no2self.net archive - 2004 to 2007


(extracted from rob.annable.co.uk - for current blog see http://no2self.net)

entries listed in alphabetical order


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Al(f)lip Alfie invents the Alf Flip*, saying; It's odd, and very satisfying. [alf_flip.jpg:centre2] All the best things usually are, Alfie.

* QT movie link - see last move in the sequence

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work ethic

Hi honey, I'm home. Hard day at the office dear? Yes, it was a real grind...

desk grind via MoBlogUK

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Seize the Amulet Back on the epee blade again at fencing last night. Not such a successful evening as previous weeks - lost both bouts. Took a few pictures with my phonecam of the coach using the sabre and swapped some via bluetooth with one of the guys at the club (the first two are mine, the third is one he'd taken at the Birmingham Open). [fencing1.jpg:centre1] [fencing2.jpg:centre1] [fencing3.jpg:centre1] I need to brush up on technique, as I'm getting rather sloppy. Just found some manuals published by the Canadian Fencing Federation and it would probably do me no harm to remember the advice published over at fencingsucks.com.
The following are well-recognized scoring "moves" in fencing competitions. Some require additional props, but most can be improvised.

The Back up the Stairs Retreat
Usually executed mid-match, this maneuver features one combatant backing up a set of stairs to a landing from which there is no means of escape but a hanging rope. (See, Swinging Back into the Fray)

Swinging Back Into the Fray
Normally via chandelier of hanging rope; in gymnasium climbing ropes may be substituted.

The Circular Flip Weapon from-Opponent's Hand Move
Executed with a deft circular motion of the wrist, this maneuver deprives your opponent of his weapon. Bonus points awarded if weapon then seized from air by its grip. (points deducted from grabbing blade.) Self-satisfied leer optional.

The Dagger Parry
Having been divested of his weapon by the Circular Flip, above, the fencer may draw a six-inch dagger from his belt and proceed to defeat his bewildered opponent. (Psychologically devastating to opponent, and a real morale-builder for your team).

Cutting Chandelier Rope to Drop on Pursuing Team Members
Successfully executed, this move can really shift the momentum in a competition. It involves use of one's weapon to cut the rope holding up an overhead lighting fixture so that it falls on opposing team members. Extra points awarded if fixture is of circular design and actually confines the pursuers. (See "Encirclement Points") A basketball backboard and hoop can be substituted in most gymnasiums; however, in such case encirclement points are limited to one, given the small diameter of the rim. If burning candles on the chandelier ignite other objects, or competitors, additional bonus points may be awarded.

Stabbing Cask Instead of Opponent
This is actually a way of LOSING points. It occurs when a fencer backs his opponent into a cask or barrel. By sideways feint, the opponent causes his hapless aggressor to stab the barrel, rather than himself. If liquid spurts from the barrel or cask, subtract an additional point; if liquid is flammable (ex: brandy) and comes into contact with downed chandelier candles, add 3 excitement points.

Weapon Lodges in Solid Object
Another momentum-turner, this occurs when a fencer's weapon becomes lodged in a solid object (other than an opponent) and its end breaks off. Distance points may be awarded, however, if remainder of weapon is thrown ineffectively at opponent.

The Veg-o-Matic
Extra points are awarded when ever an errant slash dices organic material (again, other than an opponent) such as apples or melons on nearby training table.

The Whittler
Employed after loss of main weapon, this maneuver involves the use of a wooden object to parry an opponent's slashes. Points are awarded for the number of successive slashes which reduces the wooden object to a nubbin (often followed by "desperation throw," described above).

Seize the Amulet
This move can be pivotal in competition. Each competitor wears a hanging pendant around her neck. The match is over when a fencer corners her opponent and flicks the pendant from its chain with her weapon. Extra points if caught in free hand. (normally followed by a sprint to the team bus).

The Graffiti Slash
Originated by a fencer named Zuckerman at NYU, this maneuver is used to inscribe one's initials on an opponent's uniform. Bonus points awarded for script. Neatness counts.

Tag-Team Moves
While not exactly politically correct, these moves foster strong team spirit. They involve members of the women's team in, essentially, a supportive (if not downright decorative) role. Some of these are:

taken from Everything I Know About Fencing I Learned at the Movies

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sk8 Just me and an empty skate park. Getting up early has some benefits. A frontside noseblunt slide ... is a long way off yet. This morning I focused on just staying on the board. Surprisingly, I had some success, well, most of the time - there was one incident that involved my knees meeting the tarmac (quicktime movie).

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sparks will fly Whilst I may be temporarily held back by the fact that I've misplaced the wheels I bought to finish building my skateboard; the next must-have purchase is already in my sights. The kids at the skate park on Penn Road won't know what's hit them when they see the sparks flying thanks to my TailViper. Now, where are those wheels...

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Architecture Week The program for the opening day of Architecture Week here in the UK just landed in my inbox...
Architecture Week Launch
Trafalgar Square
Saturday 11 June
13.00 - 17.00
FREE music * performance * installation * demonstration -- Freeness (13.00 - 14.00 and 15.00 - 16.00) Bringing us tracks created by African, Asian, Caribbean and Chinese musicians from across England with a DJ set by Blacktronica. http://a.chtah.com/a/tBCqCg9ANYHpyAXHisOAP91yBBb/arch9 Urban Freeflow (13.00 - 14.00 and 15.00 - 16.00) Free-running is about finding new ways through the city landscape - climbing, leaping, somersaulting obstacles in your path (such as giant stone Lions). The Urban Freeflow London team show us how its done. http://a.chtah.com/a/tBCqCg9ANYHpyAXHisOAP91yBBb/arch10 Architecture Week Speakers' Corner Needs You! (14.00 - 15.00) Hosted by Maxwell Hutchinson, architect and BBC LONDON 94.9FM broadcaster. This is your chance to address an audience in Trafalgar Square. http://a.chtah.com/a/tBCqCg9ANYHpyAXHisOAP91yBBb/arch3 Red Ladies (16.00) Performance group the Clod Ensemble salute the Square's heritage as a site of political protest and stage a (mock) political rally. Be vigilant! Women dressed in red may try to solicit your support. http://a.chtah.com/a/tBCqCg9ANYHpyAXHisOAP91yBBb/arch11 Superconductor (All afternoon) A multitude of entrances, exits, corridors and courtyards in which to roam, explore or sit quietly and contemplate. A bold and adventurous temporary artwork by artists Gaia Alessi and Richard Bradbury. http://a.chtah.com/a/tBCqCg9ANYHpyAXHisOAP91yBBb/arch12 Moose (All afternoon) Moose is a graffiti artist ... with a difference. Leaving a temporary imprint through the environmental friendly process of removing dirt with water, he will change the way you see the Square. http://a.chtah.com/a/tBCqCg9ANYHpyAXHisOAP91yBBb/arch6 -- Architecture Week 2005 17-26 June - architectureweek.org.uk for a full programme and 600 events across the country

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A de B and OMA tags: blog, critique, koolhaas, debotton Part IV returns from Venice with some well written reviews of the biennale:
King Rem laid into Alain a little. I felt as though I were witnessing the start of a fox hunt. I think Rem's deluded when he states that "all architects have good intentions", but his real frustration with dilettantes such as Alain is that he is too gentle and not constructive enough. Rem cried out "We need help!" due to the absence of criticism - a point made (although admittedly not well made) by this blogster previously. Critics nowadays are kissing starchitects' arses because they want to publish their coffee table books. King Rem feels this lack of intelligent criticism between the authors of the built environment and their critics is leading to a real paucity of architectural quality. We are really lacking a Mumford, Huxtable, or Jacobs today. At least, that's what I took from it.
From My Kind of Town.

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developing links Another good write-up on the biennale over at Developing News: David at the Venice Biennale.

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ugly Another couple of quotes I want to etch onto this entry for future reference... Firstly, another paragraph from the same entry by PartIV:
Alain de Botton is given short thrift by the architecture establishment, seemingly because he has the audacity to meddle in their affairs, of which, they assume, he can know nothing. He is suffering from the Prince Charles effect - the willingness to speak up on behalf of the common man about a subject he has currently wondered [sic] into whether by accident or purpose. Having read his latest book, "The Architecture of Happiness" I did find it a little wanting and naďve from an architect's perspective. I'll leave the reviews to the qualified. And indeed that's how he came across in this debate. You could almost hear the "tut-tuts" and eye-rolls from the audience. But at least he's willing to bring up these issues and take them to the public, which is more than most of the assembled architects are willing to do, preferring instead to incestuously breed ideas. When at the end, he said that he was "looking forward to being able to appreciate the ugly", I don't think he was being ironic at all.
and a section from Ze Franks video blog The Show:
For a very long time, taste and artistic training have been things that only a small number of people have been able to develop. Only a few people could afford to participate in the production of many types of media. Raw materials like pigments were expensive; same with tools like printing presses; even as late as 1963 it cost Charles Peignot over $600,000 to create and cut a single font family. The small number of people who had access to these tools and resources created rules about what was good taste or bad taste. Over the last 20 years, however, the cost of tools related to the authorship of media has plummeted. Suddenly consumers are learning the language of these authorship tools. The fact that tons of people know names of fonts like Helvetica is weird! [...] As people start learning and experimenting with these languages authorship, they don’t necessarily follow the rules of good taste. This scares the shit out of designers. In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that 'work' in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.
(found via Matt's Iterative Architecture presentation)

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do the maths Toyo Ito wins Taichung Opera House competition:

Damon Albarn's Dad, Keith, has fun with numbers:

(thanks to iTony for the Albarn link)

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canope Will Alsop's modelling department must get through a helluva lot of cocktail sticks.

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gabion As I pressed the send button on my ftp program for this entry, my ArchNewsNow e-mail landed simultaneously in my inbox. It points me to Whatever happened to Canadian understatement? by Hugh Pearman.

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a very super manner tags: mvrdv, process, zahahadid, icon Here's Winy Maas in the latest Icon magazine reminding me why I'm such a big fan of his practice, MVRDV (my emphasis):
There are different approaches to a global market. You can brand your style, as, say, Zaha is doing in a very super manner, or you can brand your approach. And I think our approach is very practical and dialectical; there is a desire to build the outstanding out of a dialogue.

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AR Covers: 1970s tags: graphics, design, advent, gift, AR, magazine

Architectural Advent day 15:

The changing face of Architectural Review magazine - batch 2: the 1970s.

dec70dec72dec73nov74dec75

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AR Covers: 1980s tags: graphics, design, advent, gift, AR, magazine

Architectural Advent day 19:

The changing face of Architectural Review magazine - batch 3: the 1980s.

oct85dec89dec88dec86

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Architecture Week around Birmingham Dan has already covered London, so I'd better have a go at Birmingham and the West Midlands. Here's a few items from the Architecture Week itinerary that I think will be worth a visit. The sections in italics are extra notes I've added about some of the events.

In Conversation with David Adjaye and Hew Locke (June 18)

In Conversation: Architect David Adjaye will discuss architecture and the visual arts with exhibiting artists Hew Locke and Richard Woods. Venue: The New Art Gallery Week Gallery Square Walsall WS2 8LG

notes: took some pictures of the Hew Locke installation last weekend - see entry immediately before this one


Drawing : City : Futures (June 18)

Unity House: an 18 storey derelict office block due to be demolished, provides a unique opportunity to facilitate a drawing workshop and temporary exhibition on the hoardings around it. It will bring together professional artists, architects, communities & local authority. Venue: Tonetine Square Stoke-on-Trent City Centre (Hanley) Stoke-on-Trent ST1

Vivid Launches its New Space (June 17,18,19,20,21,22)

Vivid launches its new space with a programme of work including international and UK artists Steina Vasulka, Nina Katchadourian, Ivan and Heather Morison, Adele Prince, Calum Stirling, Layla Curtis, Kate Pemberton and John Hammersley. Venue: Vivid 140 Heath Mill Lane Birmingham B9 4AR

notes: I've mentioned Kate Pemberton's work here before - see entry on endfile.com


The Bells of St Martin's - Finale Event (June 26)

Come and hear the iconic bells of St Martin's in the Bullring, Birmingham ringing out a new composition by the US sound artist Bill Fontana and walk through the Eastside regeneration area, to listen afresh and gain a new understanding of its' distinctive acoustic landscape. Venue: Locations in Eastside Birmingham B1

Artbox/ Foot Prints InTheSnow / Rick Myers (June 17-26)

An ongoing personal project charting the artist's thought processes and creative connections. Rick Myers presents a collection of limited edition posters, screenprints and paper sculptures housed in a portable wooden museum. This event forms part of the Artbox 2005, The Mailbox art programme. Venue: The Mailbox Wharfside St Birmingham B1 1XL

The Mailbox Final Phase Design Competition (June 17-26)

The Mailbox have conducted a design competition for their final phase with six leading architects. The designs will be displayed throughout AW in The Mailbox. The architects are Marks Barfield, Ken Shuttleworth's MAKE, Associated Architects, D5, Glenn Howells Architects and Kinetic. Venue: The Mailbox Wharfside Street Birmingham B1 1RP

notes: looking forward to seeing how the new kids on the block, Kinetic, square up to the establishment - either way, I hope a Birmingham practice get it rather than Barfield or MAKE


WAG New Galleries and Working with Listed Buildings (June 22)

A talk by Niall Phillips, of Niall Phillips Architects Ltd, Bristol on their work on developing the new triangular galleries for the Pop Art Collection and touring exhibitions at WAG, and their work on listed buildings. Venue: Wolverhampton Art Gallery Lichfield Street Wolverhampton WV1 1DU

notes: this baby's on-site right now, although sadly Simon Patterson's art installation for it has been removed from the project. I mentioned this project here way back when I first started this blog. If you want to see more of Patterson, he's at the Ikon gallery until the 17th.


Birmingham School of Architecture & Landscape End of Year Show (June 21,22,23)

This exhibition showcases the best work from across our architecture and landscape degree and postgraduate courses. Venue: 4 Brindleyplace Brindleyplace, off Broad Street Birmingham B1 2JF

notes: I shall be there to support the school in its recovery from the last few months of turmoil - come along and buy me a drink.


From Westside to Eastside - an Architecture Week Walk (June 17-26)

A self-guided architectural walk from Brindley Place to Millennium Point. Promoted through widely distributed postcards. Also available on www.architectureweek.org.uk - Tours Venue: Birmingham City Centre

notes: Route laid out by friend and ex-tutor Joe Holyoak - he's the guy who asked Amanda Levete why Selfridges is the shape it is - see my entry entitled 'that building' for the answer.

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next up: Jack has joined in with a round up of choice picks from Glasgow. Any more out there?

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Architecture Week 2006 Tags: architectureweek, events Kaboom! Kablooie! Kapow! It's Architecture Week here in the UK. There's no escaping the fact that as an architect with a blog I have a duty to fulfill over the next few days. We'll get started with a few choice picks from the itinerary in my area, the West Midlands. There are plenty more to choose from on the official web site: www.architectureweek.org.uk". I've saved the best one till last...

'Capability' Brown's Pleasure Gardens at Compton Verney (June 24)

Sat 24 June, 2-5.30pm
Join John Phibbs and explore the immediate surroundings of the house, the design of the pleasure grounds and their role in 18th century life. Ł10/concs Ł8 (includes gallery admission). Event will include a two-hour walk. Please wear appropriate clothing and footwear.

www.comptonverney.org.uk

The Creative Prison Seminar (June 20)

The Creative Prison Seminar is a national one-day event which draws on results from Rideout's multi-artform Creative Prison Project with life-sentence prisoners & staff at HMP Gartree, it will explore the role that environmental design, creativity, & education can play in preventing re-offending.

Venue: The Centennial Centre
Icknield Port Road, Edgbaston
Birmingham
B16 0AA

www.rideout.org.uk

Produce (June 19,22)

Simon Harris & Dan Burwood present 'PRODUCE' The launch of a site-specifically designed market stall, selling fresh local produce,as part of an arts program on the Civic Centre Estate, Ladywood where Residents & visitors will have the opportunity to collaborate with artists. See www.civic-centre.org

Venue: Civic Centre Estate (behind REP Theatre)
Ladywood
Birmingham
B1 2NN

www.simonsaysproductions.com

Habitat - T House (June 19)

To coincide with the launch of two specially commissioned studio 'pods' architect Ranbir Lal and artist Colin Pearce will take up temporary residence in one of the studios. You are invited to bring in an object and a memory you associate with tea/tea drinking and join them for tea and discussion.

Venue: Vivid
140 Heath Mill Lane
Birmingham
B9 4AR

www.vivid.org.uk/habitat

Troll - a map of the heart (June 17,18)

A couple of old trolls lead a fascinating unconventional walking tour around some of the less salubrious, hidden parts of Birmingham's underbelly exposing the architecture of the city in a new light by telling the hidden, salacious and exotic histories of many of the city's buildings and landmarks

Venue: Birmingham City Centre

www.fiercetv.co.uk

Remembering the future: steps towards a Museum of Lost Heritage (June 24,25)

Last public opportunity to explore the site of the former Museum of Science and Industry, Birmingham. Artists Alistair Grant and Stuart Mugridge create a series of themed trails prior to demolition and redevelopment.

Venue: Former Museum of Science and Industry
144 Newhall Street
Birmingham
B3

Architecture Week Film Festival (June 21)

A series of films over the course of Architecture Week chosen by some of the worlds leading architects, inluding Rem Koolhaus, Adam Caruso and Birmingham's Glenn Howells; Exploring the relationship between film & architecture.

Venues:Custard Factory Theatre and Fort Dunlop.

www.fiercetv.co.uk

Open Practice (June 23)

To mark the 10th anniversary of Architecture Week 10 architects across the region are opening their doors to the public. This is your chance to see plans, models & visuals of their recent projects & talk about their practice & proposals. If you can take at look at their websites before your visit.

Venue: Axis Design Collective
Crosby Court, 28 George Street
Birmingham
B3 1QG

Contact: Me!
Axis Design Collective - 0121 2361726
http://axisdesigncollective.com

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augmented architecture My e-mail inbox keeps on delivering the goods this week. Just received from Tom Barker at the RCA:
Seminar at the Architectural Association 24+25 November 2005:

Surface Intelligence: Ambient and Augmented Architectures.

Please join us if you are able for the Imperial/RCA/AA/EPSRC CultureNetwork seminar at the Architectural Association, London All the best, - Tom Barker Professor IDE RCA // Smartslab // AA-DRL // b consultants
Tom was the guy who helped me with the Quake modelling I mentioned a while back. Bound to be an interesting event.

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paint it black Yawn. Massengale finds a new way to criticise Late Modernists by pointing out a certain preference for black in their wardrobes. In a round about kind of way it reminded me of the piece written by FAT architects a few years ago - How to be a Famous Architect. Partly because it's all about developing the image and the mystique of the architect as tortured poet, but also because I once used it as the parameters of a brief for some students and when I was pointing out the importance of wearing black at all times I realised that one of my fellow tutors had been kind enough to prove me right, by turning up that morning in nothing but the aforementioned colour. Poor chap was a bit embarrassed - belated apologies if you're reading this, Mark. Goodnight, I'm off to iron my orange flares.

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both/and Tags: housing,urbanism,newurbansim Via ArchNewsNow - fantastic piece on housing over Metropolis magazine:
Forget the rampant aestheticism and architectural blinders of the twentieth century. We live in a pluralistic age, and it demands a new pragmatism. We are beyond "either/or"--we live in a world of "both/and." The issues are quality, habitability, and sustainability, not style du jour. The issue is real urbanism, not some polite, politically palatable "lite" version thereof. I'll take good New Urbanism, just like I'll take good Modernism. But it's not about the starchitects and their ideologies anymore. Can't the catfighting parties on the different ends of the aesthetic spectrum just grow up and get along?
See also: The Way Forward at That Brutal Joint

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brutalised I deserve a slap. I missed this one first time round. Tonight, via City Comforts, through to John Udell and then finally on to Keith Pleas, I've found a great article on the much talked about Seattle library by Rem Koolhaas. Keith Pleas is a software architect. By making comparisons with an enthusiastic Seattle Times article, and assessing the detail rather than just the grand gestures, he punches gaping wide holes in the supposed success of Koolhaas' design. It's a great, but depressing, read. Seemingly obvious design flaws abound and he has pictures to prove it. I'm taking solace in the idea that it's character building to learn that one's heros can make mistakes too. Here's a quote from his summary (my emphasis).
Some parallels between the worlds of construction and software architecture are obvious. Starting at the top, a truly creative architectural design needs people all the way through the hierarchy to implement it. We also have similar "materials" issues in terms of the infrastructure, tools, and libraries that are available. However, we have one fortunate advantage over the construction world in that you can write literally anything in code if you have enough resources, whereas there are some absolute limits in the construction world.
Only last night, I was telling another software architect that I'm interested in how the recognition/negotiation of those limits is the point at which Architecture as opposed to Building takes place. There are certain immovable forces in architecture, such as the laws of physics and building control inspectors, that mean compromise of one's aesthetic vision is inevitable at some point. In my experience, well executed solutions to those compromises become the defining moments in the success of a project. From the looks of some of the issues raised by Keith's write up, it seems Koolhaas has ducked the need to tackle a few glaring compromises. To give some context to why this is such Bad News, here's an anecdote to demonstrate how highly regarded Koolhaas has been over the last decade or so. A few years ago I attended a lecture and discussion given by Lars Spuybroek from NOX and Winy Maas of MVRDV. It was chaired by the author of 'SuperDutch', Bart Lootsma. His book discusses the history of Dutch architecture. The pragmatism required for land reclamation, the self-assessment that has occurred through the forces of internationalization, a history of welfare state politics, it's cultural institutions, the cautious nature with which it approaches economic success and the growing culture of public consultation are all cited by Lootsma as instrumental in forming the present Dutch architectural attitude. Also examined in the book are the influences of Rem Koolhaas' approach to undertaking research and theoretical work and the financial support provided to upcoming students by the Dutch government. It's widely recognised that Koolhaas is the Father of contemporary Dutch architecture. This is partly because of the influence his work has over his peers; but also because many of the Netherlands' new practices are started by ex-employees of his office. Winy Maas from MVRDV is one such example. During the lecture, to demonstrate the importance of Koolhaas' work in Dutch architecture, Lars Spuybroek proposed that;
"There are two forms of postgraduate architectural education in the Netherlands - the grant system and Rem."
I'm going to go and load my dishwasher in an effort to take my mind off badly executed architecture. Let's hope I don't come across too many design flaws whilst I stack the plates. *smash* Damn.

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that rings a bull Tags: photography,urban,birmingham An iframe test, this could get ugly1. see the complete project here.

1. but only if you visit the site, as there is a Romulan cloaking device cast over the RSS feed on this one.

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Contextual Slippage and the Info Pimp Force Diagram A couple of weeks ago, my boss spent the weekend at his daughter's flat in Canary Wharf in London. Photographs from the trip reminded me of an interior design competition I entered with a couple of friends about 5 years ago. The brief was to design the fit out of the penthouse on one of the new apartment blocks being built at the time. Back then, the internet was beginning to reach what felt like a critical mass of useful information, dynamic computer modelling and hypersurface theory was beginning to influence formal possibilities and (as I've mentioned previously) I was reading a lot of texts on deconstructive philosophy. The brochure advertising the development made some abismal claims about how the apartments would connect the occupant to 'quintissential London' and went on to prove it by showing pictures of shops selling Italian designer clothes. We were left wondering how someone living 50 storeys above an air conditioned concierge, whose only connection with the city was through wrap around full height glazing, would actually connect to anything; let alone quintissential London. The answer seemed to lie in the windows... (click on the images to see the full size version)
The current Canary Wharf geographical context exists only through the visual primacy of framed pictorial views controlled by a system of WindowsTM. [datawall_exterior.jpg:in] The London Docklands desktop theme is supplied as default on start-up. An intervention into the existing architectural operating system is commenced by the installation of a new autonomous program. The introduction of new information forces the background to recede and locational priority is destroyed. Where would you like to go today? As each new program is installed and the system registry is increasingly traumatised, connection with the WindowsTM system is made tenuous. Crash. Reboot. System corrupted. Format disk [Y/N]? Acceptance of a context free spatial position1 and intervention within an already initiated process2, generates an internalised, self-referencing, non-place architecture. Space is carved arbitrarily by the force diagram scribed by "...the dichotomy of living between the physical and the digital..."3. The activated external surface of the data plane is manipulated by the information pimp, who lurches through the x, y and z co-ordinates with minimal physical effort, sending his e[version] 4 out to work from the comfort of his own executive chair. [datawall_interior.jpg:in] As the data field records the journey of the e[version], it’s deformation freezes the moments of contact and simultaneously implicates all others within the mesh. As the user descends from the chair, the mouth of the data surface opens. The negative result of previous positive actions becomes the void between the data planes and forms the volume of physical living space. The reconciliation of physical and digital occurs as a point of equilibrium between the tension of opposite forces. Take a shit, have sex, drink a glass of water. The boundaries of movement reconfigure the volume; until the e[version] is found and activated again...
The result wasn't quite what the judges expected, but we managed an honorary mention and made it to the final seven entries; which wasn't we'd expected either. The text for the project was also the birth of my obligatory internet pseudonym. It's about time my friends and I got together for some more competition entries.

notes:

  1. 50 storeys above the ground plane in a homogenous spatial system - the flat in question was on the top floor of the building
  2. the external envelope was complete at this point
  3. taken from the competition brief
  4. e[version]: the e[lectronic] version of the user
    or
    eversion: n. 1. The act of turning inside out. 2. The condition of being turned outward. (Dictionary of the English Language)
    or
    eversion: casting the virtual world unto the real, multi-threading virtual/real and actual/possible. (Marcos Novak / A.D Profile 133)

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Time to stand and stare Tags:architect,quote Will Alsop on Cedric Price:
Between 1963 and 1971, there was the magazine Architectural Design. AD was about ideas. One or two contributors went on to build their designs, but mainly it was about things that might be done. This was the era of Archigram, the avant-garde design group, and also, most importantly, the critic Reyner Banham. Banham needed Archigram, Price and one or two others because they fed him. Equally, Reyner told them what they were doing. Magazines today need to include finished projects to attract advertisers, which is very sad because it promotes the idea, particularly among younger architects, that they have to build. This was anathema to Price. He never felt that he had to build, and he didn't build a great deal. It's not that he wasn't interested in building; it's just that he didn't want to do anything that didn't contribute to the ideas and the thoughts he was trying to explore. ... Towards the end of his life, Price was more relaxed. The notion of doing nothing, of observing - which so many people have forgotten - is something that I think he understood. On the drawing Surf 90, for instance, he has written: "Time to stand and stare." ... One of the young architects Price influenced was Rem Koolhaas. Koolhaas will take a brief and keep it in terms of diagrams as long as possible. The library being built in Seattle at the moment, which is going to be a magnificent building, is exactly that. Koolhaas has analysed the user's brief and essentially built the diagram of the analysis. He has taken it in different directions. Certainly, there is a formal expression in Koolhaas's work you would never find in Price, but there is a huge debt there.
taken from the Guardian (found via archinect.com)

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a machine for producing gods I was out with Matt on Saturday night; he's a friend from the Wolves LUG. We talked, amongst other things, about the now infamous Daniel Libeskind. Over the weekend I've been trying to source some of his early texts, to supplement our conversation about the complexities of architectural thinking. A quick Googling has let me down so far, so I shall have to resort to the printed page. How quaint. I did, of course, land on daniel-libeskind.com and enjoyed the stripped down, but tactile, design. It uses an interesting technique of switching between black on white / white on black, in order to highlight links. I have mixed views about his work and can't avoid the nagging feeling that he's a one trick pony, but he writes with passion and elegance. Witness the opening page of his site;
In one ... of my favorite books, by Henri Louis Bergson, Two Sources of Morality and Religion the author comes to the conclusion that the universe, to paraphrase loosely, is a machine for producing gods. It seems to me that architecture is, in fact, the machine that produces the universe which produces the gods. It does so not fully through theories or reflections, but in the ever non-repeatable and optimistic act of construction. The qualities of its resistance, which are as pragmatic as the materials from which it is built, form an irascible and volatile field whose smile is not that of Buddha.
Almost everything I read at the moment, from Arthur Koestler to Gaston Bachelard, seems to reference Bergson. I shall have to catch up and try some of his work. Some interesting confluences there with our discussion about religion, don't you think Matt? By the way, it's worth noting here that Matt and Jono are also involved in an interesting project to increase Linux awareness.

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Deconstruction and Tea Thanks to some great entries over at City of Sound and That Brutal Joint about a piece by Nikos Salingaros posted at 2blowhards.com, I've been spurred on to catalogue a piece written by myself and a couple friends a few years ago for the Birmingham School of Architecture student magazine. It's with recognition of the astute observations about the characteristics of weblogging that promote useless iteration and reiteration by Submit Response that I restrain myself (for the moment) from joining in with the much deserved lambasting of Salingaros' piece about Bernard Tschumi. There is, however, space for this.

Anyone embarking on an architectural education (or stupid enough to go to a party with some architects) will eventually discover the phrase 'deconstruction'. The following text helps to,

a) stop any conversations on this subject before they go too far, and

b) explain what's happening in that strange park in North-East Paris: 'Parc de la Villette'

Just remember that deconstruction is all about word play and the questioning of perfectly sensible hierarchies, such as up/down, left/right and alive/dead. Anybody who’s seen ‘Night of the Living Dead’ has seen deconstruction in action. Zombies exist in an interstitial space between life and death. The zombie horror genre of movies can become a critique of popular culture unfettered by the restrictions of predefined values or ideology.

The best way to understand a new idea is often through metaphor. If deconstructivist architect Bernard Tschumi (architect of Parc de la Villette) made tea, he would probably do it like this:

Tea bags and disjunction

The hierarchy imposed by the term 'tea', prevents those of us involved in tea making from acknowledging the paradox which is inherent within the word play. Tea is not tea.

The rational act of tea-making is made sensuous by working within the program of water and leaves. The modernist tea maker may strive for a monovalent concentration on an individual element - either leaf or water - the Platonic tea. Yet, the tea event is derived by the collision of each element, rather than allowing the dominance of, let us say, the tea leaf. Instead the breaking down of these accepted hierarchies within the water/leaf dialectic, creates real tea pleasure.

This pleasure can only be found within the bondage of order. The institution of tea drinking is established by the systemic rules: cup, tea leaf, water, and the dairy produce variable. These rules do not limit us, but rather, provide the possibility of brewing through disjunction. It is the interstitial space between these elements that defines a new paradigm of drink.

The action of introducing these bi-polar conditions can be performed in numerous ways. However, the postrationalisation of cinematographic methods of control - fade in/fade out, cut/splice, pan/freeze - can be used as diagrams for the deconstruction of the joy of liquid consumption.

For it is only by recognising the institutional tea rule that the subject of drinking will reach the full depth of experience and its sensuality. Like eroticism, sweet tea, needs both system and excess. Which can be seen as a kettle/sugar dialogue.

To really appreciate white tea, you may even have to run out of milk.

This was previously posted at the mighty e2. In the unlikely event that there is any confusion over my position in the argument about Tschumi's worth to architectural theory, I should point out that I still occasionally reach for my signed copy of Architecture and Disjunction just to caress its cover and stare, wide-eyed, in a Homer Simpson style, at its pages.

Hmmmm, deconstruction....

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concrete evidence Tags:design,brutalism,denyslasdun,chairs,memories Memories pour from 43 year old chairs like sweat from a glass blower's arse. Used wisely they are tools for dislodging anecdotal diamonds from the deepest mines of architectural history. Returning from the book shop at lunch, clutching my RIBA bag containing William Curtis' book on Denys Lasdun, an unattractive degree of smugness causes me to once more bring up the topic of the chair.

day-3 day-2 day-1

Tony once went for a job interview. I remember visiting his office in a terraced house and waiting in the hall on a collapsable chair - it almost did collapse! - and then I went into Lasdun's drawing room, which actually was his drawing room with a couple of boards that he worked on, there was a desk and sofa - perhaps it's yours now - and he said that he was sorry but he didn't have any work for me, so I asked him why he'd agreed to see me if that was the case and he just said he was interested in seeing what I had - who else had I had offers from he said, John Madin I said, then I should go and work for him he said, he knows the business. So that's what he did. John Madin's office turned out some of Birmingham's finest post-war architecture and then after a while Tony left, won a competition and built the Ballymena County Hall. You can see it in a 1971 issue of the AJ. Brutalism doesn't do ornament. Ornament hides a multitude of sins. Like rain streaks that piss down the surface of concrete and cause you take your eye off the ball. What ball? The volumes, the solids, the voids. I remember, suddenly, as Tony flicks past the images of his era, lifting my camera to point at the underbelly of the National Theatre as a fresh faced clueless undergraduate and being, for the first time, moved. And relieved. Relieved that I'd filled my 35mm with black and white film.

There was a guy says Tony, called William Mitchell, who did sculptures in concrete for the facades of buildings. All I can think of is the guy at MIT, but for the moment I keep that to myself. I once went to a lecture he gave and heard him talk about the first time he started thinking about ornament and facades. He was on a train and as it passed under a bridge the history of the smoke patterns billowing over the surface above had brought the surface of the wall into greater relief. That's when he first got the idea. He told us about failed experiments with mangles where they would put concrete on boards and feed it between rollers with patterns cut into them. They got in a mess until they realised it was better to keep the concrete still and move the rollers.

We Google for him. It turns out he has his own dot com: william-mitchell.com. Lunch ends. I sat on the 43 year old chair this evening and ate chicken and noodles whilst memories poured from the leather like sweat from - no, wait, I said that already.

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Who do we think we are? The RIBA President's Medals results have just been announced. This year I'm particularly interested in a couple of the dissertation awards. A commendation went to Angela Hatherell from Oxford Brookes University for her piece Who do they think we are? Perceptions of Architects in Twenty First Century Britain.
Who do they think we are? Who do we think we are? Although I am not legally entitled to call myself an architect, for the purposes of this study, which in effect forces a 'them and us' situation, I feel, after six years of study, having been indoctrinated with the language, ideals and points of reference of an architect, that I am now more architect than not. However I do not wish for this to come across as a paranoid exponent of a conspiracy theory against architects. A 'no-one likes us we don't care' attitude fails to enhance anyone's reputation (unless you are a Millwall fan) but if architects are found to be distant and aloof, with a 'take us or leave us' mentality then it does seem that they (we) are going to be 'left.' Who knows, perhaps we will discover the opposite to be true, however I doubt that. I can only make judgements based on my personal experience of calling the RIBA for the purposes of researching this project. I was told by the receptionist that unless I was a member I couldn't speak to anyone and should instead ring the premium rate (50p / minute) information line. Architects? Aloof and elitist? Well superficially their (our) professional body shows clear signs of being just this, so what about the members? And what does everyone else think about architects? Do non-architects care about architects? Do they know about architects? And what is this knowledge based on and informed by? Personal experience? The media? Fiction?
I'm curious to know what her conclusion is. I have a friend who goes to Oxford Brookes, I'll see if he can get a copy. Alternatively, you could just tell me what you think of me and my profession in the comments. The dissertation prize winner was Olivia Gordon from The Bartlett School of Architecture. The title of her work is Word-robe.
The aim of this dissertation is to use the famous extract from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where Lucy enters the cupboard and first discovers Narnia, as an index for a personal storage system. This is used to house my own narrative on the theme of closet space, an individual 'wardrobe of words'. My writing then, in inhabiting the 'fixed' text of Lewis' novel, uses the predetermined structure of the story to develop my own investigation of the theme of cupboards. In effect I aim, like Lucy, to enter the mundane space of the wardrobe and discover a "whole country" within. The methodology I use is similar to George Perec's in his essay "Think/Classify" where he explains, "The alphabet used to 'number' the various paragraphs of this text follows the order in which the letters of the alphabet appear in the French translation of the seventh story in Italo Calvino's "If On One Winter's Night a Traveller". Rather than letters, I use the words of my chosen extract, as a means of classification. Reading and writing between the confined lines of the text become a way of 'slotting between' as one would file objects in a cupboard, generating a spacious place of creative investigation. The method of classification created through this process of reading and writing questions the opposition of orderly classification versus random spontaneous thought. It is here that the theme of the research develops: an exploration of the nature of the space of the closet, both as a mechanism for control and categorisation but also as a place to explore the freedom of the imagination. And so, following Lucy's journey from exterior to interior, my dissertation investigates these alternate themes and reflects on the implications that such a duality might have for the architect as designer and definer of space.
I see that Derrida's influence lives on. Unfortunately there are no illustrations on the web site, but this week's AJ magazine shows some wonderful drawings of subtly adjusted anthropometric diagrams involving people moving a wardrobe. Both look worthy of further examination, I'll see if I can get hold of them. Let me know if you know someone who knows someone who knows where to get them.

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neigh Quick, somebody call the RSPCA*. Libeskind is flogging that one-trick pony again.

* Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals/Architecture

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the ultimate erotic act Stolen from Jack's flickr stream:

Stonewall 3 by Monica Bonvicini at DCA.

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open again Tags: detail,material,photography Just received on e-mail from Ed Frith and posted here simply as a celebration of creative detailing.

