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Friday, March 05, 2010

What are the modern equivalents of medieval cathedrals? Design history buffs will always allude to dear old Roland Barthes and his declaration, in 1953, that the new Citroen DS fit the bill perfectly: "I think that cars today are almost the exact equivalent of the great Gothic cathedrals: I mean the supreme creation of an era, conceived with passion by unknown artists, and consumed in image if not in usage by a whole population which appropriates them as a purely magical object."

As the century progressed, describing something to be 'like a cathedral' became shorthand for an epic creative undertaking, something as ambitious as building a monumental palace of worship by hand, from stone and wood. It wasn't ever a terribly suitable metaphor, and only Barthes really pushed it far enough to make convincing sense ('There are in the D.S. the beginnings of a new phenomenology of assembling, as if one progressed from a world where elements are welded to a world where they are juxtaposed and hold together by sole virtue of their wondrous shape, which of course is meant to prepare one for the idea of a more benign Nature.')

Every now and again, the phrase re-surfaces, most recently in this piece by Sam Leith: The World of Warcraft video game is every bit as glorious as Chartres cathedral. 'Like a cathedral, it is a supreme work of art that is, on a brick-by-brick basis, the creation of hundreds of artisans and craftsmen, many of whom will be long gone by the time it comes to completion; indeed, since WoW is in a state of permanent expansion, it may not ever be "complete"'. It was a simple piece of hyperbole, a deliberate prod aimed at stirring those who don't fancy equating the great ongoing cathedral of the modern age, the Sagrada Familia, with the story of Kil'Jaeden (no, us neither).

Happily, it's not a comparison that's been widely embraced, even by the gaming community. As Steven Poole wrote on Edge Online: 'WOW is not like a cathedral. It is like a global amateur-dramatics society with a wardrobe full of elf costumes – and there's nothing wrong with that. So why seek to claim instead, absurdly, that it’s on a par with one of the pinnacles of western culture?' There are two things at play here. The first is the desire that video games are taken seriously as an art form, a battle that has long been won but which still seems to be fun to fight, and the second is that many feel there is a cultural void that needs filling. Boringly enough, the great modern cathedrals probably are just that, the great modern cathedrals. But in the irresistible rush to add some kind of mystical gravitas to technological progress, cathedrals will continue to be erected in the most unexpected places.


Standard Grey, a tumblr / Amazing Future, who needs monographs? / A Journey Round My Skull's Tumblr / Voust, a tumblr / Technical Black, a tumblr /, where magazines go when the paper runs out / stop motion frenzy: Nobody Beats the Drum - Grindin'. Check the Herzogian Making of....


Why Nicolai Ouroussoff Is Not Good Enough: 'Ouroussoff has an opinion about design, but his reviews offer not much more than that opinion. His approach - little history, less politics, occasional urbanism - shrinks the critic's role to commenting only on the appearance of the architecture'. In particular, his penchant for 'nostalgia' as a term of abuse. 'But "nostalgia" (whose nostalgia? Nostalgia for what era, what architect?) without context becomes a straw man, an illusory opponent for contemporary architects to triumph over.'


Mostly happy hipsters over at The Selby. Some are fun, some are smug. Some may even be unhappy / In Almost Every Picture, a new box set of Eric Kessels' remarkable collection of found photography / the Foster Car and Straker Car from UFO / a flash game to celebrate a new ski jump. Soon, every new building will come with its own game or app.


Photographs of the Polish town of Puszczykowo by Kuba Ryniewicz. Sets include Fences and Wild Cat in the City, a plethora of animal prints / Lookwork, a new visual aggregator looking for folk to make contemporary virtual mood boards / Front Pages, a tumblr / Niemeyer's Brasilia: A Tribute / related, Oscar Niemeyer talks to Vice Magazine / Informal Repair Culture / see also Afrigadget.


The Audi 100 Avant Duo, a hybrid from 1989 / The art of list-making / Outerland, a photographic project by Allison Davies / NASA's Blue Marble at the Goddard Photo and Video Blog's photostream / Japan is Sexy, or so we're constantly being told. Object/people/place fetish / a map of sinful Amarillo. We see potential in rolling out sinful maps or Google Earth layers for _everywhere_.


Graphic design by shooting the breeze / hello my name is dennis, a weblog / The Moldy Doily, costume culture / everyday structures, on infrastructure and the overlooked / at Y Mag, which has also started a promising drawing section, entitled I hate rendering / we love music every single day / tinder, a weblog / Ribambelles and Ribambins, retro kids stuff / March 20th is Obscura Day, uncover the obscure in your city (e.g. the River Fleet and the Wellcome Collection).


Land Animal, 'a blog dedicated to the awesome stylings of the e-Mix Tape' / typography weblog by Rasmus Broennum / strange, aerospatial sculptures by Hiroyuki Hamada at \\\, regularly nsfw (via SpaceInvading) / boat as island / above image from Southsiders / graphic design by Gavillet and Rust / Pau to Canfranc / ArchiTakes, 'on architecture in New York and beyond' and currently musing on the contemporary obsession with wayward fenestration.

