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Tuesday, January 06, 2009


A small selection of general links. Right now, haddock is the place to go to catch up on all the holiday media splurges, like the BBC Today programme guest editors (who included Zaha Hadid) / 'An animation showing edits to the OpenStreetMap.org project during 2008' / six-month pinhole camera exposure / R Cubed is an astonishingly bitter newsletter, now defunct, that excoriates the critical community.

The Rat and Mouse has a go at predicting the next shift in the UK property market / Strange Maps on cartocacoethes, 'the compulsion to see maps everywhere' / on the possibility that hauntings exist but ghosts do not / on 60 years of the 7" single. See the flickr 45rpm Group for several thousands fine examples of the art / is the latest Libeskind design little more than 'a crude and unavoidable reminder of the horrors of 9/11'? More images at Curbed; are those 'gashes' or simply openings?

Ben Fry's All Streets project creates a skeletal map of the USA from its tarmac infrastructure (via SuperSpatial). See also James Medcraft's Anatomy of the UK series / Swapatorium moved to flickr / would Curbed's Floorplan porn section work in the UK? The real estate market here isn't as spatially aware as the Americans (or even the French).

*

Pelican of the Week: Digging up the Past. While the back covers of these books rarely match up to the fronts, there are plenty of nuggets to be gleaned from the jackets. Sir Leonard Woolley's classic introduction to the archaeologist's work was an attempt at confirming the profession as a science, not the preserve of treasure hunting gallivants, the fedora-toting hard-men battling through lost civilisations on the covers of countless pulp novels (and later burnished into mass culture through the composite character of Indiana Jones.

Woolley was best known for his 1922 excavations at Ur, the ancient Sumerian city that sits slap bang in the middle of modern Iraq. He was also a close acquaintance of Agatha Christie, who was fascinated with the Middle East and its potential for myth and mystery. Twenties Iraq was quite the hotbed of activity for the bright young, and not so young, things, including Gertrude Bell, founder not just of the lately much beleaguered Baghdad Archaeological Museum but also the very make-up of modern Iraq, soon to become a very strategic location indeed.

Hackney-born, Woolley led an often unconventional life, immersed in his work and ruled by his women. From the Christie link at the fascinating (though highly partisan) Winscan site: 'A man who goes to bed in one room with a length of string leading from his big toe to his hypochondriac wife's wrist in another room, so that she can tug on it at the onset of a headache, might be said to deserve his fate, or perhaps a sainthood'. Such were the preoccupations of the people who created modern archaeology, the modern mystery thriller and the modern mixed-up nation state, each entirely unrelated save for the close proximity of their creators.

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Friday, January 02, 2009
Epic images from NASA's Cassini Probe / be careful what you wish for. Back in August 2007, icon magazine included a feature called Why design needs a recession / paintings by Dane Lovett / Have you ever thrown a book across a room? And which books? / Radio La, a weblog / Grevytrain, a weblog / Schematic Map of UK Postcode areas and the United States.

Thanks to Fantastic Journal for the recognition. It's pretty rare for architects to maintain weblogs, and it must be even rarer for two out of three key partners in a major practice to run sites that neatly cross boundaries between architecture and culture and totally dispel the myth that architects are closeted in ivory towers, utterly unaware of things like instant decorative snow (strange harvest) - an undeniably architectural object - and submerged buildings (fantastic journal)

The Language of Things, a rather scathing review of the new Deyan Sudjic book, which laments the abscence of a 'theoretical agenda', stating that the 'design community' needs to be 'as comfortable as the art world with the idea of questioning itself'. What theoretical tools are there to be unpacked? It seems to us that the role of design spectator has become the defining position of the age; we consume design not through use, but through observation. Sudjic's book would seem to confirm this, with its focus on the emerging (and receding?) luxury industry, characterised by Selfridge's Wonder Room and countless hideous objects.

Abandoned London, photos by Ianvisits. See also the Derelict London group, inspired by the website of the same name / Saskatchewan Ghost Towns. You have to dig about a bit to get to the photographs / Squashed writers / thanks to Slaw for the mention / Ruffly, a weblog / Life at HOK, an example of the new breed of corporate blog. The Whole Buffalo one is also a 'corporate' blog, in that it's run by members of the St Luke's agency in London / The Endsheet, a weblog devoted to book design.

Jonathan Beller's project 'Fans' is a collection of obsessives. See also James Mollison's gallery of disciples / we have a new project, 'Touring', 'the famous automobile card game' published by George, Charles and Edward Parker in 1926.

*

Pelican of the Week, an occasional series. Learning to Philosophize, by E.R.Emmet, with a cover by Robert Hollingsworth. Not a lot to find out about the designer, apart from this Design article from October 1972, when the publisher's design department was overseen by David Pelham. Pelham was given carte blanche to revitalise the aesthetic approach of the series - the visual mish-mash of the mid to late 1960s is very evident. Learning to Philosophize isn't perhaps the greatest thing to come out of the era, with its self-conscious 'computer-style' typeface and awkward patterns.

We're indebted to the transcript of Pelham's 2007 talk at the V and A on the Creative Review blog, which reveals how he drew on work by artists like Eduardo Paolozzi and Allen Jones, who would not only provide original works but also their magpie-like eyes for the ephemera of the late Pop era: 'Every now and again [Paolozzi would] give me a rather fat file of visually interesting little cuttings that he habitually clipped out of magazines: technological magazines such as Scientific American and wonderful science-fiction magazines and so forth'. From Design: 'Other writers are simply dogmatic: Nabokov insists on his own design [although the Design article contradicts this], which means that nearly every cover looks different; Salinger insists on the same plain silver backs being written into every contract; Gunter Grass does the covers, like everything else, himself.' Many other insights on that page.

There are also some contemporary covers reproduced at this Designer Daily post on Pelican/Penguin cover art. Also related, Scientific American Cover Art, with particular emphasis on the artwork of the 1950s and 1960s. The Penguin Collectors Society.

As for the book itself, Learning to Philosophize was described as a ''think-it-yourself' handbook for the application of logic and philosophy in daily life', a sort of proto-de Bono or de Botton, with the 'digital' design tapping into then contemporary thoughts on the emergence of artifical intelligence and the relationship between the brain and the computer. Next time we do this we'll try and include an actual extract from the book in question. Promise.

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