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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This collection of Chernikov imagery - the famous Architectural Fantasies from 1925 - can be found at the Iakov Chernikov International Foundation (via Coudal). Even in the 1920s, just before the Five Year Plans kicked in, the forms proposed bore little relation to the real needs of culture, industry or society in general, being simply extravagant, elaborate, quasi-abstract compositions that delighted in visual drama and form. Architecture as Cubist or Futurist painting. What's perverse is how influential these images have become, to the point where architectural culture has allowed itself to be twisted and turned so that the aesthetic first described by Chernikov could actually come to pass in physical form.


Art by Stephen Floyd / kenfrederick, a tumblr / Architectural iPhoneography, a rather grittier take on shooting buildings at Fotofacade / the economic perils of a globalised menu: McDonald's pulls out of Iceland: '"It just makes no sense. For a kilo of onion, imported from Germany, I'm paying the equivalent of a bottle of good whisky," added [owner Jon Gardar Ogmundsson].' / Pan Am in the garage / long piece on Mad Men / matte paintings by Rich Mahon.

Iconic Photos, good use of the weblog format / at the other extreme we have The Daily Motor, which offers an interesting slant on how media outlets could start to look in the near future. Developed by 29GPS, the site distills (mostly) freely available content into a relatively compelling widescreen, HD 'broadband' experience. There is original content, but the nature of the motor industry means its often hard to distinguish from in-house promotional pieces, and obviously the site is not about to bite the hand that feeds it. Whereas big brands like Audi have their own TV channels, that medium looks increasingly outmoded when compared to a big, slick web experience. However, the sheer expense of doing things like video and high-end 3D animation will keep the relationship between 'pure' editorial sites and the PR machine a relatively cozy one.

Architizer looks elegant. Describing itself as a 'free tool with an open platform that transcends its peers to empower architecture in the current economic recession', it's sort of a more image- and PR-conscious version of Mimoa (which restricts itself to built work, rather than include speculative schemes), with dashes of imdb, in that links go deeper that the big names: 'A single project may have dozens of contributors and Architizer links them all, from the intern to the construction manager.'

Southsouthwest, the blog of a design studio / Unequal design, a tumblr / Small Worlds, a rather charming little platform game (via RPS) / eyecurious on Michael Wolf's Paris Street View / London's new folly? / revisiting the Secret Apartment in the Mall.

We feel like a pebble skipping across the surface, bouncing once, twice, maybe three times if we're lucky, before sinking swiftly and inevitably into the mire of data. Is nostalgia a symptom or the disease? / Conscientious has started to tumble / following the yellow brick road, a tumblr / KORUTime, a tumblr / Frugal Krueger, scaring on a budget / eyecurious, a photography weblog / Movies in frames pretty much summarises capsule culture. Can someone do games in frames? Or books in a page, key sentences sliced and diced into a competent summary? Everything has an abstract.


This week saw the end of GeoCities, bought for £2.17bn just a decade ago. The site's closure has led to the Internet Archive's GeoCities project (Yahoo! is not archiving the pages itself), an object lesson in how to be a digital conservationist and also an illustration of how easily things can slip away into the ether and remain forever unchronicled. From the excellent Archive Team page: 'While the natural urge by some would be to let Geocities sink into obscurity and death, leaving nothing in its wake but bad memories and shudders of recognition at endless "under construction" GIFs, the fact remains that Geocities was for millions of people the first experience dealing with the low-cost, full-color, world-accessible website and all the possibilities this contained. To not at least have the option of browsing these old sites would be a loss of the very history of the web from the side of the people who came to know it, not the designers who descended upon it. For that reason, Archive Team thinks Geocities is worth saving.' See also Textfiles, the digital equivalent of scanning shopping lists.

Also related, Facebook 'memorialises' profiles. As the number of dead people online increases, this is the logical next step, the construction of an alternative 'internet necropolis', a virtual land of the dead that exists in parallel with the ever expanding realm of the living. Perhaps there will eventually emerge an online equivalent of the Necropolis Railway, a google of the dead that is the online equivalent of London Necropolis (a gazeteer of the capital's cemeteries), allowing the option to search only the works of the dead.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

It's been a while since we visited the Guidebook, 'a website dedicated to preserving and showcasing Graphical User Interfaces, as well as various materials related to them.' Almost obsessive compulsive in its comprehensiveness / Creative Voyage, a weblog / descend deep into the uncanny valley with the 'Plush Alive Elvis and Plush Alive Chimpanzee / Bad at Sports picks up on our recent death of the object post from last week / Jimmy Wales asks 'is the the magazine dead?