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Monday, March 01, 2010
Is it really hip to be glum? Riffing on the insta-popularity of Unhappy Hipsters: 'US psychologists ... cropped pictures of models in ads so only their faces were visible, then asked people to rank them in order of mood. Overwhelmingly, models ­advertising pricier brands were judged to look glummer.' (pdf link: Facial Displays of Emotion in Folk vs. Elite Advertisements).


Antonio Contador's 6=0 consists of six copies of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence". "The records were bought on ebay and never removed from their original envelopes and they never will. Each of the records will travel: from my house to each exhibitions place, from each exhibition location to another, to each envelope another one is added. Upon arrival the date is annotated and a photograph of each envelope is taken to be shown on the next exhibition." Showing at the CMCA


The Most Popular Journal / iconism is not dead, including CCTV redux and OMA's design for a homage to Roger Hargreaves / The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers / The First Word: A Dictionary of New Architecture / Binky the Doormat / Muriel Auclert Real Estate, modern houses for sale in France / Artur, contemporary architecture tours in Budapest / Big Lorry Blog / Styledeficit, a tumblr / illustration by Wells Brown.


Thinking outside the bun: redesigning the hot dog ("If you were to take the best engineers in the world and asked them to design a perfect plug for a child's airway, you couldn't do better than a hot dog") / cruise back in time with the history of the Wienermobile / Inventory Updates, upscale, hyper-tasteful fashion blogging / yet another set of Penguin and Pelican book covers / Parr's ambivalent obsessions, Poynor on Parrworld: The Collection of Martin Parr. More images at we make money not art.


Lost Landscapes of Detroit (via) / Traffic control in Pyongyang / post-earthquake in Chile - follow Platforma Arquitectura for information / Who here recycles? / Random Brand finds music videos, but not for a while / Come on Sugar, Let me Know, the standfirst says it all: 'This week, Giles Turnbull reaches out to the masses on Chatroulette for advice on sexiness, with horrifying consequences.' / Arcadia demade, retro-engineering modern video games / A magical miniature day in the life of NYC / The Tom and Jerry Censorship Comparison Guide / what's it like around the Watts?

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The US embassy proposal has become the online architecture subject of the week, with countless (or probably very countable, if you know what you're doing) virtual column inches devoted to the competition, the controversy, the winning scheme, the design, the constraints, the problems, the impossibility, etc. Will Wiles goes a little more in-depth in Why Ambassador, With This Perimeter You Are Really Spoiling Us, exploring the brave new world of Hostile Vehicle Mitigation ('there are such things, for instance, as armoured trees; a growing tree can absorb steel bars that will help it stop or slow a rogue vehicle' - at what point will this kind of subject stop being 'Ballardian' and start being 'BLDG BLOGian'?), and how this has resulted in 'a building designed with explosions in mind. A shape formed by the manipulation of spheres of destruction.' Just wait until the pigeons get into that funny plastic facade.


In and Out of History, on Tintin, banality, collaboration and imagination / Tintin drives a car / from the film Tintin and I / Notes + Links by Casey A.Gollan / New British Comedy Relationship Chart / Of paper and things, more indications of the tangible interacting with the digital. Their sidebar offers a huge collection of illustration, craft, design and ephemera blogs, e.g. Bold on Grey.


Film grabs of London in the 1960s, via The Cartoonist (a car that's still alive). Good then and now comparison to be made with this shot from 35 years ago. Also, Alexandra Road under construction / thanks to Yes We Work for suggestions.


What Am I Doing Here? Tall Buildings and High Anxiety in Las Vegas, a piece by Mark Lamster. Accompanying images / a fun piece of fantasy urbanism / all about the mellifluous 'cellar door', which always makes us think of the Lemonheads / beautiful infographic on Snake Oil Supplements.


Become a werewolf icecream man / far more about Survival in the City, with scans aplenty at David Galletly's great site / Leeds: the human expectoration is black here, a photo essay of staggering bleakness / Ampere's And, a tumblr.


A quick trawl through the latest in urban presentation and 3D tech. It's early days at the Day Trail Pool (via Digital Urban) / also via DU, the work of Rob Carter - animated cityscapes and buildings, especially the fabulous modernism-to-gothic transformations of Stone on Stone / the Martin Jetpack.


Android entertainment: ULoops / Music 4.5, a conference / Thounds, 'a recorder for your music thoughts', smoky ears and all / time-lapse movie of home-working by Dorian Moore / related, a quote from Geoff Dyer, 'Writers always envy artists, would trade places with them in a moment if they could... In the age of the computer the writer's office or study will increasingly resemble the customer service desk of an ailing small business.'


