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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The New Fauves seem kind of Stuckist. That's not a bad thing / Triangle Triangle is one of those abstract sites that seems to distil whole swathes of contemporary cultural production down into just one or two images / see also Aleatorio, a tumblr (occasionally nsfw) / Niemeyer in Paris / Pulse Laser, 'a blog on interactions and the new world of product'.

A Tissue of Lies: the Stephen R.Glass index is sadly a forest of dead links / Allen Jones-esque work by Walter Raes / pHinnWeb, online since 1996 with its 'origins in the material of Finnish techno scene reports written for the American fanzine Skreem' / Pearltrees, a site that offers a way of mapping your journey on the web (blog) / The Pop-Up City, links and urbanism.

Further to yesterday's mention of iPhone's imitating ancient technology, here's a gallery of old vintage Rockwell calculators (a shameless way of linking one of our eBay auctions).

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Monday, June 29, 2009
The 2020 vision for developing Westminster Abbey got a lot of news coverage but precious little in the way of actual imagery was available showing what might actually happen: 'Should a new 21st century architectural feature, such as a 'corona', be added to the roof of the Abbey above the lantern to honour and celebrate the place of Coronation?' While a little bit of the Sagrada Familia's absurd unfinished spirit wouldn't go amiss in Westminster (and Westminster Cathedral was never finished either), the rather literal idea of putting a 'crown' atop a building where people are crowned should be pleasantly controversial. Would Prince Charles have a potential conflict of interest?

Photography by Kai-Uwe Schulte-Bunert / photography by Marc Steinmetz (via) / retro calculators for your iPhone / related, 'Giving up my iPod for a Walkman: 'I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.' / now this is a proper conspiracy / on Christiana / dramatising the skyscraper, the ledge at Sears Tower (official site) / photography blog by Joseph Casciano.

Scrivener looks like a fabulous tool. This windows equivalent, Liquid Story Binder XE just seems horrifically complicated. There's also supernotecard, StoryView, PageFour and RoughDraft, which appears to be rather old. More information on supernotecard over at the Quantum Storytelling weblog, and also in this post by Steven Johnson, all about DEVONthink. Nothing seems terribly straightforward though. No-one does exactly what we want. This question also seems relevant.

What Alice Found, a weblog / My Migraines, a weblog / Daily Discoveries on Design / yet more from Mr Levine: General Motors Futurama New York World's Fair 1939-1940, ATT Fun and the Fair New York World's Fair 1964-1965, Observatory - Empire State Building.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009


Fifteen images of not so secret secret service buildings, a light-hearted round-up of the architecture of information. Related, "Everyone is becoming like a Stasi agent", Moolies on information technology and privacy: '.... anything out of the norm is ripe for being filmed, photo'd and commented upon. Each little cluster of social activity surrounding a slightly unusual event is somewhat akin to far too many people dialling 999 around the scene of an accident.'

This segues nicely into the introduction to Douglas Rushkoff's new book Life Inc. ('How the World Became A Corporation and How To Take It Back'). 'It's as if the world itself were tilted, pushing us toward self-interested, short-term decisions, made more in the manner of corporate share-holders than members of a society.' There's a link between this slow infusion of corporatism into every day life and way of thinking and the 'clusters of social activity' described above. One facilitates the other, providing the technological backbone that enables social technology, as well as the structures that shape our response to this information. On a global scale, the patterns that emerge through Zeitgeist or even the email logs of a multi-national corporation illustrate how easily the global unconscious is expressed through information. As a result, it's increasingly easy to audit cultural responses.

Also related (and much linked, for good reason), Adam Curtis's new BBC-hosted weblog, The Medium and the Message. The filmmaker has created some of the most powerful documentaries of recent years, with a breathtaking visual style that takes what at base level appears to be MTV-like cuts and reappropriations and flows them seamlessly into narrative and music so that pictures act as a narrative all of their own. It's very powerful stuff, and undeniably manipulative for it (although probably self-consciously so). You can see almost his entire back catalogue at Archive.org (scroll down for links).