Ed 11

Related entry: Revisit Open House 2005

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RIP R. Erskine A late entry, on the late Ralph Erskine. I discovered an old double issue of AD magazine from 1977 and proceeded, in the usual way, to scan and share. I've uploaded a series of pages at hi-res so that they can still be read. The 'Office in a Barge' drawing is worth close scrutiny. ad_ralph_erskine_cover ad_ralph_erskine_6 At no extra charge I've also added a couple more images to the previous Designers in Britain series.

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pudding Tags:architect,competition,urbandesign There was another point to the creme brulee entry, other than simply the celebration of great dessert. It got cut short by workload this morning. The point was also to thank Al for shedding blood, sweat and probably tears to complete an entry for Europan 8 and then, for reasons I won't go into here, include my name on the submission. I got a few free canapes in return. Unfortunately his work didn't make the final cut, but you can see his entry over on my flickr account:

morrissey-europan-1 morrissey-europan-2 morrissey-europan-3

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if you build it Hastily edited on the train home - video coverage of last night's Europan awards. Watch CABE blush as the current poor record for getting winning schemes built is brought home to them. Link: third time lucky (Quicktime video)

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wmv version Added a Windows Media version: Europan8-wmv and switched the above for an iPod friendly MP4 format.

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extruding algorithms Hugh Pearman on one of my favourite firms, Caruso St.John:
A sample of lace will be scanned, turned into a 3D computer model, and moulded into the pigmented precast concrete panels forming the elevations of the centre. "With this technology," observes Caruso, "you can do very intricate ornament again." Sullivan and Wright live on. As does Berlage – his Holland House, right behind Foster’s Gherkin in the City of London is "a constant reference". Caruso St. John regard this kind of thing as real ornament. For them, it is cheating to muck around with algorithms and mapping programs to generate façade details, as some modish architects do. "Why go to that kind of incredible contrivance to get an articulation which in the end is always very reduced?" ponders Caruso.
Synopsis from the ICA Philadelphia exhibition showing the work of one of my other favourite firms, UN Studio:
The "Holiday Home" is an experiential installation exploring and quantifying areas in which the holiday home departs from modern design conventions. The orthogonal surfaces of the archetypal house are extruded and skewed creating the sculptural armature within which the dichotomies of home and holiday home are played out. The new architectural shape emulates escapism, the expectation of a holiday as removed from the everyday experiential routine. The interplay of what is real and what is virtual transpires on a number of levels touching on ideas of collective memory and phenomenological perceptions.
Perhaps it's time for me to choose which side of the fence I sit on. Related entries: Walsall Art gallery (with embedded link to yet another entry)

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exurban
Exurbia (aka Edge City, subSuburbia, sprawl, outta control, psychick death zones): that newly expanded, resurfaced and subsubcontracted housing areas that aren't really near anything, except the highway. These are evidence of continued flight from the urban zones by the almost affluent. Requiring a car as they usually have no sidewalks, the exurban neighborhood is a psychological battlefield that pits "neighbour" against "neighbour" in non-communication assaults, assumptive competition and hyperreal conspicuous consumerism. A word to the wise: do not go there except with the most profound sense of caprice and beatitude.
from monoculartimes.co.uk

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Fantasy Architecture, Fantastic Architecture Tonight's offering is mostly photos, apologies to all on a dial up connection. As promised in my previous entry, I visited the Fantasy Architecture exhibition at Walsall Art Gallery on Sunday. We arrived with only hours to spare, Sunday was the last day of the exhibition, if you haven't been yet you've missed it. The tight deadline didn't worry me as I'd brought the whole family and I knew this would only be a cursory glance at best. Taking your kids to a gallery can be both a burden and a joy, depending on your luck/mood. Our most successful visit yet being a trip to the Tate Modern, during which our son decided he would turn himself into an installation to demonstrate the acoustic qualities of each room - screaming and laughing at everything. The faces of the other visitors was itself a picture that deserved framing. I managed to get a few moments peace this weekend thanks to a model by the artist Nils Norman entitled Let the Blood of the Property Developers Run Freely in the Streets of Hackney. Josh and Josie were captivated by the detail (on the left). nils norman It was a much more extensive collection than I'd expected since it has sifted through the archive of the RIBA library and produced work from over 150 years of architectural drawing. One of the most striking realisations to come from this diversity was how pathetic many of the contemporary computer generated illustrations looked against the hand crafted work. Here's the FAT project I mentioned in the previous entry, against a drawing of the design for the Imperial Monumental Halls and Tower by John Pollard Seddon and Edward Beckitt Lamb. FAT And I'm not just talking about whether bigger is better. An MVRDV image of their Pig City project suffered from the same problem against a Paulo Soleri sketch of equal dimensions. The Fourth Grace - the latest dream from Will Alsop to prove itself beyond the imagination of the people who have to fund it - was looking somewhat less than graceful. forth grace A model of Foster's Twin Towers proposal was also on show. It's better than Libeskind's. kissing towers Regardless of contents of the exhibition, a trip to Walsall gallery is always a delight. It's one of the best pieces of contemporary architecture in the Midlands. It's rigorous, inviting, intriguing, warm, dark where it should be dark and light where it should be light. The coffee is quite good too. The foyer is a knockout. walsall foyer It's a lesson in how to make an entrance to a public building. walsall stairs I've trained my daughter to do a little jig whenever she's within 20 metres of good architecture. walsall entrance It passes the test with flying colours. Go see for yourself.

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another chance I was wrong. You haven't missed it. It's a touring exhibition which will also be shown during 29 January - 9 April 2005 at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery in Preston. See here: RIBA news

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Modern Methods? tags: timber, farrell, grimshaw, AD, advent, gift

Architectural Advent Day 9:

An excerpt from a 1976 edition of AD (entitled Whatever happened to the systems approach?) containing an interview with Terry Farrell and Nick Grimshaw discussing their work with timber frame housing:

Farrell-Grimshaw interviewed by James Meller (PDF link)

(Sample from cover and image from interview topic)

AD1976_cover mmc

My profession has a short memory. I post this in the same week that my office has been asked to attend meetings to discuss the benefits of standardisation in timber frame housing. This time round everybody has agreed to call it MMC (Modern Methods of Construction). Farrell and Grimshaw understood the systems approach - it's exactly that: an approach. Yet despite all the urban design debates about context sensitivity, design quality and environmental performance, it seems there are many who are still chasing the idea of a set of standardised products rather than techniques.

Terry Farrell:
This is perhaps too intuitive to be called a system, but it has systematic elements threaded through it. One of the things we are doing at the moment is low-cost housing, for housing societies on many different tiny sites where, right from the outset, we thought we had to get something constant going through these things. What is the constant element? It isn't the appearance of the buildings, because in England today every little local planning officer is a law unto himself. So we scrapped the appearance side of it and looked for other common threads. Wat we were able to pin it down to, was the frame structure of the building and the internal finishes, but not the external finishes.

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Will Price

More image/text mash ups.

'...seems to admit more affinity with construction photos than with images of finished buildings ... divisions haven't yet been filled in ... leaves openings for life to develop and lets the architect suggest an unpredictable future ... The design remains an idea, or a net in which various bits have got lodged like bugs in the radiator grille of a car. Like these insects, the gelled or completed elements of the structure are significant as clues to a process, signs of activity which buildings can't entirely contain. So this work is like a machine not in its strict logic but in its absence of extraneous baggage and its unprogrammatic linkages...'

Image: Fawood Children's Centre by Alsop and Partners (photo credit - Alan Lai)

Words: Robert Harbison describing Cedric Price's Interaction Centre in Thirteen Ways: Theoretical Investigations in Architecture.


I attended an Alsop lecture last year and I remember very clearly one of the first things that struck me as he got up to speak. As he headed towards the laptop/rostrum, glass of red wine in hand, before a single image had been shown, I thought to myself 'This is what it must have been like to see Cedric Price lecture'. Moments later he started the lecture by talking about the time he spent working with Cedric Price. Perhaps I was just sub-consciously remembering that connection, but for a moment it seemed like Price was with us again for the evening. Piers Gough and the rest of the judging panel were wrong. The Fawood Children's Centre should have won last year's Stirling Prize.

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flw On the arrogance of architects (from the comments on an article entitled 'Why architects give me the willies'):
I'm a graphic designer at an architecture firm, and am currently setting up a new business-card template to send to the printer. The templates had been designed to accommodate long, hyphenated last names as well as multiple professional accreditation initials. After entering in all 100+ names into the forms, one person's name did not fit. This person used their full first name---not unusual---but then also their full middle name, whereas most chose to forego even a middle initial. And then, this person wanted "Associate AIA" after his name, which I suppose is OK, but it's sort of like putting "almost AIA" after your name. ("Associate AIA" means you have an architectural degree and are paying dues but haven't yet passed the certification exam.) So, in the interest of trying to get all the information to fit, I asked if he wouldn't mind either using just an initial, or else maybe getting rid of "Associate AIA." He declined to omit any information, explaining that "It's not 'Frank L. Wright.' " (posted by salvomania)
Found via a mammoth piece of wrinking over at thingsmagazine.net.

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fog index John Massengale has been getting understandably upset about the work of the Kolatan / MacDonald studio. And so he should, it's a fine example of how we architects love to make hard work out of something as simple as putting a few sentences together. Look:
We have two primary interests in the chimerical. One has to do with its seeming capability as a concept to help define existing phenomena of fairly complex hybridity in which categorically different systems somehow operate as a single identity. The other, is based on the assumption that the ways in which chimera are constituted and operate hold clues to a transformatively aggregative model of construction/production. That is to say, an aggregation which becomes more than the sum of its parts, and therefore is not reducible to its constituent parts. Thus, the chimerical has the potential to be both an analytical and methodological tool. In combination, the two models offer an opportunity to link dissipative/aggregative operations to transformative ones with the co-citation analog identifying similarities between unrelated sites/structures/programs, and the chimerical analog employing these initial similarities to construct new sites/structures/programs. While existing categories might cease to be useful, the paradigm of the network/chimera has the potential to open up an entire new range of previously inconceivable kinds of structures for which no names exist as of yet.
Come again? Translation: Folksonomic tag clusters. Isn't Web 2.0 great? It's even helping to unravel overly complicated architectural theory. If you'd like to read more about the paradigm of the network/chimera without feeling like you've had your brain smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick1, the groop.us tag clusters thesis and visualizations seem like a fine place to start. According to the readability test at juicystudio.com however, the Kolatan / MacDonald Studio work isn't all that bad. It scores the following: You'll see from the marking system on the site that it doesn't even make the cut as an academic paper on the fog index table. Try harder next time. Happily, I can announce that cuddly, approachable no, 2 self scores as follows. Giving us a fog index somewhere in between The Bible and Reader's Digest. Thank God. Readability has been on my mind a lot lately as I've once again been beaten by the book I've attempted many times since I bought it about five years ago - Robert Harbison's Theoretical Investigations in Architecture. Every year I try it and every year it drives me round the twist. I shall admit defeat. It's architectural history without all that tedious mucking about with such cumbersome structures as chronological order. Harbison roams freely around using only the indentation of a new paragraph to signal gargantuan leaps in time and space. Very non-linear2. Very mid-nineties. Very bloody annoying. Writing this now I realise it's also a lot like an attempt to link dissipative/aggregative operations to transformative ones with the co-citation analog identifying similarities between unrelated sites/structures/programs, as Kolatan / MacDonald would say, albeit rather clumsily. It appears, to my dismay, that I'm just not built for it. Launched on a new trajectory by the sudden shift in subject my mind seems to just keep going, bouncing off the page and coming to rest in the mists of a reverie about something entirely different. Custard, for example. The tram doors slide open and I've arrived at work without returning my eyes to the page. It needs something to structure it. Some form of notation. It's yours if you want it. Mail me.
Tomorrow evening I shall be rubbing shoulders with the great and the good at CABE's offices in London for the Europan awards ceremony. Be on the look out for some on the spot moblogging. Following that I'll be out looking for the moblogging spot. It's the 2nd birthday party for moblog.co.uk and we'll be in The Canteloupe bar in Shoreditch. There's even a web cam.

I'll be the one in the t-shirt that says 'Architecture Sucks'.3

Notes:
1. RIP DNA
2. related entry: non-linear canals
3. unless my current level of bravado has ebbed away by morning

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bullet proof communities Wanted: undercover special ops. team to travel through time and prevent the publication of a recent paper by the European Committee for Standardisation - Prevention of Crime - Urban Planning and Design. If these fools are allowed to have their say and their proposal for the construction of more gated communities leaves an impression on other fools, we may as well admit that Thatcher was not only right, but prophetic. In the report the ECS suggests that;
...crime can be reduced through 'territoriality' - people extending there control over their immediate surroundings - and recommends using ' barriers' to 'maximise private space and minimise public space'.
It gets worse. Apparently, barrier walls should have anti-graffiti surface protection, chain link fences and bullet proof windows.
Under the section 'The Fence', it advises that fences be supplemented with anti-intrusion sensors, CCTV, shock lighting and alarms.
Imagine a world where each street has a security guard at the end of it. Imagine a world where you need your ID card checked just to walk down a road that was previously public space. Imagine having to pay extra home insurance because you can't afford to live in a gated community. Imagine the riots that will erupt over the arguments about whether the gated community next to you should pay less tax than you do because they employ a private firm to empty their bins. I spend my days redesigning housing estates that have barely lasted 20 or 30 years before declining both physically and socially. Yes, a small part of this is to do with the architecture and construction techniques, but the root of it is found in the history of divisive housing tenure policies and it's effect on social inclusiveness. That's before we even get to any discussion about gated communities. The source for this entry was the Big Issue, which is a little embarassing. It's not that I'm being derogatory to the magazine; the Big Issue is a fantastic publication and the current layout looks great - it's just that I really should have picked it up sooner, since it's so relevant to my job. I've downloaded the document now so I can have a proper read. I'll add an update if anything else needs mentioning. This topic was also recently covered by the BBC as part of their If? series. Also wanted: WiFi on the Birmingham Metro tram line so that I can post this as soon as I've finished, and someone to tell me how to get my SuSE Linux OS to recognise both my touchpad and my mouse without one uninstalling the other. Of these two items, the former is fairly unlikely, as I seem to be the only one in the West Midlands who uses a laptop/PDA on the tram; the latter will hopefully be solved either here or here.

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Being Frank Oh dear. It's not been too rosy for Mr Gehry lately. So far we've had snow falling on students head's, clients employing other architects to fix bits they don't like and a hockey trophy which ... when Gehry pulled the covering off the trophy, it was like someone had tugged the burlap bag off the Elephant Man.... Finally, let us not forget the heat that bounces off the Disney Concert Hall's stainless steel surface and cooks the residents across the street. As a student I was inspired and intrigued by Gehry's work. I fondly remember the time my friend and I discovered a slide and tape presentation of some of his early work. Having dashed to the empty lecture theatre to watch it we were captivated by the images as the carousel clicked by; Gehry's slow, laconic voice on the tape carefully describing the details as if he was specifically addressing us. Intellectually enagaging and technically fascinating, it had a big effect. Some years later I realised that the tape had been running slowly. In real life he sounded somewhat less deliberate and rigorous. It was a huge disappointment. I feel the same know. (tip o' the titanium hat to Veritas et Venustas and That Brutal Joint.)

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with style We could do with a few more critics like Jonathan Glancey.
The debate over quality, or lack of it, in the development of mass housing in sweeping tracts of southern England has been fuelled by Cabe, the government's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Its chief executive, Richard Simmons, wrote in the Guardian: "Our challenge is to create the kind of neighbourhoods that people will want to live in. This is not a question of aesthetics or style." Oh yes it is. I would have thought that Simmons's job was to champion the way buildings and the "built environment" look. However, as he was referring to new housing estates, or "sustainable communities" in New Labour-speak, in the Thames Gateway, a tragic fiction of a non-place in the profitable making, I suppose we must learn to forgive him. For this stretch of sopping, strangely beautiful land along the banks of the Thames has become the dumping ground of crass new housing for poor people, many of them migrants, employed to clean up the costly messes we make in our homes, offices and public lavatories, and to stick expensive tickets on the windscreens of our cars. This is a no-go area for such trivial things as aesthetics, civility or style.
Taken from a brilliant article in The Guardian (found via ArchNewsNow)

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A good year Only a year has passed and I'm already a vintage according to The Times: arb_2004

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Goth architect Just a quick note to point out that there is further discussion of the design codes and the implications of Prince Charles' carbuncle speech in this weeks copy of Building Design (subscription required). There's a history of the Prince's Foundation's influence and it includes a comment about how West 8's project in Borneo and Sporenburg was also designed using codes, yet resulted in a contemporary looking project. According to West 8's site '...the brief called for 2500 dwelling units in low-rise, which here meant a density of 100 units per hectare...'. Trust me, that isn't easy*. Looks like it could be worth further investigation. There's more info at the ArchNewsNow site. Whilst having my body pumelled during my monthly acupressure session a few moments ago (we share the costs with the boss and have it here at the office), I suddenly remembered that I once met a student from the Prince's Foundation during a seminar at the RIBA about 8 or 9 years ago. The only thing I remember about him was that he had an ambition to one day build a Gothic airport terminal. We laughed, but maybe a few flying butresses would have stopped the disaster at Charles de Gaulle.

*of course, any muppet can build at that sort of density, but doing it successfully is quite another matter

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smashing It beat me.

shot

Back in 2002 I spent what felt like half my life experimenting with the modelling tools used to create Half Life. My goal being to create a virtual model of my building that the viewer would have complete control over. The first time I sat in front of the game and lifted the crow bar (the basic weapon provided near the beginning of the game), my thoughts turned to destruction rather than creation. I dreamt, for reasons that are still unclear to me, of modelling the Farnsworth House and then remodelling it with few swift, deadly swings of my virtual arm1. In the following months, during my Pigs in Space period, I began to work up a model for my final thesis project. Tom Barker from b-consultants was developing models using the same technique at the time and I visited his office so we could share notes. But in the end it beat me. Time ran out, the model proved too complicated to finish and I wasted too much time modelling, ahem, myself, as you can see above. I shelved it and got on with the real work. Happily, it hasn't beaten everyone and I was delighted to find a discussion forum a few weeks ago showcasing some fantastic models of MVRDV's VPRO building2 using the very same technique. It's all been collated at Arch-life (thanks to thingsmagazine.net for the heads up) and as well as shots of VPRO you'll find a map to download of the exquisite (in Real Life at least) thermal baths in Vals by Peter Zumthor. Now, where's my crow bar?

notes:
1. or is it Tracy Island?
2. Recently Mies' grandson got to do that for real, but on the wrong building.

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flat eric Almost forgot. I did some work with the Quake modelling engine too. The eye-level of the view point is a little too high for domestic scale work though. Say hello to Flat Eric and his machine gun. shot0002 Full set can be found at flickr. Believe it or not, this one actually got built. Eventually.

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Housing matrix tags: architecture, housing

housingprototypes.org, a guide to housing design examples listed by project, architect, building typology, city and country:

HousingPrototypes.org contains examples of housing designed by different architects in different historic periods, countries, and cities. Projects range in scale from single buildings to examples of large social housing projects containing thousands of dwellings. A typological guide provides for research by housing site and building organization. Each example is presented as an individual case study complete with building data and description, a critical analysis, bibliographic resources, photographic images, and drawings. The data is cross-indexed for easy searching by housing type, country, city, architect and date.
Found via Stan Allen's blog.

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unmixed use It was never my intention for this blog to become a suppository repository for comments on the new Selfridges building in Birmingham, but neither do I try to engineer any fixed direction for my content. This is, after all, merely notes to self. If confluences of events conspire against me, so be it. When I scanned through the journals this morning at work, trying to catch up after a couple of weeks off, I found a comment from Ian Saunders of d5 architects, who I was waving to a couple of days ago.
While Selfridges is certainly an asset to Birmingham, should it not raise concerns that the most talked about building in the region is a shop?
(via the AJ 01/07/04, via the Birmingham Post 24/06/04)

I couldn't agree more.

p.s - and yes, Bobby H, I'm flogging old projects again; get over it ;)

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back and forth It seems this one just doesn't want to lie down. Salingaros posted a response to the criticism of his paper on Tschumi, and Brutal Joint followed it with a response to the response. City Comforts just filed a response to the response to the response. It went like this: Salingaros...
Note that we are not dealing here with theoretical physics, which requires a language not known to everyone; architectural theory should be written in a common language understandable to every person. After all, they have to live with its applications.
Brutal Joint...
We have to live with the laws of physics, too; that doesn’t mean we should all be conversant in string theory. We listen to music, but we’re not all expected to perform Schenkerian analysis. It is wrong to suggest that just because everyone uses buildings, architectural theory should be dumbed-down to the level of those who have had no architectural instruction.
City Comforts...
I don't think so. By the same logic we should do away with voting and leave politics to political scientists. No
It might go further like this: By the very act of voting we give a group of people permission to deal with politics on our behalf. We are asking them to be political scientists for us so that we don't have to. It's not that we should be blind to the subject and ignore what happens thereafter (the word idiot is derived from the Greek word ιδιωτης, idiôtęs, meaning a person who declined to take part in public life, such as democratic city government1), but we should recognise that there are discussions that occur between politicians and politicians and then there are discussions that occur between politicians and the rest if us. So it is with architecture. There is a long history of architect to architect discussions and even architect to architect design; what matters is whether or not the net result benefits the end user. You don't need to to understand beauty to appreciate it. Well, I don't anyway.

1. http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Idiot

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in celebration of the ordinary At the MoDA:
In Search of Suburbia: 11 October 2005 - 26 March 2006 We are all familiar with the suburbs. The majority of the UK's population lives there. We all know what we mean by suburbia. For many of us it is summed up by the 1930s semi-detached family house with front and back gardens. And many of us have strong feelings about it, whether positive, quiet, safe, leafy, and family-oriented or -negative- think Mike Leigh snobbery and Desperate Housewives undercurrents. But in fact the suburbs are incredibly varied, both in date and in the type of homes provided. So why do we have such a strong tendency to homogenise this vast diversity? Is there really such a place as suburbia or are there many different and changing suburbias? MoDA's exhibition goes in search of suburbia by looking at a number of different developments in the vicinity of the museum: the red-brick villas of Edwardian Palmers Green; 1920s and 30s social and private housing in Oakwood; the sparklingly bright modern homes of the 1950s; the large-scale mixed planning of the late 60s Grahame Park Estate in Barnet; and a small 1990s development.
Also - a reading list to accompany the exhibition: Suburbia reading list (PDF link)

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Pass the (s)ketchup It's a few years since I last visited the Interbuild exhibition. So long, in fact, that the last time I went the atmosphere was sufficiently un-PC to allow for a collection of under dressed women to be seen demonstrating the baths and jacuzzis. No such luck this year. The actual work related content was pretty disappointing too. None of the big manufacturers had a presence and there didn't seem to be any eye-catching innovation. I suspect that, for many, the internet has changed the need to rely on exhibitions to deliver information. A lot of products also fell foul of the critical appraisal skills that comes with being a parent (a skill that I had yet to acquire on my previous visits). Plenty of potential death traps and cleaning nightmares; such as the radiator with perfect size holes for inserting a banana. Irrelevant design problem? Ask a two year old. There was, however, some interesting IT solutions that we left feeling enthusiastic about. The most impressive of which was Sketchup, a 3D modelling application that tries to strip out all the complexities normally found in CAD packages and perform in a more intuitive fashion. Push bits, pull bits, punch holes, extrude a roof, cast a shadow and cut a section. Very tactile and immediate, it looks perfect for carving out initial concepts. It's only Achilles heel is that you can't export designs in orthographic. Which means drawing your design from scratch when you move into the production stage. [alsop.jpg]Before leaving, we paid a visit to the RIBA stand, hoping that we might get cheered up by the Will Alsop designed pavillion. Whilst it's dangerous to critique something for which you don't know the brief, it's fair to say that we were distinctly underwhelmed. Essentially an exercise in surface decoration, the uncomfortably proportioned box tried to create a glamorous enclave amidst a world of dowdy building products. Judging by the number of darkly dressed architects at the bar (we they always wear black) this seemed to fool at least a few people. On reflection, it may have been the mirrored floor that was the cause of the odd proportion - everything doubled, leaving you in the centre of the vertical space, instead of at ground level where you expected to be. [alsop2.jpg:in]The wall of the bar was a beautiful, polished red but your view of it was always disturbed by the black and white zig-zag patterns on the wall. Refusing to leave your peripheral vision and daring you to look straight at them. I suspect that both the brief and the budget were all but non-existant. Al, who's been sufficiently upset by Alsop's work in the past to write an inspired letter to the AJ, found it particularly difficult to keep his cool. Let's hope this doesn't cause too much tension when Alsop comes to Oxford Brookes Uni to critique his final post-graduate project next year. Perhaps it was the lingering memory of bananas in radiators that had put us in such uncharitable spirits. Some much, much better news is that I see from this morning's press that MVRDV are the next practice to design a pavillion for Hyde Park. I can't wait. Their work is both beautiful and rigorous - I'm a big fan. I also owe them for paving the way for my Pigs in Space project, which I worked on as an investigation of the ideas put forward in their Pig City.

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screwup I have been duly reprimanded by my ex-fellow student and architectural adventurer, Bobby H, for the above comment about Sketchup and orthographic drawings.
It is with great regret that I have to inform you that you have given incorrect information to readers of your blog regarding the export options of sketchup. I have been using this programme for some time and must report that you can indeed export orthographic projections directly into autocad at the correct scale. Indeed, so accurate are these exports that a recent PFI bid I was involved in was drawn almost entirely on sketchup, including plans, sections and elevations.

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inthewrongjob tags: architecture, salary, underpaid Bloody. Hell.

from the Coroflot survey via Archidose.

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crowd surfing There's a bit of a kerfuffle going on in the new-urbanist camp. The CNU has surprised everyone by giving the shiniest of all 'starchitects', Frank Gehry (mates with Brad Pitt, appeared in The Simpsons), an award for good urban design for his LA Philharmonic Building. I haven't visited the building in question, so I'm poorly placed to get involved, but the ins and outs are being well documented by David Sucher over at City Comforts. Right now, from up here on the fence, I find myself beginning to be drawn (despite my previous Gehry entry) towards the side of the CNU.
For God's sake, some place in our T6 universe there may be a place for a pure, unadulterated object. I am concerned that our new urbanist eyes are so colored by what we are trying to project into the built world, that we have stopped feeling or empathizing with others who feel that certain buildings elevate their existence.
That was Stefanos Polyzoides on the Pro-Urb mailing list. Sounds good to me, but what the hell is a T6 universe? Answers on a postcard please. As for the pure, unadulterated object, it sounds like he's suffering from the same crisis as me when I'm confronted by the likes of Anish Kapoor's sculptures. from a previous Kapoor entry:
Note to self: That's me, that is. I lose site of the art in all the process and technique. This is exactly why my love of Anish Kapoor's work feels so dirty.
It's a crisis that could be solved if one were to just let go and stage dive off the moral high ground to be carried along by the hands of all those that are sufficiently at peace with the world to simply say: Because it's beautiful.

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more news: from The Gutter
Which well-known New Urbanists, not hailing from Greater Miami, were overheard making the following less-than PC comments after a ceremony to honor Frank Gehry's contributions to the cityscape? "What's next," the first asked, "a humanitarian award to Osama bin Laden?" The other responded: "We'll give a painting award to Adolf Hitler!" The prize was intended to entice Gehry to a party at the recent Congress for the New Urbanism, but the architect was not so easily played. He sent an underling to brave the bow-tied throngs.

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Poetic Cross-Dressing
We'll have time for coffee flavoured kisses
And a bit of conversation.
My caffeine fix was served by a rather brusque Italian woman today. For once, the language on the menu matched the accent. It's hardly authentic though, unlike the coffee shop that has just been protected with a Grade II listing by English Heritage. Frequented in years gone by the notorious Kray brothers, Pellicci's in the East End of London is being held up as the first step in fighting back against the spread of franchised coffee shops. Mr Pellici says,
A lot of my original customers are dead, of course.
Which is perhaps an unfortunate choice of words considering the activities of some of his past clientele. Adrian Maddox, author of Classic Cafes says,
These cafes started dying off in the 1980s and then came Starbucks and the other chains and they started vanishing. But these cafes have a whole secret history; they tell a story, of the wave of Italian immigrants who came here and brought their culture with them. They incubated a whole sub-culture of music, fashion, film, sex, crime.
I didn't see much sign of any sub-culture whilst sat in a two-a-penny franchise during my lunch today, but then I did spend most of the time hunched over a napkin with a pen. shanghai_kiss It's just possible I shall cause some offence with this entry. I decided to jot down my memories of a project in Shanghai that Will Alsop announced during the lecture I attended last week. Shanghai told him that they wanted 'something like the London Eye'. He gave them The Kiss - a ride taller than the Eiffel Tower, with individually programmable dining carriages and a 'love hotel' at the base. The entire thing rotates twice a day and the carriages can move past each other on the route because of the double-helix track that twists around the surface. It's not been published officially yet, you saw it here first, hence my concern about causing offence. To double check if there are any links elsewhere and check if I really am the first, I've just tried Googling for shanghai+kiss+alsop and found myself on a site describing the results of the Second Annual Poetic Cross-Dressing Contest. Try it if you dare. The other reason I might offend is because I'm doing exactly what Alsop said I shouldn't do - the clichéd architect's thumbnail sketch on a cafe napkin. Part of his lecture demonstrated the large scale drawings he does for projects, explaining that he could never understand the architect's desire to produce tiny drawings when we work in a field that produces such large products. What we need in Birmingham is an authentic Italian cafe with really big napkins.
My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away
I need a change of scenery. Ta ta ta...

The first person to tell me the source of the opening and closing quotes in this entry gets to keep the original sketch and use it to wipe up next time they spill their coffee.

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follow the light A few weeks ago I was taken to task by my friend Matthew over my enthusiasm for Walsall Art Gallery. I mounted a defence and then we agreed to let the building have the final say and pay it a visit together. I don't expect to have to say anything further. By way of preperation, here's a few images I took last week. In my previous entry I suggested that one of its qualities was that it was dark where it should be dark and light where it should be light. A simple critique but important nonetheless. How often have felt a building pro-actively working with darkness? Not very often I suspect. Here's some proof - the journey to the temporary exhibition space on the top floor: rob022 rob023 rob024 rob025 rob026 Pick a date, Matthew. Upon arrival at the top floor, having followed the light up the douglas fir lined staircases you'll find (if you visit now) a carefully crafted installation by Hew Locke. link: [full flickr set including Locke installation]

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FLW From an e-mail received by The Gutter, regarding Google's logo tweak to celebrate the birthday of Frank Lloyd Wright:
Telling people you're an architect and having them say they like Frank Lloyd Wright is like telling them you're a novelist and being told they like Steinbeck. It's like, um, okay... The only thing worse is people still asking you what you think of Bilbao.

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mad scientists Separated at birth? Architect, Greg Lynn:

greg_lynn

Greg Lynn will present some projects that ... are chosen for their flexibility and adaptability. To initiate transformation and mutation, external constraints are exerted on these internally regulated prototypes. The result of this interaction between a generalized flexible organization and particular external constraints is a design process that has an undecidable outcome.
Hippy scientist, Professor Denzil Dexter of the University of Southern California:

denzil_the_scientist

Professor Dexter's experiments are in turn pointless and dangerous. They seem to stem from a combination of optimism and an uncertain grasp of reality.
Related entry: teeth on plastic

Denzil Greg image source: Forbes.com

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Making Urban Places tags: lecture, urbandesign, pdf Once again I am but the outlet for the work of others. Here's another installation in the series of lecture notes belonging to my colleagues at the office (we're architects in birmingham, in case you hadn't already heard*). I can announce today that I may have finally persuaded aforementioned colleague to officially release further work as an ongoing series, as opposed to me snaffling stuff while he's looking the other way. I'll be cross posting on the office site too. For this installment there are three PDF files on offer: 1, 2 and 3. Here's an excerpt from the typology matrix contained on one them:

MakingUrbanPlaces-excerpt

And here's the premise of the lecture:
Making Urban Places
Lecture 2: An Urban Vocabulary That the urban spaces which make up our cities is merely a collection of spaces left over between buildings, is an opinion which is spatially, socially and culturally bankrupt. Urban space, for the urban designer, is a public theatre for a complex mixture of social, political, economic and individual behaviour vital to all of us. Such spaces are of equal, if not greater significance, to our growth and development as the architecture we inhabit. Historically urban space was not merely an extension of architecture, but space created from elements of a distinctively urban character. In this lecture we set out to examine this urban vocabulary with two intentions:
  1. To group the vocbulary under the perceptual headings of Kevin Lynch and relate them to a common human experiences in space.
  2. To reveal the dynamic rules of combination (syntax) underlying such a vocabulary which permits us to create a rich and diverse language of urban forms.
References: Gorden Cullen: Townscape
Kevin Lynch: Image of the City
Camillo Sitte: City Planning on Artistic Principles
Rob** Krier: Urban Space
Carry on with the matrix in the empty spaces and send it me back! Related entries: Mythical City (previous lecture notes), Pepe le Pew on Townscape, Here and There

* last time, I -cough- promise
** I think there's a typo on the PDF that says Leon when it should say Rob

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revised townscape I've just discovered there's a new version of Townscape due for issue later this year!

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book links First attempt at using Amazon affiliate links for books choked so I've experimented with the Librarything title search instead. Serves me right for for trying to make a profit off your clicks.

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MANPLAN 1 Dan, over at City of Sound, mentioned it a few days ago and then the eagle-eyed Jonathan from Things Magazine picked up on it. I posted a comment about it, wandered over to a dusty corner of the office whilst my boss wasn't looking, stole it, scanned it and flickred it. So here it is, samples from the first issue of the controversial 1969 edition of Architectural Review magazine, entitled Manplan. You can see the full set on my flickr account. I have issues 2, 3 and 6 also, which I hope to upload in the coming weeks. manplan_1_cover manplan_1_01

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MANPLAN 2 As promised, here's number 2 in the 1969 Architectural Review series entitled Manplan. The second issue focuses on communication. You can see the full set on my flickr account. manplan_2_cover manplan_2_05

manplan_2_07 manplan_2_08

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MANPLAN 3 tags: manplan, ar, magazine, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 21:

Nearly two years on from first posting samples of the seminal AR Manplan series, I've finally added volume 3.

Manplan3-cover Manplan3-388

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MANPLAN 4 + 5 tags: manplan, ar, magazine, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 22:

[add your MANPLAN 4 images here]

Architectural Advent day 23:

[add your MANPLAN 5 images here] ---- I need your help. After 21 days of giving, I don't think it's unfair of me to expect a little in return. Volumes 4 and 5 of the Manplan series are missing from our office. Probably loaned to a student decades ago, never to return. Somebody must have a copy they're happy to share samples from. How many degrees of separation am I from somebody with these issues? Ask around, link up this entry and help me find someone so the architectural advent doesn't have some empty days.

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MADA s.p.a.m I made a dash across town during my lunch break last week and paid a visit to the Custard Factory in Digbeth. There was an exhibition of work by Chinese architect Ma Qingyun (office name: MADA s.p.a.m - strategy, planning, architecture, media) and it gave me an excuse to have lunch with my friend and fellow architect, Naomi, since she works in the same building. Naomi has just come back from a round the world trip and is returning to join her father's practice Apec. Before that, she worked at Glen Howells Architects and had a hand in shaping a couple of Urban Splash's recent projects. She's good, and I've wasted quite a bit of time over the years failing to persuade her to come and work with me. On to the exhibition. This was my first experience of this firm's work and I was much impressed. Multi-layered, rich, inclusive and rigorous. Rigorous but loose. Loose in the way that a suit* has to be loose in order for you to wear it and live in it. It's an idea I've been thinking about since I went to see Alsop's The Public. That there should be sufficient space - physically and metaphysically - between form and programme to allow for the occasional...jiggle. If I ever get round to writing up some notes on the Alsop visit I'll have to try and find a better word. Of course there is the distinct danger that I'm projecting that idea onto the work; there's still lunch to be had and we're in a rush after all. For this same reason I also begin to doubt myself as I start to spot numerous references to, and influences from, European practice. Koolhaas and his CCTV project is written all over one scheme - the Beijing Rock. Ma Qingyun - model 2 (CCTV 2?) Ma Qingyun - model 2
Contemporary architecture in Beijing strives to be contextual. This simplistic and thought-free architecture style ignores, or worse refutes the ever-changing reality of 21st century China. In a context deprived of clarity, as the periphery of Beijing often is, the Beijing Rock is a contextual, driven by prevailing urban forces, not existing urban form.
I begin to doubt myself because I realise that I don't have the first clue about Chinese contemporary culture or architectural practice. Europe and the West is all I've got to go on so maybe I'm projecting that too. This needs fixing. Serendipity has caused this entry to be written on the same day as Dan Hill starting his second series of posts about Shanghai. There are further pictures from my trip over at flickr.com.

* note to self: the looseness of a suit is defined by it's seams - head back to a recent post on PLSQ for more.