House life in a Koolhaas: 'Characteristically, Koolhaas — whose projects are always radical and frequently perverse — flouted received wisdom about architecture for the handicapped with his House in Bordeaux, which American building inspectors would deem a potential death trap.' (clip) / Lewis's Fifth Floor: A Department Story (via the Guardian). Inside an abandoned department store in Leeds, photography by Stephen King.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gypsychique, a tumblr (occasionally nsfw) / work by John Whitlock / the impending Cupcake Bubble, looking for some kind of Gladwellian hook in the relatively recent spike in production/consumption of small fancy cakes. The trend is definitely there, but 'The real problem, though, is that the cupcakes are essentially reactionary.... willfully uncomplex, familiar, and comforting' / Is this your luggage? (via).

Just What I See, iPhone street photography / you know, Vintage For Kids / all about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch / post-cube polychromatic wonderland, a lawyers' office by Hofman Dujardin Architects / architectural photography by Luke Hayes / Panorama, a new architecture newspaper / paper engineering by Mark Hiner / The Popular Edge, 'Pop-Up and Book Art News' / art by Catriona Finnie /

More office shenanigans. It's hard to imagine going from the Loblolly House to this, Kieran Timberlake's proposed US Embassy in London. More critiques: LA Times ('[the design] suggests putting an emphasis on action instead of values, measurable behavior rather than symbolic gestures') and The Guardian ('Cool, remote and superficially transparent, the winning design does reflect what we can divine of the US political process'). Apparently it was not to the liking of Lords Rogers and Palumbo

There is a lot to say, of this we are sure takes issue with the term 'design thinking' / damaged goods by Barnaby Barford / art by Victor Timofeev (blog): a beautiful set of drawings, reminiscent of very early Libeskind / SuperCity, an architectural model / Lunarized, a tumblr

Inside Tommy Westphall's mind, a graphic by Nicholas W Skyles. The kind of meme that would be non-existent - impossible, pointless, whatever - were it not for the internet / linked before but consistently fascinating, Very Small Array / cute paper houses / talking about ugly buildings, as Boston gets to grips with its frankly magnificent City Hall.


Monday, January 18, 2010

CEBRA_toons is a site by architect Mikkel Frost, a partner in CEBRA Architects, breaking down completed projects into a single watercolour image, creating a 'wordless manifesto': 'if you can't tell the story in an A4 sheet (21 x 29.7 cm) you are either doing too much or too complicated stuff'. The pictures have a hint of Aldo Rossi about them, a willingness to play with colour and form and caricature, the building used as a playful piece of symbolism rather than a stern immutable object.


The La Brea Matrix, a project wherein six German photographers use Stephen Shore's classic Chevron gas station shot as the basis for their own works. Developed with independent publishers Lapis Press, there is more in-depth information here, describing Shore's new landscape vernacular as 'one in which the details themselves – their density and abundance, rather than the entirety – were intended to be the focal point or subject. Each image is so sharp...'.


Blast Books 'publishes illustrated books on cultural and historical phenomenons' / Duke Press is a new publishing house focusing on artist's and designer's books, including Risograph, a homage to the adhoc nature of material printed using the Risograph digital printing process. It's by New Found Original, 'a new online shop, selling NEW, FOUND and ORIGINAL items from the very simple to the rather special.'


The Fuck Yeah! phenomenon doesn't exactly endear us, nor does it hint at tumblr being in it for the long run as an archival-quality resource, but some are very entertaining. FuckYeah Dioramas is testament to countless obsessions, for example / there's something about 2010 that induces large scale retro-futurist introspection, with everyone dipping into their grab-bag of remembered tomorrows, dusting them off and looking nostaglically at the way we should have been by now, e.g. 2010: Living in the Future by Geoffrey Hoyle (via Ballardian).


If You Could, an ongoing collaboration project. The latest version, If You Could: Collaborate, has resulted in some interesting projects, including this alphabet, created by the Rogers Stirk Harbour Model Shop and Design By Praline / Tin Man Toys / Mustard Plaster, a weblog / worth exploring: OurGoods, 'a peer-to-peer online network that facilitates the barter of goods and services between artists' / Database: Injuries reported by emergency rooms / the year's 10 best cover lies / Did aliens play a role in Woolworths?, at Bad Science.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

We seem to be entering a new era of speculative megastructuralism. After Miami's Miapolis City comes the Boa (Boston Arcology), a sort of cowboy-built conservatory for the city. See also Monstrous Carbuncles, a fine tumblr / architecture as performance, Karrie Jacobs on the 'voyeur's delight' of the new Standard Hotel, New York / what are the best internet forums? / Universe Sandbox, an interactive space simulator.

Concrete Britain, short films / The Big Picture has a set from the Dakar Rally / antipodr - 'find the other side of the world' / seen everywhere, still fun, First Person Tetris / sobering stories of design magazine publishing: former editor Julie Lasky on I.D.'s Executioners at Design Observatory. Key quote: 'And no one who had any serious power over I.D. seemed to understand anything about design.'

