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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 its 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.

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

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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.'

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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.

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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.

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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_.

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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).

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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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