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Members only tags: blog, aj The AJ launches a blog.
Astragal starts blogging For the first time in the 111-year history of the AJ, the magazine's most famous contributor has gone virtual. Indeed, in a move that will astonish some of his longest serving readers, Astragal has started his very own blog. Some of the highlights of his first effort at e-scribbling include tales of welding dwarves, a collection of Mackintosh look-alikes, why architects are big in the movies and Seb Coe attempting a pun. Enjoy Astragal at www.ajplus.co.uk/astragal
But decides to keep it behind their subscription site. Doh! If anybody can tell me why this shouldn't be out front and accessible to everyone as a way of generating interest in the magazine and taking part in the blogging scene, please get in touch and illuminate me.

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Muppets only The above link was wonky. Now fixed thanks to comments from Norman, who also points out that the AJ appear to have experimented with the possibility of a blogspot account but have yet to post any entries to it: ajastragal.blogspot.com.

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minimal
The architecture of a computer system we define as the minimal set of properties that determine what programs will run and what results they will produce.
Fred Brooks quoted in a recent entry by Peter.
Appreciation for a thing because of its closeness to the Platonic form of such a thing, its minimal distance from the perfect execution, is, I think, possibly *the* thing that makes you a hacker rather than a programmer.
Discussing beauty with Stuart on the Wolves LUG mailing list. Just to let you know that I've not forgotten either of you, the promised comments are on the way. Honest. [brooks.jpg:centre2]

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more shepheard Brought forward from the comments in my entry about 'What is Architecture?':
Artificial Love is good also. About Shepheard blogging; I've just found this:
http://www.paulshepheard.com/shep_home.asp I think it's better than any blog. - AH
Double click the thumbnail images to read each entry. Thanks AH!

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mythical city Continuing the teaching theme, I've snaffled an assignment proposition - circa '84/'85 - from the dusty shelves here at the office. It's offered in fairly high resolution over at flickr for anyone looking for inspiration when faced with a room full of eager urban design students. mythical-city-1

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NLA critique The public speaks. Or perhaps just a bunch of architects. Who knows what the visitor list consists of at the New London Architecture exhibition? Is it just gaining interest from people in the trade (and related trades) or is it pulling people in off the street? Whoever they are, they're certainly proving to be a perceptive and outspoken bunch as the wall of postcards containing comments demonstrates. Here's my submission:

NLA comments 1

I was in the mood for a simple expression of preference and support. I managed to squeeze in a visit last week for about twenty minutes, in between attending the opening night of the We're Not Afraid exhibition, meeting with Avril to discuss how to deliver a world tour and running across Euston Station to dive on the 11:40 Pendolino back to Birmingham.

Since Dan Hill has already nailed an extensive and unbeatable review of the exhibition, I've decided to just provide a supplement and offer a photo set of visitor's comments, see here for the full set: I'm 93 you know

NLA comments 4

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hands that do fountains Last week's copy of The Architect's Journal, carried an article about the winning entry for the redesign of Nottingham's Old Market Square. The winning design is by Gustafson Porter. I like the proposal, it should open up the square much better, as it is currently dominated by grand fountains that break up the space too much. The new design includes water, but it's low level and of a more human scale. I hope they have more luck than we do at work with the health and safety obsessed crowd who think the public can't be trusted with a puddle. I also hope that whoever used to dump what must have been several bottles of washing up liquid into the fountains when I was a kid - filling the fountains and square with bubbles that blew across town - returns to continue the practice with the new water feature. It was a delight that I remember fondly.

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I told you so It seems the above comments from back in April were somewhat prophetic. The press has been having endless fun lambasting Gustafson Porter for their Diana Memorial and it's health and safety problems - see Dan Hill's entry for details. I imagine they've had a few phone calls from worried Nottingham councilors.

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novak I received a text message last night from Tom the caveman:
Marcus Novak lecture on friday at UCL
Since one of his past articles was the inspiration for my obligatory internet pseudonym I felt compelled to attend. Two minutes later I realised I couldn't make it - I'm picking the kids up from nursery. This is a fact that I feel compelled to mention in case any Architectural Review readers get the wrong impression that I'm some rock and roll starchitect, having arrived here after reading Sutherland Lyall's all too generous write up this month.

AR_Nov_05

If you're free of parental responsibilities on Friday night, go along and tell me all about it afterwards. More on the UCL lecture series here: Bartlett International Lecture Series.

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british ones too A note to explain the image in the AR article: It's one of two sent to me by my friend Avril in New York and you need the second one to get the full story. In her words:
...that photo was taken at the NY Milkshake Company, on St. Mark's Place, in NYC ... Cooper Union (the Arch. and Engineering school) is right down the block, so I assume the original image had something to do with that. However I couldn't resist adding the addendum. I mean, I gotta stick up for my favourite architect and all.

canadian_ones british_ones

I like to think I'm keeping the British end up, as they say.

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Ole Scheeren

Part One of a ? part series: The Ole Scheeren lecture

Thanks to my colleague Al, I've been able to get a copy of the final conclusion to one of the dissertations I mentioned a few weeks ago. Here's a couple of sections taken from the author's final summing up. Firstly, on the topic of the architect's character:
Who do we think we are? Who do they think we are? The disparity between what architects think of themselves and how they are seen by others is obviously very marked. It is quite disturbing to someone involved in architecture, how unaware people are of architects and architecture, but heartening that they are actually interested. I think this disparity is becoming less, with initiatives that give architects human approachable faces again. However, the public cannot help but see the contradictions which face the profession, the legacy and historical model of the brilliant egotistical genius, which architects understandably find difficult to give up and the progressive politically correct model which is more of a sympathetic team player. The results of the psychological tests mentioned in Chapter One state that the most talented and successful architects follow the first model, however to gain the respect of colleagues and the public in general the pressure is on to become all inclusive and empathetic. These two models seem to be mutually exclusive. As visionaries architects have a social responsibility to forge the future and to do that they need have supreme confidence, but also be approachable and human.
Secondly, on the public's view of architects:
People seem to have this impression that architects are all rich! Any architect would laugh at this. Many people are genuinely surprised when they hear how little most architects actually earn. The architects we see on television, the Richard Rogers, the Zaha Hadids, are wealthy, not necessarily through their architecture, but the public aren't to know this. The fictional architects we see are usually in slick, cool apartments, but then the Hollywood version of anyone makes them more shiny than the reality!
I think the universally accepted acronym required here is LOL. So there are three architects in a bar, and not one of them can get their credit card to authorize so they can pay the bill (this isn't a joke with a punchline, this was me and two friends one night last week). After fifteen minutes of failures we suggest to the manager that we'll come back with cash later - there's somewhere we have to be and we daren't be late. Up the hill and over the concrete collar, along Margaret Street and up the well trodden steps; we stumble into the lecture room at the school of art with minutes to spare. Ole Scheeren from Rem Koolhaas' office, OMA, has flown in from Beijing to give a talk on their CCTV project and the bill for a couple of bowls of pasta would have to wait. For the next hour and a half I sat at the back of the room bathed in the light from the screen of my PDA, desperately trying to take enough notes and cursing every time I had to write the letter y (have you ever tried to write the letter y on the Palm OS?). I'm going to post them here relatively untouched but wrap them in a few other words to give them some coherent structure. The sections in italics are what I took down during the talk. It seems worthwhile making this distinction between then and now, although the reason for this eludes me as I'm typing this sentence.

Notes:

Ole told us that he would talk about two projects: CCTV which was at a scale that relates to a community and the cities on the move exhibition which was more about intervention/interaction with community. OMA has been working in Asia for 7 years and in that time they've had to learn about new attitudes to space, specifically how to tackle the residual and dysfunctional spaces. A key lesson for them has been the fact that in Asia, what we think to be impossble is plausible. The history of OMA starts with Delirious New York and then there was a jump after SMLXL. Since then they have set up a second company called AMO which, as the title suggest, is a research company or thinktank whose interests could be described as a mirror of the real act of construction and architecture. Their most recent book Content is an investigation of seminal architectural developments against the context of history. China has a population growth rate of 67 people per hour. The 10 great building projects were designed and built in 1 year. Beijing has 7 ringroads. OMA had to choose between bidding for the redesign of the World Trade Centre or the CCTV project in Beijing. They chose Beijing. The brief they were given for the new Central Business District (CBD) had a vision for 200 towers. Despite the fact that the office had begun off the back of the work in Delirious New York that studied the history of the American skyscraper, all their past work has been predominantly horizontal. CCTV seemed like a good opportunity. The proposed CBD has little to do with the density issues described in Delirious New York, here it is about the tower as a symbol of power. The East now has more towers than the West. CCTV delivers 250 TV channels. It receives 30 million yuan from the government each year but pays out 80 million in tax. The client could fund the project with the money generated in 1 year. A project like this is perhaps possible because the attitude to progress and success is different because the people in powerful jobs and positions are all in the 30 something age range. The building will total 600000m2 and will also be opening to public and will require a split between the public and private. Media facilities around the world have experienced splitting up of departments due to digital technology negating the need for a physical connection - the proposal for CCTV reverses that condition. The form of the building is defined by a loop of solidarity; it's an organism with circulation that connects almost endless communal spaces. The building will house a community of 10000 staff, its foyer will process 15000 people everyday (the extra 5000 are an estimate of public visitors) and they will be channelled by the layout of 'fingers' that shape the space on the ground floor. * click * The structural diagram for this deformed tube has to take into account massive differences in loading over the different parts of the building. Rather than try to solve this with a uniform solution, the amount of structural elements simply increase or reduce where necessary and their size and alignment respond to the site specific conditions. The rational conditions result in a visually irrational structure. Industrial pollution* creates a heavy mist in the air of Beijing that makes architecture look bad. Ole and his team noticed that the buildings that looked best in this environment were those still under construction and hidden behind scaffold and protective sheets. This became the inspiration for the fine mesh panels that will cover the surface of CCTV.

(* I think there were also some natural factors for this mist, but I didn't get chance to make a note of it)

The project has taken 60 architects and 110 engineers over 2 years to complete. They've begun on site and one of the last shots Ole showed was taken by him a couple of days earlier - stood at the bottom of a 33 metre deep hole that has been carved out of the earth to receive the building.
The odd clicking noise midway through those notes is the sound of my brain beginning to work. More about that later. For the moment I want you to think about how all the above notes are, for the most part, a series of indisputable facts. The remainder of the lecture looked at the exhibition Ole and Rem had curated called Cities On The Move. After that I got stuck in with the first question, but you'll have to wait until the next entry to find out what I asked. Links: 1, 2 and 3.

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problem solving

Part 2 of a 3 part series: The Ole Scheeren lecture

Reeling from the shock of Ole's 33m deep whole that he'd shown on the slide that finished the first half of his lecture, we all did our best to adust the scale of our thinking as he begun to tell us about an exhibition called Cities on the Move. The subtitle was 'an exhibition on the Asian city' and the artists taking part were from Thailand. Overseen by he and Rem Koolhaas, this was curating by suggestion rather than direction. The closest they ever got to a plan was a single drawing with the occasional word written over some of the gallery spaces. The rest of the lecture was spent describing how the project evolved, both in the UK and in Bangkok. From the limits of the Hayward gallery to the seemingly unlimited space of the streets of Bangkok, its ambition grew when it moved continent. Compared to all the data I'd recorded about CCTV, I took relatively few notes during this half of the lecture.
reuse old and zaha - anti white box new work for bangkok cedric p finite infinite cities with legs free for all - vespa problem - solution - undefined
Zaha Hadid's work from a previous exhibition was reconfigured and reused; there wasn't enough money to transport art work to Thailand; I've no idea what cities with legs was about; Cedric Price1 helped Ole develop the proposal for Bangkok and in the midst of the artistic free for all, someone displayed a Vespa. A half-baked collection of notes, I'm sure you'll agree. It's the final one that counts though - problem, solution, undefined. The moral of the story, in Ole's opinion, was that allowing a programmatic freedom to the style of curation, not only delivered surprising solutions, but also created a new understanding of the initial problems. Unlike the previous list of facts, this entry records the speakers feelings. Fleeting in appearance, slippery when caught; it's the reason for the difference between the two sets of notes. In the third, and probably final, entry in this series we shall be asking Ole a question that nearly offends him, putting the world to rights on the walk back to the car, settling our tab at the bar and, eventually, realising something important that I (and everyone else in the audience) completely missed whilst marvelling at the 'bigness' of CCTV.

notes:
1. They would discuss ideas over breakfast, since Cedric told him that he had to work in the mornings - the later it got, the less able he was to think straight. I believe this was one of Cedric's infamous traits. Were he to appear in Rodcorp's 'How We Work' series, the answer would probably be: early.

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part 3 added Notes from the summary of this lecture can be found in Part 3.

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settling up

The third and final part of my notes on the Ole Scheeren lecture.

*applause* Lecture over, it was time for questions from the audience. Suffering from 'an obligation to blog', my hand went up first. A microphone is passed to me. As usual for events such as this, it isn't switched on. Feeling slightly foolish, I speak at it anyway.
Everything you described about the development of the CCTV project seemed to be rooted in the program and process of the building's complicated political and organisational requirements. There didn't seem to be any mention of personal, subjective desires that you exercised yourself to help shape the final form. I'm thinking here about the shape of the loop. Would you say that the building's formal result was entirely data driven?
Time and complete editorial control is a wonderful thing - there was a great deal more stuttering and indecision when I actually said it. The observant among you will have also noticed that I stole this question from someone else. It's a reconfigured, less elegant version of the one put to Neil Denari in the lecture I wrote about last year. With that in mind you'd be forgiven for wondering why I was surprised to receive the same answer to the same question.
Absolutely not. I don't believe in data driven architecture.
Not his exact words I might add, there were more of them than that, but his position was clear. He seemed a little upset by my accusation and took time to explain how there had been much deliberation over the exact shape of the loop. And yet, only once had he given any sort of personal opinion - during his description of the air quality in Beijing. It had stood out quite starkly against the facts of the project (I marked this point in part I of these notes) The rest of the questions were all about the CCTV project. Drinks were served to accompany the post lecture networking/schmoozing, but we left everyone to it and headed out across town again. Instead, drunk on our own rhetoric, we talked about Ole as we walked and the streets slipped by unnoticed. Why had he hidden behind the process? Why didn't he talk about how he felt? Is this the result of the last twenty years of contemporary practice? The complete erasure of self in preference of the data? Perhaps that's what's necessary, I reasoned, when you've just dug a hole in the ground that's 33 metres deep. You need to be able to point to the mathematics otherwise you'd go insane with fear. Question: "Why are you altering the surface of the earth to make a structure that will hold 15,000 people." Answer: "Because it felt like the right thing to do." Now that would take serious balls. It took about three days before I realised how stupid I'd been. How I'd completely overlooked the reason Ole had chosen to talk about the Cities On The Move exhibition. Contrast. All the moves I was looking for in the design of CCTV had been taking place in the curating of the exhibition. Intuition, willfulness, freedom of expression, experimentation. It couldn't be data or program driven because the data didn't exist until after the event. He'd carefully explained a very complicated design process and I had done little more than make a sweeping generalisation based on my understanding of Dutch practice and a few centuries of European rationalism. As a profession, we architects often have to deny the accusation that we're only really interested in making grand, iconic, monolithic statements that will ensure our legacy lives on. On that particular evening it would have been difficult to deny, as we all sat there transfixed by CCTV's 'bigness' and our misguided reading of it. We'll end with another quote from the speaker.
It's strange how all the questions are only about CCTV.
Not that strange Ole, not that strange. We settled our bill at the bar* and drove home blissfully unaware of our blindness. Previous parts: part I and part II

* It was a hardware failure that caused our credit cards to fail back in part I. Architecture is poorly paid but we can at least afford to eat, which is all that really matters.

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part 2 added Notes from the second half of this lecture can be found in Part 2.

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part 3 added Notes from the summary of this lecture can be found in Part 3.

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open house My visit to the London a couple of weeks ago was poorly timed and I missed the Open House event last weekend. Don't panic, I can still deliver the goods - I dispatched my colleague Yumiko to bring back news and photos. Actually that's not strictly true, I didn't dispatch anybody, she went of her own free will, as she has been for several years, which is more than I can claim. Yumiko - 1, Rob - 0. She returned to the office on Monday talking enthusiastically about a house in Hackney that she'd visited, and handed me a little hand drawn booklet with sketches in that had been issued by the architect. The drawing style looked familiar, and sure enough, it turned out that she'd unwittingly visited the home of one of my ex-tutors, Ed Frith from MovingArchitecture.com. London Open House 2005 011 I got to tell her all about Ed and what an inspiration/surprise he'd been to all the year 1 students he'd taught and what a loss it had been when he left Birmingham and jumped ship to Greenwich School of Architecture. Yumiko - 1, Rob - 1. It looks like his house is finished now, or at least a lot more finished then it was when I last saw some pictures a few years ago. Looking at some of the detailing made me realise how a good teacher can have subtle influences on you without you even realising it. Aesthetic preferences, material sensibilities, detailing seductions. Approach. Here's part of the detailing of Ed's kitchen: London Open House 2005 015 And here's some furniture I made a couple of years after Ed left: 013a Yumiko - 1, Rob - 1, Ed - 1. Exposed plywood is such a deliciously honest detail. As usual, there are more photos on my flickr account.

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open sauce Tags:participation,consultation,design,theory Just landed via e-mail; Usman Haque in issue no.7 of Archfarm on applying the open source software model to architecture:
There are several key features to an open source architecture:
  1. Designer–participants: where those who participate are also those who design the system.
  2. A control system that one allows oneself to be part of in order to expand that structure: an example can be found in computer games that provide modules for end-users to code and create their own, sometimes startlingly different, versions of the game.
  3. Choreographies for openness: group instructions that are interpreted and modified as necessary by participants, individually or collectively. To begin, established boundaries are required in order to foster creativity; this does not mean that they cannot be breached. They are placed as reference points, not to pre-define limits.
  4. Re-appropriation: where existing spaces, objects or actions are both fuel and catalysts for further creativity
  5. Capacity for sharing design problems: each person has different skills and often a problem requires a solution that can only be provided by another. A web-based example, lazyweb.org, shows how it is not important for everyone to have the technical capabilities in order to have an open source model of production.
Alternatively, cynically, in far fewer words:
  1. Ask the client what they want.
  2. Agree the brief.
  3. Acknowledge the budget.
  4. Get it to work with the site.
  5. Ask a builder to help construct it.
Job done. Does it seem more familiar now?

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The Lesson of Movement Either I'm getting weaker, or banana skins are getting stronger. Tonight's entry is inspired by my previous comments about Oscar Naddermier, my first architectural history lecturer. I returned to his notes and decided that they should be shared with you. Oscar preferred his students to be listening rather than writing, so he always typed out his notes himself and issued them at the start of the lecture. The next hour would be filled with wonderful slides of seminal, iconic, important architecture from all over the world; all of which he'd personally photographed. We could never quite decide on Oscar's age but when he once told us that during his education he had met Edwin Lutyens, we knew he was passing on many years of wisdom. A great teacher, greatly missed. Here's a piece by him called The Lesson of Movement. It seemed the most fitting since we were previously looking at action and reaction.
Architecture Movement is the dynamic element of accommodation, the first business of a building, and is seen to purpose in the contrasting characteristics of 'Hall' and 'House'. In 'Hall' the plan of progression and activity in movement is memorable in form and occasion, with assurance of safety. The architecture of 'Hall' will declare and fulfill this common expectation with the conviction of a work of art that works. 'Hall' is theatre, arena and the like where symmetry rules in the round or axially, with movement in reflective order which clearly establishes and refers to front, right, left and return, the vital orientation affecting communal intelligence in an assembly: safe dispersal depends on it. 'House' has infinite variety of arrangement in the shape and relationships of accommodation. There is progression from room to room in royal apartments and houses of parade, and in museums; and there are arterial corridors serving rooms in hotels, hospitals, schools. In dwellings, some are wholly of rooms opening off halls and landings; others combine rooms of privacy with a living space of open quality that integrates circulation. Movement is as varied as human behaviour, and every age has manners in moving, giving it style; but the art of design is timeless in principles that shape form to induce and control this dynamic. The empathy between movement and repose is a visible spirit in architecture.
I've turned this and two other pieces into PDF files (of inexplicably varying file sizes) so that you can enjoy them in their original format; The Lesson of Light, Utilitas, Firmitas et Venustas and The Lesson of Movement.

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outrigger tags: architecture, building, plan, sketch, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 11: (will I ever catch up?)

After several years of housing market boom here in the UK, there are lots of people drawing down on mortgages and extending their home. I've been involved in a few over recent years, and in a city who's housing stock is largely made up of Victorian terraces there is often a pattern to the house type that people wish to extend. The outrigger of a standard terrace usually struggles to deliver what people want from a contemporary kicthen. There's never quite enough room for all the appliances and the breakfast bar as well. Leaving nowhere to put your Starck lemon juicer. The honest truth is that, for me, it's tough to get a project of this scale to be economically viable, as the input involved usually outweighs the fees that you can sensibly propose without screwing the clients budget. So if you happen to live in a property like this and you're thinking about extending your kitchen, here's a few sketches I did for a simple replacement of the coal shed / outside toilet. Just employ someone to draw it up for planning and building regulations. It'll save you some money. This particular project was sent to the client by post card - the full set can be found on flickr.

b0 b5

update: 18.12.06

I just re-read this and somehow it has turned into one of the most arrogant sounding entries I've ever written. That wasn't the plan - let me explain...

"...for me, it's tough to get a project of this scale to be economically viable..." - Talking on behalf of architects everywhere here, I'm not suggesting I charge outrageous fees and it's all beneath me. "...Just employ someone to draw it up for planning and building regulations. It'll save you some money..." - Unless, of course, the building is less than 50 cubic metres or 10% of the original volume of the building and at the rear; in which case you shouldn't need planning consent. As for building regulations, a competent builder you can trust could oversee the project under a simple building notice. Who needs architects? "...This particular project was sent to the client by post card..." - As an initial proposal! The back-of-a-knapkin drawing is such a cliche. I'd have drawn it up had it gone ahead. On a paper bag perhaps.

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outrigger version 2 tags: architecture, building, CAD, model, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 12:

We might as well continue the theme from day 11 with an alternative proposal that takes the full width of the plot. This project is part of the work I did with two colleagues just after graduating. My only bit of advice should you choose to try this layout is to go for underfloor heating. We tried a trench heating solution along the glazing which proved to be tricky and probably doesn't provide sufficient heating load. Under the current, more environmentally aware regulations, the extent of glazing might raise some eyebrows. In our case we were able to demonstrate that the solar gain outweighed the fabric loss over the course of a year. Only for use in south facing sites! This one comes with a photo of the finished product - the full set, including concept sketches by Tom can be found on flickr.

axowire2 woolf_extension

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rainbow climbing high tags: colour, stirlingprize

This week in colour:

Old architectural failure turns into an explosion in a paint factory...

bravia-tower-block

An explosion in a paint factory turns into a new architectural success...

Madrid-Barajas

[still frame {found via gravestmor} from new Sony advert / photo by igplatero of this year's Stirling Prize winner Madrid Barajas Airport]

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advert location Was curious about location of the tower block in the Sony advert. Did some digging, worked it out from the images, made a Google Earth placemark:

BraviaAdvertLocation.kmz

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if web designers had to... Found via The Gray Area; Marcus Trimble has saved me a job with his If Web Designers Had To Work Like Architects entry. You'll have probably seen the original elsewhere before - the one about how tough it is to noodle about with html/php/perl etc. and lose sleep over whether your project validates and it's colours are web safe. I'm pleased to report that Marcus' version is sure to mention the topic I thought was most important to include in any retort: liability
Oh, and if, like, seven years after you have finished the job, someone gets a papercut on a printout of the web page you designed advertising the local thai restaurant, then you will be liable for all damages. Granted, its not four square metres of glass spontaneously exploding, like, thirty-four stories in the air and showering down on an unsuspecting group of school children and their charity working teacher, but boy, them papercuts smart.
The rest of his site, gravestmor.com, is certainly worth further examination. I offer my sincerest thanks to him for allowing me to cross off another item on the ever expanding list of journal-entries-I've-promised-to-write-but-still-haven't-gotten-round-to-yet. Tonight, I'm attending a lecture by a guy who makes architecture look like web design - Will Allsop. I'll ask him about web safe colours.

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humble pie I just got back from the Will Alsop lecture. It was probably the most inspirational lecture I've been to for years, and, as you know, I've been to some good lectures. I retract my previous flippant comment about him in the above post. Full notes will follow.

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Part 3 Posted mainly as a gift to my friend Rob S, but also as an offering to any architecture students who happen to Google for RIBA Part 3 Management Papers, I give you my own paper from last year's exam (PDF link). My paper flies dangerously close to the sun in terms of its funny/straight ratio. I got lucky; my examiner had a sense of humour and he enjoyed it. Yours may not, in which case your wings will quickly melt during the final interview. I'd been reading Arthur Koestler at the time and he reassured me that wit was a conduit for creative thinking. He's dead right, I got a good mark.

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Pritzker price Tags:Corbusier,hotel,France Over at gravestmor.com, Marcus is agog at the rates ($3000 dollars a night) at a new hotel being designed by Glen Murcutt:
...it got me thinking about whether or not this is the going rate to stay in accomodation designed by Pritzker and/or Guru Architects. And so below is a woefully incomplete list of boutique accomodation. Note that in each case the most expensive option has been taken.

He's looking for additions to the list. How about some more Corbusier? Head to the Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles and you can get a 5 personnes grand chambre for the very reasonable price of 135 Euros. See: http://www.hotellecorbusier.com/ and read more at greatbuildings.com.

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The Public out of pocket Oh dear. I was beginning to wonder why The Public building was taking a while to finish. Here's the answer:
Administrators have been called in at a multi-million pound arts centre being developed in the Black Country. The Public, in West Bromwich, was scheduled to open in July but it is has debts and other funding issues. Bosses said they had no choice, but are doing everything they can to secure its future as a venue for theatre, music, dance and creative technology. Work has been halted on the building until financial problems can be sorted out, putting about 81 jobs at risk.

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radiotecture

Matt: Have you seen the Radio 3 architecture thing?

Me: No, what is it? Sounds good.

Matt: To be honest, I filed it under "tell Rob about that" and forgot it.

Doh! Serves me right for not paying enough attention to Radio 3. Thanks Matt. You should all go and check out his radio recommendations for the week.
How do buildings affect us? Over the next year on Radio 3 we'll be exploring the impact of the built environment on our lives, and the importance of architecture. For this site we want to hear about the buildings you love, and the spaces that inspire you ... and to provide an expanding archive of interviews with architects, debates and features on architecture.
Quote from bbc.co.uk/radio3/architecture/

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reciprocal data Bugger me. Somebody built my Info Pimp Force Diagram.

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source: I've e-mailed the guy who's built this project, but no reply yet. I've noticed that like the entry I mention above, he also carries a reference to the writing of Marcos Novak. It seems it is Novak who we should both be thanking.
"derived from the particulars of the real world, from data and processes of the virtual world, or from numerous techniques of capturing the real and casting it into virtual, motion capture for instance. Since time is a feature of the model, if the model is fed time-based data, the form becomes animate, the architecture liquid."
I should have mentioned that I found this via the always fascinating We Make Money Not Art.

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winner! The project has won first prize at an awards ceremony. Perhaps I should ask for a cut of the winnings.

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a task worth trying Last week, an interesting exchange about Regent Street in London, between John Massengale's Veritas et Venustas and Peter Lindberg's Tesugen.com, prompted me to reach for my bookshelf and open my copy of 'How to Look at Buildings'. Written by the wonderfully named Darcy Bradell, it was originally printed in 1932. The copy I have is the third edition from 1945 and the inside cover tells me that it was For the use of H.M. Forces - it's stamps on the opening pages listing R.A.F Ringstead and R.A.F Hope Cove as two of it's former homes in 1950 and 1957 respectively. How it came to belong to me is a bit of a mystery as I don't remember where I bought it, although I note from the price inside that it only cost Ł1. I was certain that I'd find something of worth about Regent Street, but sadly it wasn't to be, there was merely a passing comment about its changing building heights being detrimental to the scale of the street. I did, however, find two other sections that snuggle up to some of my recent posts and give them a nice, friendly squeeze. A few days ago I wrote about the problem of form over program and the scaleless lump that is Selfridges in Birmingham. It seems this isn't the first time the department store has landed badly on the high street.
Selfridge's store when it was first built threw out the scale of the whole of Oxford Street. No doubt it was a fine advertisment for Commerce in the grand manner but architecturally it was a misfit.
There is value in consistency I suppose. At the end of the book Bradell gets all Socratic on us and sums up what we've learnt by creating a discussion between a Mentor (us) and a Friend (them) which picks apart the design of a house they have just visited; the Mentor having no difficulty explaining to his enthusiastic Friend how he has been duped by various examples of spatial/formal clumsiness masquerading as Architecture. Dejected and beaten, Friend has little choice but to ask if Mentor thinks he could do it any better himself. The result has a little something for everyone. Sitting neatly on the well proportioned fence, there are principles to be claimed by both sides of the debate that occurs in my previous entry about design codes (which was written in response to John Massengale's comments about British Architects).
FRIEND: 'Well, I see that there's very little about this house you like. Have you any views about what you yourself would have built in its place?' MENTOR: 'Of course I have, but I cannot be expected to give you details, only general principles. Well, first of all, I would build a house that spoke to me in terms of this century and no other. I would trust to good proportion of general mass and line, rather than to ornament or detail. But if I used detail I would see that I got some value out of it. I would put it where it could be seen and meant something to me. I would not just put it in places where other people in the past had been in the habit of doing, for that reason alone. I would build my house of permanent materials. I would see that it fitted the character of its surroundings. If they were formal ones, such as are found in most streets, then I would build a formal house. If I were in romantic surroundings on the banks of a river, or a windswept sea-shore, or in a clearing of a forest, then I would build in the romantic manner. I would try to avoid leaning too much on the Past, but I would not spurn it altogether. I would recognize that there is much to be said for the materials that man has found suitable to his use for house-building these hundreds of years and I should be chary of departing from them. I should recognize too that each has developed a technique of its own, and that I am likely to get the best results if I study the work that has been done in the past, not so that I may slavishly copy it, but rather so that I may learn the lesson that it is to be gained from it.' FRIEND: 'You set yourself a difficult task.' MENTOR: 'Yes, but a task worth trying.'
Combine this with Massengale's excellent, 'Got Neighborhood?', and you'll have all the design codes you need.

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down to two Citycomforts.com has an entry called Boiling a zoning code down to the basics, which links to an encouraging article about a Canadian design code that contains only two key items - building height and distance from pavement.

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compromise Tags: interview,audio,architect Catching up with some old Radio 3 programs this evening. Firstly, The Renzo Piano interview by John Tulsa.
RP: "...by the way, architecture is also a very polluted art in the sense that it's polluted by life, by the complexity of things." JT: "By compromise." RP: "Yes, by compromise, but in some way this compromised art becomes more real and more true than other art." JT: "Because you have to deal with the compromise, you can't walk away and say 'I won't make a compromise.'" RP: "Exactly, so the secret is that you don't really do compromise, you are just confronted by life all the time."
Sounds familiar. Also worth a listen are the Night Waves: Landmarks programs. For an architectural fix you could try the program on FLW's Guggenheim and listen for the connection with my old entry entitled That Building. Other related entries: John Tulsa interviews Edmund de Waal.

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topiary, grotbags, rietveld and schroder
A doyen of Topiary once told me,
That one day he would like to grow a maze,
It seemed to be quite logical
That this should be his wish.
And with that
We both went our separate ways.
After sweating in the heat on Saturday cutting my hedge, it's been impossible to get this lyric out of my head. It's from the now incorrectly named, Rod Hull Is Alive, Why? by Half Man Half Biscuit. I suspect only Grotbags is laughing now. I've been spending some time over the last few days setting up a seperate photography blog, in an effort to get some clearer focus and stop this page getting too image heavy. It's not finished yet, but you can have a sneak preview if you like - it's on my other domain name: rob.noughtpointfive.co.uk. The category filter is broken at the moment, but the weekly archives seem to be doing as they're told. Of course this is mostly driven by the arrival of my new camera phone. I love it. Much better picture quality than my last one and the option to record both video and audio. For my first audio offering, I'm going to share an architectural anecdote. Last week I recorded a friend reminiscing about the time he almost jumped out of the famous corner window of the Schroder house by Gerrit Rietveld; thanks to a rather embarrasing question his colleague put to Mrs Schroder at the end of an interview. I've uploaded it as an mp3. The quality is quite poor, as my friend has a habit of pacing about as he tells a story and this was a somewhat impromptu recording. If you crank up the volume you should be able to hear it alright. My bed is calling to me. Night, night.

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flames I am, according to John Massengale at Veritas et Venustas, a schmuck. Of course I understood this was derogatory, but I was inspired to look it up.
Originally, schmuck meant decoration or ornament in German. It's easy to see how that would become a word for jewelry, but what about the other meaning? In Yiddish (a language related to German, spoken primarily by European Jews), schmuck means penis, and you can still use it this way, though it's less usual than the first meaning. Apparently at one time, a man's schmuck was considered decorative. This is similar to the slang expression family jewels (testicles). from slangcity.com
Fascinating. I had no idea. I'm a schmuck, apparently, because like many others, I think that the design codes being championed by John Prescott are controversial. They're controversial because, right now, nobody agrees on the level of control that the codes should be allowed to exercise. I often find that the ideas promoted by projects like Poundbury - the inspiration for the need for design codes in the UK - are regurgitated elsewhere with a complete disregard for context. Codes work for abstract issues like density, scale and parking ratios, but their extension into specific design details is dangerous. I have no argument with the principles around which Poundbury was built, but the built result is becoming a pattern book that people dare not question, despite the fact that there is no direct relationship between the principles and the possible physical form that might deliver those ideals. Since the finger of blame for this proposed future is usually pointed towards Prince Charles, I can see why John might get a bit upset about the British opinion of both him and his commentary. The Prince and he are, it seems, kindred spirits. Whilst it's true that his 'monstrous carbuncle' speech wasn't entirely to blame for the difficult times that followed (despite what some may claim), there's no denying - as Michael Hammond says in todays AJ - that after the speech,
...the industry was riven in two. The Fundamentalist movement, in support of Classical architecture, conservation and 'retention of old buildings at any cost', was reborn, fuelled by the press and public opinion. It had effectively been given a Royal Charter. The advocates of contemporary design, on the other hand, were lost in a wilderness and seemed to be thwarted at every corner.
The split in the industry still exists, and much time has been wasted shouting at each other across the canyon that seperates us. The desire for the 'retention of old buildings at any cost' may now manifest itself in the design codes for the new. If the goal of the codes are misunderstood (by either author or reader) and their focus is overly concerned with the formal aspect of the projects put forward as exemplary case studies, then we are in danger of achieving little more than pastiche. If, however, the design codes are able to present a guide to the abstract essence of successful housing models, then we'll have a useful yard stick for holding up against future development. To avoid conservation for conservations sake we must accept that even architecture, both physically and ideologically, is mortal. Its impermanence is as certain as everything else we cling to. Apart from the repression of diversity of form, the other aspect of concern with the 'controversial' design codes, is the likelihood of causing a system of rules whose inflexibility could be time consuming and self defeating. The new housing development in Upton, Northamptonshire is one of the early tests for strict design codes such as those being proposed by Prescott. My colleagues and I entered the competition to deliver the first phase of the project and the result was, we believed, one of our strongest proposals to date. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to progress to the second stage because two out of the two hundred houses on our plan were designed as three storey when the design code had specified only two 2 storey on that specific street. The feedback suggested to us that they wanted to put us forward because of the quality of the design, but couldn't because we'd broken one of the design codes. I recognise that this isn't the most objective of anecdotes, but it makes a clear point about the self defeating nature of a system so intolerant to questioning and reassessment. I am, however, indebted to John for encouraging me to engage with the full text of Prince Charles' speech of 1984. After all, I was only 9 years old at the time and probably too busy with my Action Man to recognise its importance. Here's an extract:
Enabling the client community to be involved in the detailed process of design rather than exclusively the local authority, is I am sure the kind of development we should be examining more closely. Apart from anything else, there is an assumption that if people have played a part in creating something they might conceivably treat it as their own possession and look after it, thus making an attempt at reducing the problem of vandalism. What I believe is important about community architecture is that it has shown 'ordinary' people that their views are worth having; that architects and planners do not necessarily have the monopoly of knowing best about taste, style and planning; that they need not be made to feel guilty or ignorant if their natural preference is for the more 'traditional' designs - for a small garden, for courtyards, arches and porches; and that there is a growing number of architects prepared to listen and to offer imaginative ideas.
Whilst we may disagree about carbuncles, be they monstrous or not, I could at least reassure him that 'enabling the client community to be involved in the detailed process of design' is exactly what I do on a daily basis. Which isn't bad for a schmuck.
Accepting the mortality of the things we create is also something that the art collector Charles Saatchi must grapple with this week, as part of his horde has recently been turned to ashes in a blaze at a warehouse. I've seen mixed reactions to the news over the last couple of days, ranging from happiness from Matt to sadness from Joel. It brought to mind a story about a tutor at the school I studied in, who announced that the class would have a barbecue at the end of a project to celebrate their achievements. The unsuspecting students then found their vege-burgers being cooked on the flames of their burning drawings - being too precious about your own work is a great way to be blind to your shortcomings, or so the tutor claimed. Sadly, I must confess that indifference was my initial reaction to the news. This is probably largely because the piece leads with the fact that Tracy Emin's 'Everyone I have ever slept with 1963-95' was confirmed as having been too close to the Camping Gaz. I would have enjoyed watching that one curl up as the nylon blistered and the guy ropes went ping. Although I'm sincerely hoping that Damien Hirst managed to buy back all his work after he realised that Saatchi 'only recognises art with his wallet'. I can still remember seeing that shark for the first time as if it was only yesterday. I will certainly shed a tear if any of Rachel Whitereads work is lost. I've never seen anyone else make such beauty out of absolutely nothing. Let's hope that when the Dalai Lama finished telling the Prince of Wales all about impermanence yesterday, he managed to give Saatchi a quick phone call too. A somewhat lengthy entry today, which will hopefully suffice for a few days, as I am taking a trip to York with Sarah this weekend. Armed with my new sketchbook, my new copy of The House Book, and my very old copy of The Iliad, I shall be steadfastly offline.