Untiny, get original URLs from tiny ones / atmospheric photography by Megan Baker / very honoured to be nominated as one of the top 25 UK arts and culture blogs by Creative Tourist / Little London, tilt shift photos of London by Toby Allen (via Stuff) / Making a Mark, a weblog / Plazm blog and Plazm Magazine / Endless Day, via Set up like a deck of cards, a tumblr.

Beer and Loathing, Conor Dillon on the Frankfurt Book Fair: 'The Frankfurt Book Fair is a bibliophile’s reverie. There are more than 400,000 books. The stalls overflow with literary fiction, coming-of-age, bildungsroman, children’s books, young adult, romance, chick-lit, mystery, fantasy, crime, science fiction. There are mash-ups of genres, and mash-ups of the mash-ups.' The sheer overwhelming scale of Frankfurt is an unwelcome insight into publishing as industrial process. Related, an angry thread on about general incompetence at the top of the UK book trade.

'Happy Farms' Game Destroys Chinese Jobs, Relationships: 'I like Happy Farms. I enjoy cultivating, irrigating, spraying, and harvesting. My high-pressure work, and cold tall buildings makes me feel like I cannot breathe. I have to turn to virtual nature, have my own house and farm. I wish I could have a real house and farm, but it seems so far away.' (via haddock). Hard to find a site for the game itself, apart from a deluge of posts about 'stealing crops and ruining relationships'

A new film Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman looks at the work of the late architectural photographer. However, this LA Times piece, entitled What the new Julius Shulman documentary leaves out, makes the unfashionable point that Shulman's work 'helped promote the idea that the finest architecture of the period was a vessel for personal rather than collective ambition and had little if anything to do with the messiness of cities or urban planning.' It's reiterated in the piece by Kazys Varnelis, who notes 'that modernism in Southern Californa became more and more "associated with the idea of lifestyle." The idea is dropped, though, before it gains a foothold in the movie's crowded visual landscape.' See also the film Coast Modern (blog).

A Million Keys, a music focused weblog / The H Line, a weblog / Square Door, a tumblr / Design for Mankind, a weblog / Safety in the use of Compressed Gas Cylinders (with special reference to oxy-acetylene processes) / Estupipedia, a weblog,

London RIP, 'you liked it... it's gone', angry capital nostalgia / Cartolleria, a tumblr / The Samba, VW fan site / Say no to Grampa Joe, the capitalist subtext of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (via me-fi). See also Breaking Free, the anarcho-socialist samizdat Tintin comic published in the 70s.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Romania Shrugs Off Reminder of Its Past: 'sycophants kept a virtual army of state-approved artists busy painting portraits of Ceausescu and his wife, thousands of them..... As it happened, the National Museum of Contemporary Art here had some of them on view the other day. Mihai Oroveanu, the museum's director, hung them in one gallery - diagonally, to make clear that the show was not actually a tribute.'

Phil Gyford on the psychological transition of the digital object into a physical entity: The £10,000 playlist. 'It wasn’t long ago that buying a purely digital piece of music — downloading a file rather than paying for a piece of holdable plastic — seemed terribly modern. But already I feel like an old fool when I visit Amazon or 7Digital to pay for an MP3. These days, a several-megabyte file on my computer is starting to feel as much of a burden, as much of a physical thing to cart around for the rest of my life, as a CD or a cassette or a record.'

Sevensevennine, a weblog on photography / Shouting to Communicate, an art blog / House of Cars, 'innovation and the parking garage' (via Design Observer): 'The parking garage may have a reputation as an eyesore, but House of Cars challenges this notion using examples of well-designed garages that add a creative tapestry to our streetscapes.' Interesting that this notion should come relatively late to American urbanism.

Photopia and Architecture, a blog by Lauren Fenton / we have a top 5 at The Silver Lining / The Pop Fop, 'The Aristocracy of Mass Modernism' / work by Simon Hollington of Hollington and Kyp, especially The Outward Urge, a series of dark drawings of space chimps / Relics of the Cold War, images by Martin Roemers.

Michael Wolf on his Paris Street View project: 'The problem is that compared to Asia, Paris is a stagnant city - very little has changed architecturally since Atget's times, and the cliches are a nightmare to get out from under of. Strangely enough, it was Google Street View which enabled me to take any photos at all of Paris. I spend weeks going through the city on my monitor, street by street, looking into windows, discovering reflections, searching out interesting juxtapositions, topologies, trying various crops/styles (Frank, Doisneau, Ruscha, and so on). The lack of a third dimension wore me down at times, but it was quite an interesting journey.'

We absolutely love 'then and now' posts, even when the original landscape has been as scoured as Scouting NY's exploration of the locations of Taxi Driver. See also: Manhattan Street Corners (via) / Unrealart: 'All artworks have been created using data from the game "Unreal Tournament". Each image represents about 30 mins of gameplay in which the computers AI plays against itself.' (via rps, which also has a post on speculative large-format touch screen games of the future, with video).