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Random link round up. Mags McGinnis, formerly of Laika, makes candles, practices law and plays guitar in Wire / Being Tyler Brule, the man made weblog / M.Inc, a design weblog / Sam Haskins' photoblog (some nudity) / Don't be a coconut, a music weblog / Ryan's Neat Stuff Blog, mostly old comics and things / the Victorinox edition Airstream (via autoblog) / seier + seier + seier's flickr stream is notable not just for the beautiful architectural imagery, but for the extended and highly informative captions.

Owen Luder is now getting his Rubble Club deluxe membership fleshed out: Southgate Shopping Centre, Bath and the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth / designing the friendly skies, an old aviation nostalgia-fest / the best 'boring postcard' ever? / Le Corbusier - Chapelle Ronchamp, Notre-Dame du Haut 1950-1955 / thank goodness for people with large, well-organised flickr streams, like Steve Cadman and Sandro Maggi.

If Famous Architecture Were Priced Like Paintings, a Le Corbusier Would Cost the Same as the Entire American GDP / go on, Fix Outlook / Heavy Metal of a different kind, photographer Anthony Oliver on tractor badges in Eye / more on Polaroid and a possible antecedent to the classic SX-70 camera uncovered by Mrs Deane.

Disappointingly small gallery of historic roller coasters (via, where there are better links) / Coast Modern is a new documentary about the modern house on America's West Coast. Should be interesting to see moving images of dwellings that have long been canonised through epic photography (Shulman in particular).

'Ghost village to be demolished', the story of Pollphail at Portavadie. Check the photography of this never-inhabited village, taken by Philippa Elliot. There's more about Pollphail at Secret Scotland / hive mind ADD. On 25 June 4 of the 10 top search terms were directly Michael Jackson related. By 27 June, Jackson had dropped to only two mentions in the top 50, the first at number 25.

We're looking forward to the BLDGBLOG book / Werner Aisslinger's Loftcube, a media celebrity project from a few years back, gets several more minutes of fame at PhotoshopDisasters / it's a shame that bad British Architecture isn't reeling off the vitriol on a daily (hourly?) basis - there's too much material there for it to stay idle.

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Monday, June 22, 2009
In the UK, the impending 'end of analogue' broadcasting is expected to be widely resisted, especially since recent plans brought forward the switch off date to 2015. In the US, all TV broadcasts are now digital, a switch that mattered less in a country with such widespread cable access (via me-fi). But apart from reducing the chance capture of errant signals, plus the crackles, whistles and pops that characterise analogue, what's happening here is the anticipated nostalgia for a lost technology (ham radio sounds).

Nobody really cares about VHS videos any more. Charity shops in Britain struggle to sell films for 50p each. In the UK, Dixons killed the VCR in 2004, while in the US Walmart followed in 2006 (although some reports claimed you could still buy a VHS on the high street in 2009). It's taken barely three years for a device to pass into technological history, implying that the emotional hold of the video cassette was never terribly strong.

But as sites like The Impossible Project attest, certain technologies transcend their obsolesence through being perpetually desirable. The Impossible Project aims for the 're-invention of analog instant film', engineering a 'new analog instant film for Polaroid vintage cameras' to supply professionals and enthusiasts who refuse to give up the fight (NYT article. 'We think it's one of the greatest inventions in the history of photography, because we're tired of tons of boring digital pics that surround as every day,' the new company's PR told us, 'but we love analog things, things you can touch, smell, see, hold in your hands, and things that surprise you. Like Polaroid does.'

Certainly there are a host of Polaroid blogs out there, either devoted entirely to the film and cameras or tangentially cribbing the hazy, memory-soaked aesthetic: Last Days of Polaroid, Peonies and Polaroids, my Polaroid blog, Polapremium and Polanoid. Predictably enough, the Polaroid name has now been attached to a range of micro-printers and digital photo frames (although our prediction that the inevitable camera with integral printer came from Japan, the TOMY Xiao). Polaroid's own PoGo launched in March but doesn't seem to have made much impact.