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do what? Just fixed the broken link in the exactly what I do on a daily basis comment. Click away.

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code speak Apart from the fact that documents like the one I'm about to quote are beginning to state the blindingly obvious, it's also becoming necessary to talk them up their importance a little:
This appendix to the B_ S_ Housing Market Renewal Prospectus sets out the strategic design strategies that will help deliver these objectives on the ground in the Pathfinder area and is part of a wider initiative by the Pathfinder to develop tools to enhance quality in design. This recognises the fundamental importance of design quality to housing market renewal, both as a driver and outcome for transformational change.
It gets better. On the following pages it mentions a map called The Structural Densification Pattern Diagram. Sheesh.

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walter segal Continuing in the no, 2 self tradition of archiving architectural wisdom fom the printed page of years gone by, I've started a set of images taken from Walter Segal's 1953 book, Home and Environment.

segal-patio-houses

I've been working with a lot of projects lately that need an understanding of housing in post war Britain. Like a squirrel, I'm storing for the winter. Coming up: Paul Ritter's Planning for Man and Motor. Which is nuts.

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serpentine pavilion hacking tags: serpentine, koolhaas, adaptability The most successful bit of the Serpentine Pavilion: movable chunks of foam

reconfigure

Related Entry: The Kids Are Alright

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Hung, drawn and quartered The drinking habits of the average Brit has been in the media again this week. The finger of blame is pointing towards drinks promotions by bars and breweries; happy hour becomes a great deal unhappier when it meets the pavement at closing time. Here in Birmingham the police have announced the decision to ban all such promotions along Broad Street, the city's 'entertainment zone'. Whilst driving home on Friday I heard a DJ on a local station suggest that the best solution to all the violence in that part of the city would be to stop all the 'chav' clientele from drinking there. After whining about the fact that the ban would impact on his personal right to get as drunk as wished, the proposal to repress one half of the public due to their over active interest in Burberry seemed a little flawed. I once went to a bar that tried it. Some years ago I found myself in a bar called Circo on Smallbrook Queensway. It was an event put on by Dazed and Confused magazine to coincide with the launch of Aphex Twin's new single/video. If you know the magazine you can probably picture the scene. If iPods had been invented back then everyone would have had one (including me) and they'd have all changed the ear phones to help them '...assert their individuality...' (like Jack). If the word 'chav' had been invented back then (or was at least in wider use) then the sign on the door could have been a little more direct, instead it read 'No Burberry, Rockport or Fred Perry' and was probably the most specific dress code I'd ever seen. Suitably dazed and confused, I stepped past the bouncers without a problem since non of my attire clashed with the list. It wasn't until a couple of years later that I realised what their goal had been. Perhaps it would have been clearer to me if the semacode project and chavscum.co.uk had been invented back then. Anyway, there was a point to this entry and this isn't it. My point is that the blame for all the problems with violence on Broad Street doesn't necessarily rest with either the chavs or the breweries or any combination of the two; it rests with the urban designers and the town planners. Broad Street is the first victim of Birmingham's obsession with urban design quarters. I work in the Jewellery Quarter, which is next to the Gun Quarter, which is next to the Education Quarter (where Richard Rogers is due to build us a new library), which is next to the Chinese Quarter, which is next to the Quarter Quarter which takes up about a sixteenth of the city. I made that last one up, but you get the picture. Broad Street is the spine of the entertainment quarter. Ten to fifteen years of encouragement by the City has resulted in a density of drinking establishments so great that it is now impossible to conceive of any other activity being economically viable. The greatly missed Douglas Adams had, of course, a name for this type of situation, he called it the Shoe Event Horizon.
Many years ago this was a thriving, happy planet - people, cities, shops, a normal world. Except that on the high streets of these cities there were slightly more shoe shops than one might have thought necessary. And slowly, insidiously, the number of the shoe shops were increasing. It's a well-known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation, for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe is termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically possible to build anything other than shoe shops. Result - collapse, ruin and famine. Most of the population died out. Those few who had the right kind of genetic instability mutated into birds who cursed their feet, cursed the ground and vowed that no one should walk on it again.
So it would seem that either the drinkers on Broad Street need to rely on their genetic instability and mutate or the urban designers among us need to relax and let the city look after itself. Somewhere between those two points is the solution. A nudge here and there, turn some of the shoe shops into hang glider shops, put carpet on the pavement. When I was Googling for a few bits and bobs on this topic I found an article that gave me some hope that the problem had been recognised:
Jacqui Kennedy, the council’s head of trading standards and licensing, said: “We are looking at Broad Street having a special saturation policy as we have an area where we need to improve the mix of leisure and entertainment facilities on offer. We do not want to see the area have one type of bar and no restaurants.
Genius! That'll fix it overnight! If only there were some restaurants, then we could really call it mixed use. Saturation is an odd choice of phrase, surely dehydration would have been better. I should sign off by apologising to Jono and Aq who had to put up with this topic of discussion at 1am on a Sunday morning during a walk across the city. There's a time and a place and that clearly wasn't it.

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going for gold silver The aforemontioned Mr Alan Morrissey has been shortlisted for this year's RIBA Silver Medal Awards. Fill your boots here: The President's Medals Students Awards

morrissey_2005

Joins Shuttleworth one week, makes the cut for the Silver Medal the next - the boy done good. Almost too good, I'm getting uncharacteristically jealous. Related entry: 2004 results

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Save Our School You may remember from previous entries that I've been involved with the Birmingham School of Architecture, as both student and teacher, for many years. For the last few months there has been turmoil at the school following some poor results and press coverage that has done serious damage to it's reputation. I've just received this e-mail from Kevin Singh, Course Director of the post graduate diploma.
Dear Colleagues, It is with great regret that I send this email but the Birmingham School of Architecture's future is at severe risk. I enclosed an edited version of a recent report from the University's Vice Chancellor Dr Peter Knight which announces the disolving of the Faculty of the Built Environment. Several of the courses are being placed into another Faculty but the future of the School of Architecture is thrown into serious doubt. The attachment has been edited for brevity but I have attempted to maintain the key points and I have highlighted the key sentences for your convenience but these include statements which are extremely worrying. There is a suggestion that the School could move to the Art & Design Faculty which I guess most of us would welcome and place the school in a more design led environment. It is also a common belief that the School would thrive in a city centre location rather than at Perry Barr. This revelation is apparently not related to the BA problems over the summer which I now feel are behind us. The working group report was released yesterday and copies are being made public. As trusted colleagues who have always supported the school I am asking each and every one of you to write to the Chair of the Board of Governers as a matter of urgency. I don't think I need to tell anyone how critical it is for us all that the City retains a school of architecture. We are also the only realistic provider of part time courses for many students and I know that several of you spend your employees here to study with us. The Part 3 course which many of you are very familiar with would almost certain be lost as well. ... I appreciate that the school has had a turbulent recent history but I believe that many of you are aware the good work that is being done here by both staff and students but I urge you all to take action on this to save our school. I believe that another local Univeristy undertook a feasibility study on setting up a school of architecture and found it to be unviable - this suggests that it is unlikely for a school to be created if we lose the one we have. Please do not leave this to others - we need your help. Please send letters of support to:- Mr Paul Sabapathy
Chair of the UCE Board of Governers
2 Mulroy Road
Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
B74 2PY Finally I ask that you all spread this email as widely as you can to maximise on support. Many thanks Kevin W Singh RIBA
Course Director PG Diploma in Architecture
Birmingham School of Architecture & Landscape
You can download the attached report here (37K word doc). If any of you care about architectural education (I know at least a few of my readers are architecture students), please read the document and respond. The school has been underfunded and unsupported by the University for as long as I've been involved with it - I started in 1993. From the looks of the comments from the Vice Chancellor in the report, a decision to move the school into the city centre to join the Institute of Art and Design campus is being seen as an opportunity to question the value of the school. Unbelievebly, a proposal that many have wished for for years may now bring about the death of the school, since the Vice Chancellor suggests that architecture, the mother of all arts, isn't that "...closely aligned to the design disciplines." I'm going to have to go away and think about that for a bit.

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architecture sucks On a day when I have little more than 24 hours to finish two major urban regeneration reports (1, 2) and getting any sleep tonight is looking increasingly unlikely, this morning's postal delivery couldn't have been more timely.

architecture_sucks

Thanks go out to Nicole over at Archinect.com - the first t-shirt got lost in the post a few months ago but she was good enough to send me a second one.

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and sometimes it blows Aforementioned t-shirt is now in the washing machine, in preparation for a visit to Will Alsop's soon to be completed building THE pUBLIC in West Bromwich tomorrow. The open event runs from 11am to 3pm; families and kids welcome, hard hats will be provided. Anyone want to come with me?

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Superbia tags: suburbia, housing From today's last week's BD magazine:
Housing Corporation chief executive Jon Rouse, who controls a Ł3.6 billion development budget over the next two years, outlined seven reasons for a return to suburbia and said anyone who believes the country's housing crisis can be met through the expansion of urban centres is "frankly kidding themselves". He said policy makers should admit that Barking Reach, the Thames Gateway's flagship development, is not a "landmark urban development" but a suburb ... The seven reasons:
  1. Suburbia is the dominant form that British culture aspires to.
  2. Only suburban design can give us mixed communities.
  3. Only suburbia can reconcile national and local planning objectives.
  4. Suburbs are what people with no choice choose.
  5. Suburbs can protect the rural domain.
  6. Suburbs can be very sustainable.
  7. Good suburban design is very flexible and adaptable.
"There's been a tendency - it's the mainstream tendency - to describe places which are and should be suburban as urban."
Dear Jon, I couldn't agree more.

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that building A couple of weeks ago I posted some entries that included a mention of something called 'this building' and then 'that building'. I should explain that the building in question was the new Selfridges store by Future Systems. I had an entry about it written on my PDA, but a clumsy battery replacement wiped it clean. With hindsight this was probably for the best, as it was becoming a little bitter and somewhat less than constructive. This evening morning I've decided to try again. We could talk about the way it has absolutely no relationship with the street, or we could talk about the oppressive scale of its parts and its illegibility, or we could talk about the clumsy detailing that smacks of ideological stubborness wherever you look; but that would only lead to bitterness again. No, rather than critique its urban design credentials, I'm going to use it as a vehicle to tell a story about beauty, using a few interesting anecdotes. Around the time it was due to open, a friend of mine asked Amanda Levete from Future Systems a simple question over dinner. The question was Why is it the shape that it is?. The reply that came back was simply Because it's beautiful. That was it. No qualification was felt necessary. She'd decided. The formal solution was offered as the primary (or only) driving force for every other decision that had followed. It's raison d'etre was to look as beautiful as Amanda dreamed it would be. Rewind a few years. I'm sat in a lecture being given by American architect Neil Denari. He talks of people and functions, clients and landscapes, weather and politics, technology and light, building regulations and the laws of physics. He shows us the net result of all those compromises and we are dumb struck. I salivate at the spaces and places he creates. When we move to the questions and answers, a hand goes up from the back and a voice says,
Neil, you've talked very eloquently about all the programmatic elements that go into making your building, but you've never talked about the final form of your buildings and how you think they look. I wonder if you could say a little about your feelings on beauty?
It's Neil's turn to be dumb struck. His jaw visibly drops and for the first time in the whole lecture he hesitates and then says,
I'm completely obsessed by beauty. It's all I think about. I thought that was exactly what I've just been talking about for the last forty five minutes. It is, isn't it?
Neil doesn't believe he's been given the key to the cupboard of divine geometry. His role isn't to oversee a selection of shapes that are pleasing to his eye. He divines his own beauty from the solutions that are born of the compromise between conflicting programs. Next time you visit Selfridges, see if you can count the number of compromises that have to be repressed and hidden to sustain the vision of Amanda's geometry. It's covered with them. A few weeks after it opened, I heard the following on the number 52 bus from Perry Barr into the City. As Selfridges came into view, a guy on the back seat said,
Just look at that. It's a f**kin' ab*rtion. Have you ever seen anything so ugly?
to which, his friend replied,
I know, I'm not sure if it's supposed to look like f**kin' chain mail or a f**kin sex aid.
This entry is an expansion of something I originally wrote on the comments section of Warren Ellis' site, after he'd posted a picture of the building accompanied by an astute observation that it was the first building he'd seen that 'looked like it was designed to eat people up and shit them out'. I suspect he had a hand in writing the original brief. I decided to revisit it here because his site archive got fried earlier this year and the article in question is now gone forever.
It's late/early and I'm off to bed. Tonight I can add another book to the pile on my bedside table, as my signed copy of Lawrence Lessig's 'The Future of Ideas' arrived in the post today. I've also managed to snaffle an account on the new Google mail service Gmail, thanks to Peter Lindberg's kind invitation. I should also point out that his fine observation today that, there's a sweet spot between regularity and irregularity in a city's plan where the city is optimally navigable is part of a story worth backtracking through the blogosphere. Damn. I swore I'd never use that word.

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mall(ed) Whilst there's plenty I dislike about the Bullring shopping centre, I should point out that the linear mall that stretches across the site is actually quite successful. The proportions are good and the voids between floors make for good views across the different levels. From a couple of places you can also see parts of the Birmingham skyline through the glazed roof. 'Wings Open Wide', the photoblog of 'but she's a girl...', has a picture to prove it.

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piggy

but she's a girl says;

..I rather like the brashness of it, for no reason that I can really justify. I normally hate brash buildings, but the bullring seems to be so ugly that it sort of passes out the other side and becomes attractive. Like a warthog.
Nice. A warthog in chain mail perhaps?

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inside Just remembered that I have some pics of the interior here.

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urban cottage tags: housing, render, streetscene, architecture Found via campodf's flickr photos / via The Art of Where / via thingsmagazine ... some great looking 'urban cottages' by Alvarez Morris to be built in Denver. Warm, rich, charming, progressive, versatile - I'd love to see the internal plan. Although in the UK there'd be some Secured by Design concerns about the slightly secluded position of the front door.

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Masterclass Live in New York? Get free tuition from Rafael Viñoly:
Offered for a second time, the four-month course develops the operational and intellectual instruments that form the basis of professional practice. Without substituting for a formal architectural education, weekly classes are addressed to advanced students and practicing architects who find a significant gap between their formative instruction and the challenges they face as professionals. The course is designed around the idea that architectural know-how is not an intuitive ability that comes only with experience but a body of knowledge that can be taught. Once-a-week classes, taught principally by Rafael Viñoly, begin in September, 2006.
Wow. I look forward to him opening his Wolverhampton office.

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mvrdv are go The VPRO building by MVRDV:

tracy_island


Thunderbirds Tracy Island Rescue Mat - Ł9.98 from Asda:

vpro

(photo source: http://www.varnelis.net/projects/dutch/vpro.html)

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Wayne Jacobs Tags:suburbia,JaneJacobs,housing,WayneHemingway A letter to the Architect's Journal:

Wayne Hemingway's lecture at this week's affordable housing conference was a great start to the day. With perceptive observations that were very well presented, he was one of the few people to talk about how to deliver cultural sustainability in affordable housing as well as environmental sustainability. I was glad of the opportunity to raise some points during questions and would like to repeat them here for wider comment and make a further connection that I didn’t explain clearly on the day.

The request: that Wayne should endeavour to bring his message to students in the country's schools. Whilst I have no doubt there are many architects that could present a similar position just as successfully, the fact is that when guys like Wayne speak, students listen. The observation: that the problems highlighted in many of the examples of poor housing developments were the result of applying an urban sensibility to what should have been suburban solutions. My concern was that this was at odds with the infamous 'Wimpeyfication' letter to The Independent that had carried the title 'Why I Hate Creeping Suburbia'. I was relieved to find that he'd suffered at the hands of the editor and in fact the opposite was true. He loved suburbia. The connection: How long has it been since schools of architecture taught about suburbia? How many of us in that room could have professed an enthusiasm for, or interest in, suburbia? We spend our formative years being obsessed by the city and considering suburb as a dirty word freely interchangeable with that even filthier term, sprawl. We need to start teaching about suburban communities positively. The proposal: Over the last couple of weeks we've all crept out of the woodwork and started shouting about how long we've loved Jane Jacobs and how important her 40 year old book is; and rightly so. One of the most interesting discussions I've heard so far was on radioopensource.org, during which one of the panel suggested that what we needed today was a Jane Jacobs of suburbia. I propose Wayne Hemingway steps up to the challenge. Rob Annable
--
Axis Design Collective
Suggesting Wayne Hemingway could be in some way comparable to the mighty Jane Jacobs? That should get a few lively responses.

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Passive solar design tags: advent, gift, windows, pdf, solar, passive, sketch

Architectural Advent Day 4:

There is more to windows than meets the eye. An 3 page excerpt from a 1979 study that's as relevant now as it ever was thanks to continued climate change - passive solar spaces:

All pages available as a PDF: docs/windows.pdf.

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ArchiText tags: books, librarything

LibraryThing continues to impress. Book groups can now be set up on the site, so as you might expect I've leapt in and started one for the architecturally interested.

The paint is barely dry on the walls but come and help me build it into something useful:

http://www.librarything.com/groups/architext

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zeitgeist We have a handful of members after day 1. I should point out that one of the most interesting features of the group is the page containing the group zeitgeist.

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The autonomous house tags: green, sustainability, books, autonomy, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 16:

A 1975 AD magazine review of The Autonomous House by Robert and Brenda Vale - a timely discovery following my recent trip to the Hockerton Housing Project (more about which coming up in a future entry).
...their book will be useful to all designers and builders looking to construct soundly, but readers should be wary of joining the more-autonomous-than-thou race.

AD-Dec75-1 AD-Dec75-2

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time and the hunter A pen is so much easier to carry than a PDA or a laptop. Whilst that remains true, you'll have to suffer the occasional hand written entry. I've just started reading Time and the Hunter by Calvino. Peter has also bought himself a copy and he and I have agreed to do some inter-blog notes on it. We haven't actually worked out how best to tackle it yet, but I scribbled down a few thoughts yesterday that I might as well post here - even if they are almost incoherent. I was a little unwell yesterday and not exactly thinking straight. It's possible we've set ourselves up for a fall, as I often find that Calvino's work can be so breathtaking that it leaves you speechless. When I find the words to express myself properly, I shall make some notes in my wiki: TimeAndTheHunter. [bag_front.jpg:centre3]

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Bath Street books Treat this post as an advert. Yesterday I returned, for the first time in years, to a bookshop on Bath Street in Wolverhampton (in between the brewery and West Park). In the space of a few minutes I found three great books, purchased two and (being £1 short) had the third saved for me until later in the week. After such a successful trip it seemed only fair to mention the shop here in the hope of providing some free advertising for them. Situated on the converted ground floor of a late Victorian house, the shop deals in second hand books and collectables. In a similar fashion to the best shops in Hay-on-Wye (who, by the way, have a festival coming up soon), the shelves creak under the weight of the imbalance between the number of books in the world and the number of people who wish to read them. Each section title is hastily scrawled onto the edge of the timber shelf, and where the shelves run out, a cardboard box steps forward to carry the burden. That unmistakeable smell of knowledge/wisdom* hits you as soon as you walk in the door. The first item I bought, fairly leapt of the shelf as I stared up at the tall shelves, since it was only Friday night that I had mentioned the author in a previous post. Having recently only borrowed Arthur Koestler's The Act of Creation from my boss, I am now the proud owner of my own copy. A real find as I believe it is now out of print. I may also need to consult it for a further response to the Salingaros piece about Tschumi that I'm planning/hoping to write. Book number two was Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek; an author that Pete, one of my environ - mentalist friends, has been recommending to me for a while. Finally, I also found a hand typed, drawn and photocopied book about Buddhism. I had a brief flick through it and then noticed that the publisher listed on the back page was 147 Lea Road, which is only just around the corner from me. I think it is a translation of the Pali Canon; I'll find out when I go back to pick it up later this week. A great shop that deserves all the customers it desires - go and buy a book. Multi-tasking while typing this evening, I discovered that Radio 4 has an archive of all the In Our Time shows, including one from 2002 on Buddhism.

* this is volume dependant - one is clearly not the other

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movements of all the interconnected points in the system Notes on TimeAndTheHunter/BloodSea (page 39) The narrator casts his mind back, far from the car journey he is currently taking part in, to the primordial beginnings of his cellular existence, swimming, or being swum, through the medium that contains all life, whose movements effect the movements of all the interconnected points in the system, only in that movement did Zylphia and I become aware of each other's presence, even if then we didn't so much as graze each other, even if I was undulating in this direction and she in that, but the sea had only to quicken its rhythm and I became aware of Zylphia's presence, demonstrating how the degree of connectedness represents power and fitness for survival, and the extent of surface area presented to the medium directly increases the receptiveness of the cell to the ripples created across the medium by the actions of others, we felt all this through the layers of our former surface dilated to maintain the most extended possible contact with that nourishing sea, because at every up and down of the waves there was stuff that passed from outside of us to our inside, now, when the reversal of that primordial condition means that the liquid network, quote sea unquote, is contained within us, quote blood unquote, the inversion disconnects the consciousness that once made us One, we are left with chasms of nothingness to cross before we can make connections, vacuums that refuse to retain traces of our movements, making the individual moments in the movements worthless, until we fool ourselves that skin on skin represents a link, whereas the maneuver in itself changes nothing at all, the distances between Alfa, curve, Volkswagen can assume different values and relationships but nothing essential happens, and I sit in a coffee shop writing these notes on the back page of the book, cream moustache on my lip, transferred from the grass, to the cow, to the milk, to the tin, to the surface of the hot chocolate, to my mouth, unsure whether any of these relationships actually matter, since there was no feedback included in the system and the cow is oblivious to the result of her efforts and actions, let alone the grass; but I digress, this is a story about loss, loss of a system that ties us all together in a way that made it impossible to perceive a distinction between self and other, since the action at the surface of the self, would result in the deformation of the surface of the other, and the structure of the surface of the story itself becomes indistinguishable from the words it contains, when, breathlessly, you reach the end of the narrative and realise that whole pages have passed without there having been any sign of a single full stop.

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Book Baton I've been passed a blogging baton. It used to be about music, then Matt Webb decided to let it evolve into a discussion about books. He passed it to Peter Lindberg and now it has come to rest in my ever expanding list of things to do. I'm not usually a big fan of inter-blog questionnaires, but I think this one has the potential to be productive as well as introspective. I have to recognise the fact that my reading experience has been improved and expanded thanks to the last couple of years of readings web logs. I hope this will give some ideas to others. The bulk of my reading gets done on public transport. This works well until circumstances conspire to force me into my car. The last couple of months has been like that and the nagging feeling that I'm falling behind has begun to return. Before sitting down to write this I started to do some mental calculation around the number of books I usually get through in a year against the average life expectancy of an Englishman in order to work out how many books I'll get to read before I go to the great library in the sky. Mercifully, maths isn't my strong point and I was able to apply the brakes before reaching a conclusion, having decided that the result would be far to depressing. I very rarely buy contemporary books. The reason for this is a rather silly notion I have that makes me worry about the chronological order of literature. Standing in front of the shelves carrying the month's top ten books, I begin to feel the weight of all the books I haven't read yet stacked up behind me. Surely, to have any understanding of today's literature one must have studied all the moments in history it has passed through to get here. Whilst I'm busy flirting with Yesterday, Today packs it bags and runs off with Tomorrow.

Books owned

On the what's-mine-is-yours-what's-yours-is-mine principle of marriage, the house contains somewhere in the region of 500-600 books. Maybe two thirds of those are mine. Sarah and I have quite different tastes. She solely reads fiction. You probably would too if you were a doctor, escaping into fiction is a useful break from medicine. Unlike Mr. Webb, I can't profess to having any form of rigourous system for the shelving of my books, although I tend to start with the ones that are my favourite on the shelf nearest the nearest chair. The results are fairly haphazard and it's a common cause of argument/discussion in the Annable household, as Sarah likes to see them arranged more neatly - preferring form over usability. Which is rather fitting as if there were ever a theme for this blog, that would be it. Other book related comments worth mentioning to any other guys who are entering a relationship with a doctor are; make sure any text books (particularly dermatology ones) are closed before you sit down to eat, and don't worry, that magazine left open on the page about erectile disfunction is just a coincidence, not a hint.

Last book bought

It's been a while. The last full book I bought was inspired by a flickr entry by Rodcorp - a used copy of Mental Maps by Peter Gould and Rodney White. I say 'full' copy because I also bought a couple of Pocket Penguin editions last week - H.G. Wells' The Country of the Blind and Primo Levi's Iron Potassium Nickel. You can't go far wrong with Wells, and Levi (like his fellow Italian, Calvino) has a wonderful efficiency to his writing that leaves you feeling as if every sentence is honed to perfection. Every word counts.

Last book I read

As well as worrying unnecessarily about literary chronology, I have a terrible habit of starting other books before I've finished the last one so I need to answer this question in the plural. Books completed this week were: Other books currently on the go and dotted about my life are: I should point out, especially to the Forster estate, that their location it not a form of critique, merely luck of the draw.

5 books that mean a lot to me

Some of these have been covered here before, one of them ad nauseum. Interestingly (or perhaps naturally) there are some connections here between myself, Matt and Peter. There are connections between the books too. The book on Buddhism is actually one of several that I could mention on that topic. Another being Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor. They are connected to Doestoevsky via a bus journey, a drunk woman, a fat bloke, some unruly kids and a Ł1 coin. A story for another entry perhaps. Hitch Hiker's, as any self respecting fan knows, is connected to everything.

If on a Winter's Night was my first experience of Calvino. It couldn't have come at a better time for me, in the midst of a tortuous search for some form of raison d'être during the beginning of my post-graduate studies. The following quote (which I also used in an essay at the time) sums it up:

How well I would write if I were not here! If between the white page and the writing of words and stories that take shape and disappear without anyone's ever writing them there were not interposed that uncomfortable partition which is my person! Style, taste, individual philosophy, subjectivity, cultural background, real experience, psychology, talent, tricks of the trade: all the elements that make what I write recognizable as mine seem to me a cage that restricts my possibilities. If I were only a hand, a severed hand that grasps a pen and writes...
It helped me make sense of the other work I was reading and was one of the many devices I had to employ in order to decipher and understand Architecture and Disjunction. Architecture is problem solving. Tschumi helped me understand the metaphysics of the problem(s).

I'm passing this on to...

I've lost track of where this has been so far, particularly as many people have already completed the musical version. There may be some overlaps, but I call upon: Dan Hill, Jack Mottram, Stuart Langridge, Matthew Revell and David Sucher.

notes:
Despite Stuart's suggestion that I've lost any accumulated book review kudos by daring to be enthusiastic about The Da Vinci Code, I continue to maintain a book category. A while back I posted a list of books I was hoping to read this year. I appear to have wandered a little off course.

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secret history Stuart has run his leg of the race. He highlights the wonderful Secret History by Donna Tartt. Had there been 6 books on my list, this would have been in there too.

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more secret history Jack pledges his allegiance as a fellow Hitch Hiker's nut and provides a more balanced opinion of Secret History.

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I heart wikis For one reason or another I find myself in the middle of four1 different books at once. It's causing a bit of a log jam and I'm not really progressing any of them very well. Last night while I was noodling about with my wiki I decided that I should do something to encourage myself to get some more reading done. Posting my sketches here over the last few weeks has proved to be a useful way to encourage myself to draw more, logic says it'll work for books too. This is also an excuse to see if demonstrate that the Blosxom plugin I just tweaked is working.2 The book title links will take you to the corresponding page in the wiki. They're all empty right now, but over the coming weeks I'm going to use them to post notes, snip quotes and jot down ideas. It may not be successful for all of them, but then the definition of success in this instance is also up for debate. Perhaps the capturing of only a couple of key sentences is enough. The wiki is open and can be edited by anyone, so if you've read any of them and have some ideas to share, you're more than welcome to leave some notes. In fact I positively encourage it.

notes:
1. this should say five, but to my horror I appear to have lost my 100 year old copy of The Iliad
2. it works!

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Camouflaged Macintosh Eek. More coincidental links this morning - I just found a review of a new book about the history of camouflage and its impact on fashion, DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material.
DPM includes a comprehensive guide to the camouflage patterns issued to soldiers of 107 nations around the world and, for the first time in print, thoroughly documents the rise of camouflage outside the armed forces - its use by anti-war protestors in the 1960s, further exploration by modern artists, and reinvention within areas such as fashion, architecture, music, film and sport...Rescuing camouflage from its unhappy associations with war and conflict, this book emphasizes its natural and artistic beauty. Here is the indispensable modern reference guide for both the novice and the seasoned camoufleur.
Camoufleur. What a fantatastic word. It includes an examination of Foreign Office Architects' experiments with pattern on the surface of its 1992 Virtual House.
If the realisation of the possible is a matter of interpretation, or re-description of a given set of identities or organisations, the actualisation of the virtual can never operate by resemblance, and therefore it requires from tools that will allow us to see -and therefore to imagine, to conceptualise- what we have never seen before.
Also, if you enjoyed the Apple iProduct link in last night's linklog, you might find more things to laugh at in a book called The Cult of the Mac by Leander Kahney. There's a blog to go with it - Wired Blogs:The Cult of the Mac.

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knowing when to be tags: cheesecake, books, ideas, quote Changing a tyre in the pouring rain is not a good way to start the day. Buying yourself a new book, swiftly followed by good coffee and cheescake is the only way to improve your mood. In fact I can't think of a better way to improve your mood in any given situation than the book-coffee-cheesecake maneuver. Spurred on by the recent completion of Swann's Way, I swaggered through the book shop and reached, without fear, for Don Quixote. The first line to receive a pencil mark however, is from the introduction by Harold Bloom, rather than Cervantes himself. After a lengthy explanation of the comparisons between Don Quixote and Hamlet:
I would rather be Falstaff or Sancho than a version of Hamlet or Don Quixote, because growing old and ill teaches you that being matters more than knowing.
A statement that's difficult to dispute whilst the taste of cheescake remains on your tongue. And yet...and yet, surely the development of knowing allows a more tangible appreciation of being? Or does my formal recognition/classification of the book-coffee-cheesecake maneuver turn it's magical healing qualities into little more than text, caffeine and mascarpone cheese? More on Don Quixote here: Radio 4's In Our Time. More on cheescake here: Spoon the mix into the ring. I spent the afternoon talking to a carpenter about religion and football and fell into what Dawkins calls the I'm an atheist but- trap. That aside, whether you have faith in perfect circles or imperfect footballs, or the belief that former is the abstraction of all the latter, or the latter is the inescapable reality of the idealistic former; what matters is the taste of the pie at half time. It's all about knowing when to be. Librarything's Unsuggester service proposes The New Interpreter's Bible to me as the alternative to Don Quixote.

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Eats, Shoots and Posts As promised, I posted my copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss to Joel over at biroco.com today. It's a great book. I enjoyed reading it and finally learnt how to use a semi-colon properly. This may not sound like a big issue, but as Truss points out in the book, I fall into the age range that suffered when grammar fell off the national curriculum. I don't remember having any structured lessons about possessive apostrophes, Oxford commas or any other such delights. Surprisingly, she even manages to make the subject amusing. For example, some graffiti she recounts, as read in New York, once said; "Nigger's out", to which some wag had added, "But he'll be back soon." As I said to Joel in some recent e-mail correspondence; if good punctuation can help neutralise evil via the conduit of wit, it's got to be worth learning about. I was reminded of some graffiti I once saw on a bridge in north Wales which said, "BRIT'S OUT!" - painfully incorrect, both geographically and grammatically. As if to prove my point about the value of good punctuation, this afternoon I discovered this fantastic L.A.Times article via the trusty boingboing.net
2nd S.F. Judge Delays Ruling on Gay Marriages Superior Court Judge James Warren told plaintiffs he would not issue a court order until they corrected a punctuation error in their legal filing.

By Daryl Strickland
Times Staff Writer

5:09 PM PST, February 17, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO - Conservative groups trying to stop the city from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples failed to win any immediate action today in two separate court hearings.

Superior Court Judge James Warren told plaintiffs late this afternoon that they would likely succeed on the merits of their case but said he would not issue a court order until they corrected a punctuation error in their legal filing.

"I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal That semicolon is a big deal," Warren told attorneys, according to an account by Associated Press.

In documents filed with the court, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had requested a court order that would force the city "cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before this court."

"The way you've written this it has a semicolon where it should have the word 'or'," the judge said. "I don't have the authority to issue it under these circumstances."

In the first hearing earlier today, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ronald Quidachay said he would not decide a lawsuit today that sought to block more than 2,500 marriage licenses issued to gay and lesbian couples since Mayor Gavin Newsom directed city officials to start the practice Thursday.

In the courtroom, located across the street from where same-sex couples were lined up to get the marriage licenses, Quidachay said the Campaign for California Families gave the city insufficient notice to get an emergency order.

"The court itself is not prepared to hear the matter," Quidachay said.

The Alliance Defense Fund filed a complaint Friday seeking a court-ordered halt to the marriages and was ordered back to Superior Court this afternoon. Attorneys for the Arizona-based group filed briefs Monday, as instructed by Judge James L. Warren, contending that California law must be enforced - even if it is unconstitutional - until an appellate court states otherwise.

"The mayor is breaking the law," Alliance spokesman Rich Jefferson said.

California law defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The newly elected mayor ordered marriage licenses amended to allow same-sex unions, stating that to do otherwise would violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal plan to file motions today to intervene in the cases on the city's behalf.

Lee Romney and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

sources:

  1. http://www.latimes.com

Disclaimer: confessing to having learnt about punctuation does not provide grounds upon which you may critique my writing; I shall no doubt forget it within a week...

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Faster notes I've been making a start with my BookNotes idea. A few interesting quotes have been pulled from the pages of Faster. (see previous post for details)

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The Illegitimate Extension More generous offerings of excerpts from good books I own; I've been moving things on to the new set of shelves I've just finished building and unearthing a few delights. Tonight it's the turn of How to Write, Think and Speak Correctly edited by C.E.M Joad and published quite-a-long-time-ago (there's no date in it) by Odhams Press.
Sweeping generalizations deserve no mercy and people who rely on them merit all the rebuffs they receive. Provided that an opportunity of questioning them is presented, they are, however, more dangerous than helpful to the controversialist, as they are so open to attack. If only for that reason we should avoid them. The fact that they are dangerous, however, has given rise to a trick of argument known as illegitimate extension. Suppose you were to maintain against me that: "Some Englishmen are unreasonable." That is a moderate position which I should find it difficult to assail. I might, therefore, resort to a trick. I might say: "That's all very well, but if you say some Englishmen cannot be reasonable you ought logically to say all Englishmen are unreasonable." In this way I am seeking, illegitimately, to extend your argument until it covers a position which is demonstrably unsound. I am seeking, that is, to manoeuvre you into defending the proposition: "All Englishmen are unreasonable," a proposition which I can disprove with the greatest of ease.
Taken from the section entitled The Art of Thinking: Some Unfair Tricks of Argument. how-to

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it's good to talk Notes on TimeAndTheHunter/IIIDeath (page 87) Despair not. Just when you were beginning to feel thoroughly dejected about Calvino's proposal that there is no longer any real connection between anybody or anything now that we've become complex multi-cellular organisms, rather than simple cells adrift in the promordial soup 1; he extends the olive branch of hope towards us in the chapter entitled III.Death.
As soon as we are out of the primordial matter, we are bound in a connective tissue that fills the hiatus between our dicontinuities, between our deaths and births, a collection of signs, articulated sounds, ideograms, morphemes, numbers, punched cards, magnetic tapes, tattoos, a system of communication that includes social relations, kinship, institutions, merchandise, advertising posters, napalm bombs, namely everything that is language, in the broad sense.
The middle section of this book is very difficult to read. Just when think you've made some sense of the ideas, he moves on to something new before you have chance to structure your thoughts. If my memory serves me correctly (this is my second reading), the last section is the most enjoyable. Peter certainly seemed to think so. There's no doubt in my mind anymore that he is certainly one of my favourite authors. If you had a bookcase that contained only the work of Italo Calvino, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Douglas Adams, you'd need nothing else. All parts of your brain/soul would be satisfied.