Blue Tea has gathered a collection of links to several dreamy, highly art directed online games / Bureaux, a weblog / Independent Collectors, for small-scale Saatchis / Pilot School contains pdfs of show pilot scripts / Van der Leun, a weblog / Awkward Yearbook Signatures (via me-fi projects) / Leiris, a tumblr.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009
A relentless focus on the ephemeral is a useful way of garnering an appreciation of the everyday, the prosaic and the humble. Yet while one gets a strong sense of the 'drift' through clicking from one site to another (or even undertaken virtual derives, such as the one Michael Wolf did using Google Street View in Paris) the levels of editing, unconscious or otherwise, shape our apparently random vision of the virtual world. We're just as guilty of this as everyone else - the web of 'things' that so often occupies these posts, fills the sidebar or our project list is not simply a record of everything but a very careful edit of something.

By the same token, a recognisable genre of weblogs has emerged (see this question: Is there a name or term for the aesthetic these blogs contain?), the seemingly random streams of 'good work', quirky images, striking photography, cool objects, strange concepts, old scans, etc. etc. etc. We can drift though these - and we do - yet we shouldn't kid ourselves that we are flaneuring our way to anything but a highly selected cultural overview. This genre of presentation is both persuasive and pervasive, the digital equivalent of Wired's 'Fetish' pages (which have obviously a far more natural existence on screen than on paper). Take the AJ's new Notebook site, wherein 'inspiration' is 'curated', an explicit acknowledgement of the dominance of image-driven culture.

These visual essays, together with animated stings and very short films, have become the primary modes of communication; objects are strung together rather than taken in isolation. There is no space for contemplation, just clicking, scrolling and flicking. This leaves the solitary object somewhat adrift, only embodying meaning when it is juxtaposed or collated or slotted into a larger collection. Although a glance at any tumblr or curated weblog might suggest otherwise, the 'thing' is in danger of imminent extinction.


Other things. Jim Coudal talks ten years of Coudal Partners at Design Glut / Victoria Etcetera, a short film by Penguin cover designer Germano Facetti and Paolo Gori, hosted at LUX / a little bit of web history: animated gifs / Will 'Hotel of Doom' ever be finished? We hadn't realised that work had re-started on the Ryugyong Hotel, threatening to end its position as architectural bogeyman/online object of fascination / HandBin, 'A Blog of Artistic and Architectural investigations'.

Into the Loop, a weblog / La Arquitectura es Aburrida, a weblog / Design with Intent, on behaviour and design / videos of the 2009 Stirling Prize shortlist / a comprehensive set of images and information on Pauline Baynes at Brian Sibley's Weblog / All Things Amazing, frequently nsfw / Share Some Candy, design as pick and mix.

Photographs by Andrea Posada, via The Purest of Treats, occasionally nsfw / How to write badly well, via me-fi projects / something to investigate, Thounds, a collaborative music experiment ('a home for your Music Thoughts. Share them with your friends and let them grow'). More information at the Thounds Blog / contemporary music at FL Spectro / Letterology, a design weblog.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A few quick things today. Concrete Toronto versus Celluloid Toronto / Berners-Lee 'sorry' for slashes / future city, London from now until 2031 in The London Plan, a relatively dry document that (probably sensibly) doesn't stick its neck out with any grand designs or visions / related, a hexagonal map of London. See also city of signs.

'In this latest video Bioware talk about the making of the city-planet of Coruscant in The Old Republic'. At RPS / Teemu Manninen asks What's so great about paper? at Books from Finland / cosecosi, a tumblr / LTWP, a blog by Lukas / swift notes on James Wines' recent lecture at the Barbican, An Economy of Means.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The news that St. Elizabeth's Psychiatric Hospital in DC is to become the HQ for the US Department of Homeland Security adds another layer of mystique to the monumental structure. Whereas old asylums are almost a cliche of the Urbex movement, the new multi-million dollar DHS HQ will effectively turn the building into an enormous no-go area (or as the Washington Post headline, 'As the Feds Take Over, St. E's Moves Further Into Shadow'). Fine photograph (if real) of the former staff members at Unremitting Failure. It's obviously a tough place for urban exploration (although some shots taken on official tours are around), but the shuttered exterior is epically grim, and pretty much perfect for a Homeland Security HQ without a single architectural intervention.

London Brownfield Sites, an interactive map. Apart from providing a high-res Ordnance Survey overview of London - always useful - it's pretty hit and miss, featuring plenty of sites in our locality that have recently been developed / the title of this image-driven weblog, More Ways to Waste Time encapsulates our growing feeling about the 'ghastly good taste' of the visual internet (where instead of Betjeman's preference for architecture from 'all centuries to my own' we have no point of contemporary reference, just a mad collage of 'good work' from past decades.

