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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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Tuesday, February 23, 2010
An impending darkness. We've recently become aware of Blogger's intention to 'switch off' something called FTP publishing. Last time we looked, our settings said ominously 'You are publishing via FTP'. Admittedly there seems to be plenty of information out there (e.g. Blogger FTP info) but it highlights an unwelcome side effect of 'push button publishing'; that one inevitably forgets exactly what each button does, only that one needs to push it. The things facade is paper thin, jerry-built on a rickety frame of bad html, poor design decisions and fudges, its foundations swampy and prone to subsidence. Remove one brick and the whole edifice is in danger of tumbling down. We'll endeavour to 'migrate' with minimum inefficiency, but if anyone knows of a 'one button solution' that turns this particular structure into a shiny wordpress blog without bringing this whole charade cascading about our ears, we'd love to hear it.


Other things. The BBC posts about the Boneyard, or AMARG, to give it its official title / imagery collected at Fontanel / 20 Jazz Funk Greats, an mp3 blog / Spoilt Victorian Child has re-emerged as SVC Records / Filling the Gap, slightly psychedelic photo manipulations / Sky: A Dubai Video by Philip Bloom.

The work of Reynaud Philippe, especially 'Forms of Google Earth' / dead spaces: beneath motorways, places Joe Moran writes about quite successfully / it was a pleasure to be linked on this page, all about a new global visual language for the BBC's digital services' (slightly bandwidth murdering though). It's a fascinating read - almost as in depth as Dan Hill's legendary analysis of

Street poetry at a barriga de um arquitecto / Abbatts cards at Kickcan and Conkers / possible use for Chat Roulette: as a venue for an endless imaginary gig, with a constantly shifting, demanding, restless and attention-deficit audience / on tape fetishism. Hardly surprising: every technology has a twilight, a passing and a revival / design by Tom Skipp.

Art and photography by Christoph Draeger, including Catastrophes 1 and 2 and Voyages Apocalyptiques / Satan's Laundromat, an abandoned photolog / The Holy Sandwich / recommended: Life Stories, a 'pick of the best profiles and life stories from news and magazine sites and blogs around the web' / via Life Stories, extracts from the John Hughes Archive.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Hypertext as the death of arcana, or how the click killed curiosity. The depth of the internet is, of course, limitless, a bottomless pit of html that can take us off and away on any number of unexpected byways and diversions. Yet is this expectation of diversion flattening out our experience of the physical world? The days of an internet where every stumble was a moment of true discovery are gone forever, perhaps, as curatorial zeal fast overtakes quiet collectomania as the principle online activity.

This post at Tomorrow Museum sums it up, Facebook is worse than AOL: 'Back in the day, AOL had a lot of secret gardens. According to my friend Erin, there was a Spin magazine message board frequented by established rock critics that at an off the index location. A lot of corporations and publications created "channels" which would include chat rooms and message boards. These were about as successful as the businesses with Second Life presences. But some users would take over the dead space and make it their own. Several online friends and I once claimed the message boards for a Canadian radio station long after it was launched and quickly abandoned. Likely the citizens of Second Life do that with virtual ghost town storefronts.'

Remember when GeoCities died? It's a stretched metaphor, but many of those pages will turn into ancient overgrown walls marking strange patterns in the middle of a dense jungle, their purpose almost impossible to decipher. Internet archaeology is just another strand of curatorialism, fed by and the perverse attraction of digital kitsch, a medium that gains in curiosity and cute value far quicker than its real-world equivalent. Technological kitsch moves quickly, and digital kitsch even quicker still; the multimedia experiences of the last decade are quaint and laughable, just as we will soon be perversely thrilled by the clunkiness of 2010's attempts at augmented reality.


Martin Amis on Vladimir Nabokov / art by Paul Tebbott / Lady Gaga, the Illuminati Puppet / more conspiracy; was The London Weekly, a new freesheet in the capital, deliberately intended to be utterly awful? / state of the German magazine scene / Let's Celebrate with Cake / Art 313, odds and ends / what was the first ever hypertext document? The Aspen Movie Map, a sort of proto Google Streetview.

Spacemen: Friends and Foes, post-war paranoia manifested as science fiction presented as fact. Via Ask me-fi. Related, the Samsung Aircruise, a 'clipper in the clouds'. Steampunk meets the contemporary aesthetic / tni SYLLABUS, 'TNI readers curate the internet,' from The New Inquiry / mellabrown, a tumblr / Not until 2027, a tumblr / updownacross, a weblog / turrbull, a weblog / the ARCH+ photostream.