  1. see previous entry on Blood, Sea chapter

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RIP Jane Jacobs Tags:JaneJacobs, book, urbanism Toronto's Mayor, David Miller:
Jane was a champion of diversity, a diversity of buildings, residence, businesses and other nonresidential uses and different people of different ages in an area at different times of every day. She gave us eyes on the street. Her philosophy was a neighbourhood's safe, active, vibrant and economically successful when there are people there all day doing different things, from all backgrounds in life, and from all cultures. Jane was way ahead of her time. She saw cities, as in her words, "organic, spontaneous and untidy," and viewed the mingling of city uses and users as crucial to economic and urban development, and by understanding and dissecting how cities and their economies emerge and grow, she cast new light on the nature of local economies and communities.

jacobs-cover

jacobs-streets

Related entry: Here and There.

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best block Polis and Curbed have hooked up to propose a contest to name the most Jane Jacobsian block in New York City:
The idea is to celebrate the "street ballet" of your favorite block, not just because you like it, but because it exhibits the characteristics that Jane Jacobs enumerated as essential ingredients to a quality urban life.

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book upgrade Tags: authors,fiction,books I've never read any Jasper Fforde, but having just visited his web site and stumbled upon such delights as his 'book upgrade centre' it's become clear I have no choice but to add all his work to my wish list.
1: Editions covered by this upgrade: All United States Viking hardback editions. ON NO ACCOUNT attempt to upgrade any advanced reader's copies, Penguin Softback or UK editions; a 'deep text crash' may result which will render your book unreadable and could wipe your entire library. 2: Earth the book by touching it lightly against a dictionary. 3: If you are running your library on the outdated SCROLL V7.3 or PAPYRUS 2.8, please upgrade immediately to BOOK 7.3 which is available by downloading HERE and is now bundled with PageGlowTM and AutoPageTurnDeluxeTM at no extra cost. 4: If you are running the Beta Version of BOOK V8 and have Anti-GrammasiteProTM or ReadZipTM activated, please disable before upgrade. Third party hardware ancillaries such as bookmarks, pressed flowers, old bus tickets, etc, must also be removed. 5: Using a fine black pen make the following corrections: ...
Comes complete with a link to a label to download and add to your book once you're done. Wonderful.

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creative reaction For Rod McLaren and his How We Work series. Fernand Léger, painter (1881-1955) by Siegfried Giedion
Léger rebuilt his country place in the Chevreuse Valley without an architect. He thought it would serve him for a long time. Here he invited his friends. A table was pushed into the studio and spread in the midst of the paintings. One ate here with delight, with all the necessary reverence a good meal deserves, for Léger was a first-class cook. He was also, in contrast to many great men, a most excellent companion. Some female creature was always around the place, but he never paraded this before the world. For him the problems of his work rested on a completely different level.
On his period in New York, 1942-1945:
His studio in New York was near Fifth Avenue on 40th Street. Skyscrapers overshadowed it. Fernand Léger was working then on his great series of 'Divers' which posed the problem of depicting with a simple black outline hovering, falling, interlocking and transparent figures in weightless space. As he often did, Léger superimposed wide bands of clear colours. I stood in the studio with Moholy-Nagy and asked, "Why have red and blue patches been laid over the lineal structure of the bathers?" I knew that this was related to the play of contrasts that Léger always emphasized, but Moholy-Nagy gave the anser: "Don't you see that Léger must get even with those things out there?" - and he pointed to the skyscrapers. Defense by creative reaction.
All taken from a wonderful book that I found on the bottom shelf of the architecture section in my local second-hand bookshop* - Architecture, You and Me: The diary of a development by Siegfried Giedion. Expect more quotes over the next few weeks.

* I'm not going to tell you exactly which bookshop because I have tried to hide another book by Lewis Mumford so that it's there when I next return with more money in my pocket.

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library thing I've been trying out librarything.com...

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now you see me Ok, so that won't have been a lot of use to you if you read it via RSS - visit the entry in your browser to see the full librarything.

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useful things It seems that the last 12 months has indeed been the year that the WWW finally got useful. Ten years on and we finally got there. Blosxom, Bloglines, Usemod, Flickr, PlanetPlanet, Moblog.co.uk and now Librarything1 (and of course, del.icio.us2). We all need structure and I think I need it more than others thanks to my restless scatterbrain. I started adding things to my catalogue and must have been at least 3 or 4 books in before I'd actually worked out how librarything could be most useful to me - pending/unfinished reading lists controlled with tags. I can syphon off groups using combinations of tags: nonfiction, philosophy, unfinished (for when I'm feeling serious); or fiction, humour, unread (for when I'm not). A great idea that can surely only get better, go and take a look.

1. This is just some of the tools I use, not an attempt at a comprehensive list.
2. incredibly, I almost forgot this one, thanks to John Hill for reminding me in the comments about the tool I use every day.

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Little Nemo in Slumberland I've been looking through a catalogue of designer chairs and between the pages of photos and construction drawings I found this (click on the images for full size): nemo1 nemo2 It's a delightfully drawn cartoon depicting three characters clambering over a world rotated through ninety degrees. I haven't a clue what the dialogue says, if anybody could translate it for me and add some notes to the flickr.com images I'd be very grateful. Curiously, the final panel in the series looks exactly like the opening panel of the picture book by Maurice Sendak, In the Night Kitchen, which was published around the same period. The furniture catalogue I found it in is from the mid 70's. Perhaps a translation of the dialogue will uncover the link. This is all rather neat, as the friend who the owns the furniture catalogue is also the same friend who recommended the Sendak book to me a few years ago; I'm looking forward to pointing out the connection to him when he gets back to the office. In the Night Kitchenis one of the best children's books my son and I have read, it's beautifully drawn and I can highly recommend it. Get a copy from Amazon or try eBay, I got a copy on auction for less than Ł5.

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little mickey? To see the full image when you visit the flickr page, click on the 'all sizes' button and choose the original image size. The text should be readable then. On closer inspection I've just noticed that one of the characters looks a bit like Mickey, the star of the Sendak book. It's a little difficult to tell, as Mickey spends most of the book stark naked, rather than covered in a large over coat like the one he wears in this adventure. It's surely some sort of parody though.

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reading list I've managed to snaffle a copy of the reading list from the MA Urban Design course at UCE. I offer it here as inspiration to anyone looking for new stuff to put on their Amazon wish list:

PDF link: MA_UrbanDesign_ReadingList_2005.pdf

It seems that post-modernity is the theme du jour. I can help out with a couple of books on the list - see my previous post on 'Postmodernism for Beginners' and the subsequent (more useful and more academic) notes by Peter.

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dear santa More letters and a suggestion for your (my) Christmas wish list. It was my boss's birthday last week. Here at the office we usually end up spending a considerable amount of time trying to decide what gift to get when birthdays come around. This time the solution came to me in a flash and I was left wondering why I hadn't chosen it in years gone by. One of the very first books I took out of the library at the school of architecture when I was a fresh-faced first year student was a book of letters between Donlyn Lyndon and Charles Moore called Chambers for a Memory Palace. I got lucky. A more inspiring start to an architectural education you'd be hard pressed to find.

chambers cover

It's a perfect gift for him (me) - he's (I'm) a huge (wannabe) Charles Moore fan and it's a book that can be picked up occasionally and dipped into briefly, rather than read from start to finish. He's (I'm) far too busy being an architect (blogging) to actually sit down and read about architecture for any long period of time. Enough of the hints. Here's an excerpt:
Two thousand years ago Marcus Tullius Cicero used to make two-hour speeches in the Roman Senate, without notes, by constructing in his mind a palace whose rooms and furnishings, as he imagined himself roaming through them, called up the ideas he wished to discuss: ideas were made memorable by locating them in space. ... Our purpose in writing this book is to help make real places more memorable; to inscribe some suggestions for building that will make the actual world of buildings and landscapes capable of carrying ideas for those who live among them - rendering them as valuable to thought as Cicero's imaginery palaces were to speech. In the following pages we assemble a set of observations on the composition of places. We cast these observations as Chambers for Memory Palace, each with a title. The titles consist of elements (nouns) and actions (verbs).
For example, pages from: Borders that Control / Walls that Layer / Pockets that Offer Choice and Change and Platforms that Separate / Slopes that Join / Stairs that Climb and Pause.

chambers 1 chambers 2 chambers 3

Delicious sketches, inspiring words. Roll on Christmas. Related entries:

1. me on Cullen's Townscape
2. my boss on Mrs Rietveld Schroder

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I wake up to Nemo A little while ago I posted a plea for help with a cartoon I had found in an old catalogue. Peter, with the help of his boss, kindly did a translation for me with help of flickr notes. It's a curious little story and I was relieved to be able to enjoy the text as well as the pictures, however, there seemed to be no explanation for the connection to Maurice Sendak that had originally got me enthused. Over the last 24 hours there has been a new development...
On Mon, 21 Mar 2005 23:11:39 +0000, eversion wrote:
Hi Mike,

Ralf has passed on your comments about the cartoon I posted. I'm fascinated to learn that you may have copies in English, I assumed it was just an obscure one off!

Whatever info you have would be much appreciated. Regards, Rob
On Mon, 21 Mar 2005 17:34:02 -0800, Mike Whybark wrote:
Can you pass me back the URL again? I assumed that the piece was a translation of the little nemo original; the images I noticed looks familiar as part of a long sequence in which Flip, Nemo, and the Imp are wandering through Morpheus' castle. I have several of the Fanagraphics full-year reprints and may be able to locate the piece. If it's not a translation but was originally in Dutch, I may be of little use, although I could probably put you in touch with Eric and Fanta, who could get you and Bill Blackbeard hooked up. I think Blackbeard edited the Nemo books. I seem to recall something about early seventies bootleg dutch reprints of Nemo preceding US reprints by a couple of years. I may have read that these reprints influenced Joost Swarte, who so clearly has looked at McCay (among other early cartoonists) pretty closely.
On Mon, 21 Mar 2005 23:55:34 +0000, eversion wrote:
Mike, Time for a confession. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that until about 5 minutes ago I didn't know anything about the history of Nemo or Winsor McCay. If I'd bothered to Google it in the first place (as I just have) I'd have realised that I got the Sendak connection completely the wrong way round! Here's the link again, it should make you chuckle... http://rob.annable.co.uk/journal.cgi/2005/01/07/books/little_nemo I found the strip in a furniture catalogue put together in the late 60's showing the collection of iconic furniture owned by a Dutch university. If it's not too much trouble, I'd love to see what you have, but it's clearly not quite what I imagined it might be. Rob
On Mon, 21 Mar 2005 17:34:02 -0800, Mike Whybark wrote:
oh, fantastic. It's just what I thought it was. I'm certain i have this. I will leap off the couch into action in a minute. McCay also is widely credited as the inventor of animation, for his "Gertie the Dionsaur" films. here's a wikipedia article on Nemo:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Nemo

And then finally, I got this from Mike earlier this evening...
Ok, yes, this is known as the "Befuddle Hall" sequence. I have it in several republications. This transcription is taken from page 110 of "the Best of Little Nemo in Slumberland," edited by Richard Marschall. FRAME ONE
Nemo (on the left, in policeman's cap):
I wish we had never come into this Befuddle Hall in the first place. Flip (to right, in cap, appears bearded and with cigar):
That isn't the question now, it's how are we going to get out. FRAME TWO
N: The whole affair seems to be sideways. It makes me dizzy.
F: There's a hall running up and down and crossways! Don't fall in, now, hear? FRAME THREE
N: Let's give ourselves up when we get out of here, eh, Flip?
F: Let's get out first! Whoever named this Befuddle Hall knew his business! FRAME FOUR
N (to the Imp): Come on! You slowpoke! Hurry up! Don't be so slow!
F: I see daylight! Come on! Hurry up! FRAME FIVE
N: We'll hunt up the princess now, eh? And go back to the palace!
F: Yes! There's the door to this befuddle place yonder! FRAME SIX
I: Pug ug umble guck!
N (losing cap): I'm so glad we are going to get out of here!
F: I told you I'd find the way out, did I not, eh? FRAME SEVEN
N: Yes! You did not! We are as bad off as ever!
F: Huh! This beats me! I'm certainly, um, twisted! the only thing we can do is go back again! FRAME EIGHT
N (having fallen out of bed and awakened): Huh! I was wondering why everything looked so sidewise like! --- Every single LNIS ends with Nemo awakening on the floor in a smaller frame. There is a wonderful sequence which starts with him in bed, and the bed grows legs and gallops over the city wildly until he awakens, having fallen out of bed.

Little_nemo_plancha_1.jpg

The strip you found has an original publication date of 1908, and is drawn from a several-weeks sequence known as "Befuddle Hall." From the same sequence:

McCay_LittleNemo.jpg

There was a very terrible animated film adaptation of the strip made in the 1990s. In the US in the seventies, a wonderful animated campaign for Levis' pants made heavy and direct use of imagery and sequences originating in the strips, but wildly psychedelicized in the nineteen-seventies idiom. Performing a google image search on the quoted term "little nemo" seems to yield a number of scans of the strip in color, as it was originally published. The strip was an anchor of the American sunday comics supplement and original rotgoravured pages are sought-after collectibles (I have never seen one in real life).

LittleNemoADVERTe513_bis.jpg Anyway, there's a ton of stuff out there of Nemo and on McCay. If you can find it, "Little Nemo 1905-1914" may contain every strip from the greatest period. This edition was published by the Evergreen Press (a subthing of Taschen), has an introductioun by Bill Blackbeard, and the ISBN is 3-8228-6300-9

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/3822863009

absurdly, the book dealers on Amazon have this listed as $280 and up. Hope you enjoy getting to know Nemo. It's truly brilliant drawing.
The moral of the story? Check Google and Wikipedia first. That is, of course, unless you want to enjoy actually being taught by someone who cares enough to give you their time and wisdom. Thanks Mike, Peter and Ralf.

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toss your salad I'm missing my daily reading slot now that I've started driving to work instead of taking the tram. However, Radio 4 is providing an adequate substitute as I drive along the M6 hoping not to get stuck in a jam. This week's Start the Week program had some fascinating guests on it. Two of which have sent me scuttling off to my Amazon Wish List to add a couple of books. The most interesting is perhaps Not On The Label by Felicity Lawrence. It's a piece of investigative journalism about the behind the scenes processes that deliver food to our supermarkets. It has some sobering and stomach churning facts to share, such as the pre-packed salads that are packaged by cheap (exploited) migrant labour and then washed in Chlorine twenty times the strength of a swimming pool. It's done merely to maintain the visual appearance and extend the shelf life. Out of season the market moves to Almeria in Spain. Where a collossal farming program has transformed the landscape. I was there myself in October but in my naivety I never realised that the mile upon mile of covered greenhouses were producing goods destined for the UK. Those that make it to the UK have been put through rigorous visual tests before they're allowed to be shown to the consumer. The actual taste and nutrition of the food is secondary.
In the supermarket beauty parade, an apple must look good in front of the camera or risk rejection. A Dutch firm provides packhouses with machines, which cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, to measure cosmetic perfection. The 'Greefa Intelligent Quality Sorter' takes up to 70 colour pictures of every apple on the conveyor belt to determine the 'blush of non-equally coloured fruit', and to grade it by size. It can detect deviations of as little as 1mm2. So if the supermarket specification says that an apple of a particular variety must be, say, 15-17% blush red on green, it can 'grade out' or reject any that are 18% red on green or a miserable 14% red on green. The beauty parade often means the difference between profit and loss for the farmer. Anything 'graded out' ends up, if the farmer is lucky, as fruit for juice at giveaway prices of 3-5p per pound, but as often as not it will just go to waste.
This was taken from a section of the book published by the Guardian. I hope you enjoy your next trip to the supermarket.

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The Urban Idyll Notes from The Paul Jennings Reader - Collected Pieces 1943-89
There are moments in even the busiest urban life when our relationship with the city is suddenly changed. A meeting ends early, we have time off to see a doctor or solicitor - whatever it is, for a couple of hours we stroll, we are relaxed, we possess the city, instead of being held ourselves in the grip of its routine. In summer, light winds move through the warm streets, reminding us of our trade with the hot lands, the bales of calico, the boxes of spice. In winter, the afternoon sky goes a heavy pink, the lights come on, we are wrapped in a northern dream of gaiety under the chandeliers. The city has the irrationality of a flower, the power of a volcano. But such a mood cannot be deliberately invoked. It must come by accident, although we do at least know that we must be on foot, for only thus can we emulate the casual, sideways motions of butterflies, or of bees, drinking the city's nectar. Wheeled things go in a straight line, to infinity; you cannot cover a city, or have any part of it, on wheels... ... Think of it, a wonderful quiet area from Park Lane to Charing Cross-road, from the Mall to Oxford-street, full of beautiful people, relaxed, shining, talking animatedly or gravely to one another. We had a hint of what it would be like on the nights preceding the Coronation, when the Mall was simply a great promenade, a susurrus of strollers, a murmuration of mortals. Is not this what cities are for?
from 'Oddly Enough', Observer, February 1954

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Rationalist Annual [rationalist.jpg:out] I bought this a few years ago and then promptly forgot about it until this evening when I walked past my book shelf. I turned to the essay with the most promising title - Aesthetic Experience and the Problem of Evil by Margaret Knight - and found this:
The basic principle of ethics states that the value of a complex whole is not directly proportionate to the value of its parts in isolation, since the relations between the parts, as well as the nature of the parts, are relevant to the whole. It states, further, that in some cases the value of a complex whole is increased by the addition of elements that, in themselves, are evil; just as the sublimest musical effects may contain elements of discord, and our most valued aesthetic experiences, such as those we derive from tragedy, may contain elements of pain. In the hedonic sphere the working of the principle is obvious. Many physical pleasures depend in some degree on suffering, or at least deprivation. Enjoyment of rest is increased by fatigue, and of eating hunger. It might be argued that in these cases deprivation is merely a pre-condition of the pleasant experience, and not an ingredient in it. But if we consider some of the more complex human enjoyments, such as ski-ing or rock-climbing, it is clear that an element of strain and danger is an actual part of the experience and heightens its pleasure.
[spes.jpg:out] This section could prove useful for thinking about Salingaros' comments about violence in Tschumi's texts. The following section resonates with some of my interests in Buddhism.
There are occasions when we derive aesthetic pleasure from real events even though they may be painful or horrifying. But for this to happen the events must usually occured at such a distance in space or time, and be so completely beyond our intervention, that we can regard them with something of the detachment with which we regard the events of a tragedy...In certain rare states of consciousness, however, we achieve what has been aptly termed "physical distance." Many people enjoy, from time to time, short-lived but profoundly satisfying experiences when they seem in some strange way to have got out of themselves and out of time, and when eveyrthing around them acquires a profound amd moving significance. These experiences, with which few people are quite unfamiliar, are mystical experiences of a rudimentary kind; and what may (we suggest) be happening, both here and in full mystical experience, is that we have slipped momentarily "out of gear" with our practical life and are reacting to the things and events around as we do a work of art. Hence the profound sense of harmony and integration. We have abandoned our dual allegiance; we have slipped momentarily into the cosmic attitude; we are "in tune with the universe" to the extent that we, like the rest of Nature, have become blind for a time to all but aesthetic values.
I haven't really had chance to digest it yet. I may come back later and hyperlink it to give it some context. It would be remiss of me to offer you this without having done a bit of Googling first. I found out that this work was part of a lecture series delivered on the BBC in 1955 called 'Freethought'. Objectivethought.com says that it '...drew harsh public protests.' Over at positiveatheism.org they have a series of quotes from Margaret Knight, such as:
At the time of the broadcasts, I held two assumptions that were common among the more highbrow type of sceptic. These were: (i) that Jesus, though he was deluded in believing himself to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, was, nevertheless, a great moral teacher, and a man of outstanding moral excellence, and (ii) that though Christianity is now rapidly being outgrown, it was a great force for good in its day. In the light of wider knowledge, both assumptions now seem to me to be false. I now incline to the view that the conversion of Europe to Christianity was one of the greatest disasters of history.
And who should I find listed below her? None other than the irrepressible Arthur Koestler - who seems to be watching my every move at the moment. Spooky.

images: image 1 is the cover, image 2 is an advert from the back of the book

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book reviews A link for fellow parents: Red House online book sellers are advertising for volunteers to help with reviews of childrens books.
Calling all mums and dads! We’re looking for the parents of babies and toddlers to join our young Red House Readers, reviewing and recommending books to other mums, dads and teachers. We will regularly send you brand new picture books and novelty books to test drive with your little ones and we’ll look forward to publishing your opinion both in our catalogue and on our website. We take the advice we receive from our Red House Readers extremely seriously and will quite often decide not to advertise a book on the strength of the reviews we receive, so you can see we are looking for those prepared to take this responsibility as seriously as their younger peers.
You can download the application form on their site. I shall certainly be applying.

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dough, water, paper and what links them together For no better reason than wanting to keep up with the neighbours, I'm writing this evening from the kitchen worktop whilst waiting for some dough to rise, risking the ingress of flour with every key tap. It's not quite the same as Stuart's recent entry from the bath, but the acknowledgement of my actions lends a certain character, don't you think? Mercifully, Stuart is sure to include a description of his state of dress during the event, you may click the link without fear.

I, on the other hand, am completely naked.

Why is it, do you think, that the terrible events of the last week might have had a much greater effect on me than any other piece of news I've heard in a long time? I've been moved in ways that stories of war, murder and rape - the usual contents of the day's broadcasts - have never achieved. Am I simply becoming hardened to the truth about the darkness in men's hearts? Is the intentional causing of pain to others becoming nothing more than a fact of life to be accepted? From the danger I've put myself in this week, using power tools whilst half blind from the tears welling up in my eyes as CNN plays in the background, it would seem this is the case. I doubt I'm alone. It's a pathetic comparison, but when the wave machine at the local swimming pool started up this weekend I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the pool who felt deeply uncomfortable with the idea that we were supposed to be having fun. Onwards to 2005. The money I had earmarked for some new books and a PDA will be heading to south-east Asia (probably via the charity I added to the linklog a couple of nights ago), so I've made a trip to the bookshelf and chosen from the books that I already own in order to create the proposed reading list for 2005. In no particular order they are:

Some I shall endeavour to make notes about here, other's I shall keep to myself. I try to avoid Politics (with a capital P) in this journal, so I doubt I shall comment on Moore's book for instance. I look forward to any further suggestions you might have and any proposals for inter-blog reading groups. The last one was quite successful. I've made promises about some of the books in the past but failed to deliver, let's hope I fair a little better this year. Bachelard is bloody hard to read and I find it's easy to get distracted from Lessig. I've managed two others over the last month - The Paul Jennings Reader and How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen - so I shall start with notes on those over the next couple of weeks. Both were a joy to read. And so to my 2005 resolution. There is only one. At least there is only one that concerns you. This year I resolve to resist the temptation to allow hyperlinks in entries to screw up the structure of a sentence. Hyperlinks aren't a structural part of a sentence, they are a layer that sits above or below the surface of the words and unlike the way I've previously described the relationship between the content at either end of the link I don't want the act of clicking to deform the delivery of the words. Here's an example; a little while ago I wrote about the recent lunar eclipse and in one of the updates I wrote this:
The second trip outdoors only provided more clouds. I never saw the eclipse, unlike Joel and all these smug people.
The reference to Joel isn't too offensive as there are other entries that had previously qualified who Joel is, but the second? Who the hell am I talking about? Which smug people? It assumes you will click on the link to find out and it assumes you will leave all your reading skills at the door and ignore incongruous sentences that have no relationship to anything else on the page. It's Bad and It Has To Go. If you catch me making this mistake again, be sure to point it out. I hope you had a good New Year, I'm off now to put my dough in the oven and wait for a loaf of bread to appear.

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seminal texts ArchNewsNow provides a link to an article about how '...Markus Breitschmid’s book, "Der bauende Geist. Friedrich Nietzsche und die Architektur," or "The Building Spirit. Friedrich Nietzsche and Architecture," has been selected by the Institute of Philosophy in Karlsruhe-Germany as one of 14 seminal texts...'. The rest of the list makes for a useful resource to add to your wish lists.
In his book, Breitschmid, assistant professor of the history of architecture and design at Virginia Tech, inaugurated a reinterpretation of the noted German philosopher Nietzsche, namely that creative thought, and “building thought” in particular, fundamentally determines the world of Nietzsche. The book is recognized for the study of the modernist transformation of space in the architectural thinking of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The other books selected by the Institute of Philosophy were: Leone Battista Alberti, "De Statue;" Aristotle, "The Categories;" Aristotle, "Metaphysics;" Aristotle, "Physics;" Rudolf Arnheim, "The Dynamics of Architectural Form;" Le Corbusier, "The City of Tomorrow;" Jacques Derrida, "Chora;" Martin Heidegger, "Building, Dwelling, Thinking;" Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art;" Johannes Kepler, "Harmonices Mundi;" Jean-Francois Lyotard, "The Inhumane – Reflections on Time;" Plato, "Timaios;" Vitruvius, "Ten Books of Architecture."

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Shared Architext tags: books, architext, librarything Stuck for suggestions for Christmas gifts? Here's the current list of most commonly shared books between members of the group I started on librarything.com a little while ago: I have no Rybczynski, but do have some Bachelard and I'm currently proposing a trade on the group forum.

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It will find you brooding One of the problems/benefits of being who I am and doing what I do is that it effects the way I think about everything. Every space turns into a floor plan in my mind and every city becomes a scale model to pick up and turn over in my hands. I dream in exploded axonometric cross sections. Well, the ones that don't involve naked girls at least. A few weeks ago I took a trip during my lunch break to the gallery in the city and saw an exhibition called Artworks in Mental Health (warning: crap web site). I've been planning to do a write up of some of the galleries I've been to lately, but as yet I haven't had time. There was an experience within an experience however, that deserved a mini write up of its own. There was poetry and prose on display as well as painting and sculpture. All the work was by people who had either first or second hand experience of mental illness. In the foyer you could buy a book of the writing deemed worthy of inclusion by the guy who can't find anything to rhyme with Wilkinson; I paid my Ł3 and read it on the tram on the way home a couple of nights ago. There's some good work, although it gets a little bleak by the time you've got about two thirds of the way through. The piece that had the biggest impression on me wasn't singled out for its poetic quality though, rather for its effect on me when I misunderstood it on the first reading. Each piece had a short explanation by the author but with this one I chose to read the poetry first. I've typed out the poem below. When you read and think about the word form, try to put all thoughts of sheets of paper to be filled in with a pen out of your mind and concentrate on form as shape, object or space.

A Special Form to Fill In by David Bateman

Good news: here is a special form to fill in.
All of your problems
will be solved at once. However, please note
the form is very big, very complicated.
It will take you some while to fill in.
There are many details
you will need to check
and then to re-check;
questions over which you will agonize
lest you should spoil the form and have to start again.
It will find you brooding
sleepless, sleepless,
in every dawn.
I think I'll add this to my growing list of possible answers to a question I often get asked; Why does it take so long to study architecture? After all, it's only building stuff innit?. I should be careful not to do the author an injustice, its potential for ambiguity is poetic quality in itself.

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the dark arts

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Tonight the museum possessed an almost oppresive quality. Long shadows encroached everywhere, and the usually soaring vaulted ceilings appeared as a low, black void. 'This way,' Fache said, turning sharply right and setting out throught a series of interconnected galleries. Langdon followed, his vision slowly adjusting to the dark. All around, large-format oils began to materialize like photos developing before him in an enormous darkroom...their eyes following as he moved through the rooms.

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

It was very dark in the main hall. A little bit of moonlight came through the windows, and Stanley could just make out the world's most expensive painting on the opposite wall. He felt as though the bearded man with the violin and the lady on the couch and the half-horse person and the winged children were all waiting, as he was, for something to happen. Time passed and he got tireder and tireder. Anyone would be tired this late at night, especially if he had to stand in a picture frame balancing on little spikes. Maybe they won't come, Stanley thought. Maybe the sneak thieves won't come at all.
Both the books I'm reading this week - one for myself, the other to my son at bed time - revel in the atmosphere of a museum after darkness. It's a compelling image that I'm keen to experience. Any curators out there willing to offer an after hours tour? Probably not. Still, it was worthwhile posting this entry if only to recommend that you all turn off your machines and go straight to the bookshop to buy these books. It's almost impossible to put down either of them.

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sleepover Karim has pointed out in the comments that the British Museum organise sleepovers. I checked the web site and discovered that it's part of the Young Friends club. They hold about 4 a year and they are themed. See you there!

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cullenesque part 2 juxtaposition "...the direct relationship between two categories, village and countryside. The unequivocal character of both is brought sharply together, there is no fluffing."

juxtaposition

(see also: part 1)

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le urban design

More on Gordon Cullen's Townscape:

My 4 year old son has three modes of operation: drawing, climbing and watching TV. That's it. There are no others. The first two are easily explained by the science of genetics, the third less so, but I write that having spent the last 4 hours mesmerised by my PC monitor, so perhaps that one's my fault too. Of course, like any responsible parent I carefully police it and only allow a certain amount of viewing each day. Unless there's a run of Looney Tunes animations on, at which point the parenting manual goes out the window and we sit mesmerised together. So, a couple of weeks ago, there we were, wiping the tears of laughter from our eyes as the credits roll on another painful episode for Wile E.Coyote, when suddenly we find ourselves watching the cartoon version of Townscape... My previous entries on Townscape (1 and 2) have so far used photography and sketches to convey some of the book's contents. Today we're going to use a skunk.

The following words are by Gordon Cullen, the images are from Chuck Jones' 1949 Oscar winning cartoon, For Scenti-mental Reasons.


continuity

The example ... shows in a very simple way how the open countryside and the town centre are directly linked together by a footpath.

thereness

[This picture trys] to isolate the quality of Thereness which is lyrical in the sense that it is perpetually out of our reach, it is always There. Beyond [the wall] is the great emptiness. In the wild countryside ... the distance is made personal to us by the extension outwards of the roadside wall as a thin white line which, because of its meaning (possible line of travel), projects us out into the widerness.

pedestrian ways

The pedestrian network links the town together in a viable pattern: it links place to place by steps, bridge and distinctive floor pattern, or by any means possible so long as continuity and access are maintained. The traffic routes sweep along impersonally but the tenacious and light-hearted pedestrian network creates the human town. Sometimes brash and extrovert, it may sychronize with the great traffic routes or with shops and offices, at other times it may be witdrawn and leafy; but it must be connected to the whole.

anticipation

We now turn to those aspects of here and there in which the here is known but the beyond is unknown, is infinite, mysterious, or is hidden inside a black maw.

mystery

From the matter of fact pavement of the busy world we glimpse the unknown, the mystery of a city where anything could happen or exist, the noble or the sordid, genius or lunacy. This is not Withenshawe.

the maw

Black motionless and silent, like a great animal with infinite patience the maw observes nonchalant people passing to and fro in the sunlight. This is the unknown which utter blackness creates.

focal point

Coupled with enclosure (the hollow object) as an artifact of possession, is the focal point, the vertical symbol of congregation. In the fertile streets and market places of town and village it is the focal point (be it a column or cross) which crystallizes the situation, which confirms 'this is the spot', 'Stop looking, it is here.'

the block house

Here the dynamic curves of movement are held in suspense by the rectangular building which blocks the exit and so draws a momentary balance between enclosure and pure fluidity. It does not impede the flow of traffic or people but acts as a mark of punctuation or closure.

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My 2006 reading list. 2006 reading list From the top:
  1. Seneca: On the Shortness of Life
  2. Deleuze and Guattari: A Thousand Plateaus
  3. Giedion: Architecture, You and Me
  4. Pevsner Architecture Guide: Birmingham
  5. Iain Banks: The Algebraist
  6. Dostoyevsky: Notes from the Underground and The Double
  7. Sven Lindqvist: A History of Bombing
  8. Kevin MacNeil: The Stornaway Way
  9. Italo Calvino: The Castle of Crossed Destinies
  10. Primo Levi: If This Is A Man - The Truce
Comments and advice welcomed.

Notes:

a. Thanks to Matt for reminding that I really must get around to reading 'A Thousand Plateaus'. Approaching it here in 2006 feels a little like stumbling into a party late, hoping that my timing might be seen as fashionable, then realising that actually it's just rude not to be punctual.
b. Thanks to Rod for pointing me to 'A History of Bombing'.
c. Thanks to Peter for reminding me about 'The Castle of Crossed Destinies'.
d. Thanks to Matthew for buying me 'The Algebraist' for my birthday last year (it's half finished - I'm getting there Matthew!)

Related entries:

1. last year's list (which is admittedly still unfinished and some need to be added to the above)
2. the book baton
3. the whole book category

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Vonnegut and Dostoevsky If the Hitch Hiker's Guide taught me how to read, then Slaughterhouse 5 taught me what to read. In it one of the characters says, Everything you need to know about life can be found in The Brothers Karamazov; I tried it, he was right. Vonnegut's interest in Dostoevsky still shows itself in a recent piece of his I've just stumbled across.
Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to be a human being: Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge of Courage, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Crime and Punishment, the Bible and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
(taken from Cold Turkey by Kurt Vonnegut via Nate)

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route just found the source of this Vonnegut article - via biroco, via cloud23 back to In These Times.

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life and soul A while ago I had the pleasure of suggesting a good book to Peter over at tesugen.com. He has repaid the favour twice over by encouraging me to read What Is Architecture? by Paul Shepheard. I read it during the Christmas holidays, being sure to carry a pencil with me at all times so that I may mark the ideas I wished to pass on to others. It's a wonderful book. In a field that is usually dry and often inpenetrable, this is an architectural theory book that has life and - though I'm not entirely sure what I mean by this - soul. I'm glad that it has taken me ten years to get around to reading this book. Glad that it's ideas weren't handed to me on a plate when it was first published in 1994. Glad because it seems there is much that Shepheard and I agree on, and to have arrived at the same destination (or, perhaps, point along a much longer journey) without the help of a guide, makes the miles travelled seem much more worth while. To stumble across a clearing in the forest is a relief; to find a camp already set up and tea boiling over a roaring fire is bliss. The camp fire analogy is useful for another reason - story telling. The biggest appeal of this book is the teaching of architectural theory through anecdotal tales. It's a technique I've always tried to employ here on no, too self. There are at least two reasons for this; firstly, the style of delivery is (like every other website in the world today) a diary or journal written in the first person. Subjective, anecdotal evidence is exactly what you should expect to find in someone's personal diary. Secondly, I happily allow the blog format of the site to encourage me to write in this fashion because I'm interested in the story more than anything else. If this were an academic essay I would undoubtedly be accused of being woefully short of objective reference material. Factual objectivity is less of a concern when you believe, as I do, that the cultural, social, emotional and mental conditions of the people who make or critique architecture is the richest seam in the gold mine of architectural history. Perhaps, after all, I do know what I mean when I use the word soul. Paul Shepheard should start a blog, it's a format he would be comfortable with. The following quotes are some of the ideas/statements I enjoyed the most. Readers who've been with me over the last year will spot some common ground; the handful of new subscribers whose existence is betrayed by my webstats, might like to click on a few of the links. Anybody interested in reading more about the value of a story over Truth, should buy themselves a copy of the fantastic book, Life of Pi.
It seems to me sometimes that we're all sitting in a huge valley with people shouting contradictory things at each other. - p6 Stones with character, that's one definition for what architecture is, although it's as primitive as cave painting to put it so simply. - p11 ...a building is a performance: a one-off, never to be repeated performance where the supervisor is like the conductor and the builders - skilled workers? - are like the musicians in the orchestra. - p23 Morality, is another way of describinq the results of human discourse, of describing the trust between human beings. - p36 What is architecture? I think it's about being invisible but still having character. I think of it as a very modern theme - not inevitably contemporary, perhaps, but modern. Le Corbusier, in Vers une architecture, says, "Day by day our epoch is defining it's own style. Our eyes are yet unable to see it." And never will, I think, it's invisible. If we see anything it'll be the side effect of something else. - p48 There are illusions of form in literature. The pages of the books, with their margins and footnotes and headings, for one thing, and the structure of letter into word into sentence into paragraph, for the other. Well it must impress itself onto our senses somehow. The words must have order and form enough to be perceivable, but how many ways there are for them to break into the physical world. Words can be spoken as well as written. They can be coded into morse. They can be transmuted into binary numbers and put on a compact disc and sent down wires. The content stays the same. Here's Hazlitt's essays on my desk. Here's T.S.Eliot's. The books are exactly the same, in structural terms. The structure that makes them different in a critical sense is a mental notion. It doesn't exist. Now look at this building. It's a temple but if it were used as a strip joint, it would still be this shape. The base of the column doesn't mean the base of the column - it is the base of the column. Look at that concrete bunker over there. It doesn't mean the defence of the country - it's part of it. Just as the soldier inside is part of it. That's form. The mess of patriotism running through the soldier's mind, now, his reason for preparing to die for his country - that's content. - p75 Compromise sounds weak, but it means bind - as in promise - together. It represents the end of the argument, the conclusion. In physical terms it means the fitting together of the parts. - p86 Those stealth bombers are not painted black to evoke menace, or to disappear into the night: this is ablative black. The paint is full of ferrite particles that absorb radar energy and make the machines harder for the other side's radar to see ... It's difficult to see how character survives in such an environment. Here's an example: the big black submarines that cruise under the Atlantic Ocean are invisible, and apparently anonymous. But throughout the life of the machine, the hull picks up dents and scratches exclusive to itself, and consequently the sonar signature of each machine is slightly different. It acquires character through use. - p109 (my emphasis) Nap of the earth implies a close fit between the architecture and the ground it occupies. Not a "contextual" fit with the other buildings; nor a "programmatic" fit, with its users; but a fit in the vernacular sense. Opportunistic, energy efficient, buildable, and wise. - p112 The idea is that every building is really the conclusion of some dramatic impulse, made specific by the circumstances that surround it. - p124

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self promotion tags: architects, image, hunk The RIBA should employ Paul Arendt from the Guardian to write all their publicity material:
The architect is an archetype, marinated in cinema history: he is intelligent, scrupulously fair-minded (Henry Fonda's juror No 8 in 12 Angry Men was an architect), wealthy and creative. He's secretly romantic, like Tom Hanks. He's hubristic but brilliant, like Paul Newman in The Towering Inferno. And he's a fantastic lay: witness the scene in Jungle Fever when Wesley Snipes has sex with Anabella Sciorra on his own drafting table. Back to the drawing board indeed.
This isn't entirely true. I'm not particularly wealthy.