A recent event that looks fabulous: the surviving members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop played a gig at London's Roundhouse. Plenty of RW info online, from the wikipedia page, a brief history at Sound on Sound, an engineering perspective at The White Files, which also has an image gallery), samples at myspace, the great page devoted to Workshop guru Delia Derbyshire, etc.

Modernism and the little magazines, the world of the small literary publication in the first half of the twentieth century, focusing on the Modernist Magazines Project, an index of 40 or so modernist magazines from the period 1880-1945 (the 'so-called 'little magazines''). See also the Modernist Journals Project which contains scans of magazines, including the seminal Blast and its successor The Tyro, Robert Graves' The Owl (owl) and Le Petit Journal des Réfusées.

The Design Council image archive goes online (via CR Blog): it can be found here: Design Council Slide Collection. A fascinating collection of fragments from Britain's largely vanished industrial age, a swathe of long bankrupted industries and forgotten names, their abandoned aesthetic standards superseded by outsourced manufacturing and a pervasive global standard of 'good design' that is strangely characterless, despite the initial seductive thrill generated by visual aggregation. The toys are especially pleasing - Four toy guns in stained wood, made by Tall Tree Toys Ltd., 1969; Noah's Ark made from kit of printed cardboard (?) pieces, designed by Maureen Roffey, 1969 - and the technology typically nostalgia inducing / Police Notebooks of Charles Booth, part of the LSE's massive Charles Booth Archive.

A couple of lesser-known magazines in the Great Google cupboard: The Rotarian (which had some spectacular cover art in the early 30s, before descending into post-war whimsy) and Kiplinger's Personal Finance (via magCulture) / Star Wars Collectors' Archive / welcome to mobile Photoshop, the swift death of the idea that images from cellphone cameras could have a greater veracity than 'real' news photography.

Popshot Magazine, poetry and more / augmented reality starts to pop up (excuse the pun) in advertising material, as in this new Citroen spot / No Pattern Required, retro things / We Are Independently Wealthy, a weblog / move over Richard Scarry, the Snaeffel (via me-fi) / matt has a tumblr.

Fortune magazine covers by Antonio Petruccelli / contemporary photo-realism by Diego Gravinese (on flickr) / Pasa la Vida, a weblog / Love is a Prelude to Sorrow / Deputy Dog has shut up shop; instead, visit Letters of Note, photographs and images (occasionally nsfw).


Monday, October 12, 2009

The hidden world of MOUT and FIBUA cityscapes (MOUT = military operations on urban terrain and FIBUA = fighting in built-up areas). Although the Nato Urban Operations Working Group site is rather scant, there's plenty of information at Secret Bases (which also has a hefty amount of information on Project Lennox, the new US Embassy in London), including this map of the Mock Township in Sennybridge, once the small village of Mynydd Epynt (last link at Abandoned Communities). From SB: 'A rather more politically correct term is OBUA – Operations in Built-up Areas – although army wags have been known to refer to it all as FISH & CHIPS – Fighting in Someone's House and Causing Havoc in People's Streets!'

See also our gallery of Imber on Salisbury Plain, home to the above FIBUA village at Copehill Down (great big image at Barnard Micro Systems' website in reference to the 2008 MoD Grand Challenge, a UK version of the DARPA events. Copehill Down - which even has a 'slum/shanty town' section - was the venue for invited suppliers to 'produce an autonomous or semi autonomous system designed to detect, identify, monitor and report the position of a wide range of threats within a complex military urban environment, including within individual buildings'.

The work of photographer Spencer Murphy captures many of these places (see image below). Murphy's 'Architects of War' series illustrates the blank, empty facades and murderous cul-de-sacs of these masochistic villages. His work is featured in 'Cities Gone Wild', Geoff Manaugh's contribution to Architectures of the Near Future, the new issue of Architectural Design.


Other things. The Decibel Tolls, an mp3 blog / Eye Magazine is now available on issuu (via magCulture). Well, bits of it / The Impostume, a weblog / The Can and String, a weblog / aerial photography by Alex MacLean / and it all comes full circle, as Jones returns to battlesuits and cityscapes, stressing the city's role in how we 'survive the future' aspect of the initial post, rather than any inadvertent military-industrial overtones. More later, we're sure.

