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Sunday, January 17, 2010


Simplistic Art brings together good reading and links / Good Type, Bad Type, a tumblr / the purest of treats, a weblog (occasionally nsfw) / pentimento / polarama, a weblog (usually nsfw) / we haven't scoured Strength Weekly for a while, but this post on Fairy Liquidity is an entertaining look at how the sprite disappeared from folklore and legend before rematerialising in the ad industry: 'It's odd that even today advertisements for all sorts of products are adorned with snappy, winsome little homunculi'.

R-O-B, 'Flexible Production of Building Elements', a robotised bricklayer and a winner at Wallpaper's 2010 Design Awards / Mockitecture, a weblog, especially the post on Extra-Ordinary Architecture, 'terrible and naughty' / Forgotten Ohio, via Guy.

Indian Book Depot, which produces some superb posters (via The Estrangement Gallery / Strength Weekly, a weblog / Metaltype, 'the place for Printers and Typesetters who remember the old days of Letterpress Printing to come and reminisce'.

FOOL, 'the transformative potential of objects' / World of Warcraft, an architectural perspective / Susanna Blasco's weblog / theGAME, the world of the highly desirable Casio Game Calculators.

Mountains of Paper, music related ephemera / Cumbernauld Town Centre, long celebrated by modernists and blasted by traditionalists, has held a design competition that will 'transform and develop the existing situation into a coherent town centre.'

Me Studio on the graphic evolution of The Highway Code: 'they also clearly show an evolution in design, fashion, automotive, typography and printing technology between those nine years... whereas the first one still displays some of the 'homely' naivety of the late fifties with kids sat on fences and young men in open-top sports cars etc. the second has a certain serious, more business like tone of voice to it, to me they represent and nicely illustrate the end of one era and the birth of the following one'.

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Archive and Conquer, a tumblr, tapped into the new vogue for curation culture, linking to this essay, 'A Complimentary Rant on the State of Convenience at Repository. From Archive and Conquer, a paragraph that's worth quoting in full:

'I worry about the echo chamber of tumblrs and their ilk and the meaningless repetition and amplification of digital objects. Iím obsessed with the way that people collect, hoard, and re-broadcast photos and music and words without also creating their own. Iím not saying every tumblr reblogging pictures of hot girls in kitten earmuffs or grainy photos of Parisian cafes is as intentional and special as [Gabriel] Orozco's working tables, but the impulse, I think, is similar. We are overwhelmed, and if we can pick and chose a few objects that we like, put them in a place where we can keep them, it helps us to exercise some kind of control over the flood, even if it leads to visual/aural/literary ADD and a tawdry kind of exhibitionism: look at all these things I found. But while Iíd rather not bother with some peoplesí online collections, I think some are interesting as works in progress, and some seem like ready-made archives, perfect and complete.'

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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.

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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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Sunday, April 19, 2009


Zion on the Prairie, the architecture of a very particular kind of utopia, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). An article by Adam Marcus on the environment created by this briefly notorious polygamist sect in Eldorado, Texas. This is design with a very particular brief: 'the typical FLDS house strives to project the idealized image of American domesticity, yet everything is scaled up in size as needed in order to accommodate the numerous sister-wives, as the brides are called, and scores of children who live inside'. The piece, in Museo Magazine, comes with a useful interactive map of the compound. See also our earlier post on Mormon architecture.

This is an architecture of preparation: 'The logistical foresight is staggering; the FLDS were able to build, from nothing, an infrastructural apparatus that includes a water pumping station; wastewater treatment plant; provisions for food including agricultural fields, orchards, livestock pens, and grain silos; and education, healthcare, and security systems, while also making plans for the construction of future buildings, with the intent of supporting a population in the thousands', topped off with fortified religious structures that embody 'American tradition of neoclassical municipal building that can be found in small towns throughout the country'.

Compare and contrast to another (speculative) utopian community. The Venus Project offers a comprehensive guide to creating a new future (via No Tech Magazine). Although the Project states explicitly that it is neither 'utopian nor Orwellian, nor does it reflect the dreams of impractical idealists', the Venus Project is unashamedly idealist, with a glossy, retro-modern cityscape - a blend of Corb, Calatrava, Mayer H and Niemeyer - purporting to be the future backdrop for a new society built on a set of lofty ambitions (starting with an experimental city and theme park).

The Venus Project is driven by what one would now call an old-fashioned faith in the power of technology to 'banish boredom and repetition'. These city renderings and transport concepts are straight out of the pages of Eagle or 2000AD or even the work of Luigi Colani, all of which posited the survival of base human and corporate instincts as driving factors in tomorrow's world. Instead, Jacque Fresco ('project founder and director') has created a lifeless, empty urbanism, devoid of human feeling or presence, all in the name of progress towards a world of endless leisure. Yet seen side by side with the Eldorado complex, and it appears that each shares a touching faith in the role of architecture in shaping behaviour and expectations. See also wikipedia's list of utopian communities.

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We used to notice slight spikes in traffic when we led with an image, but these seem to have tailed off (as has traffic in general). Things will always be about physical things but the role of text and analysis has and always will be central to the publication (although readers might have noticed that the physical publication itself has been in an extremely long stretch of self-imposed limbo). As talk of design, objects and collections shifts from the linguistic to the strictly visual, it seems ever more important to write about objects and the role they play in contemporary life - and, by definition, the role that collecting and collections play as well - rather than simply add to the ever-growing museum that is the internet. It seems increasingly clear to us that things' role is not one of curator, but guide.

An Ambitious Project Collapsing, a weblog with an emphasis on the found photograph / old negatives scanned by Jason Lapeyre / images from Andrew Bush's Driving While Standing Still project at tmn / a treasure trove of contemporary radio: shows by Adam and Joe and Chris Morris for download.

Basically, at the moment, every time someone watches a video on YouTube, it costs Google about 10Ę / Even Cleveland, a weblog / the Waldo Wiki / Interstate Outlaws, a remake of a classic 90s PC game / watch e-commerce take place at the Zappos Map (via atlas(t)).

A selection of retro flickr groups: Atomic Housewives; vintage cook books; vintage advertising; Vintage Craft and Needlework magazines. Other groups that caught our eye: Xeroxes, Scans, and Faxes; Scotland: Then and Now; Vintage Engravings, Etchings, Lithographs and Wood-block Prints.

More alternative collections: women losing their shoes in movies / Welcome to the Time Machine! Bikini Science Chronology, via Coudal, which also links WebUrbanist's fine set of 20 iconic concept cars / Microkhan, a weblog (via, via) / and still the ephemera keeps coming: Pennsylvania Turnpike System circa 1953 and John F. Kennedy Int'l Airport 1964, two souvenir booklets / 3600 VHS video covers, helpfully placed in alphabetical order.

RIP JG Ballard: watch Ballardian for the tributes. And, of course, Metafilter for the links.

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