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Monday, August 24, 2009
Bye-Bye, Dubai, in which the former centre of goggle-eyed attention swiftly evolves into a gigantic piece of architectural schadenfreude. The suggested construction cost of $600bn is mighty impressive (especially when pared with a romantic image of skeletal, half-finished towers of dubious quality, set amidst open expanses of desert), but is so arbitary, so abstract, that it is shorn of all meaning. What can be gleaned from this rise and fall? That Dubai is now first and foremost shorthand for an idea, rather than a place, just as the name Poundbury is - for a certain generation of British architects - a red rag.

That's why this recent story, Cracks appearing in Prince Charles's dream village in Poundbury (via Owen Hatherley) is the parochial equivalent of tall tales about sand-blown abandonment in the deserts of the Gulf. 'Maurice Allen, the chairman of the Poundbury Residents' Association, said he felt that some of the people who are complaining about their homes were "nitpicking". He said: "Clearly people pay a premium to live in Poundbury and their expectations are unrealistically high. Things aren't made as they used to be."'

Our expectations of the past should be reappraised, just as the new 'Dubai' is about recalibrating our dreams of the future. The chilled beaches, the rotating skyscrapers, the underwater hotels are were little more than crazed extrapolations of what we thought should be possible, with technology and ambition (only could you please build them somewhere out of the way, exotic and strange like Dubai because we're not quite ready for them to be truly 'real'). The accompanying gallery (and article itself) is by Lauren Greenfield, who has some images online.

*

We're at the early stages of augmented reality, a technology long imagined but now in clumsy first generation iterations on handsets like the Nokia N97, iPhone and G1. Amongst other things, this suggests the emergence of a 'tagged world', a secondary space of multiple layers of information, shared and unshared, seen and unseen depending on your connections, your collaborations and your interests. It's not our field, but is there a standard language for augmented tags? An XML of the invisible.

Right now, apps like Wikitude and Layar (apparently available in the Android Market, although impossible to actually track down using a phone) are a bit clunky and slow. Tags sit on objects many kilometres away, simply conventions like highlights and outlines are years away from being seamlessly integrated with a camera view. For a suggestion as to how this information density is going to play out, Lee Maguire's recent post Guided by the Whispers of Angels suggests that discretion will ultimately triumph as a means of conveying these new layers of information to us. Otherwise, chaos will ensue: 'A recent Microsoft concept video ("2019") suggests that, if nothing else, the future is going to be full of infomatic detritus you’re going to have to tune out or go mad.'

*

The social history of the mp3, well-structured piece on the evaporation of music from object into thing, from commodity into pure artform and how the inherent contradictions and legacies of a century of a 'music industry' are making this transition complex and heavily loaded (cue nostalgia and criticism) / related, Psychotic Leisure Music, a splendid mp3 blog / Scroll Britannia, 'the UK's First Road Map', or an early outline of the future M3 / the Visual Dumpster, a tumblr / Station Wagon Living, scanned booklet from the past.

A Complete List of England's Lost Country Houses / Unpacking my Library: 'architects and their books'. A missed opportunity - imagine if this had been built in Library Thing, and then all the other architects in the world could rush to put up their Corb covers in sympathy / prints by Matt Dye / prints and things by General Pattern / Notes and Links on Art / The Video Game Museum.

Life As A Woman, Hedy Lamarr and 'frequency-switching devices', torpedo technology and more. From the comments: 'There is also an interesting detail about the image of her that appears just above the German text here — that was done as a submission to a line art contest by Corel, a graphic software company. It won and was made the box cover and startup screen for the software. Unfortunately nobody checked whether Hedy was still alive; she was, living in Florida. She sued and collected some money that made her more comfortable in her declining years.' (via the author of this book, Blow to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness after the Digital Explosion.

The Craziest Literary Magazine in the World / art by Ross Racine / Millennium People pulls up some images and information on Cedric Price's unbuilt Fun Palace / a distinct absence of fun palaces, save for party favourites: Satellites Uncover North Korea. The unravelling of the world's hidden places through satellite imagery continues.

Drawings by Jochen Gerner / sometimes flickr streams are just fun to follow: Frankie Roberto / buy College Art Online (blog), a slightly more focused Saatchi Online (less fiendishly focused than Stuckism, however) / every now and again we check into Factory20 to marvel at the pure fetishisation of late industrial equipment, furniture and machinery / paintings by Tyson Anthony Roberts / Book Design cover gallery / Caustic Cover Critic on Various Approaches to the Problem of Sherlock Holmes.

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