The loss of these things stings more than mere nostalgia, but why? Polaroid has a noble history, intertwined with commerce and culture. These days, the idea of writing about 'beloved gadgets' is simply an opportunity for a advertiser-pleasing linkfest, rather than a real consideration of why certain things and devices connect so readily, and what the inescapable (rather than cynical) planned obsolesence of contemporary digital devices. The Impossible Project is knowingly named, for the wholescale reconstruction of defunct product works is unprecedented on this scale. But should they succeed, Polaroid will acquire yet another layer of patina on its already overburdened shoulders, a form of image making that carries a serious weight of expectations.

From The Impossible Project: 'Ranging from simple screwdrivers via special spare parts up to 10 giant Integral Film assembly machines, all machinery and tools needed to develop and produce up to 100 million new Integral Instant films per year are present in Building North. Impossible b.v. has purchased the complete production setup in working order (which produced film up to the middle of the year) from Polaroid. All machines are still fully connected and operational. The original total costs of this unique and highly specialized setup today is approx. 100 million EUR.'

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Friday, June 19, 2009
A good point made in this interview with Dian Hanson, Taschen's 'Sexy books editor' at wallpaper.com: 'I worry about what legacy modern photographers [will] leave, having worked their entire careers in digital.' The physical archives that lurk in boxes, chests and slide drawers around the world will cease to exist as singular, unique entities. Instead, archives will become portable and impermanent, flash drives that contain a life's work, from cast-off shots to multi-layered Photoshop 'work prints', fonts, to-do lists, bookmarks, clipped jpgs, corrupted files and downloaded mp3s. The idea of restoring or reconstructing an artistic studio environment - see the LIFE series Artists At Work - becomes a question of retaining computer hardware and running the necessary back-ups.

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A chaotic jumble of things. I Love Traffic, 'a game about cars' (via rps) / Hidden Los Angeles, a new website / Bildbauten, a project by Philipp Schaerer / Urban Camping / check the feast of electronic samples at famous sounds (via haddock) / Design and the Media, how work gets published, in Dwell / Eagle House, a high tech curiosity, is for sale / Mike Dempsey's weblog Graphic Journey has an exceptional piece on the designer Derek Birdsall.

New 'affordable' art at the Modern British Gallery / related, furniture at The Modern Warehouse / Who goes to a creationist museum? Related, Genesis Expo in Portsmouth, the UK's biggest (only?) creationist museum / on 'Framing Modernism' at the Estorick Collection, an 'exhibition [that] shows how adroit the [Italian fascist] regime was at deploying modernism to put an elegant gloss on its brutality.'

Dezeen have kindly collated every single story they've ever done on Zaha Hadid, an orgy of extravagant (albeit largely imaginary) structural exuberance and highly evolved rendering software. Not long now, we reckon, before the Hadid office rolls out a prefab, probably not looking a million miles from the mini-icon, something along the lines of the absurd Libeskind prefab. This is either a not-so-subtle deconstruction of the notion that pre-fabricated needs to be boxy and boring, or a tacit acknowledgment that this kind of architecture is, first and foremost, about making a statement, form over function.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Other things. What is a magazine? / back in the YAMoPo (yet another most popular architecture sites ranking). Thanks to ArchDaily for acknowledging our architectural mix. From the listings, design sites we didn't know: PSFK, mirage.studio.7, + MOOD, Dezona/ folksonomy, 'clippings' from digital culture / photographs by empalagarme de mar / information design by Max Gadney, via Magical Nihilism (best name for a weblog, ever) / Renter Girl, 'I write about everything to do with renting and the buildings tenants live in.'