The Spatial Agency Database, architecture, design, theory and movements in biographical form / Up Close and Private, a web publication / After You Left, They Took It Apart: Demolished Paul Rudolph Homes, Photographs by Chris Mottalini / vans in the landscape, at Vans and the places where they were / OPEN Dalston, investigating planning issues in a London borough / Lightning Bolt, an interview.

Roger Ebert writing about Jermyn Street / Mayonaka, a tumblr / a touchscreen electric guitar from Misa / Sliding Lego house / buy a Russian Truck / Printeresting Notebook, a weblog / searching for rare vinyl in West Africa, especially these pictures: I, II. At Voodoo Funk.

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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'.


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. I’m obsessed with the way that people collect, hoard, and re-broadcast photos and music and words without also creating their own. I’m 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 I’d rather not bother with some peoples’ 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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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 08, 2009

Redub LLC has thought about the relationship between print and online: Don't Make Me Scroll, the story of the battle between the widespread but unwieldy conventions of 'Faux-Print' and the 'Magablog'. The post culminates in a link to Redub's own experiment in online presentation, kick-started with an interactive version of GOOD's Transportation Issue 015 (conventional GOOD website here). '... since we didn't have the high resolution of print, we took advantage of the screen's native attributes, namely, animation. I'd even posit that what the screen lacks in dots per inch it more than makes up for in dots per inch per second.'

Meanwhile, over at McSweeney's, there is the SF Panorama: "We at McSweeney’s love newspapers. We love the internet, too. But we believe that print newspapers are an invaluable part of the journalistic landscape. So we’ve spent five months collaborating with dozens of reporters, designers, photographers, and authors on a 21st-century newspaper prototype." A 'huge and luxurious prototype', the Panorama is intended to exploit the medium of paper, extolling its virtues over the web. This one will run and run. However, we can envisage the American Newspaper Repository getting excited about the Panorama.


Bitsavers, a digital archive of fading digital things: 'very little software for minicomputers and mainframes has survived in machine-readable form from the mid-seventies and earlier. If you know of surviving software on 1/2" tape, paper tape, cards, DECtape, etc. from users groups or computer manufacturers, please contact us. Equipment is available to recover these bits, and in some cases can be brought on-site.'

'The Historic "Blue Book" Photograph Collection is a compilation of images considered for, or published in, the Official Manual of the State of Missouri' / Pink Tentacle publishes illustrations by Shusei Nagaoka / OK Go's rather excellent video for WTF? / for this weekend only, The Apartment Project, in Broadway Market, London.

Before and After, the legacy of fast urbanisation at Oobject (via kottke) / more futures past and present: London in 2010 (flickr set). See also the current (January 2010) issue of Blueprint, which looks at what's coming up in 2010 (there's also an interesting piece on the threatened 'Maslennikov kitchen-factory (1930-32) built in the shape of a hammer and sickle', once home to ZIM watches. Google Map.

Sinclair Spectrum development / Brickstructures, your source for Lego architecture / a selection of simple magic tricks / Ellen Lupton's weblog, design and curating / Private Circulation, a pdf magazine / Letterology, a weblog / Payroll, a weblog / Cheapskate Chic, a fashion blog / Strange Maps assembles some accidental geography / Bryce Digdug, a weblog / Bentley double-decker charity bus / Rotating Kitchen, via piran cafe.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Phil Gyford asks Is modern web design too like print design? (via haddock). Very pertinent question, especially in these parts. From the comments, a post at Smashing Magazine on 'the death of the boring blog post?', which introduces the rather dread hybrid 'blogazine'. At the same time, the first speculative tablet demos are emerging, with Sports Illustrated leading the way. This format is rich with potential, but it also looks like it'll lend itself to hitherto unheard of levels of superficiality - trite, animated adverts, sensationalist content, the ongoing down-grading of the reading experience in favour of navigation tricks and a chocolate-box like smorgasbord of visual enticements.

After Michael Wolf's Paris Street View, comes Google Street Views, a site by artist Jon Rafman, via white noise of everyday life via Art Fag City. 'A future historian may wish to study the architecture of this soon-to-be-demolished Northern Parisian banlieu. If Google chooses, their systematic storing of panoramic views serves photography’s historic role of cultural preservation.' Rafman's blog. Google is pushing some custom streetviews at the moment, e.g. Lotus Test Track, Pompeii and Stonehenge.