More fun with toys: the Ikea LILLABO Train Set: 'What I wondered was... how many possible looping train tracks can be made using all 16 pieces?' / Detonate, a demolition simulator / image at top comes from Thomas Wrede's photographic series 'Real Landscapes'.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A short history of the amateur amusement park. Backyard roller coasters have become a staple of internet round-ups, as private ingenuity has created increasingly elaborate tracks - see Jeremy Reid's Oklahoma Land Run or John Iver's Blue Two, for example. Yet the genre is relatively old; this homemade coaster seems to date from the early C20, while in the late 60s, occasional gems like this private cable car (one of 'The Most Exciting Outdoor Toys You've Ever Seen') were built to delight. Traditionally, the domestic thrill ride was limited to train tracks: Busplunge has a nostalgic post on back yard train ride, which clued us into the existence of the Miniature Train and Railroad Company of Rensselaer, Indiana. More at the MTC Trains Owner's Web Site.


The small scale print revival continues apace. PWR PAPER is a freesheet including collaborations with numerous artists and writers (Max Ronnersjo, Inka Lindergard and Niclas Holmstrom, Matthew Feyld, Thobias Faldt, Natalie Rognsoy, etc. While zero profit, info-dense, creativity-driven publications like PWR PAPER are thriving, the commercial flipside is presented by Newspaper Death Watch.

Monster Practice, on architecture and creativity in general / Slack-a-gogo, a music blog / homage? things and things. Cleverly venturing into the world of the retail portal / Poetix, a weblog / Veronique, a tumblr / n+1 magazine / glass pope, a tumblr / all about the Victorian Turkish Bath.

Secret Projects, unbuilt projects and aviation technology / thetimbrown has created a graphic entitled Namco's Visual Arcade History, 1978-2009. A shame it's not larger / online Rollercoaster Creator / roller coaster image above from a selection of coaster patent drawings at the wheeled vehicles section of the Jitterbuzz page / My mouth still looks asleep, a weblog about 'mental ill-health and its possibilities' / moominsean, a weblog all about old cameras.


in search of the Swiss Cheese building: 'Oh my God! In Chicago, we get bent out of joint because two supertall towers - the Chicago Spire and the Waterview Tower - are unfinished because of the real estate crash. But this section of Dubai, which is called Business Bay, is the crash on a whole different order of magnitude. I counted at least 20 unfinished towers, and they came in every different shape and size--some with V-shaped, folded facades, others with belly-like fronts, still others that splayed outward on both sides. This is an entire district of unfnished buildings--a ghost city, with just a smattering of construction workers on the job.'

Perhaps modern ruins will become an integral part of the contemporary cityscape, just as parts of rural Spain and Greece are dotted with half-finished quasi-agricultural structures, filling time as storehouses and sheds until their concrete frames can be finished (see the work of Sam Appleby, for example). To think of ruins in advance is to have a suspiciously vainglorious eye on posterity. For example, the epic historical essay Losing the War (via Me-fi) has a section on Hitler and Albert Speer's concept of 'ruin value': 'Maybe it was possible to factor a certain decay mode into their designs, to ensure that some picturesque element of each structure would survive. Arches or pediments or rows of pillars could be reinforced far beyond the requirements of the load they would carry, so that they would still be standing after the rest of the structure was dust - ensuring that even the wreckage of the Reich would inspire awe.'

Awe is not the dominant emotion associated with ruins. Nostalgia, perhaps. Right now, the embedded potential of a half-finished, abandoned or decaying building isn't the first thing that comes to mind. This might be changing. A few years ago Domus magazine ran an ideas competition around Pyongyang's Ryugyong Hotel, now finally nearing completion, transformed from a concrete shell of limitless potential into a gaudy po-mo spike. And according to this Bloomberg report, it was the first fevered splurges of jagged creativity at Ground Zero that inspired the even larger splurge of jagged creativity that is Las Vegas's CityCenter ('The Capital of the New World'), larger, swifter and with far more avant-garde angles than the smoothed off GZ will ever have.

Perhaps the emergence of the modern ruin - whole cities of ruins - will come to represent a shift in cultural production, a more contemplative, romanticised notion of progress whereby things take time and the relentless boom is forever banished. Already, abandoned technology and stifled progress holds a place in popular culture, be it Noah Sheldon's atmospheric images of Biosphere 2 (via me-fi) or Adam Bartos's 'Kosmos: A Portrait of the Russian Space Age' or the post-Chernobyl landscape of Pripyat. All are powerfully emotive spaces.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

An artificial kingdom, Joakim Dahlqvist's epic pen and ink drawings of imaginary lands - Aristide and Podalida - two extraordinarily complex cityscapes that blur the forms of contemporary architecture (he has worked with OMA/AMO, amongst others) with intense doodling. Dahlqvist describes the images as part of a 'self-initiated study of superdense cities', and they belong to that literary and artistic tradition of the utopia, a place defined through the eyes of am unfamiliar visitor.