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the sweet life I'm spending the evening of my birthday watching a film.
Sometimes the dark silence of the night weighs upon me.
Peace makes me afraid; perhaps I distrust it above all.
I feel it's only a facade concealing the abyss.
I think of the world my children will know.
It's supposed to be marvellous but a phone call by a madman can mean the end of everything.
We must get beyond passions, like a great work of art.
In such miraculous harmony.
We should love each other outside of time...detached.
Steiner talking to his sleeping children in La Dolce Vita.

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more info Did a little more digging this morning and found more info about La Dolce Vita at culturevulture.net. I haven't read it all yet, just quickly scanned it, as I haven't finished watching the movie. However, I notice that they picked out the same section of the script as I did on Saturday night.

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Not so much an after life, more a sort of apres vie Much to my embarrassment, I almost missed this. The book that taught me how to read and helped me develop my sense of humour has finally started to take shape as a movie. Filming has started for the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie and you can follow the latest news on the production team's web log. A long standing project that nearly died along with it's creator, the Hitch Hiker's movie could, I suspect, go in one of two possible directions; a successful adaptation that Douglas would have been proud of or...no, I can't bring myself to type it. However, I'm encouraged by the news that Martin Freeman, who plays Tim in that widely acknowledged work of genius: The Office, will be playing Arthur Dent. When I say that the book taught me how to read, I mean in the sense that it was the first book that taught me reading could be enjoyable rather than a chore. I still remember reaching up and taking it off the shelf of my high school library for the first time. I've lost count of how many times I've turned to it since. Other useful links include: ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha and Magrathea, who have an interview with the directors.

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AR Covers: 1960s tags: graphics, design, advent, gift, AR, magazine

Architectural Advent day 14:

The changing face of Architectural Review magazine - batch 1: the 1960s.

jan66jan67dec67aug68dec68dec69

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now that says chair Marcus Fairs reviews the Marc Newson exhibition at the Design Museum in this month's Icon magazine:
"Few designers change the visual language of everyday life - Marc Newson is one," blathers the first of the wall texts in this mid-career retrospective. "He has transformed the design of the objects and spaces around us through his own work and his influence on other designers." ... [N]othing in this exhibition substantiates the bold statement at the entrance. It does not investigate Newson's influence or place his work in a cultural movement. There is no critical perspective. The show feels like a concession at Selfridges. At the entrance is a huge bas relief of Newson's autograph.
About 6 months ago, sensing it would prove useful, I took this photo on a concession stand in Debenhams (just round the corner from Selfridges), it's Newson's Embryo chair. embryo chair The first time I saw a chair by Marc Newson was at the '100% Design' exhibition about 4 years ago. I think it was called the Orgone chair. I sketched it somewhere, I'll try and dig it out and post it. I'd seen it in the press a lot over the preceding months and it was proving very popular. I dashed over to the stand to try it out and discovered to my horror that it was deeply uncomfortable. So, when I saw the chair in the department store I had everything crossed in the hope that it would stand up to that rarely used test of designer chairs - actually sitting on it. I dashed over to the stand to try it out and discovered to my horror, again, that it was deeply uncomfortable. Perhaps the fact that I've never seen a single picture of either chair with anybody's arse anywhere near them, should have been a warning to me. This isn't an entry intended solely to lambast Newson. I've whined about chair design on this web site before and I don't want it to become a habit. I mention it because the review in Icon magazine was useful to help me reflect upon the way I felt last week when I saw the Falb chair by Austrian designers BKM. You need to look at it, click on the link...Done? Good. Beautiful, isn't it? A chair you can hang your bag on with confidence. I spent the tram journey to work, the day after I'd first seen it, thinking about how it posessed undeniable character and wondering why that seemed such an attractive quality. It seemed like a good word to push around a little and see where we might end up. Later that day I realised that it had been planted there by the designers when I'd scanned the text describing the chair.
In order to take weight its right chair-leg makes a side-step. It show its individual character.
No matter. It had obviously left an impression on me for good reason. A thirty five minute tram journey later, the reason seemed to be this... For the character of an object or person to be apparent it must be, or have been, dynamic in some form. Some action must take place in order for the qualitative assessment of its state in either past, present or future to take place (revisit what I said in a previous entry about dogs and Frisbees if you're not sure what I mean about how the past and the future might also be visible). You can't attach the word character to something that is static. A quick define:character on Google provided, amongst other things, this: ...the inherent complex of attributes that determine a persons moral and ethical actions and reactions. Or in reverse, a person's actions make visible the inherent complex of attributes known as character. Interestingly, there was also a definition concerned with typography that caught my eye when describing the act of forming an object or space; a character is often in the form of a spatial relationship of adjacent or connected strokes. A stroke is an action. So how does this relate to a chair with an offset leg and an exhibition about Marc Newson? The Falb chair takes an action (or reaction, if you prefer to join the vector at the point where the person is moving towards the chair with bag in hand) in order to deal with the problem of its existence. How should one deal with the problem of being a chair? From this vantage point it seems to me that neither Newson's Embryo or Orgone chairs tackle that problem at all, at least not until very late in the process. Rather, the first thing they tackle is the problem of being a designer object born of the pen of a guy who has his autograph in huge bas-relief at the entrance to his exhibition. Some final thoughts. I'm reminded at this point of something that my first architectural history lecturer, Oscar Naddermier, used to say when trying to sum up the success of a particular part of a building. For example, when showing a slide of the portico on the Pantheon in Rome he would say,
Now that says door.
Take another look at that Newson chair above and try saying, now that says chair. Doesn't work does it? Also, if Oscar was still with us now he would probably quickly point out that I've just wasted a lot of people's time explaining something that Louis Henry Sullivan said a long time ago, which was, 'The solution resides in the problem'. You'll have heard of him before, he's the guy who also said that form follows function. The empiricists among you will be itching to point out that I really need to go and sit on a Falb chair to make a fair comparison. Go ahead, your absolutley right, but I take some solace from the fact that the designer's web site actually shows people using the chair to sit on.

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death of a drawing board We cast another drawing board onto the scrap heap today, there is only one left in our office now. This one belonged to Tony, our oldest architect, and was probably at least 50 years old. All that remains of it is this scan of the bottom right hand corner. board How times change. Here's Tony's response to computers when they first appeared in our office about 8 years ago. cad I found that while we were tidying up around his board today. Old dogs and new tricks? Not true. Here's a picture I took before I left the office this afternoon. iTony iTony. He's our Photoshop whizz. Before any of you write in and start telling me how one should never turn your back on drawing by hand, calm down; give him a pencil and he'll still out design every one of you. Icon magazine recently ran an article on the illustrator Jasper Goodall. They called him legendary. There's at least one very good reason why Jasper has been so successful - have a guess who his father is...

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designer of the year I'm sat in my living room typing as I watch the Designer of the Year awards (hooray for wi-fi!). I'm going to make some notes and record some links while I watch. The program is examining the four finalists, first up is Paul Cocksedge. A very good start. First reaction? Breathtakingly beautiful light designs born of a truly inquisitive and creative mind. Lamp shades formed from melted polystyrene cups - inspired by videoing the deformation of the cup in an oven. Flowers in vases that complete the circuit and switch the light on and off when you take the flower out. Sketch pads that switch lights on and off when you complete a sketch - the current passing through the graphite on the page. I love it. This is a very, very good start. Daniel Brown, web designer whose work - according to chair of the judging panel on the program - ranks in the top three of the people who have influenced web design internationally. This is news to me, but by the looks of it I appear to have been living in a cave with no broadband connection. The five year old noodlebox and it's sequel are captivating and wonderfully tactile. The contents of play-create.com is probably the most tactile thing I've stroked with my mouse since I found the presstube site. Soooo, it looks and feels beautiful, but what next? Next up is Sam Buxton and his crazy mikroworld. They're little guys made out of folded metal. They're mikro. That's it. Technically interesting but probably destined for the gadget shop. Finally we have Craig Johnston. Ex-footballer turned designer and creator of the Predator football boot. After shipping a million Predators, he's back with the Pig. He has a great story about the first time he stuck the rubber from a table tennis bat onto a football boot to experiment with the way it span the ball. The crowning moment for this item is that he's designed a cheap strap on option that you can buy to put on any boot.
I think a lot of football boots and team-strips rip off the consumer. The Pig boot will give the right performance at the right price.
Respect. After you've seen the Pig, you can't help but get the feeling that the previous three guys are just messing about. The final point to remember is that he's also the only one on the list without a formal design education. The Pig is undoubtedly the star, but I'd like to see Paul Cocksedge take the prize and the encouragement. Partly because he probably needs the cash more than Johnston, but also because I wanted to type his name again. Vote here: www.designmuseum.org

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been there done that As I was regaling my boss about Paul Cocksedge the next day, he gave a mischevious smile and I suddenly remembered that he'd been there and done that with the disposable cup lampshade idea back in the 70's when he was a student. It's shame he didn't market it back then.

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boom! There's a link to a designboom.com article buried in the Paul Cocksedge comments above, I've just taken the time to check the front of the site and it looks interesting. Worth a look.

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improve your grip tags: advent, gift, design, ergonomics

Architectural Advent Day 5:

Lessons in ergonomics for product design students...

Step 1: Visit your local bookshop and purchase as many books on ergonomics as possible. Step 2: Take books to somewhere relaxing, such as your nearest beach. Step 3: Collect driftwood found on the shoreline and buy some matches. Step 4: Light fire with books. Step 5: Study the driftwood. Here's an example of a nature perfected piece I found a few years ago. It's perfect along every axis and deserves to be copied as some form of handle or small hand held object. The direction of the grain would need replicating though to get the best result. Does anyone have a 3D scanner?

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Edmund de Waal interview (part I) As promised, here's the first notes from the Radio 3 interview of Edmund de Waal (EdW) by John Tusa (JT) at the weekend. It was a fascinating discussion and I want to get the key comments recorded here. On the experiences that influenced him during childhood:
EdW: There was the interest of living next to cathedrals, it was a clerical family and so we lived next to some very, very good Gothic cathedrals and I think some of my early experiences of wandering through buildings and feeling different kinds of spaces were very, very important. I do remember being startled by how beautiful and interesting and odd a lot of the spaces in those cathedrals were. Those are some of my very earliest memories, so perhaps that something that fed into my feeling for objects. JT: The spaces rather than the shapes? EdW: Absolutely. The way in which you move, for instance in Canterbury cathedral ... from very high spaces into the crypt, you descend into spaces or get trapped in spaces and then come out again into completely different volumes and that sense of how spaces can change atmosphere and spaces can change your emotions seemed to me something that was very interesting. I suppose that is something that does connect to pots quite directly.
On the subject of his early teacher and repetition:
JT: Why did he think that making 250 honey pots taught you anything? EdW: Because there's a very basic level of skill that is only acquired through repetition. It's one of those truisms that's very difficult to get round in ceramics because people make it into a moral law, but it seems self evident to me that the more objects you make of the same size, the same shape, the more attuned you get to slight differences. Your eye and your hand become more carefully attuned to difference.
On using porcelain; it's unpredictable nature and the cultural baggage that can be embodied in a material:
JT: Give me a thumbnail difference of what working in porcelain is and what working in earthenware or stoneware is. EdW: It's a very plastic material, but it's a very treacherous material, you have to work very quickly and decisively. It's a very seductive material as well, very smooth and very beautiful; but the interesting thing is, when you fire it you can't completely control the results. When you fire it to the temparatures I'm firing my porcelain to, it bends and warps and moves around. So you can't make a perfect porcelain pot, or I can't make a perfect porcelain pot. So what you're dealing with is a material which is susceptible to gesture, how you handle it, to your movements around it ... Porcelain, for me, had all those somatic bodily experiences of being able to move the clay around in a new way. But also, porcelain is part of the great matrix of how culture has happened; it's the silk road, it's how pots have moved from the East to the West, it's full of lots of different historical references.

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Edmund de Waal interview (part II) More notes from the Radio 3 interview... On the relationship between the value of the material and the value of the product:
JT: You've said something about porcelain, but the fundamental material is clay, isn't it? You've said that one of the fascinating things about clay is that people don't know how to treat it in many respects, because what is it? It's earth. We're all human clay. It's a base material. Has this never worried you? EdW: Not remotely. Clay's a very interesting material in that sense, in that it's got no value at all. As it happens porcelain has got value, but no one really knows where it is in the hierarchy of materials. It's very low. JT: Just above lead perhaps? EdW: Way down, in the sense that anyone can dig it. It's free. A free material. It's also, of course, a material that is part of our poetry in that clay and people go together very well indeed. We are earth, we are dust, we are shards. It's part of the biblical resonance.
On the act of throwing a pot and the way it involves creating space both inside and outside 1 the material:
JT: The thing about clay is that you're constantly reworking it. If you don't like where you've got to on the wheel, you just go back to the basic lump, don't you? EdW: Pretty much. JT: That was put very crudely. EdW: It's only when you fire the pot; that's the point of no return. Throwing pots is very interesting because it's one of the great iconic images - the potters hands moving on the clay. It's a very seductive image. Of course what you're doing is making an inside and outside simultaneously, which doesn't happen in very many places in art. You're making a volume in a very short period of time. You're creating an internal space. JT: Back to your spaces and cathedrals? 2 EdW: Completely. So when you're making a vessel - actually I really am only interested in vessels, that's, for me, the most interesting thing about ceramics - when you're making a vessel, every single touch of your hands after you've thrown the basic cylinder changes the interiority, the sense of internal space, completely. You can make twenty pots in a row and by just moving them ever so slightly each of them has a very different resonance, a very different sort of pitch.

  1. see 'Contextual Slippage and the Info Pimp Force Diagram' for an alternative description of this condition
  2. see part I

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Edmund de Waal interview (part III) The third and final part1 of the notes from the EdmundDeWaal interview. Download the mp3 by clicking here - EdW.mp3 (30 min / 18Mb)*. On the relationship between the hand and the mind:
JT: It occurred to me when you mentioned earlier that you put the imprint of the palm of your hand or you pinch the porcelain, whether that was one way of saying 'I know that this pot is going to come out different and this is my way of establishing my difference. I know it's not going to be perfect so I'm going to make it imperfect from the beginning.' Is there an element of that? EdW: There is an element of that. I'm torn. I'm torn always between making an object that has the kind of purity of a Donald Judd box that has the sense of efacement of the hand, where you can't see where the hand has been, but I love the gesture as well; the movement into an object that you can get with porcelain. I think recently with some of the series of works that I've done ... I've tried to have that sense of both clarity and movement going on between the different pieces. So that you've got the sense of how the hand works in different ways during the series. JT: When you make a series, are you aware of the previous ones that you've made and do you think, 'now I need to get a bit of dynamique into this set of shapes and do it slightly differently' ? EdW: Absolutely. The series is very, very carefully planned. In fact, I suppose my work goes in between (my emphasis) a lot of reading, a lot of writing, a lot of thinking, a lot of planning and then quite a lot of quick, dynamique making. So it's an odd process.
On the relationship between inspiration for working methods and the finished product:
EdW: They are not cerebral pots when you pick them up, they are not cerebral pots when you touch them. There might be any amount of stuff going around for me. But I think when you look at them I don't think you need to read the title, I don't think you need to read my foot notes, you don't need to have read the books I've done or the exhibitions I've curated. I think they sit there in the world, by themselves and stand or fall on your reaction to them as works of art and I don't think they're cerebral objects at all. I don't think they've been made in a cerebral way, I just have a rather complicated way of getting myself to the wheel.

  1. see part I and part II for previous notes

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if it leaks it's art For more on the relationship between craft and design, see Peter's entry - Art, Craft, and Design in Software Development.

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mp3 removed * I've removed the mp3 due to lack of webspace - you can listen to the interview along with several others on the BBC web site: John Tusa interviews.

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other entries... The series is now complete, see part II and part III for the rest of the interview. Alternatively, you can find the whole thing (along with the ability to edit it yourself) on my wiki: EdmundDeWaal.

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we note you blog I was at the office until well past midnight last night, nursing a printer through the final stages of a submission we're making for a competition that makes heavy use of previously mentioned design codes. For extra pathos points, I should point out to my international readers that yesterday was supposed to be a statutory holiday in England. Thanks a lot, English Partnerships. So when I checked my bloglines subscriptions and found that Jack was offering a much needed distraction from urban design, I quickly took up the challenge. Here's the story so far. Jack picks up a paper copy of FAC2 by slateford.org (original text: we belong to you). Jack remixes and reissues the paper copy as a web site, thanks to the GNU Public License that's included with the original. I download the source code and the reworked graphic and publish version 3. Here's my issue: we blog you note. Initially I was planning to work with the graphic itself and manipulate the pencil strokes, then I started to explore the letters and discovered there was more mileage in a collection of acronyms.

W E B E L O N G T O Y O U

Y O U B L O G W E N O T E I've passed you the blogging baton, get running.

ps - comments are back on again, but I can't make any guarantees as I've been blitzed with a lot of spam this week.

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ow tolouene bogy Next up, Stuart, with his infinitely more poetic Two Bone Eulogy. Remember to press refresh for the full flavour.

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Hand-justification
And then came the web. And the mass amateurization of aesthetic skill. These days many programmers fancy themselves web designers and the terminology of typography is disappearing from what will one day be the primary medium of publication. Web designers in general don’t seem to spend a great deal of time on even typographical basics. The minority who know about typography usually learnt it elsewhere and brought their knowledge with them when they came to the web. Most of the 20-something generation of web designers have probably bypassed print design altogether, finding it irrelevant rather than an essential tradition.
I've mentioned Joel Biroco's site here a few times before and I shall go on mentioning it a few times in the future. His latest work is essential reading. He's just reposted an article written for Design In-Flight magazine called Loss of roots in design.
Frequently I follow back links to sites of 'web designers' who have commented in design blogs. Nine times out of ten the design of their site is mediocre and they're writing about programming or iPods. This is web design today, the aesthetic passion and cultured tastes of yesteryear have flown out the window to be replaced by an ever more burdensome weight of technological know-how that must be absorbed. I see this clearly coming from a print design background, but I can understand that those who started off on the web don’t want to see a problem when the solution involves looking beyond the web.
Firstly, does anyone know of any good typography courses I could enrol on? Secondly, I must get round to finishing the redesign I threatened a few months back.

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hat stand? hat seat? Continuing in the now well established tradition of lazily posting images scanned from books at my disposal, I give you the beautifully usable restaurant chairs by Ward and Austin used for the 1951 Festival of Britain. Take off your hat, stow away your tray and tuck in. 1951a Taken from Designers in Britain

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incredible furniture My son and I went to see The Incredibles last weekend. It's very, very good. Contrary to what you might be expecting, I'm not going to add anything to the numerous comments already published elsewhere about the styling and set design. Whatever needed saying has been said and, let's face it, I've been banging on enough about furniture design over the last few weeks anyway. If you want to get into the discussion about the 50's design references I suggest you start at the Design Observer article: The Designables. I'm going to offer something a little different. In the car on the way home I suddenly remembered a book that I bought from Hay-on-Wye a few years ago; salvaged from the bottom of a damp box left outside one the town's many bookshops, it's called How to Build Modern Furniture by Mario Dal Fabbro. First published (in Great Britain) in 1959, it contains numerous plans, diagrams and instructions to help you make your very own 50s furniture. So if you want to be the envy of all your friends and turn your house into a scene out The Incredibles, you need only visit the set of drawings I've uploaded to my flickr.com account and put the tool set you got for Christmas to good use. But please, have some respect and don't use any MDF. furniture_cover_2

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Letraset 1966 tags: letraset, people, design, graphic, advent, gift

Architectural Advent Day 3:

Letraset People 1966.

letraset4 letraset5

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In full swing tags: advent, gift, letraset, design

Architectural Advent Day 8:

I've got some serious catching up to do after spending the weekend in Dublin - will start with an easy one: more 1966 Letraset...

letraset8

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Letraset 19?? tags: letraset, design, advent, gift

Architectural Advent Day 10:

Party people. Partying. Not sure about the date on this one, but it has a certain Abigail's Party quality to it that suggests the late 70s. Check out the lecherous dude in the centre and the girl to his right who seems to be smiling with relief now that he's heading to the chocolate fondue fountain.

letraset2

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Letraset 1982 tags: letraset, design, advent, gift

Architectural Advent Day 17:

On yer bike.

letraset3

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Day 24 tags: letraset, design, graphic, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 24:

I saved the most fitting sheet of Letraset till last. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone, I'll see you in 2007.

letraset7

A quick recap:
  1. Letraset 1982
  2. Rietveld Chair dimensions
  3. Letraset 1966
  4. Passive solar glazing
  5. Driftwood Ergonomics
  6. The Machine at MOMA
  7. Letraset 1966 - 2
  8. Planning Process
  9. Farrell Grimshaw interview
  10. Letraset 1977
  11. Outrigger extension
  12. Outrigger extension v2
  13. Letraset Love
  14. AR covers 1960s
  15. AR covers 1970s
  16. AD Book Review
  17. Letraset 1982
  18. Good Gift Christmas Card
  19. AR covers 1980s
  20. Living Bath
  21. Manplan 3
  22. Manplan 4
  23. Manplan 5

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letraset love tags: letraset, graphics, design, advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 13:

Romance, courting, marriage, old age. All in one Letraset sheet. Now that's value for money. Note to self: when wearing a sweater jauntily over your shoulders, always hook your thumb over the top your belt.

letraset1

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light concrete When I get to the office later this morning, I'm going to look for this months copy of icon magazine. I think it has an article about LiTraCon, an amazing new product that just got flagged by z+blog. It's a concrete block with lots of fiber optic cable laid into it so that it transmits light from one side to the other. It's still in the testing phase, but the images on the site are fascinating and exciting. A material whose very title is embedded in the psyche as being the definition of heavy collides with light and the result, dare I say it, is a form of deconstruction. Two bi-polar conditions are critiqued anew from somewhere in the middle. A further bonus is that it looks bloody marvelous.

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Living Bath tags: bathroom, design, advent, gift, book

Architectural Advent day 20:

From The Bathroom by Alexander Kira - The Living Bath:

Kira-Bathroom-1 Kira-Bathroom-2

A fascinating book of extensive research on bathroom use. Although admittedly we mostly only reach for it these days when feeling the need to impress in students the value of good ergonomic/psychological analysis. I spared you from the in depth exploratory diagrams of optimum defacation positions in favour of this lovely proposal guaranteed to break the ice at any party. Would be well placed on one of the previous Letraset sheets I think.

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musical chairs Everything's connected at some level. I've uploaded the sketch of the Orgone chair, as promised in a previous entry, and added some notes on the flickr.com page. orgone It's a somewhat hurried affair, I think I must have sketched it whilst walking away from the Marc Newson stand at the show. As you can see, I also went to see Fight Club that month; a film that Adam Greenfield's article (which I mentioned a couple of days ago) rightly suggests is one of the root causes of people's discontent with the success of Ikea. I'd be lying if I said it didn't have an effect on me. It's a great film that delivers new ideas with every sitting. The hastily scribbled addresses for web sites on Newson watches, a photography magazine, Reclaim the Streets and a VR conference give a flavour of the stuff I was interested in at the time. More connections: the following pages of the sketch book have notes from the lecture I mentioned in my entry about Symphony Hall. My favourite is the morphology of the performance space, showing the changing relationship between audience and action. From the amphitheatre to in-the-round to the modern fan shape, it seems that whilst the acoustics may have got better, the physical relationship between the performer and viewer has suffered. theatre morphology I also found a note of the lecturer's web site: acousticdimensions.com. The research section has a link to a paper discussing the design of the Symphony Hall (PDF link).

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knobbly and asymmetrical A note for both parents and designers on the perils of modern health and safety standards; next time you take a child to a playground think about how complacent you and the child become when faced with play equipment that you've seen and climbed on a dozen times before. Here's landscape architect, Helle Nebelong, speaking at a conference in 2002:
When we renovate public playgrounds and ask the local residents what they want for their play area the answer today is equipment from nature. I think this is a reaction to decades of use of standardised and unimaginative playground equipment. ... The pre-fabricated playground tries to live 100% up to safety standards. These standards developed, based on horror stories of real tragic accidents Although these are guidelines and as such are useful when combined with common sense, they have, in my opinion, been allowed to go too far. The child's real need for play and development is set aside with good intentions. I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: when the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet. Standardisation is dangerous because play becomes simplified and the child does not have to worry about his movements. This lesson cannot be carried over to all the knobbly and asymmetrical forms with which one is confronted throughout life.
I found this at work this morning in the report No Particular Place to Go by Ken Worpole. Nebelong works for the Copenhagen City Parks department, let's hope that she gets a few commissions in the UK in future.

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new? Staring back at me from the kitchen table this morning - the totally unprecedented new look?

the_mirror Elsewhere, the editors summarise: Berliner: the blogs react

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ashes to sketches Carbon Copies by Nadine Jarvis:
Pencils made from the carbon produced during cremation, A lifetime supply of pencils can be made from one body of ash. The sharpenings create a secondary ash, and displace the pencils as they are used transforming the pencil case over time, into an urn.

carbon-copies

(via Matt Ward)

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Quadrant loungers [lounger.jpg]Sat in the Quadrant Lounge on Lichfield Street, it seems I have discovered the world's most uncomfortable arm chairs. I'm calling them arm chairs because I don't, at this point, know how else to categorize them. If you perch on the edge, acres of seat is wasted behind you. If you sit back there is nothing to lean on. Anybody under six foot wouldn't be able to put there feet on the floor. I wrote this sentence while lying down - it's no better. That said, it's actually a pretty good bar. It's got a laid back atmosphere and some 70's funk thing coming out of the hi-fi.
Quadrant lounge: meet, drink, lounge, eat, chill.
Just don't sit down.

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re-design I'm getting bored of the page design. I've been noodling about with a cleaner layout this lunch break. Take a look and tell me what you think.

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1.5 Option 1.5. This one could prove tricky to deliver with the CSS, but I think I can do it. I'm still avoiding colour at the moment.

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1.75 We're getting there - try this.

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Rietveld instructions tags: chair, furniture, advent, gift

Architectural Advent Day 2:

Photo and dimensions - make your own piece of Rietveld furniture.

rietveld-chair

From a 1960s study of the chair collection at Delft University (I think).

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rob_annable.ttf

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seeds of an idea
There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them. And possibly only one profession is phonier. Advertising design, in persuading people to buy things they don't need, with money they don't have, in order to impress others who don't care, is probably the phoniest field in existence today. Industrial design, by concocting the tawdry idiocies hawked by advertisers, comes a close second.
Thus begins the preface to Victor Papanek's Design For the Real World, first published in 1971. With a battle cry such as that, you're quickly drawn in; marching the streets with him, fist raised in the righteous name of morally responsible design. Right up until your next trip to Ikea. It's an important and influential book, you should read it. Beyond the preface its contents is constructive rather than simply polemic and the theory is backed up by many examples of environmentally/socially conscious designs. One example is this project to design artificial burrs that prevent erosion, deliver plant seeds and are produced using recycled material (click for the full scale scan).

burrs

This entry is brought to you thanks to a link that jogged my memory on the always-brilliant We Make Money Not Art:

Johnny Applesandal is eco-conscious footwear that allows the customer to participate in environmental cleansing through the dispersion of soil-cleaning plant seeds.

Perhaps industrial design isn't quite as phony as it was in 1971. Perhaps some industrial design isn't quite as phony as it was in 1971.

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rapid furniture tags: design, furniture, prototyping The e-mail containing the link to this site was so uninformative as to be almost rude, but one-click away from consigning it to the spam bin I paused and decided to take a look. I'm glad I did. Rapid prototyped furniture from mid-air freehand sketches; just enjoy the artist/geekist collision and don't ask if they're comfortable.

Embedded YouTube widget:

The four FRONT members have developed a method to materialise free hand sketches. They make it possible by using a unique method where two advanced techniques are combined. Pen strokes made in the air are recorded with Motion Capture and become 3D digital files; these are then materialised through Rapid Prototyping into real pieces of furniture.
see http://www.frontdesign.se/sketchfurniture/

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stitched up My mother-in-law phoned last night whilst I was watching the flash opera on BBC3. We were talking about the new embroidery course she's just embarked on and her horror at discovering that she is required to design her own cross-stitch patterns as well as sew them. Self doubt is creeping in and she's convinced herself that she can't do it before she's even tried. I suggested that it was important to learn a craft from start to finish and she should stick with it. Perhaps I should have referred her to Joel's piece about typography, the message is the same. This afternoon I got an e-mail that said:
You are invited to take part in a cutting edge digital art project that utilises mobile phone technology and traditional needlecraft.
What are the odds? The e-mail is from Kate Pemberton, a Birmingham artist whose work can be seen at endfile.com. You may remember that it was she who had pointed me to the window installation in Birmingham city centre. Her new project is the extension of the work she's been doing with cross stitch and mobile phone text messages. Here's the rest of the mail.
The project can be accessed worldwide via http://ems.endfile.com NOW and is accessible to all. [error88.gif:out] Pixel designs can be sent for free to participants mobile phones, as digital wallpaper. The artworks can be collected, enabling visitors to build up an art collection on their mobile phones; a virtual transportable gallery. Participants will be given the opportunity to create there own unique crafted objects from these designs, as the designs are also available as cross stitch patterns, to print-out and stitch. Users are encouraged to upload images of their stitched samplers to the EMS website. This work questions the ‘high cultural’ or elitist methods of producing and collecting artwork. In asking participants to consider transforming disposable designs into tangible craft objects, the work will also question the margin between (digital) technology and (traditional) craft. The EMS project is soon to be exhibited at an the New Forms Festival in Vancouver, 14th – 28th October 2004.
I like it. I submitted a request and immediately received a neat little cross stitch graphic for my phone (see above image). I've also downloaded the pattern as a PDF and sent it to my mother-in-law in the hope that she'll be kind enough to sew it for me. If I can then persuade her to upload one of her own designs then it'll be a success all round. Alternatively I could buy all the things I need with the pack of materials that's for sale on the site. Oh, and look, Kate says ...the work will also question the margin between (digital) technology and (traditional) craft... - we're back to the loss of roots discussion again.

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My tea cup draws nearer It's 10:59am on a Sunday. As I open the car door and step onto the tarmac of the car park, hundreds of other doors followed by twice as many legs perform the same task in almost exact synchronisation. 11am arrives and the crowd of people who've emerged from their cars begins to swarm towards the large blue and yellow building that is the destination for this morning's pilgrimage. I'm reminded of the scene in Night of the Living Dead where all the mindless zombies flock instinctively to the shopping mall. Consumer automatons until the very end. Today (and not for the first time) I'm one of those zombies. According to the thirty foot tall sign above the door, the deity we've all come to worship this Sunday goes by the name of IKEA. By the time I've collected my complimentary pencil and disposable tape measure at the door I've already slipped into the aloof designer mindset. What am I doing here again? Why do I sully my weekend like this? I deserve better! This is all mass produced crap! I'm an Architect! I've sat on Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona chair in the Barcelona Pavillion for pity's sake! I've reclined on Corbusier's recliner in the Villa Savoye for crying out loud! - splutter, splutter, et cetera, et cetera... If, like me, your profession means you consider yourself a designer of some description, then I know that you'll have gone through the same thought process when faced with the prospect of shopping in Ikea. I also know that, like me, you were getting worked up over nothing. If we were to keep up this pompous behaviour, you and I could both audition for the part of Van den Puup in IKEA's brilliant advertising campaign Elite Designers Against IKEA.
We are the Elite Designers. We design profound and beautiful furniture for those with wealth and taste. Which is why IKEA makes us furious livid and angry. Do their designs live, breathe and growl? Are they born from tears of pain? Do they gently touch the bottom of the human soul? Pah! Of course not, no more than weeds can attract a bee. The big blue place is odious, its affordable design is sickeningly shallow and we loathe it even more than we loathe football. Please join us in our unqualified hatred.
If you haven't seen the TV commercials, visit the web site and take a look at the movies - they're very, very funny. We needn't worry though, someone has already started to prepare for the role. This month's Icon magazine contains an interview with Job Smeets of Studio Job in Antwerp.
Smeets explains his theory that at the beginning of industrial mass design there was a social urge to supply households with modern, functional goods to make them more comfortable. But now he says that industrial production is more driven by commercial concerns, "It's why I hate IKEA. They say that they're doing a social thing by giving the opportunity for everybody to have good design in their home but they've transformed that now so that every time you buy a new chair you put the old one outside."
I wonder, has it ever been any different? All chairs get put outside eventually, does the time frame really matter? A shorter life span means more chairs, but if the argument is simply about the number of chairs in the world it's far too late to be worrying about that now. We could have had a complete moratorium on chair design 50 years ago and there would still be enough designs to go round. Yet still the latest graduates and seasoned designers turn out their new interpretation of the act of sitting every year. IKEA is a part of (as opposed to sole cause of) a changing field of materials, production techniques and craftmanship. How many of your friends are carpenters or cabinet makers, upholsterers or metal workers? How do you compare mass cultivated softwood from a sustainable source used to make furniture with a short life span, against more durable hardwood furniture whose source is more heavily impacted by deforestation? I suspect that the comparison is futile and a balance between the two is the answer. I've always thought that sustainability is about the balance between the durable and the perishable, one supporting the other and visa versa. Does the easy-come, easy-go attitude we have with towards our furniture today give us the freedom to invest more in the durable infrastructure of our lives? Here's Martin Pawley in the AJ on December 9th last year, talking about the demise of his Mies van der Rohe designed MR chairs:
As to durability, 40 years of not very arduous use has almost entirely struck at the canework - whether the leather equivalent would have stood up better is hard to say, as is the cruel question of how much worse would the performance of a couple of tonnes of MDF armchair have been? All of which leads me back to the central fact, which is that these MR chairs - rocket science in the 1920s - have now become liabilities. Too much Ikea has flowed under the bridge to make chairs like these viable again.
It's time for them to go outside. He can't resist aiming his crosshairs at Ikea, but at least he recognises that it's too early to tell what the fate of our MDF filled world will be. Who knows how long it will last? It's pretty durable stuff. I have a vision of the future that is partly shaped by my favourite graphic from the TV version of Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It shows the elements that make up a specially constructed designer planet and works its way from the inner core to the outer crust until finally reaching a surface made entirely of meringue. In my vision it's covered in MDF. Pencil and tape measure in hand I negotiate the route past all the carefully laid out micro-worlds. The collections of mock living rooms and kitchens, the perversely public bathrooms and bedrooms. Come the revolution you'll find me here, living out a perfectly preserved slice of 21st century domesticity, shielded from the wilderness outside by the comforts of a faux sheepskin thrown over a leather chaise longue. The walls will be chocolate brown and there will be an endless supply of candles that float in a bowl of water. Somewhere near the middle, as we pass the coffee tables, I begin to wish I was at home having a nice cup of tea.