The West Riding: Two-thousand and Nine, Owen Hatherley on the 'bleaker version of normality' of Wakefield, Halifax, etc. etc. 'Quite honestly, anyone who knows and/or comes from the industrial towns of the south - say, Southampton, Portsmouth, Colchester, Reading, Slough, Swindon, Luton - can't help being jealous of the sheer strangeness of their Northern equivalents, their hills, their scale, the closeness of open country, the amount of extraordinarily serious, world-class architecture, the lack of '80s-90s tat...' And yet, 'There's no sense here that city air is free air, but instead an almost all-pervasive air of latent violence that could explode at any moment'.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Cryonics, what's it all about? Dubious practices, if this recent story is to be believed: Former Alcor Employee Makes Harsh Allegations Against Cryonics Foundation (via me-fi). From the piece: 'When a body is brought into Alcor's facility, the patient's blood is pumped out and replaced with a chemical concoction to minimize freezing damage. In many cases, the head is separated from the body with the member's prior consent. Johnson said he began to grow uneasy about his new employer once he saw what went on in Alcor's operating room, where he witnessed three suspensions. "It was barbaric ... the third suspension that I witnessed, they actually used a hammer and a chisel," he said. "I actually witnessed them remove her head with a chisel and a hammer."'

Such strangeness is to be expected. A few years ago we had the pleasure of visiting Alcor, where we found a friendly workplace utterly devoted to what they were doing but also, how to put this, somewhat deluded about how they were going about it. This must have been about the same time the disillusioned employee was able to witness chiselling operations at first hand. When we were there, nothing was happening at all, save for a bit of clearing up. The big metal tanks hummed away to themselves, filled with dismembered sports personalities and immortality enthusiasts.

For the staff, their major problem in life was the inevitability and finality of death, an injustice that had to be conquered. Staff member Dr Mike Perry had written a hefty book, Forever for All (which we still have, somewhere), considering 'the problems of death and the hereafter and how these ages-old problems ought to be addressed in light of our continuing progress.... The immortalization of humans and other life-forms is seen as a great moral project and labor of love that will unite us in a common cause and provide a meaningful destiny.' It's a goal that is eccentric at least, a trait shared by many of the staff (some of whom wear their futurism proudly, like Regina M. Pancake, Alcor's 'Readiness Coordinator', former 'Nuclear Pharmacy Technician' and sci-fi prop handler).

The scope of ambition is illustrated by the Timeship concept, 'the "Fort Knox" of biological materials. DNA, tissue samples and cryopreserved patients will be housed in Timeship, and their safety and security against all threats, both natural and human-made, will have to be maintained for hundreds of years.' Designed by Stephen Valentine, this piece of epic Neo-Classicism is architecture for the long game (see the recent Design Observer link as well), its location secret, defended against intruders, bulky enough to withstand rain, disaster and the threat of ruin.

While the actual science of cryonics remains elusive beyond the relatively simple act of freezing something - resuscitation is still an entirely speculative process - the culture of cryonics is underpinned by the desire for immortality and the fear of death. The American Cryonics Society stresses there is no political or social undercurrent to their activities ('The American Cryonics Society is not a "utopian" organization.... We are a cryonics society: PERIOD. Our program is simple: freeze-wait-reanimate.). Indeed, a large amount of the debate surrounding cryonics is fiscal, looking at ways to sustain large, power-consuming organisations that require total financial and physical stability for a totally unknown amount of time. Nonetheless, the sense of impending apocalypse hangs over the entire movement, the conflation of disaster, survivalism, futurism and utopianism that has grown out of pop science, the same alternate reality that sustains other pseudo-scientific ventures, all of which are sadly gaining traction in our distracted world.

But we're repeating ourselves - Alcor is a thing of eternal fascination, as they (presumably) intended. There's more information in these earlier posts from December 10, 2003 and August 15, 2008.


Other, more transient, things. Photographs taken within a theme park at the Heterotopia. The location is Blackgang Chine, allegedly the oldest theme park in the UK, perched on the crumbling chalk cliffs on the south coast of the Isle of Wight / Data Liberation, striving to make it easy to extract everything you own from Google at your own convenience, not theirs / Meanwhile in Stoke, what would Cedric do?

His Old Haunts, an interview with writer (and one-time things contributor) Tobias Seamon / Mouette7, a tumblr / the Bloomframe is a neat piece of design, a window that doubles up as a balcony. Formerly just a concept, the design, by Hofman Dujardin Architects, has now entered production / One year after Hurricaine Ike.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009
DSLR Shooter illustrates the revolution in image gathering using next generation digital cameras (via me-fi). Particularly taken by site editor Dan Chung's short film of China’s 60th anniversary parade (Vimeo link). We suddenly seem on the cusp of a period when data creation threatens to outstrip storage. From the me-fi comments: 'One observation I made the other day when I bought 2 TB of spinning disks to store the video coming out of my camera is that every second it records more data than I created in my first five years of computing (50 mbps!), and a good day's film shoot will generate a few hundred GB. That's more than my first twenty years! To top it all off, two 1 TB drives cost less than my first 5 MB drive.'