Density also appears to be one of the defining conditions of the modern age, a state that demands a constantly shifting veil of shallow complexity to be drawn across every medium. The aggregation of news, information, objects and opinion is just one manifestation of this complex veil, the myriad patterns of parametric design are another. This is a new topography of information, one which we must navigate using new methods. Studio Kinglux is a 'trends and culture bureau', just one of many guides to post-post modernity.

We wonder what the first example of this genre of research specialisation was? At what point did 'creativity' become a commodity that could be surveyed, mined, refined and distilled as if it were something physical? There are clues. At the turn of the century, the newly-elected Labour government set great stock in Britain as a manufactory of ideas, spearheaded by former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Chris Smith's Creative Britain, a sort of manifesto of nothingness that proclaimed the new age of creative economics.

In order for creativity to impact on the economy, it must be consumed. Complexity and density is our new planned obsolescence, an abstract replacement for the physical act of incremental changes and upgrades. Perhaps we've been jaded by several years of watching 'creative work' flashing before our eyes online, a conveyor-belt of loveliness that translates not into a new kind of commodity fetish but rather a fetish for novelty and invention.

Trends and culture is now shorthand for the kind of entrepreneurial, cultural-industrial process epitomised by Damien Hirst's Spin Paintings (used on the cover of Smith's book), through to personalised apps or the micro-economic culture of Etsy (coffee cup art) and eBay, the portfolio face-offs of and the relentless cascade of tumblrs.


Majuscle, a zine by Brad Walker / see also the SameTime2010 project / say no to cynicism in 2010 with the Succeed Blog / watch B-movies in your browser with AMC TV / fashion imagery and more at Phicto (regularly nsfw) / how to make an imaginary flag into a county emblems / Bootlegs from Buckleberry, live sets / Lunch Money throws imagery at you (occasionally nsfw) / What type are you? Password: character / Curious Pages, 'recommended inappropriate books for kids'. The Winter Blast! post is fun / the FoundFootageFest. Mostly very depressing snippets of a more earnest, unfiltered, unselfconscious time.

Paris, 1962, via Kottke. More on the sad saga of Les Halles at this Metafilter post from 2004, with a few historic images of the original 'stomach of Paris'. Chris Heathcote has a set of image grabs of Covent Garden on his flickr stream, the demolition of which was contemporaneous to Les Halles but which was saved rather than flattened in the early 70s. Vaguely related, a gigantic panorama of Prague, so big as to be entirely unusable when zoomed in.

The Artificial Marketplace, a second hand store in New Bedford, Massachusetts, that nods to Celeste Olaloquiaqa's classic of kitsch iconography, The Magic Kingdom (reviewed in things 11 but not yet online). See also Scott Teplin's beautiful Alphabet City.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The car park as a way of life, Herzog + de Meuron's bravura reinterpretation of the parking garage, a mutable space that uses the draw of automotive architecture as a catalyst for regeneration. An old strategy, one might think. 'The idea is to create a series of layers that extend the public realm up into the building, to attract events, parties and life into the structure. Both architects and developer see the structure as an experiment in a new kind of downtown transport architecture, a building as exciting to enter as to emerge from, blinking into the Miami sun. This may be optimistic, but it's a good story.'

And yet. Consider the South China Mall, home of the 'Teletubbies Edutaiment Centre' and the self-proclaimed 'First super-mega shopping theme park of China' is 'almost completely empty' (via me-fi). A sterile collision of Vegas-lite iconism, temples to euphoric consumption and theme hotels, a monument to the ambition of one man, entirely bereft of a logistically or strategically beneficial location. Near empty, with just a handful of tenants, it represents a piece of both artificial urbanism and artificial capitalism, where the maintenance employees simply re-do what they did the day before, happy to have a job and bosses who won't listen to suggestions for change, and where the store workers are bored out of their minds. The only future is as a slowly declining ruin, enlivened by the steady influx of adhocism and the abandonment of the ideology of the brand. It will be fascinating to watch.


Hilobrow and Significant Objects, two sites we really should pay more attention to / all about Room A in the National Gallery, which will surely not stay a 'secret' for long / studiotwentysix2, a weblog / a graphic cartography of Japan, strange, often nsfw.

kickcans and conkers, a blog with a crafts emphasis / little brown mushroom, a weblog with contributors including photographers Alec Soth (Sleeping by the Mississippi), Carrie Thompson and Charlie Ward / tmn's albums of 2009 / time capsules.

Warped at loud paper / liveevil, music and more / weblog name of the year, the Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week / a highly desirable Dieter Rams Poster to celebrate the current Design Museum Exhibition / the new Casa Morandi Museum / for reference, Google Image Ripper.

The Willis Fleming Historical Trust is a exemplerary illustration of how relatively esoteric historical information can be presented online. Search the collections, which include The Catalogue of Dispersed Objects. More about the Fleming Estate, which spanned Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Bond and Saab, via these Saab stories / Werner Herzog and Krautrock, at John Whitlock / many ways to make cookies / 25 times a second, a tumblr / The Fall, Richard Mosse's photographs of the 'wreckage of celebrated machines and technologies ... slowly being absorbed by the natural world.'

