Dying cities, old maps and space age annual reports

Southwark Council has put over 250mb of old maps of South London, dating back to the C16th, on its website for downloading / kottke has a fantastic showreel of the environment building for the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, all piers, boaters, grand hotels and war wounds. Reminded us of Cyriak’sCycles‘ / German propaganda archive / Drawn is now powered by tumblr / ‘Who feels chills while listening to music? People “open to experience”‘ / Fed by Birds on ‘The Flying Wombat‘, a cameo appearance by the Phantom Corsair (wiki) / related, a summary of the likely requirements of a practical future car.

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Yet more ruined Detroit, an urban palimpsest for our inherent fears about the potential collapse of modernity and what it might look like. We’ve all seen the crumbling mansions and derelict hotels, over and over again, yet they still hold this unshakeable fascination. These are tragic images and the photographers are clearly perplexed at how so much embodied skill, craft, time, energy and effort could just be left to rot with no-one interested in even salvaging small decorative elements. Via me-fi, where the commenters are starting to suffer from ruin ennui, especially with regard to Detroit (a search of our own archives will show you why).

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This comment sums it up: ‘The remarkable thing about Detroit is that in many cases these amazing ruins exist alongside the sort of amenities you’d expect from one of America’s largest cities (good restaurants, 4-star hotels, amazing museums, sporting events, outdoor art, bike paths, etc.) as well as things you never get in big cities, like actual nature and working farms’. What’s never conveyed in this ‘ruin tourism’ are the functional and lived-in spaces in between the rotting architectural treasures, and that upsets many. The imagery of ruins is a form of social and architectural schadenfreude, the romance of collapse and breakdown neatly distilled into picturesque form, kept safe and compartamentalised from reality. No wonder those that live in close proximity to these tableaux find them so objectionable.

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We’ve fallen into a tumble hole. MKTG, a tumblr / Theo Inglis, a tumblr / Quite a Spectacle, a tumblr (good on the juxtaposition of the ruined present and the optimistic past) / The Architectural Arbiter, scans beautiful things, as does Books n Buildings / The Hot Air Balloon, a tumblr / henk’s tumblelog, videos / a note on design / Convoy, erring on the side of ghastly good taste (all those crisp/fuzzy photographs of cameras, a circular motif if ever there was one).

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Very few proposed buildings have garnered as much opprobrium as 5 Broadgate, a design by Make that has caused apoplexy in the AJ and rage in BD. It’s as if BBA never existed, an insipid render of a metal-clad lump, decorated with a few timid sub-Libeskind slashes. Rowan Moore’s critique is a neat summary of architectural mythmaking in action, a world where a mythical cult of creativity exists only in opposition to stifling corporatism.

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The Reluctant Modernist, Steven Heller on the work of Erik Nitsche, in particular his imagery for General Dynamics, ‘incorporated in 1953 as the parent for ten different manufacturing firms (among them, Electric Boat, Canadair Limited, Electro Dynamic, General Atomic, Convair, and Stromberg-Carlson) which at that time were administering to the defense needs of the United States.’ There’s a good selection of Nitsche’s posters and annual reports here at Hyperakt: here is Modernism (capital ‘m’) utterly at the service of the military industrial complex, buoyed by the fantastic amounts of money the American government was spending on defence, a decent chunk of which trickled down into marketing. See Advertising the Space Race, a recent book that exuberantly over-eggs the connection between missile systems and space exploration in order to gee up the Johnny Rockets into becoming slide rule jockeys for the big aerospace companies.

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4 Responses to Dying cities, old maps and space age annual reports

  1. Pingback: The Space Age

  2. - says:

    Could you reinstate full posts in your rss feed rather than snippets? I love to read yr site on an iPad feed reader, it takes time to click through on each snippet, the old way was much more convenient. Many thanks for the broadcasts—

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