Jason Kottke clearly has a container fetish. Commenting recently on
America's Quiet Ports
he noted how the gridlocked, stacked dockside is a literal reminder of static world trade: 'The strengthening of the dollar abroad means that American made goods aren't selling and the ships hauling them are unable to leave the port. Nothing is selling anywhere so everything sits in the now-constipated port.' A more recent post, Stacked Cans, illustrates this new landscape of unwanted consumer products. The BBC are currently running a project called The Box, 'following a container around world for a year to tell stories of globalisation and the world economy'. You can track the container's current location, although in recent weeks this has proved tricky. More fields of unsold Mercedes and tracts of Toyotas.

Food Stories, a weblog by Helen Graves / on the need for an Architecture of Necessity / Mail Me Art, via Daily Dose Pick / Magazine Legends, did 'Time magazine intentionally place "devil horns" on Billy Graham and/or Bill Clinton as some sort of commentary'? / Deconstructivism in Lego / a short history of petrol stations (via haddock).


More battle suit musing at, taking issue, amongst other things, with the idea that Archigram's futurology was quite so prophetic and influential. Also, the idea of a 'battle suit' is all too militarist and gung-ho. The ongoing emergence of urbanism - our reactions, responses and interactions with the contemporary city - as a key part of the discussion on the impact of new technology is also apparent in Ben Hammersley's idea-shaped meanderings around the new issue of Wired (UK edition 17-11) and its focus on cities, out of which he extrapolates the idea that it is layers that form the foundations of the contemporary city, endless stratas of meaning: 'You don’t need to be Umberto Eco to riff off it for hours: it's turtlenecks all the way down.' Ultimately, he concludes that it's the 'cushioning effect of history upon reference upon metaphor upon inter-mixed system is the thing that makes it the most human place to live in.... Instead our cities are made of, and our lives build up, layers and layers of soft actions.'

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Millennium People has posted a long response to our earlier post about data cities and the future, 'Data City + Jules Verne, with a postscript on the rediscovered Verne novel 'Paris in the Twentieth Century' (see also 'In the Year 2889' by Verne and his son Michel Verne, published in the late 1880s).

Sacred facts, a weblog / Bakgard, a weblog with a design and architecture focus / read and listen to Kerri's Diary (via Rumblings, a tumblr), a project by Kerri Sohn / David Archer on David Hockney's iPhone drawings, which seem to be finding their niche in Second Life, a 'place' that we had largely forgotten about. Even Second Life Cartography has a faded, archaic feel.

Well linked, but deservedly so: My Parents Were Awesome / more on Michael Heizer's City / MetroShip, a modern houseboat, splicing the fab pre-fab aesthetic with the Bouroullecs' Maison Flottante / Uppercase Journal, looks interesting / Strange Undisciplined Dreams of Great Things is rather steam-punky, but has musings on retro-futurism, slow technology, etc.

Life on Mars #duststorm, City of Sound on Sydney's freak dust storm last month / cosmopolitan scum, architecture and more / fun children's furniture / Joie de Vivre, a piece of deco-era animation (1934) at the Animation Archive (via Buck Macabre). The AA has a great post on Tibor Gergely's early children's books, including the fabulous '"Watch Me" said the Jeep', surely a US companion to Blossom the Brave Balloon. More on Joie de Vivre here.

The work of David Blamey / the work of Sam Messenger / Still-unsurpassed box store architecture: SITE at Ouno Design (via Pop Vernacular) / The Silver Lining, a visual weblog / The Age of the Marvellous, a new exhibition at All Visual Arts, 'inspired by the Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities, popular in the late Renaissance through the Baroque period.... the sum of all of man's knowledge could be represented in rooms filled with natural wonders, artificial exotica and relics or art works concerned with the supernatural.'

Apothecary's Drawer on the truth behind fossil squid ink / For Sale/TVs From Craigslist, a project by Penelope Umbrico (via anArchitecture) / also via aA, Dagmar Schmidt's Plattenbau sculpture / related, Social Housing after the Soviets, 'a comparative study of the oppurtunities and the urgencies of public and private use of the Microrayon, the large-scale social housing projects developed throughout the entire former Soviet Union.'

Adam Curtis is compiling an epic 'history of the West's relationship to Afghanistan over the past 200 years', Kabul: City Number One (continued), featuring his usual collage of timeline, fact, events and key players.

House of Travel, travelling, via Architecture in Berlin, a weblog / architectural arteries, Anti-Mega on making maps with CloudMade. See also the Typography Map by James Bridle at Short Term Memory Loss (reminiscent of NB Studio's London's Kerning). Bridle also blogs at, a site exploring the evolution of the book into handheld devices.