Keeping tabs on Lego Universe, due next year / Trigger Happy Traitor provides 'post-rock for the people' / contemporary art at the Max Hetzler gallery / modern mysteries and myths / I make crop circles: ask me anything / One of those sentences that didn't seem especially feasible 25 years ago: Henry Rollins visits Bhopal for Vanity Fair.

Subnutty's Ship Schematics and Drawings flickr set / see also the great Cutaways Pool / the Christian Louboutin Barbie / Susan Everett's weblog / photographs by Richard Ross / photographs by Kathrin Kur / old school adventure gaming at (via Coudal) / Happical, a weblog / mammoth, a weblog.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Soon, there will be progress bars on everything, from traffic lights, cookers, lifts, underground stations, to queues and more. We will be incapable of accepting an amount of unspecified 'dead time' without some indicator of when that time will end and/or a way of passing it / Vintage French children's books at A Journey Round My Skull (via me-fi) / MTM, design movies aggregated / Text Patterns, a technology blog hosted at The New Atlantis.

Bad sex extracts. A worthy shortlist / Architect designs bungalow for 39-stone man, 'The doors are 1,100mm wide compared to a normal width of 900mm and [the contractor] had to check floor loads and the roof strength because of the need for the winches to have a 60-stone lifting capacity. The house is a lot more open-plan to minimise corridors and things like that. We've made it easier to move round the house and to get outside.'

Huis Marseille photography foundation is showing images from Edward Burtynsky's 'Oil' series / Dubai not too big to fail? A sharp reversal of earlier predictions of endless growth, plus limitless bail-outs from neighbours. Watch Kazakhstan for the next big thing / vaguely related, Natashism has created a book, unsettling changes in London's Architecture 2004-2009, a personal survey of the capital's altered, threatened or simply vanished buildings in a period of exceptional change.

Private Circulation, 'a monthly PDF bulletin. Previous issues have featured proposals, unrealized art projects, brief histories, photo collections, large posters, and essays.' There's also a weblog / The Future of Self-Knowledge, a weblog / The Considered Ensemble, a fashion weblog / beautiful sets of Mid-century Children's Books at Wardomatic / great animation of the fall of Empires at kottke.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

An idea. We've noticed over the last year or so that more and more magazines are joining the sidebar with blogs that eschew the standalone, editorial-mimicking layout of early magazine websites and utilizing the traditional blog format (AJ, AR, Creative Review, Grafik, etc.). Granted, the thrust is from the creative community, where a steady drip of news and inviting imagery finds the perfect outlet online. There's also the sudden interest in print on demand, via a more curatorial, bespoke approach - with sites like The Newspaper Club (born out of the 'Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet 2008' project) and The Blog Paper, which promises to collate comments, photos and comments with 'the highest rated and most discussed content ... promoted to a printed paper published in London.'

What was once in print and paid for is now online and free. What was once confined online - the long-form blog - is now breaking back into print. There are some inversions at work. Traditionally, the most valuable commodity was imagery, yet now pictures seep online for nothing, given away like candy to entice people to actually do more than merely click around. Instead, long form journalism, whether in the form of the multi-thousand word piece of investigative writing or even the dense, multi-layered blog post, is the new in-demand media commodity. The challenge is to get people to pay for it.

The gradual proliferation of paywalls and rumblings that large media outlets are toying with moving online content away from the free model (if it ever was a model) suggest that someone needs to come up with a subscription system that just manages everything, from international publications to rural newspapers (Johnston Press websites start charging for news). Although there's apparently a move to creating an 'iTunes of the press' (Magazine publishers said to be 'very close' to digital distribution deal), we think a personal subscription service, a splice between a paperboy, rss and micropayments, would be far more attractive, providing a 'click to read button' on every pay-protected story that simply leeches a tiny micropayment - literally a few cents - from your online wallet.

This Paperboy project would be the Oystercard of the internet, preventing you from accumulating excess charges once you've reached a site's maximum charge, with usage, options and history all available through a web interface, app, widget, what have you, with credit that can be topped up, won, given away, earned or transferred. Something the Open Intelligence Agency would like to take on?


