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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.

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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.'

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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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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Things has been lying rather dormant for the past few weeks - our apologies. Pet Sounds Acapella / step back to the 70s at My Beat Club / see also Galactic Ramble, 'the fullest ever study of the 60s and 70s UK music scene' / a review of Greg Milner's Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music.

The World Trade Center: A building project like no other. Related, Shifting Shorelines #2: NY, at Millennium People: 'For 4 years the Twins fronted the Hudson directly, until the backfilling was complete' / The Functionality, small scale but intriguing architectural works / all about the The Independent Group, a labour of love for a deserving cause.

'The mouse universe', an experiment by John B.Calhoun. 'The conclusions drawn from this experiment were that when all available space is taken and all social roles filled, competition and the stresses experienced by the individuals will result in a total breakdown in complex social behaviors, ultimately resulting in the demise of the population.' / The Wonder of Whiffling 'and other extraordinary words in the English Language.

'The following scene shows how the high-grade titanium wedding ring saves Bud's life' / Stranded II, via ask me-fi / The Entropy Tango / previously bookmarked before but worth revisiting, Airminded, 'air power and British Society 1908-1941 (mostly) / collecting airline passenger certificates (found via dark roasted blend.

What's for School Lunch?, a weblog / B of the Bang, launched, dismantled / an art-centric weblog by James Wagner / a pedal-powered monorail / HearWhere, 'find live music anywhere'.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Shelf Appeal, a blog about things. Especially the post about Goldfinger's toyshop, a store designed for Paul and Marjorie Abbatt in Wimpole Street. More about the Abbatt's later life, on the farm that became the Turville Folk Club, and our scans of the Abbatt's Animal Families game (which was how we found Shelf Appeal in the first place - very circular). The Abbatt's store was overseen by Edward Newmark who later went on to work with James Galt and Co., a company with over 150 years of history, not to mention a wonderful collaboration with Ken Garland and which now appears in desperate need of some creative direction.

Why the Saab inspires strong feelings, a story by Sam Knight. 'After studying 1.2 million postings on "Motor Talk", ­Germany's ­largest motoring web forum, Rüdiger Hossiep, a psychologist at the ­University of Ruhr in Bochum, concluded this summer that Saab drivers have the highest levels of "psychological involvement" with their cars: more than 10 times the passion of the average Volkswagen driver.'

Discovering Will Wiles' review of Man on Wire coincided with the film being shown on UK TV. It is a film out of time, a film about new architecture that now exists only in the imagination, and about the lost ability to take extravagant but essentially harmless liberties: 'Man on Wire will provoke a cold sweat from the professional paranoiacs who assemble counter-terrorism strategies for Western governments. Petit would come unstuck long before setting foot on the wire in this new world of ID cards, blanket CCTV, motion sensors and face-recognition software.'


Tuesday, August 04, 2009
'Frank Lloyd Wright said "...anyone over six feet tall is a weed." My uncle called Frank Lloyd Wright "...an unwashed midget."' / revisiting The Millennium Dome: A Collection / Should we love or hate fascist buildings? / all about the Beckton Gas Works, Victorian industrial sprawl that ended up as a stand-in for late twentieth century urban combat zones.

Nicely done: Nokia in Trouble? How Fast Can a Mobile Device Giant React?: '2014: First products that are roughly comparable with iPhone version 1 begin shipping. The required software redesign started in 2010 is coupled with the integration efforts. Nokia's response to the iPhone has begun.' (via haddock) / The Newspaper Club wants to 'help people make their own newspapers', buoyed by the print resurgence and the interest in making the transition from digital content to analogue form.

Dreamers Rise, a weblog (or 'open notebook') / photos by roryrory / Design Observer has had a major overhaul. Very impressive / Interface Nostalgia, on how you can flick between old and new versions of Monkey Island with a swipe of the finger: 'You're faced with how brittle your recollection must actually be, and how susceptible to persuasion and malleable memory is. It's become a meta-game for me, trying to recall whatÕs different before flicking over for the reveal.'

German speed was a subject of considerable fascination, both before and after the war (with intellectual property taken as reparations forming the basis of the BRM racing car project, and several other immediate post-war engineering projects, including cars by Bristol / Speed and its Limits, at the Canadian Center for Architecture.

Fantasy architecture/objects by David Trautrimas / Shinichiro Matsuda's Inspirations / sample documents from the Archive of Americana at Readex (via The Hope Chest) / historic Nissans. more / 385, a blog of art, design and architecture / Quad Space: Building a Thesis Project, amnp on the radical reinvention of an existing house. See also the Quad Space blog.

Dreamboat, if everybody made magazines for a living, then the good ones would probably be a bit like this. Chaotic but fun / LIFT Living Archive, posters and imagery from the London International Festival of Theatre / RB's Digital Ramble is about as blog-like as the mainstream online media gets - and is no less brilliant for it. This week the topic is Summer Aviation (more of a US concern than a UK one).