Art by Remy Lidereau / Playmakers, something we need to investitage more closely / disk space viewer to explore, Sequoiaview / We Are Bad, a weblog / Raindrop Melody Maker, a flash toy by Lullatone (via The Null Device) / Sensing Architecture, to investigate further / build me a library of lefty kids' books.

Wikipedia's list of nuclear weapons is fun reading / the architecture of Star Wars. From a cynical point of view, this kind of article seems tailor-made to be linked and clicked. It's done rather well though / nice to see that the Barrack business has even merited a metafilter post. Rogers responds. The Telegraph reports.

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Monday, June 15, 2009


While this Telegraph piece praising Prince Charles' intervention in the Chelsea Barracks saga is superficially very depressing ('Chelsea Barracks: Thanks to Prince Charles for meddling', don't read the comments), what's most annoying is the way in which the piece doesn't bother to engage with the real driving forces behind the highs and lows of the now-abandoned Rogers Stirk Harbour scheme; the economy.

When the sale of the Barracks was first mooted in 2005, the stakes weren't quite as high: according to BBC News, 'The 13-acre prime building land could raise as much as £250m from residential or retail development.' The actual price realised, claimed to be £900m in April 2007 (£959m in January 2008), making it 'the UK's most expensive home property deal.' This put a tremendous pressure on the new owners to maximise the site to get any sort of return on their investment.

Initially, this didn't seem like much of a problem. The property firm that brokered the deal and subsequently (and probably fatally) lent their very slightly louche image to the whole project was Candy and Candy, then on the ascendance as purveyors of absurdly OTT apartments, houses, yachts and helicopters. One Hyde Park, developed in conjunction with RSH, is generally considered to be the apogee of hedge funded architectural hedonism. As was noted back in 2007, the Barracks sale was proof that London's 'housing market has hit a new high' (the original whizzy flash site to publicise the sale is here). The C+C moolah factory merely stirred a heady dose of schadenfreude into the mix.

But then the market plunged, and the ire aroused by the site and the plans inevitably rose. The economic need to fit on large quantities of housing to cater to both C+C's high-end clientele and the affordable quota demanded by Westminster resulted in a fairly dense bit of architecture, with tall blocks crowding apparently dark, gloomy streets. Arguably, RSH didn't handle the presentation terribly well, with a relatively bland set of documentation that failed to stress the improvements to the townscape beyond superficial rendered imagery. Instead, the CADs unfortunately emphasised the rather more dominant issues of massing and facade treatment. A second submission seems to have solved these issues, but we'll never know.

There are many rich paradoxes in the whole saga. The rather austere image at the head of this post - the sort of thing that induces twitches in any good urban explorer - is a picture of the original barracks, built on open fields east of the Royal Hospital. Undeniably hefty, as all good Victorian buildings should be, they were designed by George Morgan and demolished in 1960, replaced by an undistinguished piece of early 1960s banality, since flattened, by Tripe and Wakeham (which would be a fabulous name for a firm of undistinguished 1960s architects if they weren't still around). T+W crop up elsewhere around the country, in Stockwell (via urban 75) and also in Liverpool (via infinite thought), where they designed the marginally more interesting Royal and Sun Alliance building a few years later (another image, by Aidan O'Rourke). The only bit of Morgan's original 1863 building to survive was the chapel (pdf), turned down for listing and not retained in the RSH scheme.

In opening up the site with an expansive parade ground, Tripe and Wakeham gave this bit of London back some open space, yet the return to hefty terracotta facades was one of the key bones of contention. In very basic terms, Modernism opened up the closed Victorian city, but objectors, from HRH downwards, believe it would be far better to have a bit of opened-up-neo-Victoriana-Georgiana rather than a 'brutalist' and 'communist' piece of contemporary design. The site is also right on the edge of Kensington and Chelsea, the Royal Borough with one of the country's most vociferous planning departments. RBKC objected to the scheme's proximity to Wren's Royal Hospital (which, according to the report, had no objection to the scheme).