Speaking of seeping imagery, there is an overwhelmingtendency for websites to mimic their print counterparts, particularly the women's lifestyle trope of offering 'XYZ Beautiful Things' as a cover line come-on to entice the reader into a purchase. Only there's no purchase, just the all-seeing eye of Google. Hence the success of aggregators like Alltop, which are rife with this kind of article, initally conjured up by picture blogs and link blogs and now adapted by popular newspapers with a high profile online presence (e.g. Dailys Mail and Telegraph). Sometimes the association is less tenuous than others (ten fantastic kitchen concepts, transportable homes), sometimes the collections are purely prurient (10 worst high speed crashes, 10 worst sporting injuries ever (can't even click on that one)), but they are all linkbait at heart. Occasionally, just occasionally, the list post offers a springboard into something with a little more sustenance: the 50 most interesting articles on wikipedia.


Other things. Thiepval in August, at Continuity in Architecture / Dave Wyatt's photographs of Thames Town, Shanghai (via Conscientious) / Wide Area Network, panoramic photographs by Phil Wolstenhome (via David Thompson).

History is Made at Night stumbles upon the crepuscular ruins of BlobbyWorld, highlighted by the uk tabloids, as well as the Chard and Ilminster News. The original forum post, at the excellent 28 days later, seems to be missing its images. Related, maybe, Zombie Outbreak Simulator.

Genuinely perplexed by the Swiss decision to 'ban' minarets. From a country with such a fine tradition of modern church-building - often by entirely secular architects - the idea that you can a) dictate that a particular architecture form cannot exist and b) how it should look in the first place.

Illustration at top of post comes from the Project Gutenberg edition of A Short History of English Printing, 1476-1898, by Henry R. Plomer.

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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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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
On momentum. A hard thing to sustain. At times this site seems to gather itself up and float out onto the internet on invisible wings. At other times, it's all too ready to gather dust and let everything pass it by. So apologies for not keeping everything up to date.

The internet's burgeoning museology has little in common with the museums of real life beyond metaphor. Whereas a collection - whether historic or simply - can gain aura through the accumulation of cobwebs and neglect, the website that simply dies becomes a dull thing of stasis almost instantly: there's little joy in stalking a series of abandoned virtual corridors. This is a very roundabout of way of apologising for the relative lack of new content here in recent days.


Or something, a weblog. Absurdly in-depth musings on PC gaming culture. See also MPs row over Modern Warfare game / Cornebuse et cie, a comic from 1945 / Bear Alley, a blog with a focus on 'old British comics, books and magazines' / Unlikely Words, a weblog.

NHTSA study indicates hybrids have higher pedestrian crash rates, which will no doubt be seized upon by the hybrid sceptics / the Berlin Wall Then and Now (via tmn) / Pink Box: Inside Japan's Sex Clubs, a new book (clearly nsfw).

Photography by Tom Baker (not that one), including visual essays on Los Angeles without traffic and the LA Guardian Angels / The Donut Project chronicles stuff / Dove&Snake, a weblog with a print edition / JennyDraws, an illustrator's website / this, that, and also, etc., a weblog featuring 'art, vintage illustration, glamour, technology, pop, punk, psychedelia, cats, the idea of squirrels, etc...'.

Bombardier train future competition, now open / This'll Be On My Videotape, a tumblr / Amusement Magazine: 'The time has come for a landmark video game magazine. Transversal, curious, thoughtful : AMUSEMENT redefines the video game magazine with style and precision.' An Intersection of the console, if you like (French blog here) / Vintageous, vintage fashion resource. See also Fashion-Era / Where is the most bountiful font of 'hipster cribs' stories?

Slightly disbelieving review of Stephen Bayley's Woman as Design, a new monograph that is the reviewer's fish in barrel of choice, this month / photography by Andre Wagner / Taqwacore: the birth of punk Islam / Gorey back in print / Phlog, an evocative photolog.

Fifty 3D milestones in gaming / Top 10: List by Jon, a weblog / A drawing diary, a weblog / Filmwasters, who needs digital? / Crust Station, another inspiration blog / Between Treacherous Objects and Evidence of Everything Exploding, two net art projects by Jason Nelson.