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
As 3D flythroughs of the real world get more detailed, the hidden nooks and crannies of the city will eventually all be laid bare. There'll be no 'here be dragons' in the 21st century, as every buttress, alley, terrace, tower, parapet, oriel, spire (see View from the top of the Burj Dubai's spire) will be revealed. As a result, interior life will become richer, more involved, the open plan living ideal will be overtaken by a desire for rooms and corridors, mezzanines, steps, landings, closets, pantries, wardobes and attics. See also this question about the best 'Virtual Vacation Worlds', indicative perhaps of a desire for travel to places that truly can't be _seen_ by anyone else.


Such Hawks Such Hounds, 'Scenes From the American Hard Rock Underground', a documentary / Terrifying Tales for Christmas, put together by One Eye Grey. See the map of scary London / Ghost of Shopping Past / the world of the MakerBot, a preview / Google Goggles, uses camera images as the basis for a google image search / RIP Larry Sultan.

The Apathist, a fashion blog / the Obama Watch, a Jorg Gray 6500 Chronometer (via the Guardian) / J230 TJM, the victim of 'automotive involuntary euthanasia' / a frightening thought: imagine porn-a-like facial recognition technology. Simply upload the photograph of the person you want in porn, adjusting the sliders as necessary, and the facializer will scan through a large database of adult performers until it finds the best matches.


Twilight of the American Newspaper, a rambling ode to newspaper barons, San Francisco, and the slow death of the newspaper as a voice of a community: 'We no longer imagine the newspaper as a city or the city as a newspaper.' / the ABCs of branding at The Best Part / illlustrations by Camilla Engman / The Itty Bitty Hearing Trumpet, a weblog / the pandas are moshing, a carefully curated image tumblr / a collection, a tumblr.

Men Health gets caught cutting and pasting / Casual Optimist, a fine weblog with a literary focus. Includes our Pelican Project in its 10 Websites for Vintage Books, Covers and Inspiration / island for sale. See also private islands online / David Ruperti has a photography weblog / sketches by Tom Hovey.

Interactive Map: a decade of road deaths in the UK / Legos on Hoth / Slow Muse, a weblog / all about the Austin Ant, a true small 4x4 that wouldn't suit a world where small is no longer beautiful / Ir/rational is a game about being rational, whipping you into a philosphical frenzy within seconds of switching on the lights.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fuego Fanzine, a new publication with a flying saucer theme / images from Design for the other 90%, plus associated review / Patricia - Vanishing Mother, a photo series by Ellen Jantzen / Grafik Magazine has a new website and blog / spun with spider silk / ride the Magic Highway (1958) / Where Warcraft and I began, and why Warcraft matters, Tom Chatfield on the fifth anniversary of the game /

Lego's advent calendar, like Muji's before it illustrate the growing fashion for using this seasonal device as a way of spooling out 25 days worth of product (even branching out onto magazine covers. See also Mighty Goods' advent calendar round-up from last year. The winner is undoubtedly Playmobil, which seems to have mastered the art of blending the religious iconography of the calendar with the strictly secular world of its toys.

Question Mark Question Mark Question Mark, via an especially cynical me-fi. Related, Found Sounds / all you need to know: How the H1N1 vaccine is made, Kottke gets all in-depth and ultra-informative / map: the UK's greatest driving roads / another fine blog post, This Means Something, Fantastic Journal on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (wikipedia).

Boars and Fury, a tumblr / inMexico, a weblog / Mikko Canini / The Gervais Principle, Or The Office According to "The Office" / A Ravilious and Bawden Blog, part of the magnificent Mainstone Press / Y Mag, architecture magazine and weblog / SLAB Magazine, 'The Heuristic Journal for Gonzo Blurbanism' / Taschen's majestic Moon.

What Will Become of Brand Dubai?, 'The bubble burst and everything that Dubai stood for - overt displays of wealth and conspicuous consumption fell dramatically out of vogue.' / videos of Arcosanti (Arcosanti site) / Heuristic England, a weblog / Quiet Babylon, a weblog (especially the recent post 'Hacking with Pictures') / Nuits sans Nuit et Quelques Jours sans Jour, a weblog

We are independently wealthy, a weblog / Makeshift, 'an experimental fanzine about architecture and its alternatives' / 'What Do Presidential Libraries Say About Their Namesakes' Legacies?' / Grain of Salt, design, urbanism and architecture weblog.

All about The Peckham Experiment. See also our extracts from The Peckham Experiment: a study of the living structure of society / Voitures Presidentielles, a French car museum (via Jalopnik) / Copy©unts, on advertising copyism (via haddock). Combine with PhotoshopDisasters and Bad British Architecture for a strong dose of creative professional schadenfreude.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Tim Abrahams on Tempelhof in Blueprint. The airport is now mothballed: 'The Mayor seems determined to build on Berlin’s reputation as a playground. It is ironic that he is closing airports given how vital he clearly thinks weekend trips are to Berlin’s future. It is hard not to visit Tempelhof and think what a great airport it would make.' Alternatively, how about The Berg, a frankly silly use for the large amount of empty urban space (via archinect). Shades of MVRDV's Serpentine Mountain, ultimately dismissed as unbuildable. More Berg at ArchDaily. Terraforming technology needs to speed up.