There are no prizes for guessing where I bought the cup in the above picture. It's my favourite Ikea purchase to date. This is actually its second incarnation, the first one - purchased in orange to match the shirt I happened to be wearing that day - got smashed and had to be replaced. Despite having only been carrying my tea for a couple of weeks, its character has already blossomed through the way it forces me to consider the actions involved in drinking tea. It fits snuggly in my hand (both in the direction shown and rotated through 90 degrees), it fits in the dishwasher better without a handle to get in the way and it maintains an intimate relationship between me on the outside and the tea on the inside, because - and this is a feature I hadn't forseen - to begin with it's just too damn hot to pick up. The result? A reminder to be patient, slow down and think about what I'm doing. The character frozen in the actions that formed it, in turn, form my actions and character. I think we've talked about this before. We escape unharmed. Back in the car, in an effort to block out the Barney songs my daughter has demanded we play, Sarah and I talk about what life would be like without Ikea. "It's no wonder Ikea is so popular, there's nowhere else to get the sort of contemporary furniture I like without spending Habitat-like prices, or worse." she says. It's a fair point, we've all heard the 'design for the masses' mantra. "But," I quickly reply before Barney launches into his next number, "it's a two way thing. Shopping at Ikea has also formed your taste for contemporary furniture over the last few years. We're trapped in a circle." Trapped in a circle created by Ikea cornering the market. Circles with corners? That doesn't sound too healthy does it? Is this what really upsets people about Ikea, the homogeneity of their furniture tastes? But if this is so, how can I talk so enthusiastically about a tea cup and then begrudge everyone else owning one too? Besides, what does it matter if all our houses look the same inside? I'll never get to see it anyway; you only exist to me because you have a blog and I can subscribe to your newsfeed. I put my foot down and slip into the traffic of the anti-intellectual M6 motorway. My tea cup draws nearer.
Throughout the last few weeks I've been awash in the blogging zeitgeist. Every time I sat down to make some notes on this topic another web site delivered a new series of links and another magazine opened on a page about Ikea. One of the main offenders was the excellent thingsmagazine.com; its best link being the article by Adam Greenfield, 'Ikeaphobia and its discontents'. Have a read, he does a good job of putting things in perspective. Elsewhere, just as I was beginning to make peace with my inner Van den Puup, landliving.com posted an article designed to swing all the architects back to the dark side.
Ikea is at it again. Knocking down the past to build a big-box emporium to hock their mass produced modern design wares. Here is a company that takes advantage of their Scandinavian design heritage to sell inexpensive, yet "well designed" products to the masses. But, in the process, they have now displayed two blatant instances of their disregard for design legacy. First, they defaced a Marcel Breuer building in New Haven, Connecticut. Now the wrecking ball has turned to Civil War era structures in Brooklyn.
You'll note that they couldn't bring themselves to write well designed without making it seem like it left a bad taste in their mouth. Finally, just before I finished tonight, ArchNewsNow delivered a link to a story about some students recycling old furniture headed for the landfill site: Furniture reborn: Haworth, students explore recycling. The table supporting the tea cup in the pictures is part of a 1960's solid beech Ercol set (with matching chairs) that I bought on eBay. It's all about balance you see?

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tyred The subject of children's play provision comes up in our office quite a lot. You may remember a previous post from last year that quoted landscape architect, Helle Nebelong, about the perils of standardisation - here's an excerpt:
I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: when the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet.
Delivering anything other than dull, lifeless, off-the-shelf equipment that can be found everywhere you look across our cities is always a challenge. Not because of a lack of imagination on my part you understand, rather because it's difficult to find a client prepared to experiment with something without a clear health and safety precedent. Which is why I was delighted to discover this design for some swings when I took the kids to the Telford Town Park a few weeks ago.

tyre_swing-3

It's simple, cheap, eco-friendly (due to the re-use of tyres), robust and most importantly - bloody exciting. Car tyres that have been fixed to standard swings are arranged in an octogan on a frame made from telegraph poles. You start swinging. The battle commences. Initially it's difficult to tell whether it's been constructed so that it's impossible for the tyres to collide. The adults around the edges can't resist adjusting the pace of their pushing to try and find out. The swings opposite each other come tantalisingly close. Tension mounts. The kids adjacent to each other start to size each other up.

tyre_swing-2

A few more near misses and then riots of laughter all round - a glancing blow from the side as two of the swings reach the top simultaneously.

tyre_swing-1

Brilliant. Congratulations to whoever designed it. I wish it had been me. I took a mental note of the construction and sketched it later. We should build more of these.

telford-tyre

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Yak Yak Yak tags: lineofsite, competition, sketchup, sketch I've been trying to get back into the habit of doing competitions. Here's our* entry to the first brief for the Line of Site competiton. If you're interested in the McLarenesque 'how we work' story you can see the project notes and evolution on the Backpack page I used: Everest Base Camp. There's a Sketchup model buried in there and a montage that was also submitted as an alternative approach to the same early concept. Unfortunately the notes don't really track the most fruitful exchanges that went on between team members in the pub and my mobile phone involving the dimensions required for Yak turning circles. Lightweight hi-tech solutions brought from afar tethered to heavyweight indigenous material, mediated by complex cultural interchanges between travellers and locals, transmitted via dishes of digital noise and walls of faith and prayer. With big pipes to get rid of the crap. Here's the mandatory hyperbole that was submitted with the image.
A collection of conditions loose enough to accomodate the complex topography, climate and culture forming a balance between the permanent, semi-permanent and fleeting. Inverted moraine diagrams turn the lateral and medial trails left by supraglacial debris into hill hugging weather buffers of shelter and prayer. Walls built from the mountain rock with the services buried inside them stand unmoved across millennia and provide an anchor to the fleeting visits of travellers and their technology.

khumbu-base-camp

There are further images in a flickr set: Everest Base Camp sketches.

* This was a collaboration with Tom Booker, Rob Squibb and David Sauvion.

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filling the void Tags: deconstruction,subjectivity,void,in-between,CharlesJencks,theory Extensive quotes in this baby. Some new, some old; go put the kettle on first. Emphasis in bold by me... Geert Lovink on Blogging and Nihilism:
Instead of merely looking into the emancipatory potential of blogs, or emphasize its counter-cultural folklore, I see blogs as part of a unfolding process of 'massification' of this, still, new medium. What the Internet after 2000 lost is the "illusion of change". The created void made way for large-scale, interlinked conversations through automated software, named weblogs, or blogs.
Kazys Varnelis (who provided the link to the above) on Geert Lovink:
I'd like to suggest that this isn't merely a conflation of unlike terms but rather that there is a steady evolution here. There is a desire in each of the subsequent movements to affirm the individual (through subject position, through productive agency, and through an active DIY voice), but instead each one actually does a more thorough job of wiping out individual subjectivity than the previous iteration (please slot the blob under dot.com Deleuzeanism... a million 20-40 year old students, all being original, all making nearly identical shapes). But, like Geert, what I am observing is not only the massification of the Internet but a more generalized cultural move toward nothingness that expresses itself through the medium of the blog. Through the blog, we attain a complete and fatal condition, making our comments into the void, thereby affirming our existence while we also emphatically assert our distance from any situation we might act in.
Me in December 2000 (opening paragraph quoting Jencks):
"It would be interesting enough if adaptive complex systems inescapably were located at the edge of chaos, the place of maximum capacity for information computation. The world could then be seen to be exploiting the creative dynamics of complex systems, but with no choice in the matter. But what if such systems actually got themselves to the edge of chaos, moved in parameter space to the place of maximum information processing? That would be really interesting: the ghost in the machine would seem to be almost purposeful, piloting the system to maximum creativity." Jencks introduces this discussion to architecture. Firstly describing the importance that science has within our changing understanding of modern culture and secondly by drawing comparisons between nonlinear theory and the process of making architecture, demonstrating which practices are already developing new theories for 'maximum creativity'. Outlining the manifesto for what he calls 'cosmogenic' architecture, Jencks attempts to predict the new movement of complex, emergent design. Simultaneously an assault on the reductivist modernist movement, the exposure of early post-modernism as an applied typology and an escape from the fragmentation of post-structuralist theory, 'The Architecture of the Jumping Universe' is a key text in our investigation. ... Following the post-structuralist flattening of hierarchies, the erasure of the architects ability to prioritise his subjective will creates a vacuum. The defining of the undecideable/in-between space allows theorists to reflect upon the moment that represents the act of making architecture, and the rigorous examination of process rushes in to fill the vacuum. Alongside this, the growing culture of scientific uncertainty (quantum science) creates new questions regarding Western society's ideas about the Universe's dynamics. If the processes of nature demonstrate a self-organizing ability to find the most powerful creative/evolutionary moment, why shouldn't architectural creativity demonstrate the same? Complexity science exposes the source of that creativity and finds that it too exists as an undecideable.
The created void, the cultural move toward nothingness and the erasure of the architect creating a vacuum - all an expression of the same thing. The quote taken from my own post-graduate work six years ago (I've added some emphasis for this outing) is part of a dissertation that tried to propose the computer was filling this vacuum or void. One of my mistakes (sadly there were many, don't expect me to link to the rest of it) was that I didn't sufficiently drill down far enough, beyond the beige box. I didn't look at the medium that Varnelis highlights. There was a feeble attempt in the conclusion:
Let us return for the moment to the theory of the Universal Turing Machine. The concept is that the Universal Machine itself has no predefined purpose. For the machine to function it must be able to deform to the requirements of each new task it is given (the radical nature of Turing's vision is clearer when you remember it was originally perceived as something mechanical) as well as provide the result. Each problem the Universal Machine is set must also contain the instructions for how to solve it. Now, it is of course easy to see how this is precisely the way in which a modern computer performs, with it's dumb hardware supplied a purpose by the software; but it also reminds us that this Universal Machine is the perfect embodiment of objectivity. To use Eisenman's terminology, until the task in hand is commenced, it has no 'interiority'1. It is formless. It is widely accepted that the benefits of using a computer are found among such things as its ability to perform complex tasks quickly, sort and store large amounts of data and, in an abstract fashion, shrink or expand linear restrictions of time and space. However, what I would like to focus on here is what the computer represents in the design process, rather than what it actually does. What it represents is the answer to the question of how to 'open up process' 1. The continued search for objectivity or releasing of authorial control is over, since it is resolved by the presence of the Universal Machine. Since we are incapable of achieving true objectivity, we have introduced a stand-in that can. Now we can begin to see the importance of Van Berkel's statement, 'But it has to sound right'2. Providing the source of objectivity is not the end to our quest; somebody must feed the Universal Machine. The one factor that all the architects we examined have in common, regardless of which side of the discourse they reside, is that they must all deal with their relationship to their machine. The most difficult task becomes how to move the process into and out of the machine, performing the eversion from the virtual to the real. We must find new ways to interact with the results of our emergent processes and position ourselves within our work.
Am I 'dealing with my relationship to my machine' via my blog? 'Moving the process into and out of the machine' feels like filtering through the move from txt to html to rss to tags. Perhaps if my tutor were here now I could excuse the dead end of my dissertation4 by the fact that I didn't know what a blog was in the year 2000. Related entries: Contextual Slippage and the Info Pimp Force Diagram and I would have missed a few things if he hadn't pointed with his trunk occasionally and Parc de la Villette.

Notes:
1. I'll come back to this in an upcoming entry about Thom Mayne
2. Winy Maas, RIBA conference, Oct 31 2000 responding to a question from the audience about authorial control
3. 'Move' by UN Studio
4. Note to students: never write an academic paper on the assumption that a conclusion will appear through the very act of writing it. It won't. Ask a scientist to tell you what a hypothesis is and why they're important.

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breaking up is hard to do Following my previous dalliances with that odd French philosophy, deconstruction; I've just added to the list of philosophers break-up lines over at 'Thoughts, Arguments and Rants' (found via growabrain).
Deconstructivist: 'I don't even know if it's about me or about you, I can't tell what's right or wrong. All I know is that something has come between us and from where I'm standing it looks like we're in the middle of breaking up.' (and for extra pathos) Deconstructivist: 'Ohh, I don't know whether I want to live or die!'

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Brighton Memory Palace tags: competition, sketch Here's our entry to the Euroclad drawing competition, which asked entrants to 'sketch a fresh look for Brighton's West Pier'.

Chambers for a Brighton Memory Palace

Brighton-Memory-Palace

Concept: "The first pier at Brighton was known as The Chain Pier, and there was a silhouettist working on it throughout most of it's history. The slhouettists moved to the West Pier when it opened in 1866, and continued more or less continuously until shortly before it’s closure in the 1970's."1

The profile of a sea front pier is a well understood, easily recognisable form that stirs recollections. The history of the silhouette cutters on West Pier is captured within the full scale profile and becomes a surface to incite and then receive the memories of the people of Brighton.

Repeated, rotated and woven together to form a field of chambers housing exhibitions, events and installations; the grid becomes a set of co-ordinates that control the curating of time and topics.

Construction: The spaces are created by intersecting, perforated metal clad walls with an opening in each side connecting to the adjacent chamber. Exposed spaces drain towards the edges and covered areas shed rainwater into the cavity between the walls. Colour controlled lighting in the cavity seeps through the perforations and assists themed curation of exhibitions by directing visitors across the grid. Lightweight tent structures stretch over the volumes that trace a wandering path across the grid providing alternative environments for different events/objects.

Curate: The grid of silhouettes conveys the passing of time in one direction and cultural topic in the other. The profiles heading away from the beach out onto the sea carry the topic through the intersecting date lines parallel with the shore. We begin at the shore in 18652 and travel towards the horizon to the present day, crossing decades as we move from chamber to chamber. As time passes the structure continues to grow into the sea and new topics are added along the beach. Non-linear journeys through history are suggested within the volumes traced across the grid by the silhouettes of the original pier buildings.

The co-ordinates provide public meeting places with a nostalgic3 subtext.

"Should we meet at 1964/Mods or 1975/Pier ?"


With apologies to Charles Moore and Donlyn Lyndon for the Chambers for a Memory Palace rip off. The drawing is also available as a PDF.

notes:
1. from 'The Silhouette Tradition of Brighton Pier' by Edo Barn.
2. the year the West Pier was constructed
3. as I was inking this thing into life, my RSS feeder pinged with a timely entry by thingsmagazine: The object as a starting point for nostalgia

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Euroclad commendation tags: competition Here's a fitting to end to my last collaboration with Tony:
Dear Rob and Tony I'm very pleased to inform you that you have been awarded a commendation in the 2006 Euroclad Drawing Competition, organised in conjunction with Architecture Today and judged by Piers Gough and Sadie Morgan. There will be a prizewinners' lunch in central London on October 19th, which I hope you will be able to attend. Further details on this will follow shortly from CIB Communications. We shall be publishing the winning and commended entries in the October issue of Architecture Today. Congratulations and best wishes Ian Ian Latham
Publishing Editor
Architecture Today
London bloggers - you know who you are - celebratory drinks on October 19th? Keep your diaries free.

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Buddhists 2.0 tags: buddhism, meditation, dream, nightmare Last night I dreamt I was abducted by gang of Buddhists. They found me via Google. I was taken to a shanty town of poorly built concrete block houses containing roughly hewn wooden tables and meditation spaces themed like the Crystal Maze. At the end of the tables were flat screen monitors built into the wall. They were into Web 2.0. I was shown some around some of the meditation areas.
...And this group are building a meditation space to feel like a kitchen. The subtle noise of the condensing gas boiler in the cupboard helps them maintain a discrete control over their physical awareness before emptying their minds...
It was then that I realised who I had to blame. I formed an allegiance with another Buddhist who, like me, just wanted to be left to learn to let go on her own. We made a dash for it in a Rover 214. It took two attempts.

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Hahahahahahaha tags: art, kapoor, interview A couple of quotes from an interview with Anish Kapoor in Saturday's Grauniad; posted here partly as a further addition to past Kapoor entries and partly because interviews with artists who laugh a lot are so bloody rare. On new, inverted, dark space:

Well, says the interviewer Simon Hattenstone, everything you paint or make seems like a fanny in one way or another.

Hahahahaha! Hahahahaha! My art is upside down and inside out. Absolutely. I've always said that. You might be quoting me there, hahahaha! I would say that to make new art, you need to make new space. The modernist space, all the great modern art, has been like the rocket, phallic, onwards and upwards. The new space is the opposite of that. It's in the gutter, it's deep, dark inverted, it's inside out. If you think what the space of the internet is, it's a curious non-space - it's like it's turning itself inside out because you can create so much more space by going in and deep. So this is, in a curious way, the future, and it links psychologically to the past and, as you say, it's sexual.
On the kinds of form:
There are only two kinds of form. The one that sticks out and the form that sticks in. Everything else is flat, that's a fact.

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url

Note to self: remember to check for online version before typing out yourself - Guardian Unlimited: Into the deep.

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dynamic equilibrium Two coffees after dessert at a restaurant and I'm lying in bed unable to sleep. I haven't actually closed my eyes; I'm just staring at the back of my eyelids trying to recognise the shifting patterns of colour delivered by my rods and cones. An idea that I've been neglecting for a while pushes its way through the reds and greens and rises to the surface demanding to be heard again. It's untested and unresolved, so a further examination seems fair, if only to be courteous. I push it around a little, first gently, then firmly. It resists. Finally I step back a few fanciful feet to try and see it in some sort of context. The true shape of this elephant begins to come into focus. My decision to blow the dust off some old writing and reuse it in my last entry, now makes more sense to me. I talked last time of a 'data wall' whose shape was defined by the two functions that occurred on either side of it; one digital, one physical. Bits and shits, if you will. It struck me last night that this web log is that data wall. In a sense, the Canary Wharf project was just the concept and it’s taken me five years to plan it and get it built. Last night I handed over the keys to the new owner.
As the data field records the journey of the e[version], it’s deformation freezes the moments of contact and simultaneously implicates all others within the mesh.
Links, comments, trackbacks, quotes, image captures, visitor statistics, e-mails – causing ripples, peaks and troughs that define the topography of the surface that faces the internet.
The negative result of previous positive actions becomes the void between the data planes and forms the volume of physical living space.
Notes, ideas, sketches, photos, questions and statements form and/or inform the opposite face (their content shaped by the impressions made on the digital side). Its influence reaches out to shape the way I fight/glide through physical space.
The reconciliation of physical and digital occurs as a point of equilibrium between the tensions of opposite forces.
That point of equilibrium occurs here. The elephant I mentioned earlier, picked me up and carried me here at a pace that allowed me to recognise everything as it passed. I would have missed a few things if he hadn't pointed with his trunk occasionally. He tells me that he has more to show us and the really interesting bit of the story has to do with something called a koan, but it's late now and he wants to sleep.

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Flash Mob As promised on August 7, 2003, the following write up is the result of my participation in the flash mob that took place in Birmingham (UK) later that month. Upon arriving at the location specified in the first set of instructions, we were handed a piece of paper. On it were the following directions:

Let's mobilise.

These are the detailed instructions to Birmingham's first flash MOB. Memorise them and then put them in your pocket.

Location:

Oxfam Shop, 95 Corporation Street.
Lat-Long: 52°28'51", -1°53'45"

Time: 12:12 pm

  1. At EXACTLY 12:12pm, form a crowd OUTSIDE the doors to the shop (it's too small for all of us).
  2. Remove the article of clothing you have brought with you and begin to wave it over your head whilst singing the chorus to 'Give It Away' by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and/or cheering and whooping.
  3. Form a cue from the door to the counter. Quickly take it turns to place the article of clothing on the counter, and then rejoin the REAR of the mob OUTSIDE the shop (if you are at the front, make space for people to get out).
  4. Continue to take it in turns to enter the shop and deposit clothes until 12:21 pm.
  5. At EXACTLY 12:21 pm the mob should disperse IMMEDIATELY. If you haven't been able to get into the shop yet, don't worry, you still took part. Come back another time and donate something. There are at least SIX different exits possible, including two arcades - use them.
  6. Smile. You just took part in the worlds first altruistic flash mob.

http://mobstirs.no-ip.org

The event was a success. Around sixty people (including families who brought their kids out for the day) descended on Oxfam and left the shop assistants with startled expressions and a huge pile of donated clothes1. [flashmob1.jpg]In the months that followed I exchanged a few e-mails with the organisers. Throughout the process, they had maintained a strict anonymity, declining any interviews and never revealing their identity. At the event itself, it transpired that the people issuing the instructions had never even met them. They were directed to a box, behind a gravestone next to St Phillips Cathedral; in it were the sheets containing the instructions reproduced above. It's doubtful the moberators were even in the city that day. It seems to me that anonymity is the key driving force for both participant and organizer.
"We got into this project because we could see the value in people expressing themselves in a way that didn't require them to act in a politically motivated way. We hope that the proof of that will be demonstrated by the varying age ranges we seem to have attracted. Some may argue that donating to a charity organisation is not apolitical. We don't think so. We believe the act of giving can happily be performed without requiring a specific cause."
City dwellers need anonymity. The density of people in a city means that we must all choose our network of friends and then ignore the rest. The emotional effort required to engage socially with everyone would burn you out. The paradox here is that we also naturally strive to be a part of something greater; to find a common ground that we can share with others and position ourselves against other cultures/generations/societies. Without this the anonymity becomes oppressive rather than liberating. Ask the guy on the bus who's gaining looks of disgust from the other passengers because he's speaking out loud to imaginary friends and nearby strangers.

The flash mob feeds both these ideas. Acting as a group - however briefly - gains you access to a club. For a short but sweet moment of complete equality, a group of strangers act as one. However, before you reach the point that would ordinarily require you to engage with other indivduals, the mob disperses, allowing you to retreat to the safety of your anonymity.
"It's not about us and it's not about claiming Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame. You will not see us posing for dodgy photos in the Sunday Telegraph and calling ourselves Mr Zee; unlike a certain London organiser pictured in last weekends paper."2
The web site for the Birmingham flash mob was shut down on the afternoon of the event. The organisers announced that there would only be one Birmingham event. Their e-mail address now only provides error messages in return. The quotes above are taken from correspondence exchanged before their disappearance. However, we should note that they still have admin rights to a 350+ strong e-mail list.3
  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/birmingham/features/2003/08/flash_mob/flash_mob.shtml
  2. see paper version of http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/08/10/wmob10.xml
  3. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mob_stirs/

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OED the term 'flash mob' has been entered in the Oxford English Dictionary.

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fourteen daze I've just submitted my entries to the Ericsson 'Fourteen Days' competition. You can see them by clicking here (mine are the ones that say 'posted by eversion' on them). My opening gambit:
It begins. I catalogued the first 14. A series of 14 photos, one taken per day during the very first 14 days of my moblogging career. Some you will have seen before on my own page, others will be new; both in image and underlying story. I shall be exposing a little more of my life than I usually do. All were taken with an Ericsson T610.

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results I got beat by Mikey. It's probably well deserved, as his entry is a great photo. There's a collection of the entries on the Sony website.

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freebay Regular, substantial entries have been thin on the ground lately for a number of reasons. One of which is the time I've been investing in a side project along with my friends Stephen and Matthew. This one is really just for people who live in my city. We have finally gone live with a project we've been threatening to get off the ground for months - the Wolverhampton Freecycle initiative. Here's the site:

http://wolvesfreecycle.org.uk

For anyone new to the freecycle idea (it's been up and running in the US since May 2003 and there are plenty of other UK groups) it's about swapping and giving away stuff you no longer need rather than letting it become landfill. You post to a mailing list stating whether you are offering something or if you want a particular thing and hopefully you'll be able to hook up with someone locally to get/give what you want. Freecycle groups are primarily run using Yahoo groups but we've decided to have a separate front page and offer a little more. We're experimenting with the cool new way you can get del.icio.us to spit out your latest bookmarks - check out the bottom of our site... So, no excuses, I expect to see all of you (who live near me) signed up and feverishly giving stuff away. We're hoping to get a bit of PR done on the radio and local papers soon so that we can achieve a critical mass of people to get it really moving. If you don't live near me, unlucky, but please, do me a favour and link us up on your blogs.

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Building Acoustics John Cale on Radio 4 this morning, talking about the sound of John Taverner;
...I realised that I wasn't just listening to the music; I was listening to the sound of the building...
Beautiful. The piece he chose was 'Song for Athene'.

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Letters on meditation Dear Reader, I enclose some letters between Matt Webb and I that we both feel are worth sharing. Topics include: meditation, breathing, Arthur Dent, puffing sacks, giving form to that which you know intuitively, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and the gentle hum of radiators. In a wonderfully self-fulfilling way, writing this has itself given a form to something I only knew through intuition until yesterday. And yes, I'm sticking to the word letters because somehow the truth (e-mails) seems depressingly cold for a topic such as this. They deserved a typewriter with an old ribbon, a failing key or two and reassuringly thick paper. Diagrams in the margin drawn with a fountain pen.

On 24 Nov 2005, at 23.50, Rob Annable wrote:

Dear Matt, Great entry on meditation. I too find myself unable to put aside the short chunks of time meditation deserves, but you've encouraged me to try harder. Some advice that I've read elsewhere that you may find useful.... Concentrate on your breathing by imagining the point on your body at which the air enters and leaves - the tip of your nose. By focusing on a specific thing you can push all other things/distractions out of your mind. Count each breath but give yourself a system to structure your counting better - only go from 1 to 10 and then start over, make yourself start again if your mind wanders. Then soon the tip of your nose will become forgotten as you concentrate on your breath. Then, perhaps, your breath will become forgotten as you concentrate on your trajectory, as you call it. A gap appears between you and your body. You realise that the body is perfectly capable of breathing on your own while you go off and do other things. Try not to laugh with delight. Once it becomes automatic, etc, etc. Arthur Dent learns to fly by forgetting to hit the ground. It's a bit like that. Perhaps the dressing gown is important. I may have a book somewhere, what's your address? Regards, Rob

On 25 Nov 2005 at 12:07:54 Matt Webb wrote:

Hi Rob, It's a curious thing. The more I talk to new friends, the more of them I find have been meditating daily for many years. I tried for 10 minutes this morning, taking the advice you mention. The first paragraph is the easy bit.. I didn't even get close to the second. It seems like that experience of suddenly seeing will be the way it happens, though. I would be interested in a book, if you find it, thanks! If not, I can look it up if you remember the title. best
Matt

On 29 Nov 2005, at 0.54, Rob Annable wrote:

'...My body is a bellows, an automatically moving, rhythmically puffing sack...' That's it. You've nailed it. I've never read such a fitting description. Sorry if my previous description of the counting/breathing process was a little tricksy. I've returned to practice myself and it's no surprise to find that I'm completely out of touch with the process. I shall have to start again. Your comment about the puffing sack got me thinking about new ways to look at the problem. I think it's got something to do with distance and the new found perspective this gives. Counting your breaths gives the process a formal structure. A topography that you can observe objectively. By observing it you step away from it. It reminds me of something I once stuck on everything2.com when I used to mooch about there a little (before I had a blog to bore everyone with):
'In my experience, the moments of greatest clarity come when you read or are told something you already knew intuitively. Something that you've never had either the experience or need to formalize in your mind before. By being shown old words in a new order, you're intuition takes shape and becomes recognisable as a form that you can hold up against others like it.'
We're formalizing the breathing process in order to put it aside. We can pigeon-hole it now that we know what it is. It's become a thing whose form we could hold up against other things in order to categorise it. In your case, a puffing sack. I used to find it quite useful to try meditating in front of an open fire. Not because of some hippyesque notion of the power of fire, rather as a subtle way of locating myself in the room during the process. It's about simple stages: I allow the feeling of heat and the quiet sounds of the fire to help me picture, categorise and then put aside my actual physical position; I count my breaths to allow me to distance my mind from my body; I empty my mind in a way that Dan Ackroyd must have wished he was capable of when he accidently conjured up the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Room-(fireplace)-body-(breathing)-me. The fireplace and the breathing are simple tools to help me reduce the topography of the room and my body to something more manageable that I can pack away. The book I was thinking of is a book on Buddhism. I was confusing it with a web page on meditation I read some years ago which I no longer have the address for. It's a good book though and you're welcome to it if you want it - Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor. I don't think I'd be too worried about recording your thoughts on this journey. Like you, I've never been keen to have a teacher for meditation, but perhaps you could look upon your blog as somewhere in between. Writing this has certainly been useful for me. If you don't mind I may blog some of our correspondence myself. Apologies for using two sci-fi comedy references in as many e-mails. Regards, Rob p.s - I'm pleased to see Peter has been able to help, he and I were talking a little about Buddhism a few weeks ago and promised to pick it up again soon. You've reminded me to do so.

On 29 Nov 2005, at 18:29:28 Matt Webb wrote:

Your point about formal structure is completely it. I was thinking the same thing yesterday, but didn't write it up last night because I wasn't sure how to express it. Please do write this up on your weblog (and feel free to quote from any of our emails) because I'd like to point to it :) This morning, there was a gap in my mind apart from the counting and the breathing, and it was being filled with random thoughts. I filled it with the hum of the radiator, and that did the job. Hardly your open fire, but near enough. best
Matt ps. cheers for the book recommendation. I'll look it up I think, but thanks for the offer!

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mixing and scratching I was reluctant to upload this entry; partly because it uses a quote from What Is Architecture? which will also be included in a future write up I'm working on, but also because I'm in danger of looking like I'm on the payroll at Icon magazine, since this is the third item I've lifted from its pages in the last few weeks. I can't resist - you know how much I enjoy confluences of events and ideas. First, whilst making notes on Paul Shepheard's What Is Architecture? on the tram this morning, I took down his comments about camouflage.
Those stealth bombers are not painted black to evoke menace, or to disappear into the night: this is ablative black. The paint is full of ferrite particles that absorb radar energy and make the machines harder for the other side's radar to see. It's difficult to see how character survives in such an environment. Here's an example: the big black submarines that cruise under the Atlantic Ocean are invisible, and apparently anonymous. But throughout the life of the machine, the hull picks up dents and scratches exclusive to itself, and consequently the sonar signature of each machine is slightly different. It acquires character through use.
I was struck by the common ground between us on the subject of character. Upon arriving at work I was greeted by my shiny new copy of Icon. Inside is an interview with Maarten Baas about a project of his called Smoke.
Smoke has its roots in a conceptual project he embarked on while at college. "I was thinking about beauty and perfection," he explains. "When we talk about perfection [in design] we normally think about things that are smooth and symmetrical. Yet we call nature perfect, although a landscape of rocks is not smooth and symmetrical at all. How come we like that as well? If you have a scratch on your car you want to polish it away. But don't scratches make a product richer? Or if something breaks off, isn't this new shape also a perfect shape?
Smoke involves the burning, charring and disfiguring of furniture, which is then resealed with resin and sold again. The images of iconic furniture engulfed in flames are worryingly compelling.

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non attachment posted by Swarm in a tribe.net discussion.
Detached and unattached imply that one is disconnected, not a part of, disengaged or uncommitted. Enlightenment comes through a process of paying attention, deep commitment and insight into our interconnectedness. Non attachment is not clinging to the passage of emotions (or whatever) as it arises and then falls away. So some one who was detached or unattached might be unmoved by a beautiful sunset. But some one practicing non attachment would be rightly moved by it, and let it pass to be moved by the night, the dawn and the day. Each moment is fully a marvel in and of its own and so there isn't room to attach to its passing or one isn't still paying attention to this moment.

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overheard Walking through the square a couple of weeks ago, I was thinking about the snippets of information/fabrications that you overhear as you walk through a city. Sounds approaching, passing and receding as you flâneurificate about town.
What's a flâneur? Webster defines it simply as "an idle man-about-town," one of those fin-de-siècle dandies who ambled through the crowds of European cities in search of bustle, gossip, and beauty. In the tradition of literary flâneurs—Walt Whitman, Fran Lebowitz, Alfred Kazin, Joseph Mitchell, the Beastie Boys—Flâneurr seeks to scrutinize the city, to evoke the essence of the street. And to encourage flaneurial behavior, whether detached observation or decadent gadding about. (from the flanifesto)
Over lunch I caught a few sounds as they passed with the butterfly net of my mobile phone. Relationships, stories of consumption, waste, car insurance costs. Tiny, tiny cogs in a big, big machine. An idea began to form. Last night I was reading up on podcasting and enclosure tags. And then this morning, rummaging through Anne Galloway's del.icio.us inbox I found this site by Brian House:
__placing voices__ Voices of strangers heard in passing are key threads in the fabric of urban experience, subconsciously coloring our perception of a place. Yet such features are inherently unrepeatable, unique to every individual's listening experience, and, unlike a photograph, the location of a recording is difficult to recognize. 'Placing Voices' is a mobile-sound-blog software which uses the built-in sound recording feature of mobile phones (which is optimized for voice) and MMS messaging to place these fragments on a web-accessible map of the city as they occur. The objective is to express a map in terms of these experiences, to restore some claim to my memory of physical spaces over the transient voices heard within them.
Note to self: move quicker. The important move here that I - if left to my own devices to progress a similar project - might have missed, is the use of the map. Crucially, a hand-drawn map. I'm reminded of the cognitive mapping research by Moar.
This requires subjects to either produce a sketch map of the area of interest or estimate distances between key points, which the researcher can then use to build up a map representing their image of their area. This technique was used, for example, by Moar1 to show that housewives in Glasgow and in Cambridge had very different mental maps of the British Isles. moar_cognitive (from Applying Psychology in the Environment - apologies for the dodgy image, only had my phonecam to hand, click on it for the flickr notes)
Tha map of Manhattan on the placing voices site looks fairly accurate though and I'd be interested to know if Brian drew it from memory or traced/copied it. However, this assessment is based on my memory of Manhattan and I was only there once in 1994 for twelve hours, six of which I slept through, so who knows where the truth lies? I'm too lazy to Google for it let alone reach for the atlas on the shelf. Truth is the very last thing on the agenda here. Eavesdropping on someone else's links seem to be a perfectly fitting way to have discovered this site. I use the inbox option on del.icio.us and subscribe to a few peoples linklogs, subsequently/lazily subscribing to the net results myself with bloglines.com. I noticed recently that someone else is subscribed to my inbox too; gathering the links that I gather from others. This is both the height of laziness and super smart efficiency, but then that's a pretty good definition of RSS as a whole.

notes:
1. Moar, I. (1978) Mental triangulation and the nature of internal representations of space.

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hand made maps related: Entry number 42 over at angermann.com: Maps made by hand.

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So phooey to that!

Anish Kapoor:

I loathe making anything practical whatsoever. The funny thing about art is that it's useless. It doesn't do anything. That's very important, ha, ha!... ...that's your fantasy; that artists need to be dark and brooding...the artist as a romantic figure who is somewhat bohemian. Crap, crap, crap! I'm not bohemian; I'm terribly ordinary. And the other myth is that art is born out of pain. It is not. I'm sure that the best art - and maybe that's a very Eastern thing - is born out of joy. So phooey to that!
An old quote, the source long since forgotten (I think it was a broadsheet newspaper article), posted while I continue to chew over a myriad of possible replies that I promised to Aq following a discussion on beauty on the LUG mailing list.

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I love Kapoor Weep at the beauty - pictures of Kapoor's latest sculpture in Chicago have just been posted at A Daily Dose of Architecture.

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the bean More photos here (found via boingboing.net)

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to See and to Be
Life is a wonderful business, though fools blow up London tube stations and sell each other crap and waste time with gossip about movie stars. If you can draw, you will always have a place to go that is beautiful and honest and true. As you sit in an airport you will find pleasure in the folds of a crumpled lunch bag. As you bide your time in a doctor's waiting room, you will find peace in the arrangement of the shadows on the wall. Even without putting ink on paper, you will be able to slip in to Drawing Mind. The point is not what your lines look like or how accurate your crosshatching might be.
The point is not the drawings on the page or the pages in the book.
The point is not the opinions of others who love/hate/ignore those lines you made on the page.
The point is not the money you make selling your work to galleries or publishers.
The point of practicing your craft is not to rise in the rankings of those who draw. It's not to have your style dominate (sorry, Dan!).
The point is to more easily gain acces to the moment, to the deeper more peaceful recesses of your Self.
The point is to live as well and as fully as you can today, right now, whether your pen is in your hand or not.
The point is to See and to Be.

Danny Gregory

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stoked Those of you who are avid listeners to Radio Stoke (hundreds of you, I'm sure) will have already heard me talk about a photography competition I've been running with some school kids in Stoke-on-Trent. Last week we presented the prizes and the radio station sent a reporter along. I had my computer set to record the internet stream, but mercifully (for you) it choked while I was away from my desk, so you'll have to find some other way to hear my dulcit tones. It was a big success, so I'm keen to share it here too. Here's one of the entries:

kids with cameras

The rest can be viewed on the project web site I put together. It's a part of a few different methods of enquiry we're using to develop a clear path towards some urban regeneration proposals. The output on this project provides several different benefits; the kids begin to feel some ownership of the problems and become more interested in a solution; they drag apathetic family members with them; we get a view from a different age group than would normally attend standard consultation events; images allow the kids to project their concerns more effectively than they might do with the written word. We've also had a text messaging project running in a nearby neighbourhood but to my surprise it's been a complete failure and had no interest. Next time I'm going to bring these two ideas together into one project...

*edit: I should also point out that all these fantastic pictures were taken with single-use disposable cameras

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start stopped clock I've had an idea. First I went here and then I visited stoppedclocks.org, then I remembered humanclock.com. Then I thought, what if you took a picture of all the stopped clocks in the world and built up a bank of photographs that catalogued all the minutes in the day? Each of the clocks could live again for 60 seconds, as it was delivered to your desktop by the same system used at the humanclock.com site. We need 1440 stopped clocks, each capturing a different moment. The stopped clocks foundation aim to fix the world's clocks, let's record their ailing patients and take a picture before they regain their health. Over at the MoblogUK site, we have 5; only 1435 left to go.

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x2 ahem...of course if you use each image twice for am and pm, you'd only need half as many photos - but where's the fun in that?

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The Machine tags: exhibition, advent, gift, brochure, art

Architectural Art Advent Day 7:

Excerpts from the stainless steel clad brochure from the 1968 MOMA exhibition The Machine: As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age. (10Mb PDF file!)

the-machine-cover

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teeth on plastic So there's this dog. And he's chasing a Frisbee. The former bounds across the open field making an almost incalculable number of micro-adjustments to its speed and direction. The latter glides across the open sky receiving an almost incalculable number of micro-deformations to its speed and direction. The space between them is carved and re-carved by the interconnectedness of their destinies.

