The Architectural Uncanny

A set of photographs of Poundbury by Dennis Gilbert. There’s a studied blankness here, an almost subconscious attempt at sabotaging the contrived neo-classical picturesque that Poundbury supposedly represents. It’s unfortunate perhaps that the modern archetype the town most closely resembles are the sprawling commuter estates, their banality cherished by contemporary photographers and used ironically to symbolise the passing of an unattainable utopia. Gilbert’s camera seems to focus on the bits that aren’t quite right, the architecturally uncanny – small windows, blank walls, top heavy roofs, random facade arrangements. Perhaps in more careful hands, these self-conscious diversions would have a certain charm – that’s largely the reason for Portmeirion’s success.


Few places have never aspired to ape any aspects of this pervasive domestic nostalgia. Milton Keynes, for example, followed the American model: MK as LA. See also Gentrification and Its Discontents, ‘Manhattan never was what we think it was’, or how the image of the perfect city is informed largely by memory and wishful thinking. A quote, ‘[Sharon] Zukin declares that she “resent[s] everything Starbucks represents,” which really means that her urban ideal is the cool neighborhood at the moment before the first Starbucks moves in, an ever-more-fleeting moment.’ Previously at things.


Republican web woes: “A ‘teacher’ told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!” a third [policy submitter] complains. “And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story.” / What have we today? Clippings from This England / are Orbit bashers indulging in a ‘nervous desire to second-guess posterity … a new phenomenon [that’s a] product of the modernist supremacy slipping into the past and the immense power of the “they laughed at Columbus” meme in a relativist age, or part of the same queasy cultural acceleration that means some artists and comedians now see outrage as a form of acclaim.’.


Dungeness: Sounds in the Darkness at Restless Energy: ‘This is no gentle lulling of crickets and frogs on the bayou, but rather a raging torrent of sinister gurgling screams, like the collective anger of a million inconsolable babies all reaching fever pitch at the same time.’ Via Spencer Murphy / Buy Vintage, old cars, mopeds and bicycles for sale. See also the Online Vintage Bicycle Museum / contemporary acoustic sessions at Songs for the Shed, including things favourites Owl in the Sun / Alvaro Siza at dinner / MyPaint, ‘open source painting’.


Work stops on Chinese ghost town. No names, but this urban shell is in Qingshuihe province in Mongolia, probably not too far from Ordos, which seems to be set for a similar fate. A couple of recent news reports: Gizmodo, WeirdAsiaNews.


The Gigapan camera / the art of Kim Gordon / Liverpool Museums blog / Place Setting, an art project / it’s almost counter-productive, but we feel duty bound to share Willfully Obscure with you, an mp3 blog pushing out ripped copies of some truly obscure gems / see also Space Rock Mountain / the complete works of Serge Gainsbourg.


Take Ivy, ‘originally published in Japan in 1965, setting off an explosion of American-influenced “Ivy Style” fashion among students in the trendy Ginza shopping district of Tokyo’ / create a rainy mood / how to make a time capsule in the digital age. Sad premise, interesting tips / Tenderproduct and Tenderpixel / ecar, an architectural tumblr.


On Tetris, ‘Most importantly, as a freelancer, my life has become a constant wait for the “I” block.’ That wait is often unbearable, but when it finally comes—via an editor’s e-mail or telephone call—there’s a flash of light and a scream of sound.’ At The Millions, a literary magazine. See also Berlin Block Tetris, via Caterpillar House. Once upon a time this would have passed as wry social comment, but now it’s just something rather neat and beautiful.

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3 Responses to The Architectural Uncanny

  1. Gotti Gotti says:

    im a freelancer myself, great site by the way

  2. Will says:

    Not just Orbit bashers, chaps. My point was based on a suspicion that Orbit boosters might be second-guessing posterity, defending an ugly proposal because they’re betting on it becoming popular in the future, and they want to be seen to be aligned with a farsighted minority who defended it at the beginning, rather than just judging it in the here and now. I felt that nervous desire to defend it “just in case” it became popular, but realised it would be fairly dishonest of me to do so.

  3. things says:

    That’s the great joy of the internet – every blast and counterblast one issues is left to linger and it’s oh so much easier to be accused of switching sides and doing an about turn. Back in the dark days of the Dome acclaim was apparently hard to find, and it’s only the negativity that we remember. Someone, somewhere, must have written something complimentary about the Millennium Experience but it hasn’t survived into the digital age (just as there are no countless thousands of flickr pics tagged ‘greenwich 2000’ to help stoke the nostalgia).

    With 2012, commentators are being far less circumspect than one would expect; the vitriol flung at the stadium, the logo, the mascots, the Orbit – all far eclipses the ranting of Stephen Bayley in late 1999. But then again, tastes change. Surveying the ’51 Festival ephemera one realises that one’s critical faculties have largely departed; it’s hard to tell the good from bad from indifferent in the fog of memories of times past. We seem to recall that plenty of hardline modernists were pretty dismissive of the ’51 Festival’s perceived wishy-washy interpretation of contemporary design.

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