Given that the RSH scheme has been binned, you have to pity the poor case officer at Westminster Planning who wrote up the 121-page document for the planning meeting on Thursday 18 June 2009 (download the pdf here). In it, the council is broadly supportive of the scheme, concluding:

'Officers consider the scheme in terms of both the masterplan and detailed design to be one of exceptional high quality. They are mindful, however, that the scale of the development and design approach has been contentious from the outset. Whilst CABE and Westminster Society are generally supportive, there remains strong opposition to it from some consultees including English Heritage, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the Belgravia Residents' Association and many residents, either individually or through the Barracks Action Group [of 496 letters received, 435 were letters of objection]. Further, following the recent interest in the proposal shown by HRH the Prince of Wales there has been much debate in the national and technical press and there are divergent views amongst the architectural profession on the design merits of the scheme. There has also been a growing groundswell of public opinion against the design.... It is considered that when compared to the inappropriate and disjointed collection of 1960s buildings on the site and the austere appearance of its Victorian predecessor, the proposed development, by a combination of its architecture, generous open space and treatment of spaces between buildings, will significantly enhance the immediate townscape.'

Oh well. The whole thing was scuppered from the start, a combination of class envy, conservatism and politics. Ironically, the Duke of Westminster's comments last year were probably more troubling to the site's owners (Qatari Diar Real Estate), especially given his position as owner of the neighbouring Grosvenor Estate, a role that keeps him in the top spots of the rich lists. Charles's property holdings are small fry by comparison.

One can only hope that Quinlin Terry's [sic] back-of-envelope scrawl (a piece of theatrical underdogism that played well with the Luddite) has been worked up slightly more than as presented to the world (via, and actually drawn by Francis Terry). Major pieces of neo-classicism are relatively thin on the ground in Britain, but with each new commission the stakes get raised a little higher. As Terry Jr recently wrote, while reviewing the Royal Academy's Palladio exhibition: 'with most great architects, say Le Corbusier, Lutyens or Mies, their own greatness is indisputable but their followers are an embarrassment.' We watch the site with interest.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Scholarly Kitchen, academic publishing blog / American cities face ruin, someone at the Telegraph has shares in Caterpillar / a different kind of re-making, a recommended interview with Owen Hatherley on the publication of his book, Militant Modernism (review).

The Etsy peddles false feminist fantasy piece is interesting (via me-fi), not because of the many howls of outrage it created but because the site itself is all about 'things' and the idea of the authentic. Sites like Etsy (and Make, Paper n Stitch, Smarts and Crafts, etc., etc.) simply wouldn't exist if there wasn't a trace cultural memory of handicraft as being a somehow 'purer' expression of human connection than machine-made objects, a dangerous nostalgia.

Daft but endearing, the Baubike. We imagine there's a small coterie of anguished die-hard Bauhaus loyalists still cursing the abandonment of rigid geometry / Kosmograd has some images of illuminated billboards and empty parking lots, both looking beautiful, both rather sad and hollow.


Friday, June 12, 2009


The dreary physical infrastructure that underpins the web, 'the real world architecture of the internet cloud' (link to an NYT piece by Tom Vanderbilt, author of How We Drive). Related, a map of all Google Data Center locations. Also, from 2006, Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power, the story behind the company's cheap electricity-guzzling data center in The Dalles, Oregon, also covered extensively in Harper's a couple of years later, linked via the rather specifically-targeted site Data Center Knowledge.

The NYT photographs were taken by Simon Norfolk, known for his Iraq photographs as well as his images of supercomputers (both links from BLDGBLOG). The above image is a crop of an IBM BlueGene/L installation, not a data center but a calculating machine with 'ultra-scalability for breakthrough science'.

Naturally, the key issue here is power. "You look at a typical building," Michael Manos, [then Microsoft’s general manager of data-center services] explained, "and the mechanical and electrical infrastructure is probably below 10 percent of the upfront costs. Whereas here it's 82 percent of the costs." And "the cloud, calculates [Jonathan Koomey, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory], consumes 1 to 2 percent of the world's electricity.'