A collection of graffiti in Tenerife / Pieces of Me, Pink Iguana's musings on objects and memory / a long, lyrical look at the early days of the American auto industry (via kottke) / a collection of local spooky legends / Historic Pages, Phil Barber's historic newspaper collecting page / Sarah France's weblog / Together in Disharmony, a tumblr.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Some art and illustration. Fine prints at St Jude's Gallery (which runs the fine blog All Things Considered) / The Curwen Gallery also has a blog / The Rowley Gallery doesn't / nor does the Travelling Art Gallery / flickr cutaways pool, via haddock (image at bottom of page, 'Step Up To A 'Step Down' Hudson').

'Sited upon small volcanic cone in the high desert midway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, this 60-acre retreat seems to cap the mountain top with its dome-like roof' / the connection between Saarinen and Star Trek / Internet Archaeology, via haddock / Douglas Coupland's Vancouver [Second] Home / We Were Modern, 'archaeological/anthropological writing on the remains of the modern' / The Northern Light, a weblog by Sean Dodson.

It's Full of Stars, an astronomy tumblr / the wikipedia entry on the film Primer is almost as hard to follow as the film itself: 'He has also replaced it with a duplicate failsafe that he brought with him. Thus, when Abe uses what he thinks is the failsafe, he is in fact using this duplicate, and therefore can't undo what Aaron has done using the real failsafe.'

Eating Bark, 'landscape, architecture, urbanism' and football / Enter 99 / Slawkenbergius, a weblog / Ephemeralism / the Radical Activism Visual Archive / Design Probes, future product speculation / The Hive Design, inspiration and links / Monster Brains, 'a never ending celebration of monsters'.

Museum of the Phantom City, 'uses personal digital devices to transform the city into a living museum', a concept that ties in slightly with our last post 'lamenting the loss of the unknown landscape' and the physical object, and our hunger for simulacra of ephemeral cast-offs. Only here the cast-offs are the 'phantom' projects that never made it out of their software packages, a museology of speculation. It's also an iPhone app.

Matthew Houlding makes architectural models of imaginary places, which use the visual language of Sixties modernism (Archigram again) and the verbal language of the speculative developer and time share salesman ('Secluded Tented Camp in the Western Corridor', 'The Best Bit is the Black Cement Pool on the Beach Which is The Perfect Spot to Watch the Sun Set', 'Exclusive Waterfront Development Opportunity' ).

Ten artists working with folded paper / This is the Green Room, a weblog with an economic focus / MagCloud, a site that reignites the world of zines through digital printing and distribution. Featured magazines include Fray, the 'quarterly of true stories' / Christmas is coming: the Throbbing Gristle Palm-Sized Loop Playback Machine /

David Harvey, cultural critic, and his website / Ai Weiwei hospitalised / work by Rafael Rozendal (and blog) / Five Dials is a literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton / The Intrepid Art Collector, 'adventures in the art market' / RIP Monica Pidgeon, creator of the Pigeon Digital architecture interview archive (currently free as a tribute) / A book of blogs, in which magCulture rather takes the concept to task.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Apologies for a few weeks of downtime. This piece is getting some linkage, 'The City is a Battlesuit for Surviving the Future', on the legacy of Archigram, the media image of architectural innovation and the ongoing evaporation of urban interaction into non-physical form - a form that paradoxically is enhancing how we interact with physical spaces and one another. The one issue that is integral but always somehow unspoken with these treatises is contemporary information density, the ongoing aestheticisation of data that was very much a characteristic of Archigram's work and has steadily increased in day to day life.

The modern city is the data city. Architectural renderings and monographs present case studies in the context of information, with statistics and graphs supplementing the traditional projected view. The utopia of tomorrow will be saturated with information, and it is how we navigate this space that is the focus of so much contemporary speculation on technology and the city.

However, the idea of the 'information city' has created a very fine line between utopia and dystopia. So many of the qualities beloved by bloggers (this magazine included), designers, architects, designers and commentators seem to exist in a fluid state between good and bad. For example, how to reconcile the idea that 2000AD's Mega-City 1 is one of the great inspirational sci-fi cities with the 'reality' of the comic's metropolis as a crime-ridden, fear-saturated, consumption-crazed urban nightmare?

One suggestion is that we are mistaking complexity for cultural engagement. Just as the dense jumble of links and images that characterises the contemporary website gives an impression of a rich cultural experience, it also recalls imagery of the chaotic, layered city. One example is the ongoing fascination with ruins of the recent past, a means of instantly conveying historic context and patina, a seductive visual shorthand for two hundred years of industrial and economic data.