The Mobile Office, by The Practice of Everyday Design, 'constructed from discarded materials within a one block radius from the site... the only purchased items were the hardware used to hold it together.' / Photopia and Architexture, a weblog / the Hu Huishan Earthquake Memorial, one life magnified as a reminder of a tragedy / Saatchi Online.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

It's been a while since we visited the Guidebook, 'a website dedicated to preserving and showcasing Graphical User Interfaces, as well as various materials related to them.' Almost obsessive compulsive in its comprehensiveness / Creative Voyage, a weblog / descend deep into the uncanny valley with the 'Plush Alive Elvis and Plush Alive Chimpanzee / Bad at Sports picks up on our recent death of the object post from last week / Jimmy Wales asks 'is the the magazine dead?

Untiny, get original URLs from tiny ones / atmospheric photography by Megan Baker / very honoured to be nominated as one of the top 25 UK arts and culture blogs by Creative Tourist / Little London, tilt shift photos of London by Toby Allen (via Stuff) / Making a Mark, a weblog / Plazm blog and Plazm Magazine / Endless Day, via Set up like a deck of cards, a tumblr.

Beer and Loathing, Conor Dillon on the Frankfurt Book Fair: 'The Frankfurt Book Fair is a bibliophile’s reverie. There are more than 400,000 books. The stalls overflow with literary fiction, coming-of-age, bildungsroman, children’s books, young adult, romance, chick-lit, mystery, fantasy, crime, science fiction. There are mash-ups of genres, and mash-ups of the mash-ups.' The sheer overwhelming scale of Frankfurt is an unwelcome insight into publishing as industrial process. Related, an angry thread on about general incompetence at the top of the UK book trade.

'Happy Farms' Game Destroys Chinese Jobs, Relationships: 'I like Happy Farms. I enjoy cultivating, irrigating, spraying, and harvesting. My high-pressure work, and cold tall buildings makes me feel like I cannot breathe. I have to turn to virtual nature, have my own house and farm. I wish I could have a real house and farm, but it seems so far away.' (via haddock). Hard to find a site for the game itself, apart from a deluge of posts about 'stealing crops and ruining relationships'

A new film Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman looks at the work of the late architectural photographer. However, this LA Times piece, entitled What the new Julius Shulman documentary leaves out, makes the unfashionable point that Shulman's work 'helped promote the idea that the finest architecture of the period was a vessel for personal rather than collective ambition and had little if anything to do with the messiness of cities or urban planning.' It's reiterated in the piece by Kazys Varnelis, who notes 'that modernism in Southern Californa became more and more "associated with the idea of lifestyle." The idea is dropped, though, before it gains a foothold in the movie's crowded visual landscape.' See also the film Coast Modern (blog).

A Million Keys, a music focused weblog / The H Line, a weblog / Square Door, a tumblr / Design for Mankind, a weblog / Safety in the use of Compressed Gas Cylinders (with special reference to oxy-acetylene processes) / Estupipedia, a weblog,

London RIP, 'you liked it... it's gone', angry capital nostalgia / Cartolleria, a tumblr / The Samba, VW fan site / Say no to Grampa Joe, the capitalist subtext of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (via me-fi). See also Breaking Free, the anarcho-socialist samizdat Tintin comic published in the 70s.

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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.


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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Thursday, October 08, 2009
DSLR Shooter illustrates the revolution in image gathering using next generation digital cameras (via me-fi). Particularly taken by site editor Dan Chung's short film of China’s 60th anniversary parade (Vimeo link). We suddenly seem on the cusp of a period when data creation threatens to outstrip storage. From the me-fi comments: 'One observation I made the other day when I bought 2 TB of spinning disks to store the video coming out of my camera is that every second it records more data than I created in my first five years of computing (50 mbps!), and a good day's film shoot will generate a few hundred GB. That's more than my first twenty years! To top it all off, two 1 TB drives cost less than my first 5 MB drive.'

Jason Kottke clearly has a container fetish. Commenting recently on
America's Quiet Ports
he noted how the gridlocked, stacked dockside is a literal reminder of static world trade: 'The strengthening of the dollar abroad means that American made goods aren't selling and the ships hauling them are unable to leave the port. Nothing is selling anywhere so everything sits in the now-constipated port.' A more recent post, Stacked Cans, illustrates this new landscape of unwanted consumer products. The BBC are currently running a project called The Box, 'following a container around world for a year to tell stories of globalisation and the world economy'. You can track the container's current location, although in recent weeks this has proved tricky. More fields of unsold Mercedes and tracts of Toyotas.

Food Stories, a weblog by Helen Graves / on the need for an Architecture of Necessity / Mail Me Art, via Daily Dose Pick / Magazine Legends, did 'Time magazine intentionally place "devil horns" on Billy Graham and/or Bill Clinton as some sort of commentary'? / Deconstructivism in Lego / a short history of petrol stations (via haddock).