The numbers are huge. Vanderbilt's piece quotes someone saying Microsoft has around 150,000 servers in total, with one Google site containing 45,000 servers. Yet the DCK site quotes an unconfirmed report on an under-construction Chinese data center built beneath a dam and containing in excess of 1 million servers in total.

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Other things. Photographer Michael Wolf's collection of cover illustrations of the French weekly newspaper Le Petit Journal: 'Published between 1863 and 1934, Le Petit Journal had a circulation of over one million in 1890. As Wolf says, 'the moments that the petit journal covers illustrate are a classical photojournalist's wet dream - to be in exactly the right place at the right time to catch the high point of a catastrophe or crime.'

Colossal collection of designer 'tart cards', created for the current issue of wallpaper magazine in collaboration with Type. Tart cards are a British tradition - see the X-Directory, hosted at the wonderful Irdial / Lucky Russian Trolley Ticket Cookies. Nice concept by Art Lebedev, via (Yanko) / Chest of Books hunts down open source tracts and collates them into categories / Prince Charles gets his way: Chelsea Barracks scheme scrapped (AJ, see also BBC), a controversy covered ably by Pearman a few weeks back

HTC Experiments, 'experimental practices in architectural history, theory, and criticism', and rich with interesting thoughts and theories / 50 ridiculous design rules / a short film about the Festival of Britain / The Rumpus, 'an online magazine focused on culture, as opposed to "pop culture"... Basically, we're not opposed to things that are popular, but we have no interest in “art” created by marketing executives'.

The Style Press, or bring on the marketing executives / We Can't Paint, a weblog about photography / beard crumbs, a weblog about stuff and other things / Design Kabinet, stuff blog. If one ever stopped to do a thorough semiotic analysis of the things that got posted on these websites then the list of products would make truly fascinating reading.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009
The neat conflation of several of this site's key concerns: ruins, architecture, ephemera and modern history, at The Rubble Club, 'an organisation to remember buildings demolished in their architect's lifetime... We have three key ground rules: Firstly the building's architect must be alive and not party to its destruction, secondly the building must be built with the intention of permanence (exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible), and thirdly it must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, it can't simply burn down.' (BBC News). As yet there's no entry on Owen Luder, who should win some kind of Rubble Club Life Membership Grand Wizard Award (the Tricorn Centre, Gateshead Car Park, etc. etc.).

There's potential for this to be a nice little database, along the lines of a slightly-too-late Risky Buildings, but it also exists as a supreme example of the perpetual architectural rant against callous, uneducated, ungrateful humanity. It would be somewhat churlish of us to link to the Berners Pool by Hodder Associates and recall the Clissold fiasco. But we have. The most generous conclusion is that a certain strain of contemporary architecture is badly briefed, poorly tendered, detailed ineffectively and then incompetently constructed. As a result, we expect the Rubble Club's membership to be positively overwhelmed in the years to come.

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Aimless pleasures of psychogeography, Joe Moran on low-key strands of online psychogeographical exploration (also published in the New Statesman). Mentioned in the post: The Manchester Zedders, The Loiterers Resistance Movement, Remapping High Wycombe and John Davies. The world is gradually being divided into 'drifters' who are happy to see where the world takes them and their polar opposite ('drivers'?) who are desperate to know absolutely everything about where they're going before they've even set off.

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The Fiat-ization of the American male: 'Even though Chrysler will probably continue to make big cars for macho American dudes, the magical Euro-weeniness of the name "Fiat" alone will cause them to figuratively shrink.' The piece is something of a stick poking at the wasp's nest of the American Right, which swarms predictably. But then again, look at the country's best-selling car. What's more interesting is how the national stereotypes associated with cars have been exaggerated by branding in recent years, despite the fact that the global sharing of technological, engineering and design talent is higher than ever before.

