghai, a project by Guariglia + Chen / rebuilding icons: the Skylon and the Euston Arch / a few thoughts on Brutalism, pro and anti (but mostly the latter) / Eikongraphia on iconography in architecture.

Current Configuration, a weblog / Killing Denouement, a weblog / Abandoned and Little Known Airfields in New Jersey, including Lakehurst East, site of the last flight of the Piasecki PA-97 'Helistat', a hybrid machine comprising of four bolted-together helicopters and a blimp. Piasecki have a history of quirky ideas, like the AirGeep concept, a military-funded project from the late 50s that no doubt stoked the public fantasy of the flying car. Lakehurst is where the Hindenburg combusted (many images here), as well the home of the 'Carrier Aircraft Launch and Support Systems Equipment Simulator' ('a 1/4 scale model carrier deck used for training Navy aircraft operators') and a test track site for testing launch gear. 'Runaway deadloads have harmlessly wandered off into the woods.' The site, seen on Google Maps, is scoured and scraped like some modern day Nazca.

Friday, July 04, 2008

On books, beards and the architectural debate. Nothing ever changes. The Sesquipedalist digs into the archives of The Builder magazine, uncovering a discussion from 11 June 1948, chaired by Hugh Casson, of '100 years of architectural journalism'. Not only were the publications of the day criticised for being 'scrappy,' 'uncritical' and 'visually unimaginative', but that they 'discouraged originality and encouraged plagiarism'. One could say much the same thing about today's design magazine market, and that's without even considering the tidal wave of weblogs.

The post was also fascinating for its reference to the the moustache movement, that pivotal moment in the mid C19 when facial hair became not just socially acceptable (after a long spell in the cultural doldrums - the beards of the C16th having been supplanted by wigs) but almost essential. Facial hair was even the subject of a play (pdf, hosted at The Victorian Plays Project, an electronic catalogue of Thomas Lacy's Collected Volumes of Victorian Plays).

The book At the Sign of the Barber's Pole, by William Andrews (1904), contains a chapter on the moustache movement: "About 1855 the beard movement took hold of Englishmen. The Crimean War had much to do with it, as our soldiers were permitted to forego the use of the razor as the hair on the face protected them from the cold and attacks of neuralgia. About this period only one civilian of position in England had the hardihood to wear the moustache. He was Mr George Frederick Muntz, a member of Parliament for Birmingham. He was a notable figure in the House of Commons, and is described as manly in appearance, with a handsome face, a huge black beard, and moustache. He died 30th July, 1857, and is regarded as the father of the modern moustache movement." A more recent book on the history of hair is One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair. Another review.


Other things. The Rummage Drawer / how to describe Marketing Speak that alerts the unwary / Tchochkes, on the unessential object / Fotofacade, on architectural photography and conservation / Partamian Report, from the frontline in Afghanistan.

Scamp, the Irish illustration blog / the mid-century illustration pool, including posts from Daily Bungalow / Archdaily has a crack at reassessing the popularity of various 'architecture' weblogs.

Big Alba, photography / David Barrie's weblog, design, architecture and regeneration, all from a position of some insight / Russia wages war on goths / antique books from Janette Ray / the Dog Bark Inn, puns on every level / Donnachie, Simionato and Son, this is a weblog about this is not a magazine / Jude Calvert-Toulmin, a life on a weblog,

Alice the architect on Robin Hood Gardens, now almost certain to be demolished. Although the profession was - for the most part - up in arms about the loss of this seminal slab of Smithsonism (nice bit of alliteration there), few people sounded genuinely convinced that they were doing anything more than simply shoring up the good ship modernism in a time of crisis. If anything, the relatively horrific proliferation of stuck-on coloured blobs, superficial splashes, slashes, slats and voids that resulted from the BD's Robin Hood Gardens design competition confirmed that there was no realistic architectural response this structure; it was a binary object, either on or off. Now it will be switched off.