More battle suit musing at, taking issue, amongst other things, with the idea that Archigram's futurology was quite so prophetic and influential. Also, the idea of a 'battle suit' is all too militarist and gung-ho. The ongoing emergence of urbanism - our reactions, responses and interactions with the contemporary city - as a key part of the discussion on the impact of new technology is also apparent in Ben Hammersley's idea-shaped meanderings around the new issue of Wired (UK edition 17-11) and its focus on cities, out of which he extrapolates the idea that it is layers that form the foundations of the contemporary city, endless stratas of meaning: 'You don’t need to be Umberto Eco to riff off it for hours: it's turtlenecks all the way down.' Ultimately, he concludes that it's the 'cushioning effect of history upon reference upon metaphor upon inter-mixed system is the thing that makes it the most human place to live in.... Instead our cities are made of, and our lives build up, layers and layers of soft actions.'

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Millennium People has posted a long response to our earlier post about data cities and the future, 'Data City + Jules Verne, with a postscript on the rediscovered Verne novel 'Paris in the Twentieth Century' (see also 'In the Year 2889' by Verne and his son Michel Verne, published in the late 1880s).

Sacred facts, a weblog / Bakgard, a weblog with a design and architecture focus / read and listen to Kerri's Diary (via Rumblings, a tumblr), a project by Kerri Sohn / David Archer on David Hockney's iPhone drawings, which seem to be finding their niche in Second Life, a 'place' that we had largely forgotten about. Even Second Life Cartography has a faded, archaic feel.

Well linked, but deservedly so: My Parents Were Awesome / more on Michael Heizer's City / MetroShip, a modern houseboat, splicing the fab pre-fab aesthetic with the Bouroullecs' Maison Flottante / Uppercase Journal, looks interesting / Strange Undisciplined Dreams of Great Things is rather steam-punky, but has musings on retro-futurism, slow technology, etc.

Life on Mars #duststorm, City of Sound on Sydney's freak dust storm last month / cosmopolitan scum, architecture and more / fun children's furniture / Joie de Vivre, a piece of deco-era animation (1934) at the Animation Archive (via Buck Macabre). The AA has a great post on Tibor Gergely's early children's books, including the fabulous '"Watch Me" said the Jeep', surely a US companion to Blossom the Brave Balloon. More on Joie de Vivre here.

The work of David Blamey / the work of Sam Messenger / Still-unsurpassed box store architecture: SITE at Ouno Design (via Pop Vernacular) / The Silver Lining, a visual weblog / The Age of the Marvellous, a new exhibition at All Visual Arts, 'inspired by the Wunderkammer or Cabinet of Curiosities, popular in the late Renaissance through the Baroque period.... the sum of all of man's knowledge could be represented in rooms filled with natural wonders, artificial exotica and relics or art works concerned with the supernatural.'

Apothecary's Drawer on the truth behind fossil squid ink / For Sale/TVs From Craigslist, a project by Penelope Umbrico (via anArchitecture) / also via aA, Dagmar Schmidt's Plattenbau sculpture / related, Social Housing after the Soviets, 'a comparative study of the oppurtunities and the urgencies of public and private use of the Microrayon, the large-scale social housing projects developed throughout the entire former Soviet Union.'

Adam Curtis is compiling an epic 'history of the West's relationship to Afghanistan over the past 200 years', Kabul: City Number One (continued), featuring his usual collage of timeline, fact, events and key players.

House of Travel, travelling, via Architecture in Berlin, a weblog / architectural arteries, Anti-Mega on making maps with CloudMade. See also the Typography Map by James Bridle at Short Term Memory Loss (reminiscent of NB Studio's London's Kerning). Bridle also blogs at, a site exploring the evolution of the book into handheld devices.

A collection of graffiti in Tenerife / Pieces of Me, Pink Iguana's musings on objects and memory / a long, lyrical look at the early days of the American auto industry (via kottke) / a collection of local spooky legends / Historic Pages, Phil Barber's historic newspaper collecting page / Sarah France's weblog / Together in Disharmony, a tumblr.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Some art and illustration. Fine prints at St Jude's Gallery (which runs the fine blog All Things Considered) / The Curwen Gallery also has a blog / The Rowley Gallery doesn't / nor does the Travelling Art Gallery / flickr cutaways pool, via haddock (image at bottom of page, 'Step Up To A 'Step Down' Hudson').