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More ruins. The abandoned palaces of Saddam Hussein, images by Richard Mosse, via me-fi. Somewhere, there is a palace architect lamenting the insensitive partitioning of his ornate ballrooms and the destruction of his grand staircases / can you trademark a chocolate rabbit? / new sculptures by James M.Harrison / illustration by Tyson Anthony Roberts / product design at Made Bath / something we missed last time round, virtual realities by NL Architects (official site).

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Fine, biting comment about online design culture, curation, collection and presentation (with the emphasis on the latter):

'The newest design blogs are particularly telling of this as they largely seem to concentrate on a steady-stream of eye-candy and visual masturbation. Seemingly, the past year has played host to the superseding of actual writing and reflection on design to vapid graphical lists like "25 Great Green Websites". Easy to create, bookmark, and subsequently mimic, it's as though we've collectively walked into the great karaoke lounge of design–all of it somehow comforting but unlikely to result in anything of substance.'

(at Ideas on Ideas, via DO). We're as guilty as the next site of propogating this cut-and-paste culture, celebrating the little instances of personal curation that make sense and hopefully standing back when the link blizzard is totally impenetrable

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Other things. A small selection of vintage advertisements directed by Howard Guard. Some real gems: the Lincoln Mark VI spot is a jarring reminder of a time when modern architecture appeared to be way, way ahead of car design. Today, the gap has closed somewhat.

The 1066 game is beautifully atmospheric / Raffinerie's work for Swiss International Airlines has a certain finesse / modern slums at House 2.0 / the evolution of aspect ratios / the Russian Space Museum.

We can highly recommend the i like bookshop for a well curated collection of reading and watching matter / Lyddle End 2050 is constantly evolving, a fantasy town tumbled through Hornby / for more silhouette flash fun see Little Wheel (via Offworld).

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009


Joe Moran's Blog is a fine companion to Moran's new book, On Roads: A Hidden History, which we're enjoying enormously. While there are literally hundreds of roads enthusiasts online, chronicling long lost histories, dead ends and futures (and we'd point to the long-standing and hugely comprehensive CBRD, Chris's British Road Directory, as being the best of the bunch), there's a lot to be said for a physical book as a means of capturing anecdote and memory. See also the Motorway Map of England, Scotland and Wales

12 of the worlds most fascinating tunnel networks (via). Of these, the 5,000 year old Los Angeles Lizard Cult tunnels are perhaps the least credible / 0300 provides 'architecture TV' / take a tour around Sir Sterling Moss's house of gadgets [sic]'.

Maison Djeribi, breadmaking and recipes from Ireland / Design History Lab, looking at recent visual culture / ASMO, 'adventures in circuit bending', with many extraordinary noises on show / Shut up, weirdo, a tumblr / gold and braid, another tumblr.


Monday, June 08, 2009
'Bad news from the past': The Hope Chest chronicling gruesome crime reporting from grainy newsprint (thanks, Chicagoland) / which magazine would you revive? / Spacesick, if weblogs had been around in the late 70s / the Museum of British Folklore / From SketchUp to First Person Shooter, porting simple models into games, a new future for level design / Pearman on London's four most unfashionable contemporary buildings.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Why are ruins so inherently fascinating? Is it really about rampant nostaglia? How you can be nostalgic for something you've never experienced? The romance of ruins applies equally to the creeper-strewn columns and porticos of the long-lost ancient city as it does to the rust-spattered girders and empty machine halls of forgotten industry. Artificial Owl is a good name for a website. So is Bearings. An apparently abandoned submarine (seems to be still powered up, so probably just mothballed, rather than abandoned).

The usual collection of image link blogs and tumblrs: Ablest Image; Ephemera Assembly (exceptional); Re-think; the white ship; Brief Epigrams; Sara Zucker. Ultimately, what sites like tumblr are resulting in the slow death of attribution, with trails dying swiftly like tracks in the sand. E.g. nearly 550 pages of things (some of which are nsfw).