The Book of Accidents: designed for young children (via, especially this comment). Proto-Belloc/Gorey and the intersection of both, etc. / the Field Tested Books book is really rather good, if we say so ourselves.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The Caravan Gallery's new book, 'Welcome to Britain: a celebration of real life (amazon) is a fusion of Martin Parr and Derelict London, a charming sneer (if such a combination is possible) that manages to show its bedraggled subject matter with a genuine affection, while still retaining a large slice of ironic detachment. Obviously not all of Britain looks like this, but there's a certain joy in the desolation. Gems like the abandoned husk of Liverpool's International Garden Festival are modern ruins that should present a salutary warning to developers and proponents of festivals and exhibitions as a means of urban regeneration. In its derelict state, the Liverpool gardens are far from Heligan-style Neo-classical romanticism - it's probably the shopping trolleys - and closer to the post-apocalyptic Romantic aesthetic that has gained great popular currency in recent years. Now being restored and redeveloped - as Festival Gardens - the site is one of the subjects of the film and website The Model City (via Art in Liverpool). The site seems to have evolved into an overview of all model cities, past and present, and the optimism and utopianism they present at their peak, and the way abandoned and broken small scale constructions mirror and presage genuine decay.

This new ruin romanticism is especially evident in the Flooded London imagery, rendered up by Squint/Opera (the firm behind the visualisations for the 2012 Olympic Stadium, via Archinect - what could be the emotional motivation behind their fascination with rendered ruins?). The imagined ruin has always existed - they have been a staple artistic subject for centuries. Only the focus used to be on abandoned civilizations, the perceived hubris of the ancients. In contrast, the virtual ruination of the modern era is self-imposed schadenfreude, with all the damage and joy turned inwards. It is a feeling made universal by the internet, where planning catastrophes and architectural missteps are all lovingly chronicled and catalogued. When Al Qaeda 'borrowed' a CGI image of a smoking, post-apocalyptic Washington DC, commentators seized on the idea that the image was meant to indicate an imminent atrocity, designed to cause panic. Yet the realisation that this very image was created for entertainment purposes not only negates the terrorist's motivations (if that's the right word) but also the media interpretation of their strategy. The contemporary fantasy of the world without humans is not so much about a return to a religious and cultural year zero, but a collective dream of detachment, a desire to see accelerated decay. Just because we can.


A wikimapia overview of Tractorul, a 123-hectare tractor factory in Transylvania. Once of the economic engines of the Soviet Bloc - over a million tractors were built there - the vast factory is now empty and awaiting redevelopment. The factory makes up an eighth of the city of Brasov and forms its own suburb. Now being masterplanned by YRM, it is being touted as a centrally located business and leisure district, the ultimate evaporation of industrialised, socialised agricultural production / yet more pdf magazines. Little doses of intense design and imagery without the guilt of dead trees / the cutting edge in Virtual Worlds, including the relentless focus on spaces for kids / artworks by Sancho Silva.

Oldspeed Mouse Motor, a weblog about an engine rebuild, part of the vast online subculture / a 3D Casa Malaparte / Swiss Car Sightings, 5GB of images of four wheeled transportation on the relatively rarefied roads of Switzerland / Pattern Foundry is another small sign of a sea-change in design culture over the past decade, the gradual reclamation of pattern and decoration as a valid response to culture and context / a pretty peerless piece of industrial design, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing / An Accepted Gambit, a weblog / the Hardcore Street Photography Pool.

Scale and size in MMORPGs / paintings for sale / the work of Ladislav Sutnar / Brake Burns as Mechanized Folk Art / a piece of astute but unusually rare commentary: the rotating tower block in Dubai is dreadful / the ghostly gaze / garden bunker, the kind of backyard archaelogy we can only dream of (via). See also Unseen Jersey / bring IKEA to your Sims / the art of Bodys Isek Kingelez / foil face-scanning cigarette machines in Japan by holding up a magazine portrait of a middle-aged man / BLDG BLOG links Absence of Water, a photo essay at the Polar Inertia journal on the absurd number of abandoned swimming pools in the UK, an ongoing scandal.

This week's Bad Science is especially good, managing to skewer phone mast gremlins, Aids deniers, teen suicide clusters, bioscience pills, magnetising coasters and the Daily Mirror, all in one column / London life in the 1970s / the The London Shopfront Archive / stunning photographs by Simon Norfolk / Hard Rock Park, a brand moves into theme parks complete with Led Zeppelin branded rollercoaster (seen here being tested) that is apparently synchronised to 'Whole Lotta Love'.

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