The web is not a city. Data space is not a place. But the analogies are persistent. By committing our memory to Google or the 'cloud' we have inadvertently created a great hunger for the intangible and ephemeral, the scraps and minutae of everyday life that get sucked into the circuitry and instantly forgotten. Already we are lamenting the loss of the unknown landscape as a result of global satellite imagery, gps and mapping. Physical space and the raw quality of still air immobilised by a structure cannot by duplicated or imitated. The 'infrastructural city' is not the labyrinth of chance encounters so celebrated by the Situationists. Our interactions are manufactured and governed.

Yet imitation remains our focus. The way virtual interfaces mimic physical spaces - desktops, pinboards, tables and surfaces you can post, pin, pinch and scatter content across - acknowledges our hunger for the tangible. 'The City is a Battlesuit for Surviving the Future' acknowledges architecture's debt to fictional cityscapes and how the most ambitious masterplans aim at creating spaces where 'the infrastructures are layered, ad-hoc, adaptive and personal - people there really are walking architecture, as Archigram said.'

Visualisation is at the heart of these new utopias. Once, the imaginary city was merely shaped and re-shaped in the corners of our mind - the rolling roofs of Peake's Gormenghast would have been impossible to create except in the imagination ('Blackstone Quarter, Stone Dogshead, Angel's Buttress, the Coupée (described as 'the high knife edge'); the North Headstones 'beyond Gory and the Silver Mines'; and the Twin Fingers, 'where Little Sark begins and the Bluff narrows'.) Today, we expect constant visual challenge, not the mental gymnastics of linking spaces and names and building cities from text on the page.

How do we reconcile the real city, with its messy unpredictability, with the visionary dreams of the utopians, where everything is connected and complete interaction is taken for granted? The internet does its best to connect the two, but it feels as though the scraps of reality, once processed, scanned and catalogued, lose the very qualities that endear them in the first place. Example: the literal billions of images on flickr are a snapshot of people, places and things defined by a finite number of tags, not the myriad, impossible to reproduce connections that denote reality.

Perhaps this gap will close, and visual search systems, tags and metadata will evolve to supersede the connections we make instinctively. But ultimately the city is not about searching, but about memory, and how cultural collages trigger, accentuate and erase our rememberance of the past and our perception of the future. The data city of the future will be unnavigable without technology, granted, but as a species we seem to be crying out for help remembering, unable to find things with the arsenal of digital tools and reliant, instead, on other people's recollections. This is why, we'd suggest, that the idea of archives, museums, drawers, corridors, boxes, cellars, warehouses and vaults, modern ruins and scanned ephemera, still hold such fascination, without ever really satisfying our innate desire for things.


As if to confirm the above, a collection of 'other things'. The security implications of hypergraphics / Fernando Feijoo, illustrator / @random, a tumblr / All Things Considered, a weblog / James Wines of SITE on the art of architectural drawing / a couple of flickr groups focusing on architectural drawing: I and II.

Crash test, old versus new: '2009 Chevy Malibu versus 1959 Chevy Bel Air at Autoblog. See also old family car versus new car / retro design seems to be emerging as one of the core qualities of electric cars: Honda's EV-N is a good case in point / we're taking another run at Hunch, which has quietly been pushing out consumer advice for the past year or so.

Archive and Conquer brings together some interesting topics, including the most over-photographed parts of Detroit (think ruins, although the 100 houses in that last link offer a spread of architectural variety and intrigue sadly lacking in almost any contemporary housing development) and a link to a set of famous vandalized paintings, a collection by Lance Wakeling. See also Ice House Detroit, a literal freezing of one such ruin as a comment about the glacial economy and the domestic wastelands that have been generated as a result.

The work of Gerrit van Bakel, collected over at The Silver Lining / see also the world of KidZania, a chain of small scale townscapes aimed at children. Found via this Guardian piece: 'Its buildings, vehicles and other features are scaled down to two-thirds real size to accommodate its young inhabitants, who have more than 50 jobs to choose from during a typical five- or six-hour shift, with each job lasting about 30 minutes.'

A pictorial history of Grey Gardens, the house made famous by the 1975 documentary (and a recent film) and the subject of a fan sites and other online reliquaries. The house, now owned by Ben Bradlee, can be found here, amongst a generous scattering of beachside mansions.

Things of Interest. We've watched the 'things' brand be chipped away in recent years, most notably by the Mac application Things, which swept in and stole our Google search thunder (quite justifiably) / guest editors: Paul Petrunia of Archinect, Jeff Carvalho of Selectism and Josh Rubin of Cool Hunting / Google Crop Circles, a hoary old publicity trick / programme for the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale.

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