A fine round-up of Op-ed pieces on Why GM failed, collated by Kottke. Just about every reason under the sun, really. Related, Production Cars, a vast collection of scanned adverts and brochures

Underground Cities and Bunkers: Living Down Below / Decommissioned: Turnstile Nuclear Bunker / The Japanese Village at the Nevada Test Site (pdf) / productivity destroyer: Crush the Castle / the official website of Ghosts of the Civil Dead, made in the late 80s but revisited in 2005 / @Paris, a photographic competition.

Moving Cities, 'a Beijing-based think-thank investigating the role that architecture and urbanism play in shaping the contemporary city' / movies in frames, reducing cinema down to its essence. Sort of related, runpee.com (via) / Staying Put on Earth, Taking a Step to Mars, with a great gallery.

Wayfarer, a retro dungeon-foraging type game (via), very reminiscent of the old Spectrum game Out of the Shadows. From an April 1985 article on the game's developers: 'The next game will be releasing is going to incorporate a naturalistic landscape, displayed from a projection. The closer you get to, say, a coastline, the more detail you will see. To do this, they will be using the same sort of mathematical techniques, involving fractal numbers, as the programs on the Cray II to produce animated landscapes.' Now this is nostalgia: ZX Spectrum classics. Play them here (including OOTS).

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Jonathan Schipper's Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle is very reminiscent of Chris Burden, especially his 1985 piece 'Samson', a machine designed to destroy the gallery it is exhibited in: 'a turnstile connected to a gearbox and a 100-ton jack, the latter pushing against the ends of two giant timbers wedged between the outer walls of the museum. Every visitor to the show, passing through the turnstile, pushes the museum's walls a little farther apart.' (source, Outrageous Acts Give Way to Eccentric Sculpture, NYT, 24.09.11). Video. 'Real slowly, each person coming into the museum is helping this jack to expand.'

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Objects and accumulations. From a recent Guardian piece, As I love them, so my dad loved me: 'Frankly, I still can't face properly sorting out all the old photographs, memorabilia and cuttings. What do you do with the mementos of someone who has died? I can't even bring myself to throw away his old school reports (terrible ones!) or photographs of long-ago weddings of relatives whom I don't know. I am no longer surprised that there are people out there who will do it for you for money. It occurred to me what a burden we may be putting on our children, who will inherit our vast digital archives.' And what about the future? Will we have digital house clearance specialists who will come and sift through your files,

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How does American Apparel make money? 'If you trace the textile industry it is a timeline of the development of world economies, first the South, then Mexico, China and now Vietnam.' / paintings by Wilhelm Sasnal / photography by Sophie Brasey / Photocartographies: Tattered Fragments of the Map.


Yet more from David Levine's photostream: The Port of San Francisco Annual Report 1938 - 1940 and LOOK's Guide to the New York World's Fair 1964-1965 / Knitting Pattern Handsome, self-acknowledged nostalgia / Never had a dream come true..., a visual collage of alt culture references, clips, vids and scans / SGIstuff, a 'source for SGI (Silicon Graphics, Inc.) related information on the web since 2001'.

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Small scale iconism, the Living Architecture project (related story in Building Design). There's a blog as well. There's something inherently frustrating about this approach, opening up so many questions about the role and definition of 'modern' design, as well as who it is actually aimed at. Helmed by Alain de Botton (he of The School of Life, amongst other things), the resulting projects, by Peter Zumthor, Jarmund Vigsnaes and Nord, amongst others, presents a strange mix of chic holiday home, modernist utopia and show house. This self-conscious definition of contemporary architecture marks it out as a place of otherness and aspiration, 'retreats' designed to elevate the senses and the spirit on a very temporary basis. There is no room for the prosaic or the ordinary, effectively broadening the gulf between architecture and non-architecture (as architects tend to see it), or, in other words, keeping the good stuff bottled up and out of reach.

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