'Sited upon small volcanic cone in the high desert midway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, this 60-acre retreat seems to cap the mountain top with its dome-like roof' / the connection between Saarinen and Star Trek / Internet Archaeology, via haddock / Douglas Coupland's Vancouver [Second] Home / We Were Modern, 'archaeological/anthropological writing on the remains of the modern' / The Northern Light, a weblog by Sean Dodson.

It's Full of Stars, an astronomy tumblr / the wikipedia entry on the film Primer is almost as hard to follow as the film itself: 'He has also replaced it with a duplicate failsafe that he brought with him. Thus, when Abe uses what he thinks is the failsafe, he is in fact using this duplicate, and therefore can't undo what Aaron has done using the real failsafe.'

Eating Bark, 'landscape, architecture, urbanism' and football / Enter 99 / Slawkenbergius, a weblog / Ephemeralism / the Radical Activism Visual Archive / Design Probes, future product speculation / The Hive Design, inspiration and links / Monster Brains, 'a never ending celebration of monsters'.

Museum of the Phantom City, 'uses personal digital devices to transform the city into a living museum', a concept that ties in slightly with our last post 'lamenting the loss of the unknown landscape' and the physical object, and our hunger for simulacra of ephemeral cast-offs. Only here the cast-offs are the 'phantom' projects that never made it out of their software packages, a museology of speculation. It's also an iPhone app.

Matthew Houlding makes architectural models of imaginary places, which use the visual language of Sixties modernism (Archigram again) and the verbal language of the speculative developer and time share salesman ('Secluded Tented Camp in the Western Corridor', 'The Best Bit is the Black Cement Pool on the Beach Which is The Perfect Spot to Watch the Sun Set', 'Exclusive Waterfront Development Opportunity' ).

Ten artists working with folded paper / This is the Green Room, a weblog with an economic focus / MagCloud, a site that reignites the world of zines through digital printing and distribution. Featured magazines include Fray, the 'quarterly of true stories' / Christmas is coming: the Throbbing Gristle Palm-Sized Loop Playback Machine /

David Harvey, cultural critic, and his website / Ai Weiwei hospitalised / work by Rafael Rozendal (and blog) / Five Dials is a literary magazine published by Hamish Hamilton / The Intrepid Art Collector, 'adventures in the art market' / RIP Monica Pidgeon, creator of the Pigeon Digital architecture interview archive (currently free as a tribute) / A book of blogs, in which magCulture rather takes the concept to task.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Apologies for a few weeks of downtime. This piece is getting some linkage, 'The City is a Battlesuit for Surviving the Future', on the legacy of Archigram, the media image of architectural innovation and the ongoing evaporation of urban interaction into non-physical form - a form that paradoxically is enhancing how we interact with physical spaces and one another. The one issue that is integral but always somehow unspoken with these treatises is contemporary information density, the ongoing aestheticisation of data that was very much a characteristic of Archigram's work and has steadily increased in day to day life.

The modern city is the data city. Architectural renderings and monographs present case studies in the context of information, with statistics and graphs supplementing the traditional projected view. The utopia of tomorrow will be saturated with information, and it is how we navigate this space that is the focus of so much contemporary speculation on technology and the city.

However, the idea of the 'information city' has created a very fine line between utopia and dystopia. So many of the qualities beloved by bloggers (this magazine included), designers, architects, designers and commentators seem to exist in a fluid state between good and bad. For example, how to reconcile the idea that 2000AD's Mega-City 1 is one of the great inspirational sci-fi cities with the 'reality' of the comic's metropolis as a crime-ridden, fear-saturated, consumption-crazed urban nightmare?

One suggestion is that we are mistaking complexity for cultural engagement. Just as the dense jumble of links and images that characterises the contemporary website gives an impression of a rich cultural experience, it also recalls imagery of the chaotic, layered city. One example is the ongoing fascination with ruins of the recent past, a means of instantly conveying historic context and patina, a seductive visual shorthand for two hundred years of industrial and economic data.