Equally unbelievable, perhaps, the world's second tallest building (and largest building by floorspace), the Abraj Al Bait Tower complex is nearing completion in Saudi Arabia. As it's not a classic spike-like tower (unlike Burj Dubai), the overall effect of height is minimised. Whereas Burj Dubai has topped out at an impressive 818m, the Al Bait Towers are projected to top 595m, making the gap between 1st and 2nd an impressive 223 metres, a shade taller than the Hoover Dam. It's a sprawling complex, built atop the site of the Ajyad Fortress, an 18th century Ottoman Fort (cue understandable outcry from Turkey) . From wikipedia: 'To accommodate worshipers who visit the Kaaba, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers will have a large prayer room capable of holding nearly ten thousand people. The tallest tower in the complex will also contain a seven-star hotel to help provide lodging for the over five million pilgrims who travel to Mecca annually to participate in hajj.

In addition, the Abraj Al-Bait Towers will have a four-story shopping mall and a parking garage capable of holding over a thousand vehicles. Residential towers will house permanent residents while two heliports and a conference center are to accommodate business travelers. In total, up to 100,000 people would be housed inside the towers. The project will use clock faces for each side of the Hotel tower. The clocks will be 80 meters high 80 meters wide. They will be located 530 meters high, which would make it the world's highest and largest clock.'


Other things. Dugpa, a 'David Lynch electrical resource' / mythologie des lucioles, a photography blog / Hippolyte Bayard, a weblog / Arctic Visions, a journal on photography / The Witch Fire, a weblog / a fine John Portman Retrospective / illustration by Tymek Jezierski / art and sculptural installations by Miquel Navarro / Thomas Hirschhorn builds things and environments out of cardboard.

Enter The Cloud, a scalable monument to technology. This one has Dan Hill all over it, and so it proved. The idea of a floating, hovering thing that looms over the city, providing an injection of technology, information and visible futurism runs all the way from El Lissitzky's Cloud-Irons through to the quasi-inhabited airships of Blade Runner to recent works by Alsop and even contemporary speculative proposals (e.g. The Cloud by Atelier Hapsitus).

Notes on Brian Dillon's Unearthing the Ruin talk at the Barbican. Sad to miss this, particularly the hints at the 'Psychological links between ruin lust and nostalgia' / on the Edge, mass game re-naming / 3D art and games on the Ogre Forums / turning the Farnsworth House into a fetish object / the USA takes Halloween very seriously indeed / house-swaps and short-term rentals at Roomorama, pitched at the transient, youthful, responsibility free demographic (we say huffily), but interesting nonetheless / Voyeur Project / the London Screen Archive.

Mimoa is now on Layar / @issue, a journal of business and design / the Center for the Recycling and Reuse of Buildings / Plan 59, linked here for the nth time in order to help us find its blend of retro art, advertising and illustration / Bell Labs in the 1960s (via Plep). Every workplace should be documented like this. Related, the story of Jan Hendrik Schön, a researcher at Bell Laboratories with an apparent Midas touch.

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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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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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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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Thursday, September 03, 2009

What is new? The above image comes from the promotional website for Belgia, an idealised 'Belgian-style' community near Moscow, complete with Dutch gables and windmills. We hadn't considered the suburbs of Belgium to represent a suburban domestic idyll, but clearly a Russian developer thinks otherwise. The site is exceptionally heavy on flash (found via The FWA), stuffed full of movies of sunbathing 'desperate housewives' and dense brickwork patterns. As the montage suggests, this is a piece of instant utopia, a place where there are no unexpected architectural juxtapositions, just choices made in an attempt to emulate an ideal, a sense of atmosphere that is, in itself, largely a fiction.

How much does this obvious fiction relate to 'genuine' best urban places and spaces, a flickr group-into-book project, organised by Dan at City of Sound, Russell Davies and James Goggins as a sort of user manual of the intangible, the spaces and places that give delight but that aren't consciously designed. Related, Hong Kong, then and now, thanks to Hong Kong Man. See also Normandy 1944, then and now and Ardennes, then and now. Also, Manhattan Island, then and now, with much more at the Manhatta Project.


Recycle LACMA: 'On January 14th, 2009 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced that it was deaccessioning more than 100 items from its costumes and textiles collection. Once carefully collected, catalogued, and cared for, these items have now been cast back out in to the world. What will happen to them? Like any other useless item, they will need to be recycled or disposed of. Recycle LACMA is a project of Los Angeles-based artist Robert Fontenot. At three separate auctions he purchased over 50 items deaccessioned by LACMA and is now trying to find new uses for these otherwise unwanted items.' (many thanks to Sarah)

La Premiere Rue, dedicated to modern architectural heritage / the Zundapp Janus 750, a microcar / Painted Bride Quarterly, a literary magazine / Ranya Chantal's weblog / nomenus quarterly, an art quarterly / 44, a tumblr / The Ragbag, a tumblr / turn anywhere into a place of abandoned splendour with the tourist remover / Cabinet of Signs, photography by Alan Thomas / Sftrajan's Photostream.