Archived Music Press, 'scans from the Melody Maker and N.M.E. circa 1987-1996'. Excellent nostalgia fest / see also Because Midway Still Aren't Coming Back, an mp3 blog / blaargh, a tumblr / design tumble log / Into the Loop, a weblog / UFOs: The Space-Age Mythology / largely unknown Paul Rudolph House.

How to ensure you're an absolute shoo-in for the Carbuncle Cup: simply mimic a key feature of one of the most unpopular buildings in recent memory. Check the roof arrangement on Woodlands Manor, Belfast, by Coogan and Co, and compare with Broadway Malyan's hapless St George Wharf (large image here, if you can stomach it).

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Monday, August 03, 2009
Speed is usually cited as a core characteristic of modernity, an integral element that embodies technology and progress and the visceral, physical thrill of going forward. The Tate's current Futurism show contains many visual and textual homages to the glittering wonders of cars, trains, aeroplanes and bicycles, a fetishism of technological form that welcomed the tumult of the first half of the century with ravening glee. We once speculated that the Futurists would have loved YouTube ('with its swift delivery of pornographic violence, cut, spliced and soundtracked, served up in little two minute chunks of mechanised, balletic carnage'), but actually, it's not them, but us that have the fascination.

Somewhere along the line, we rediscovered what it means to be futurist, once again placed stead in swift experience, chaotic visuals and an emphasis on flow, pattern and constant data. What's most curious is how this state has become the default cultural condition, rather than the eccentric preserve of a group of death-obsessed bon viveurs with a political outlook that swung way, way over to the right. Modern futurism is a hotbed of confusion, praising victory over the enemies of speed, yet also in denial about the staunchly fascist overtones implied by an ever-accelerating age, where the weak are left behind and the strong succeed.

Our fetishism of speed is increasingly detached from the physical realm - we crave the speed of download delivery, instant communication, mobile blogging, latency-free servers, intercontinental video calling, swift screen rotation, and instant messaging. The physical manifestations of speed still exist, of course, but are being slowly stigmatised. We weren't altogether surprised at reports earlier in the month that Bernie Ecclestone had, broadly, praised the Nazi's go-getting attitude (audio), admiring the man who became forever associated with the creation of the autobahn network (although not its creator), loved his Mercedes-Benz and watched proudly as swastika-adorned racing cars set speed records and won Grand Prixs: 'The Silver Arrows, the Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz cars that dominated Grand Prix racing during the years 1934–39, were among the most charismatic racing cars ever made. In this period these two German teams, financially supported by the Nazi government, provided high-speed racing of the highest quality as they battled with each other and consistently trounced the opposition.'

Engineering and auto racing seemed like the ideal way for the nascent fascist states to showcase their abilities, both in terms of industry and in terms of uniting great masses of people. Post war, the aesthetics and political meaning of fast cars and racing shifted its emphasis from the 'mass rally' to that of the popular entertainment: drivers were no longer popular 'supermen', but socially superior to their audiences, undertaking an expensive, high-end pastime (much as racing had originally been seen in Britain and France).

As social mobility and class barriers were slowly chipped away, speed evolved into a populist pastime, no longer the preserve of power-crazed despots and time-rich mustachioed toffs but of the man on the street, eager to create a new mythology. So will technology ever be sullied by speed's creeping neo-fascist edge?

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The other things. Visit Wim Delvoye's Wim City and sample projects like Gothic Works and the infamous Cloaca Factory / 15 war machines by Leonardo da Vinci / The Past Tense of Picture (via me-fi) / explore The Great Exhibition by object type. There was a lot of metalwork and ceramics.

Tumblr round-up. We still love hotwheels, and can now add X Planes to the list. See also Blogalot, Mbarilla, Super Seventies, crappy taxidermy, Systems, diagrams, roomthily and rear view, 'pictures from cars'. See also our wing mirror project / Fluid, artwork by Claire Morgan, incorporating 'Strawberries, taxidermied crow, fishing hooks, nylon'.

State of MARKitechture: Icon puts it succinctly in their review of Phaidon's 10x10_3: 'By their early thirties some of these architects were building on a grander scale than any generation before them. They became masters of jetlag, fuelling emerging economies with ideas for new symbols.' It seems that even Icon (a title that could now be considered ironic, although it probably wasn't meant to be original) is now striving to move away from the 're-blogged' feel of modern architectural publishing.

This Loop of Light and Life / notes.husk.org, a weblog / building 3D cities from existing data, videos by JimanthaJ / a portait of the Delft Architecture Faculty, personal reminiscences from 1970 until its destruction by fire in 2008.

Kottke on Vol Libre, a ground-breaking piece of CGI from 1980. See also the Timeline of CGI in film and television at Wikipedia / With Reckless Abandon, a tumblr / all about Lunar Lander.

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