The web is not a city. Data space is not a place. But the analogies are persistent. By committing our memory to Google or the 'cloud' we have inadvertently created a great hunger for the intangible and ephemeral, the scraps and minutae of everyday life that get sucked into the circuitry and instantly forgotten. Already we are lamenting the loss of the unknown landscape as a result of global satellite imagery, gps and mapping. Physical space and the raw quality of still air immobilised by a structure cannot by duplicated or imitated. The 'infrastructural city' is not the labyrinth of chance encounters so celebrated by the Situationists. Our interactions are manufactured and governed.

Yet imitation remains our focus. The way virtual interfaces mimic physical spaces - desktops, pinboards, tables and surfaces you can post, pin, pinch and scatter content across - acknowledges our hunger for the tangible. 'The City is a Battlesuit for Surviving the Future' acknowledges architecture's debt to fictional cityscapes and how the most ambitious masterplans aim at creating spaces where 'the infrastructures are layered, ad-hoc, adaptive and personal - people there really are walking architecture, as Archigram said.'

Visualisation is at the heart of these new utopias. Once, the imaginary city was merely shaped and re-shaped in the corners of our mind - the rolling roofs of Peake's Gormenghast would have been impossible to create except in the imagination ('Blackstone Quarter, Stone Dogshead, Angel's Buttress, the Coupée (described as 'the high knife edge'); the North Headstones 'beyond Gory and the Silver Mines'; and the Twin Fingers, 'where Little Sark begins and the Bluff narrows'.) Today, we expect constant visual challenge, not the mental gymnastics of linking spaces and names and building cities from text on the page.

How do we reconcile the real city, with its messy unpredictability, with the visionary dreams of the utopians, where everything is connected and complete interaction is taken for granted? The internet does its best to connect the two, but it feels as though the scraps of reality, once processed, scanned and catalogued, lose the very qualities that endear them in the first place. Example: the literal billions of images on flickr are a snapshot of people, places and things defined by a finite number of tags, not the myriad, impossible to reproduce connections that denote reality.

Perhaps this gap will close, and visual search systems, tags and metadata will evolve to supersede the connections we make instinctively. But ultimately the city is not about searching, but about memory, and how cultural collages trigger, accentuate and erase our rememberance of the past and our perception of the future. The data city of the future will be unnavigable without technology, granted, but as a species we seem to be crying out for help remembering, unable to find things with the arsenal of digital tools and reliant, instead, on other people's recollections. This is why, we'd suggest, that the idea of archives, museums, drawers, corridors, boxes, cellars, warehouses and vaults, modern ruins and scanned ephemera, still hold such fascination, without ever really satisfying our innate desire for things.


As if to confirm the above, a collection of 'other things'. The security implications of hypergraphics / Fernando Feijoo, illustrator / @random, a tumblr / All Things Considered, a weblog / James Wines of SITE on the art of architectural drawing / a couple of flickr groups focusing on architectural drawing: I and II.

Crash test, old versus new: '2009 Chevy Malibu versus 1959 Chevy Bel Air at Autoblog. See also old family car versus new car / retro design seems to be emerging as one of the core qualities of electric cars: Honda's EV-N is a good case in point / we're taking another run at Hunch, which has quietly been pushing out consumer advice for the past year or so.

Archive and Conquer brings together some interesting topics, including the most over-photographed parts of Detroit (think ruins, although the 100 houses in that last link offer a spread of architectural variety and intrigue sadly lacking in almost any contemporary housing development) and a link to a set of famous vandalized paintings, a collection by Lance Wakeling. See also Ice House Detroit, a literal freezing of one such ruin as a comment about the glacial economy and the domestic wastelands that have been generated as a result.

The work of Gerrit van Bakel, collected over at The Silver Lining / see also the world of KidZania, a chain of small scale townscapes aimed at children. Found via this Guardian piece: 'Its buildings, vehicles and other features are scaled down to two-thirds real size to accommodate its young inhabitants, who have more than 50 jobs to choose from during a typical five- or six-hour shift, with each job lasting about 30 minutes.'

A pictorial history of Grey Gardens, the house made famous by the 1975 documentary (and a recent film) and the subject of a fan sites and other online reliquaries. The house, now owned by Ben Bradlee, can be found here, amongst a generous scattering of beachside mansions.

Things of Interest. We've watched the 'things' brand be chipped away in recent years, most notably by the Mac application Things, which swept in and stole our Google search thunder (quite justifiably) / guest editors: Paul Petrunia of Archinect, Jeff Carvalho of Selectism and Josh Rubin of Cool Hunting / Google Crop Circles, a hoary old publicity trick / programme for the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale.

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