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, seemingly still pertinent / Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan Rocket, a novice car designer maximises global publicity for his debut project / aesthetically related, the Mohs Safarikar, a post at Ectomo.

Photography by Philippe Munda (via 2 or 3 things) / art installations at Evoldaily's flickr stream, especially the miniature ruins / David Pearson's flickr stream is filled with Penguin design imagery / the Carbuncle Cup has a winner. Bad British Architecture would concur.

Field recordings at freesound, a couple of thousand of them. See (hear) also the brown noise and soundscape tags, as well as dark-ambient and dissonant. There's also a field recordings section at Epitonic, a website we haven't frequented for years. This may have been the first place we ever found an mp3.

Down to a sunless sea is an obscure piece of apocalyptic literature from the early 80s, the final peak of Cold War paranoia with the establishment of Greenham Common Peace Camp, a couple of years before Threads, and the 'evil empire' soon to be prominent in everyone's minds. We read this book in around 1986 and most of the Amazon commenters - the vast majority of whom give it five stars - seem to be returning to it. Wikipedia has a plot summary, revealing how the book neatly conflates techno-obsession, nuclear paranoia, and survivalism into a bizarrely satisfying whole (related, a catalogue of nuclear accidents).

Thanks for the link, Australian PC Authority.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A fine set of renders of the Shard, marking the start of a highly cinematic phase of architectural presentation. Gaming is also getting more cinematic, yet paradoxically, the visions created by game designers are more architectural, experimental and extravagant. Procedural Destruction and the Algorithmic Fiction of the City, a guest post by Jim Rossignol at BLDGBLOG, on procedurally generated landscapes in games. Related, Cananbalt, a random scrolling urban landscape via RPS

Does Beijing's CCTV building contain hidden allusions to architectural pornography? See the images in question (nsfw) / The Immaculate Consumption, bringing together old magazine ads - weblogs like this are always entertaining / Saint Verde Digest, a weblog / scans of the 1965 Ikea Catalogue / Gallic road-planning, tail-end of silly season.

Informative and somewhat pertinent: the curious appeal of miscellanea - 'Why do we turn to Britain for useless information? Britain is the parents’ house that American culture moved out of. It has so much more storage space than our place, and we can always rummage through the bookshelves and the attic when we visit.... Or they’re more comfortable amid the picturesque ruins of the old informational empire. The broken brickwork of authoritative knowledge - Bartlett's, Hoyle, Debrett's, Guinness, the Boy Scout Handbook - has become the deftly juggled informational bits of Schott's. Cool Britannica.'

Related, all about the Musgrave Collection in Eastbourne / The Littlejohn Collection's photostream / Container List, 'the blog of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, featuring weekly graphics and ephemera from the design archives at the School of Visual Arts.' / Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries at Curious Expeditions, a baroque cascade of bibliomania so rich that the smell of musty volumes practically seeps out of the screen. The literal stacking of knowledge in the ancient library is poorly served by the internet. A couple of modern libraries, the self-consciously iconistic proposal for National Library of Kazakhstan and the complex and controversial Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico.

Art by Max Ducos / art by Denise Kupferschmidt / art by Malcolm Liepke. More at Sexuality in Art (nsfw) / photography by Dan Holdsworth / accused of card-carrying neophilia, Will Wiles pens a retort to the conservationist impulse to recreate the Euston Arch. We're in two minds about this. On the one hand, the demolition of the Arch was bureaucratic philistinism at its most infuriating.

Fig.8 is a beautiful flash game (via RPS / there's something rather hermetic about Starck's much-heralded Motor Yacht A / The Zinc Roof, an architecture weblog / explore Google Moon / the ephemera assemblyman / the Dieter Rams flickr group.

Mad Men channels Huxtable, referencing the ill-considered decision to knock down Penn Station / Los Angeles in (500) days of Summer, a google map / 'This blog charts the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of researching and writing my new book, The Chinese Typewriter.' / Translinguistic Other, a weblog / Marydebat's weblog.

'Explore Murray Hill through Images and Maps' / Minor Mania, all about the Morris Minor / a blueprint of Soyuz, one of many high resolution images available at Vincent Meens's Space Model Web Page / the Cliff House Project, 'The goal of this website is to preserve the visual imagery of Adolph Sutro’s Victorian Cliff House. It was neither the first structure nor the last to carry the name of Cliff House, but it was certainly the most grand. Sadly, its existence was short-lived. It was constructed in 1896 and, like so many wooden structures of that era, burned completely to the ground in September of 1907.' The postcards make today's most ambitiously cinematic architectural renders look positive realistic.

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