Any single point on the topography of the diagram created by their interconnectedness is a dynamic stability linked to all other points.

The energy invested by all previous environmental conditions is converted into the noise of teeth on plastic.

Chomp.

written after Matt Webb's trackback hack reminded me of something.

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sap and bittorrent calcs Of error the house
to mobius,
a berkel van file.
Mp3, mvrdv,
an configuration line. Ben flaxwood,
achaea studio,
un design.
Sap
and bittorrent calcs. Webstat poetry. The top 25 search keywords for this site. Order unadjusted but punctuation added at my own discretion. Your turn.

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Dear Rob, This is just a short note to let you know I am rather busy at the moment, and although I would like to spend more time amusing you, for now you will have to make do with something amusing I made for you(although I know you already have it.) http://www.al4ie.com/music/robbie.mp3 tata!

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-------- Original Message -------- Subject: #first_mobile_test_post.txt Date: Sun, 07 Nov 2004 16:52:58 +0000 Ignore me, I'm noodling about with an e-mail to entry option using blosmail: http://www.pipetree.com/testwiki/Blosmail... If this works I'll be able to mail stuff onto the blog.

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test number 2 Test to see if
it posts html properly.

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Saw this and thought of you, The West Midlands car modding fraternity has a lot to learn from their peers over in japan; where class and subtlety is no longer an issue, the japanese seem to win. classy?

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medallion man Al says:
No success in the President’s medal I’m afraid, I made it to the final shortlist of 95 but here’s who won: http://www.presidentsmedals.com/results.aspx?w=1&dop=0&part=2&year=2005 Some good work, well deserved I think! Al

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stepping aside Dear no, too self We've been expecting too much of each other of late, I think we need to take a break. No, wait, don't get upset. It's not about you, it's me, it's my fault. I've promised you so much and let you down so often. You deserve better. I think we need to take a break. Just a week, maybe two. We could have an open relationship and see some other people. Remember last year? We needed some space and it worked out OK. What? No, I meant just you really. You could see some other people if you like. I shan't. I'll be too upset, probably. I'll ask Tom to get in touch. You remember him - he's the guy who gave me the key to MI5 and went off to Spain to build a cave. Alfie's in town too. You'd like him, he's a skater boy, he can take your picture and make you say cheese. Maybe Peter could tell you all the things I should have said. Ask Joel to write to you. He knows how to write. Maybe, just maybe, I could persuade Alexis to drop you a line. He's always got a story to tell and he makes great tea. It'll be good for you. I'll come back. I promise. Just tell me that they meant nothing to you and I'll come back. Otherwise just let them in, all of them and I'll never bother you again. You wouldn't do that though, would you? Yours, Rob

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kindred spirit tags: blog, architecture, technology, space, media, geography Found via Adam's del.icio.us links - Aggregät 4/5/6
You have arrived at a site that has no qualms about the messy connections between spatial practice, cultural criticism, technology studies, art history, architecture, and other realms. Yet this location was conceived under the sign of big "A" architecture. It is maintained by an architecture historian who has difficulty staying within the circumscribed realms of history and theory. Although a visitor will encounter detours and conurbations that may deviate away from issues about the built environment, it must be noted that this site embraces the totality that architecture represents.
Added straight into the ever-growing bloglines list.

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ArchiCAD student license tags: archicad, cad, software Disclaimer: Whilst the following post may result in a return favour for me from Graphisoft (see update), I'm more than happy to pass on the news that ArchiCAD is now available for free to students. Back in the days of my undergraduate education I bought a student license of version 5 (which cost about Ł150 then) and it saw me through the rest of my course admirably. It's a great piece of software. Visit the diploma projects in the academic section of my site for proof, and keep in mind that there's been five more versions since then.
Hello Robert, I was going through your blog, and perhaps you’ll find this is of interest. I’d like to know if your site would be able to help pass on a great message to architectural students who visit – that they can now download the latest full version of Archicad FOR FREE. This Graphisoft policy began only a few weeks ago, and we’re sure students would greatly appreciate hearing this from you. Students start out with a 30-day license code while we check their status, then they get a year’s code (which can be extended if their study goes beyond this.) Navigate your visitors here to get more info:

www.graphisoft.com/community/education/downloads/

There are also some buttons for anyone else who feels the need to big up ArchiCAD on their site: eduregistration.graphisoft.com/linktous/. But hey, don't forget about your pencil.

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broken promises Sadly, the return favour never materialised and my seemingly reasonable request for a license upgrade has been turned down. I'll leave the post in place because I still stand by it as a decent piece of software, but there's no hiding the fact that I'm bitterly disappointed in Graphisoft.

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architects in birmingham tags: architects, birmingham I work at Axis Design Collective and we are architects in Birmingham.

Ignore me, normal service will resume shortly. This post exists only to provide myself some Google juice. Alternatively, if you're feeling extremely generous, find a way to use the phrase architects in Birmingham on your blog and link my other site. After all, it wouldn't be a testimonial. merely a statement of fact. I keep getting phone calls from a guy who wants me to pay him to get me to the top of the list for the phrase architects in Birmingham and I'd rather get there under my own steam.

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all of the above Tags: blogs,magazine Blogging is the topic of this week's Architest in Building Design magazine:
4) According to www.doyouwantcoffee.blogspot.com, why do architects need blogs? A Their jobs are boring
B They need biased information
C They have an egotistical need to talk about themselves
D They don't
Take the full test at bdonline.co.uk (requires registration)

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sketches blog tags: architecture, sketch, blog Found by pressing the 'related feeds' button in bloglines.com to get a list of blogs similar to my own:

Architecture Sketches quoting Michael Maltzman:

"I can't say that I design in one way or another it is a lot more back and forwards... It is like casting a broad net and seeing what comes up... Some drawings, like plan sketches, are a little more accurate...I prefer the fast and fluid drawings...the best drawings are almost like a field where patterns begin to inter merge in the sketches...the ones that say 'OK here is the building' are the least interesting for me..."
(my emphasis)

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short back and sides I always dread getting my hair cut. Waiting your turn, cursing yourself for not bringing a good book, feeling obliged to engage in the obligatory hair cut conversation. Going anywhere nice this year? This week's trip was no exception. Left for lunch early to beat the queue and got beaten by people leaving work early to beat the queue. Waiting. Cheeky Girls on the stereo. Waiting. One of the staff has the audacity to have a lunch break. Further waiting. The guy ahead of me has shorter hair than I do. I begin to hate him. Why should he get to go first? He had the foresight to bring a book too. Now I really hate him. It's called 'A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away' by Christopher Brookmyre. I hope it's rubbish.1 Perhaps I can make the waiting more productive. Perhaps the magazines over by the shampoo will provide something worth recording and hyperlinking. I grab a copy of City Living magazine. First to catch my eye is an article on Edward Burne-Jones. Pre-Raphaelite artist, student of Rossetti and born here in Birmingham. I walked past his birth place on the way to the barbers. It's a restaurant now (a friend of mine did the refurbishment a couple of years ago) but you can see the English Heritage blue plaque above the door. The fact that the building is called Burne-Jones House is also a bit of a give away. One of the easiest ways to see some of his work (I mean see some of his work, not look at it online) is to visit Birmingham Cathedral and look at the stained glass windows.

Keith? says hairdresser number one when she's finished mopping up the left overs from her previous victim (an OAP who came back in the shop afterwards to tell us that her friend had declared her haircut worthy of '10 out of 10!'). Keith puts away his book and takes a seat, confessing that things had got so desperate he'd been forced to resort to the tub of 'backup wax'. I'm glad I let him go first. Mercifully, hairdresser number two, the new girl, is stuck with the perm from hell. It's obviously a lost cause but her hairdressing Hippocratic oath prevents her from giving in. I shall have to wait till the lunch break is over for hairdresser number three.

Back to the magazine. Damn. I've missed a photography exhibition at the Custard Factory. 24 hours in Birmingham with a Lomo camera. I'm fascinated by the results these cameras achieve and the content could have been useful inspiration for the phonecam exhibition that Alfie and I are hoping to put on next year. We're currently wandering around places and minds trying to agree a theme/justification. You're more than welcome to give us your input by visiting the notes on the wiki: MoBlogExhibition. A scruffy looking chap comes in and starts to browse the designer shampoo products. Hairdresser number one stifles a laugh and asks if she can help. He clearly hasn't washed his hair in weeks, so why should it seem so odd that he wants to buy shampoo? Surely that's exactly what he needs. Is it for you Sir? Hesitation. Err, ummm. Can it be that difficult? Yeessss. He leaves again with a jolly expensive hair care product in the pocket of his tweed coat. Ah, pay dirt. An article about Walsall Art Gallery running an exhibition called Fantasy Architecture. A collection of images of work that was never built. Some I recognise, some I don't. It's on until the 21st of this month so I still have time to drag The Wife and kids round there. I scan the article, disagree in places, agree in others. I certainly don't agree with the suggestion that Foster's bridge to the Tate is a better solution than FAT's unbuilt proposal for a Diana memorial. Regardless of how you feel about Diana, their design for a rolling meadow of grass seems preferable to the anonymous grey steel work that eventually got built/de-wobbled. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the beautiful drawings of Birds Portchmouth Russum again. I saw them give a really enjoyable lecture some years ago, it was one of my first experiences of the value of wit and humour in creativity. I remember that the fact almost all of their projects were fantasy did raise some concern from someone in the audience about their ability to pay the rent off the back of so much unbuilt work. I also remember they didn't give a straight answer. The haircut2 proceeded without further ado.

  1. Ha! According to The Sunday Herald, it is rubbish: "The key to good genre writing is plotting and pace. Brookmyre achieves neither... bulking out the page count are Brookmyre's attempts at humour... ". Although respect is due to the author for posting both good and bad reviews on his site. Note the way he splits them up as pre and post 9/11 - a section of the story apparently involves terrorists and planes.
  2. number 4 on top, 2 on the sides

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good news My plea has been answered.

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Bizarchitecture Undergraduate architecture students take note: you need to have at least this much imagination or you'll never make the grade.

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e-clectic I was thinking, during my journey along the motorway this morning, about how I should best convey the news to new readers that this isn't purely an architecture blog. Perhaps 50% is Architecture, another 20% is architecture and the remaining 30% is more general notes to self which may (or, more usually, may not) be loosely connected to architecturification architecturing making stuff. Checking my latest stats at mybloglog.com when I arrived at the office gave me the solution. Here are a sample of some number one ranking Google queries that have brought people to my door over the last week. I fear there may actually be more stuff than Architecture.

1. UPDATE: OK, much weirdness - this one seems to have fallen off the radar, I swear it was working a few days ago. It's a shame, I was hoping that the high art of the first one would balance out the low art of the last one.

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call-and-response tags: architecture, danhill, football

So I think one reason why [I love being an architect] - leaving aside other obvious reasons[*] - is to do with this see-saw balancing act; when the fragile beauty of [my ideas] can be denied so effortlessly by the combination of chance, improvisation, circumstance and irrational passion. It's the call-and-response tension between these forces that makes [my job] so thrilling.

[Hacking] Dan Hill. Go and read his excellent article, Design. Architecture. Football. to get the original version.

* money, fame, girls, black roll-neck jumpers etc.

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A La Recherche du Temps Perdu My memory of my childhood is quite sketchy. Before the ages of about 7 or 8 years old I have only a handful of images I can consciously call upon. One of the most interesting ones came back to me one night in a dream a few years ago - the building where I first attended school appeared to me during a dream, rendered in bird's eye, 45 degree axonometric. The other lasting memory involves an iron, a hall carpet with a crease and me, at about 6 years old, determined to do my mother a favour and get rid of the offending uneveness. I can still picture the resulting brown triangle of singed polyester carpet; my mother's voice wafting down the stairs as she begins to get suspicious of the silence... All this, and more, was relived this morning when a fellow LUG member sent me a link to a website called carpet-burns.com. By melting the surface until it becomes stiff, carpet-burns use recycled carpet to make various objects such as drinks trays, bags and plant pots. I like it. Craft that focuses on the recycled ideology and aesthetic can often be a little shabby - sometimes intentionally, sometimes unavoidably. From the look of the pictures on the web site, the products by carpet-burns are well finished and nicely detailed. I'm going to check out the price list and start saving. The logo, however, is like a piece of my history calling to me. The unmistakeable outline of the underside of an iron. To complete the experience, a few minutes later as I climbed into the car to drive to work (thereby undoing most of the good work done by carpet-burns to save the planet), with the acrid smell of part of my childhood still filling my nostrils, I heard an announcement that Radio 4 will be broadcasting a dramatisation of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time this weekend. I wonder if Proust ever had any trouble with an uneven carpet.

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this just in I've just browsed the site a little more and discovered this in the company info section:
Whilst ironing clothes on carpeted bedroom floor, Kelly Atkins founder of Carpet-Burns, unintentionally ironed and melted the carpet pile which left a hard plastic surface. Seeing potential in how this material could be processed she embarked upon a three-year research and development project in to the recycling of waste carpet. Kelly now has a European patented pending on the carpet recycling process which converts faulty or end of line carpet stock into a hard mouldable plastic. Carpet-Burns innovative carpet recycling techniques result in a professional and sleek appearance of a highly functional product range.
I was clearly 24(ish) years ahead of my time.

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chinatown Here's an interesting confluence of writing/linking1 worth visiting; last week Joel wrote about the threat to the future of Chinatown in London,
The rents in Chinatown have already risen steeply in an attempt to force people out, and if the eastern part is demolished it'll be a domino effect all down Gerrard Street and that'll be it, more faceless chainstore sterility, no more strange vegetables, soy sauce, firecrackers, dragon dances, red paper lanterns, calligraphy brushes, roast duck hanging on hooks, Chinese swordfighting videos, exotic aromas, old men playing the qin, gaudy neon, a typographical extravaganza of mingshu signage, and pretty Chinese girls avoiding squashed kumquats in heels.
and today Dan Hill over at City of Sound has posted a link to the latest Flickr group: Chinatown.

  1. I think from now on I shall call this wrinking

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help! I'm trying to to get the perl code that delivers my del.icio.us links to include text as well as a time stamp. Without that, the numeric title screws up the writeback option. Can anybody tell me how to adjust the code? The lines in question are:
#file name and location setup for ouputting to file
$timestamp = time();
$outfile = "/rob/journal/links/linklog/".$timestamp.".txt";
How do I add a word in front or behind the .$timestamp. statement? It chokes every time I try it. I must be screwing up the " " bits.

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intersection A blogging confluence. The Gutter: Eisenman: 9/11 Destroyed Debord's "Society" Tesugen: 'Psychogeography: a beginner's guide'

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doh-nuts tags: links, economics, urban Help! A few weeks ago I saw a link on somebody's data shadow/stream/fog about a study on the way wealth is situated in urban environments. It refuted the well understood 'wedge' model and demonstrated a 'doughnut' form around cities in the US. Was it you who linked it up? I can't remember. Help me out and send over the url if you've seen it.

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eranu A quick trip to my error log has highlighted some bad links and a few people who are probably cursing me. I've fixed the two offending items. Firstly, for those of you who were curious enough to click on the '...exactly what I do on a daily basis...' link in the design codes entry, you can now try again. You'll find an estate regeneration project that uses a wiki and messageboard to keep residents and client up to date. Secondly, the wav file in the previous link is now fixed. This is the point where you use the writeback option to tell me I'm an idiot. It's also the point where you make a mental note to use the writeback option to tell me when something is broke. Please.

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anonymous tip-off Mild mannered reporter Matt Revell, has succeeded where the Daily Telegraph and Sky News failed. He's recorded an interview with the organiser of the flash mob event I previously wrote about. Here's the mp3 link.

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Bill speaks Another retrospective interview in LA Weekly, discussing the beginning of the 'pre-movement' with the infamous Bill (found via Smart Mobs).
The nature of public space in America today has changed. It’s shopping malls, large chain stores, that kind of thing. The presumption is that you’re going to purchase something, but once you try to express yourself in any other way, suddenly you’re trespassing. New York City is blessed with a bunch of real public spaces, but at this point, if you’re young in America, chances are you have grown up without authentic public space. I discovered that it was political to go into one of those stores.

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Flash opera No, I'm not talking about web site animations delivered through a particular type of browser, I'm talking about flash mobs meeting up with an opera performance. It's on BBC3 right now, and repeated/reperformed at ten o'clock. It's sufficiently odd for me not to have formed an opinion yet, but it's making me smile so I guess that counts for something. Thanks to Bobby H for the reminder!

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G8 blogging
I am presently, simultaneously, discussing the fine points of aid policy on the phone with NGOs, while conversing with European anrchists about the demerits of the corporate media, which they believe are many.
Paul Mason blogging live from the streets of Edinburgh with his PDA (via Bosh).

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pavilion fly-by tags: pavilion, maps Flying over a past pavilion with Goggles.

serpentine-divebomb

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grafedia
Grafedia is hyperlinked text, written by hand onto physical surfaces and linking to rich media content - images, video, sound files, and so forth. It can be written anywhere - on walls, in the streets, or on sidewalks. Grafedia can also be written in letters or postcards, on the body as tattoos, or anywhere you feel like putting it. Viewers "click" on these grafedia hyperlinks with their cell phones by sending a message addressed to the word + "@grafedia.net" to get the content behind the link.
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. (via Space and Culture)

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green tea head A few months ago I quit drinking alcohol and left caffeine behind. Don't worry, I'm not about to mount a terribly high horse, unveil a soap box or give a sermon - I did it because I had to for health reasons. Drink what you like, I couldn't care less. However, it's difficult to resist passing comment about the benefits of green tea when you find articles like this: Green tea polishes hard drive heads.
The researchers combined chemicals from green tea with synthetic proteins and an abrasive chemical it produced a mixture well suited to removing microscopic imperfections. By binding to these particles, the mixture gives them an electrostatic charge, causing them to be repelled from the platter's surface.
Found via the web site that makes us all lazy.

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Linux links tags: linux, gnome, links Harvesting links while listening to the LUG Radio coverage of GUADEC:

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hands down tags: architecture, students, education Message from BLDGBLOG for my students to think about over the Christmas break:
...some of today's most imaginative artistic, technological, and even literary work is being produced in architectural studios. Whether you like their projects or not, in other words, architecture students are out-thinking, out-structuring, and out-performing novelists, hands down. It is now architecture that lets us rethink the world anew.
You'd better be on form when we start back in January!

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Stephen Heppell 3 e-mails just tumbled into my inbox from my friend and fellow architect Rob Hopkins. He has some links to share:
rob, i spent a day with stephen heppell yesterday at the RIBA.

http://www.heppell.net/

seriously inspiring guy to work with (when you have the cash to pay for him!) rob
And then,
should have mentioned, he worked here for about 20 years

http://ww3.ultralab.net

And then,
he set up Notschool which was a really interesting idea

http://www.notschool.net/ns/template.php

Thanks Rob! I've had a brief look and there's a blog and podcast to be found on the first link.

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ID cards The argument about ID cards in the UK is unresolved, the idea of having to carry ID is unsettling, many (me included) believe it to be unnecessary. Here's a link to a piece about the possible results of implementing such a scheme. It's a discussion about an American system, but the prinicipal holds true for any location.
My argument may not be obvious, but it's not hard to follow, either. It centers around the notion that security must be evaluated not based on how it works, but on how it fails. It doesn't really matter how well an ID card works when used by the hundreds of millions of honest people that would carry it. What matters is how the system might fail when used by someone intent on subverting that system: how it fails naturally, how it can be made to fail, and how failures might be exploited.
taken from http://www.schneier.com

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iod4 Tags:software,network,mapping Does anybody know if iod4, or a similar piece of software, is still going anywhere? iod4 The original never made it past Windows '95: I/O/D 4 (image from an old experiment)

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'nother name To jog your memory further, Adam has reminded me that this also used to be called 'Webstalker'.

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LUG Radio Out last night at Geek H.Q. with the guys and girl from the Wolverhampton LUG. It was a busy meet, with a few new members and a guest appearance from some of the Birmingham Perl Mongers. I was careful to keep quiet about the fact that it's actually been weeks since I booted into Linux, since I still can't get my wireless card to work with it. I had a chat with Sparkes about the possibility of having a mini fruit and veg co-operative; I'm hoping to get the raised beds in my garden built soon so that we can trade some stuff. Aq told me he'd been reading my blog lately and I was very flattered to find that he wanted to know if I was an Important Guy, architecturally speaking. I had to confess that this wasn't the case, although I'm sure my Mother would disagree. On reflection, this may be because one of my only character flaws comes out in my writing as well as my speaking. There's an interesting proposition in a book called The Celestine Prophecy that suggests most people can be put into one of three categories; each category is the definition of the technique they use to become the dominant person in any exchange. A person may choose to project aggression, or victimisation, or aloofness. I suspect I use the latter. It's easy to see how this might portray an incorrect air of importance. Anyway, the main reason for this post is to do my bit to promote a project that some of the guys in the LUG have been working on for a while - Linux User Group Radio. Broadcast every fortnight, the show is really beginning to come together, and much respect must be paid to them for the effort involved in setting up an independant radio show. Of particular interest is the special show that's just been released about the upcoming elections and the impact of software patents. It includes interviews with Richard Allan MP (the Liberal Democrat IT spokesman) and Howard Berry (Labour local election candidate and Linux user). I'm off to have a listen.

p.s - Aq, if you're listening, here's the entry about Peter Tesugen I mentioned. Sparkes, if you're listening, here's the entry about food processing that I mentioned.

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Katrina Just received this via the Michael Moore mailing list:

For the past few days I've been working with a group that, I guarantee you, will get direct aid to the people who need it most. Cindy Sheehan, the brave woman who dared to challenge Mr. Bush at his summer home, has now sent her Camp Casey from in front of Bush's ranch to the outskirts of New Orleans. The Veterans for Peace have taken all the equipment and staff of volunteers and set up camp in Covington, Louisiana, on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. They are accepting materials and personally distributing them to those in need. This is where we come in. We need to ship supplies to them immediately. Today they need the following: Paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper, baby diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, Pedialyte, baby items in general, powder, lotion, handy wipes, sterile gloves, electrolytes, LARGE cans of veggies, school supplies, and anything else to lift people's spirits. You can ship these items by following the instructions on VFPRoadTrips.org. Or you can deliver them there in person. The roads to Covington are open. Here's how to get there. You can drop them off or you can stay and participate (if you stay, you'll be camping so bring your own tent and gear and mosquito spray). If you can't ship these items or go there in person, then go to VFPRoadTrips.org and make an immediate donation through PayPal. Camp Casey-Covington will have immediate access to this cash and can buy the items themselves from stores that are open in Louisiana (all donations to Veterans for Peace, are tax deductible).

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fixed Woohoo! del.icio.us links are back up and running thanks to the scripts author Brett. It turned out there had been some changes on the del.icio.us (Jeeezus, typing that is getting te.dio.us) site, but once fixed he was good enough to mail me with the adjusted code. Thanks Brett! p.s - sorry for bugging you for help Sparkes, it wasn't my fault after all

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delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries:

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries:

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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latest discoveries: via del.icio.us.

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via del.icio.us.

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today's del.icio.us links (Keep your own bookmarks online at del.icio.us.)

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today's del.icio.us links

found by me, collated by del.icio.us., published by deloxom

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today's del.icio.us links

found by me, collated by del.icio.us., published by deloxom

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today's del.icio.us links

found by me, collated by del.icio.us., published by deloxom

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today's del.icio.us links

(taken from my del.icio.us. linklog, broadcast using deloxom)

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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today's del.icio.us links

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the window Saw some art, hit a bank, bought some strings and a pick for my guitar, scored some drugs. It's amazing what you can get done in a lunch break. [thewindow_2.jpg] First the art. I found out about 'The Window' project last week via Kate Pemberton's site: endfile.com. It's a simple project; a window has been leased to use as an exhibition space and the work is changed every 3 weeks. It's curated by Birmingham Artists. Kate had some work on display a few weeks ago and she posted a picture to her site. Being too lazy to do my research, I didn't make note of the location, but spotted a reflection in the glass that I thought I recognised. The reflection turned out to be a reflection of a reflection, but I was pleased to find that my Holmesian skills were on form. My first visit was last week, but I managed to arrive at the exact moment that the current work was being taken down; no matter, I shall return next week, thought I. Today was next week. [thewindow_1.jpg:in]The current work is by Liz Rowe. Each of the surfaces in the window has been covered with a kaleidascope-like image of...something. It's difficult to tell until you read the card in the window.
I like to think that my shoes tell you something about who I am.
Laces begin to work their way to the foreground and the patterns start to coagulate into shapes that make you think about your feet. You start to see past the repetition and the symmetry and enjoy the detail more. Heading off across town I began to reconsider my initial reaction, perhaps it wasn't such a one-liner after all. Graphically complex but idealogically simple is a method that is probably well suited to the constraints of a shop window little more than 5 or 6 feet across. I shall go back and take a second look, I suspect it will get richer the more you examine it. All good so far. Next stop the guitar shop on Smallbrook Queensway (a location I sketched a couple of weeks ago). Bought some more cat gut and a couple of picks of different thicknesses (I like to be able to blame my tools for my terrible guitar playing) and spotted a poster for an upcoming exhibition - Birmingham Guitar Show. It's on the 12th of September and I shall probably try and drag my axe wielding mentor, Al, along with me. He's feeling particularly smug at the moment since he just landed himself a beautiful Washburn on ebay. A pretty succesful haul of links for a single lunch break. In between all that there was also some photgraphy and some music (mp3 link). What's that? The bank and the drugs? Ah, yes, well, I...put my pay cheque in the bank and bought some hayfever tablets from the pharmacy.

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What lies beneath tags: blog, underground, living Found via Hana's RSS list:
At last I can reveal one of my most exciting innovations. This is a plan for my new self sustaining system for one man that will allow me to travel around the surface without requiring anything from it. The hat multi tasks by catching rainwater that goes into my water holding rucksack, where it is purified, capturing solar energy from the sun to light my torch and growing vegetables for me to eat on my travels. It also has a refelective surface so that it pushes the global warmup dangers away from me and back to where they came from.

I am the Man from Below.

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latest image Alfie's recent guest blog over at diepunyhumans.com has reminded me that I should do my bit to promote the fantastic MoblogUK - a resource for blogging your mobile phone camera shots. I registered yonks ago when it was first getting off the ground, but as usual it languished in my bookmarks for far too long. Over the last couple of months I've been submitting some pictures and getting involved; it's brilliant, I wish I'd made the effort before. Once you've set up a free account, you're given an e-mail address that you use to submit your pictures. The subject field of your e-mail becomes the title of the picture and you can add other notes using the body of the e-mail. That's it. You're moblogging. My page is here and you can get a random collage of some of my photos here. There are a few basic settings that you can adjust on your page and the appearance can be adjusted by choosing which CSS to use. If you donate a small amount each month you get extra options. I donate Ł2.50 a month and, amongst other things, it allows me to do this: This picture is the latest image I've posted, it'll update each time I send a new photo. All you do is post the HTML you're given onto your site. I'm planning to redesign this site soon and I think I'll give my latest image a starring role. There's also a comments system and voting for each image. You can even get updates via RSS. My enthusiasm for photography is re-ignited. The whole world becomes an infinite number of possible compositions stretching out in front of me. It nurtures your perception when you're encouraged to have a camera to hand 24 hours a day. Here's a few pages worth visiting: Alfie and Mat (the sites creators), pieceoplastic (who recently donated an image to the LUG wiki), tripwire (who does a nice line in chairs), stopped clocks (a shared page that anyone can send an image to) and Poser (who's been causing a fuss lately by doing exactly what her title suggests).

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Modern Life is Rubbish by copacetic: [modern_life.jpg:centre2]

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she laughs and says you'll do it again
Love is rare
Life is strange
Nothing lasts
People change
Fatherhood and 'old' age is turning me soft. Last night I was wiping my eyes after seeing the wonderful House of Sand and Fog, starring Ben Kingsley. Tonight I got a lump in my throat after hearing Gretchen Crier and Nancy Ford's Old Friends on Radio 4. If you can handle the tears, I can recommend both. You'll have to visit the video store for the first one, but I can help you with the second (6.5Mb mp3 link). I shall endeavor to regain my masculinity while I'm away. No promises though. See you in about a week.

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Reith lectures Over at the bbc, this years Reith lectures are being released as MP3s. This a Big Thing, as it's the first time they've moved away from the Real Audio/Media Player format. It's this sort of thinking that makes me happy to pay my license fee. Tom Coates over at plasticbag.org also has an article about it.

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hello all Latest news from Liz Rowe:
Hello All, I'll be showing two pieces of work in Leicester over the next month or so. The shows are part of a wider open studios event which you can find out about at:

http://www.hiddentreasures.org.uk/home.html

On Monday 29th August there will be an opening at the Leicester Creative Business Depot: Tel: 0116 2616800
info AT lcbdepot.co.uk
31 Rutland Street
Leicester
LE1 1RE A map can be downloaded from the website at http://www.lcbdepot.co.uk The exhibition runs till the end of September, 9-5, Monday - Friday. Also, Upstairs at The City Gallery (90 Granby Street, Leicester, LE1 1DJ. Tel 0116 223 2060) on Tuesday 6th September, 6.30 - 8.00. Exhibition runs till September 10th. See you soon. liz rowe
Liz was previously featured in my entry on The Window installation.

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secret gate From Post a Secret:

I tried to steal a part of the gates

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severed hand 'If on a Winter's Night a Traveller' by Italo Calvino
How well I would write if I were not here! If between the white page and the writing of words and stories that take shape and disappear without anyone's ever writing them there were not interposed that uncomfortable partition which is my person! Style, taste, individual philosophy, subjectivity, cultural background, real experience, psychology, talent, tricks of the trade: all the elements that make what I write recognizable as mine seem to me a cage that restricts my possibilities. If I were only a hand, a severed hand that grasps a pen and writes...
An artist under the influence of LSD (found via biroco.com)
Outlines seem normal, but very vivid - everything is changing colour. My hand must follow the bold sweep of the lines. I feel as if my consciousness is situated in the part of my body that's now active - my hand, my elbow... my tongue.

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horse play Somebody should warn all the Shire horses across the world - they're about to get sued.

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side bar Rob Annable wrote: >> Hi John, >> Well done for spotting the pole/poll. I guess I gave
>> it away with the title.
>> Spotting myself in your sidebar has also reminded me
>> that I've been
>> meaning to do an entry about my bloglines
>> subscriptions. It's unfair of
>> me to not publish details about who I read and since
>> I've never got
>> round to adding it to my site, this seems like a
>> good way to go about it. >> Here's the list: >> http://www.bloglines.com/public/eversion >> I think I need to add a few from your sidebar. >> Regards, >> Rob

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Spark plug Fellow LUG member Sparkes suggests that this site is for people interested in fun things or built things. Like someone who has difficulty with the letters F and T, you can't say fairer than that.

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listen again You have until next Monday to hear Andrew Marr talk to Anish Kapoor and Deyan Sudjic discussing shape on Radio 4's Start the Week Here's a taster:
Kapoor: To make new art one needs to make new space...a little history of the way I understand this...Medieval space, if one goes back that far, was flat; then of course the Renaissance, and much has been said about space receding into the distance - perspective and so forth; then of course romantic space, which I think is very, very interesting and exciting - the idea of the threshold beyond which there is vastness and voidness, the self lost, in which, in a sense, time stands still. Marr: Does that take you forward to abstract impressionism? Kapoor: Well I suspect it does. In many ways these strands overlap, but one might say that modernist space - Brancusi, the Rocket, onwards, upwards, progress etc are phallic space in a sense. Then perhaps with Mies van der Rohe and Donald Judd one might begin to speak about space enclosed. What does that leave? It seems to me, to speak about contemporary space, one begins to think about a different idea and I'm really interested that space turns itself inward.
More from Kapoor: 1 Link to article about Sudjic's new book: 2 More on space that turns itself inward can be found if you follow the trail in yesterday's link to the footnotes of the increasingly regularly referenced data wall project.

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tesugen I've been reading Peter Tesugen's blog for several weeks now, so I was both surprised and delighted to find my own words staring back at me a couple of days ago. For those of you who haven't read my previous entry, it would do you no harm to just visit Peter's entry instead, as he does a very astute job of distilling it down to one paragraph. Peter is a computer programmer whose interest in architectural theory is delivering some fresh ideas from outside the industry. I particularly enjoyed his comments on Kevin Lynch's Image of the City. It's been years since I read it, so it was good to be reminded of the key ideas. It seems we also have a common interest in Matt Webb's Interconnected blog (who has some notes on the book design of Image of the City). If you have an RSS addiction like me*, you can also subscribe to Peter's blog in either the billingual version or English only.

* currently seeking counselling and will break the habit soon

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tetralomo by cosmiko [tetra1.jpg:centre2] (hardware from: lomography.com)

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tribe test

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I've got mates Nice! It worked! If you're a tribe.net user, you can get the code here.

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but you can't see them Not nice! It seems this post won't show up in the RSS feed, visit the site if you want to see what it's all about.

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tribe list For completeness, here's a list of tribes that I follow on tribe.net:

(except for all you lazy oiks who just read me via RSS, who'll see absolutely nothing)

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urban embroidery tags: consultation, participation, community Note to self: Must find a way to involve these guys in my next community consultation project...
This week we've been running a 5 day workshop with a class of 30 nine year olds in Year 4 at the Jenny Hammond Primary School with our friend and collaborator Loren Chasse. The workshop focused on 'everyday archaeology' - a term we're using to describe investigations of the local environment using a combination of Feral Robots, Urban Tapestries, Sound Scavenging, an Endless Landscape, StoryCubes and eBooks. Over the course of the week we have been using everyday archaeology to teach the students about relationships between the environment and pollution. The students have been acting as scientists and archaeologists to gather evidence about the world around them to uncover causes of pollution. This has been a trigger for them to imagine what they could do to help the environment and think about the kind of world they want to grow up in. The students gathered audio recordings, photographic evidence and used the Feral Robots to detect air quality in a local park, wrote stories based on the Endless Landscape, designed their own robots and created structures and environments using the StoryCubes.
from Urban Tapestries

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vision on tags: photography, furniture, tv, moblog, flickr Thursday hyperlinked: Listened to radioopensource.org podcast called Photography 2.0 - disappointingly but predictably flickr-centric - would have appreciated some recognition of the work that's been done over the years by moblog.co.uk (even back in the day when flickr was still spelt with an e) to further the discussion about citizen journalism - especially as I flagged it in the comments and they discussed the impact of the London bombings - some great arguments however from Fred Ritchin about quality over quantity and the predominance of the self in the million images a day being uploaded to flickr - attended Housing Forum conference - heard Regional Director talk about how we need to deliver 30% more housing with only 15% more cash - if we move any faster I'm seriously worried about quality being stuffed by quantity - look closely if you buy a new house in the UK over the next few years - also heard Left Bank Two by Wayne Hill which took us all back to Take Hart - impossible to remember Tony without Morph - arrived back at my desk to find a mailshot in my inbox from the London Architecture Diary pointing me to a furniture company called Morph - they sell recycled and restored furniture - site chokes in firefox though - find a link in Alfie's blog in my blogline subscriptions to the latest moblog.co.uk collaboration - live photos from the invasion of Didcot power station by Greenpeace - still delivering citizen journalism.

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404 WMD Just been passed this via a friend, via Radio 2, and I've passed it on to boingboing.net. Head over to Google and type in 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' and then press the 'I feel lucky' button. Some interesting links to some books and DVDs over at Amazon and an astute business move at the bottom - a link to WMD t-shirts over at cafepress.com.

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watch this space Received in this morning's post:
Dear Mr Annable, We are really glad you were able to attend the MADA Onsite Exhibition, Birmingham last year and hope that you enjoyed it. As sponsors, we were really pleased to be involved with such interesting and international design. We intend to continue with a similar idea, possibly with another practice, later on this year, keep an eye out for information on our website at www.zumbotelstaff.co.uk We hope to see you at the event.
Well isn't that nice of them to keep in touch? Revisiting my MADA Onsite entry at the end of the above link I discover that it also carried another Alsop link. I think that's quite enough coverage for him for a while, shout if you catch me doing it again any time soon.

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download for charity Just received in my e-mail and posted here as an addendum to a conversation I was having with a friend last night. Today is the launch of bignoisemusic.com.
Oxfam's music download service - www.bignoisemusic.com - is now live. Pick from over 300,000 tracks to download - including exclusive downloads from Coldplay, George Michael and Faithless. Besides the best music we've two Coldplay Gold Disks to give away & everyone who registers today will be entered into a draw to win a digital music player that holds over 2,000 songs! Single tracks cost 99p - but can drop to 75p if you buy in bulk. Most albums cost Ł7-99 - but drop to Ł5-99 the more you buy. You can get FREE 30 second clips - so you can try before you buy! And remember that 10p in every Ł1 that you spend on www.bignoisemusic.com goes to Oxfam to support our work to end poverty.

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second thoughts Ok, hang on, my enthusiasm has waned. It doesn't work with Mozilla: The site you have tried to enter requires Internet Explorer 5 (or better) with Windows Media Player 7 (or better) on Windows XP, 2000, Me or 98. Not only that, but the mail shot that I received had everyone's address in the CC field. Idiots.

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quote I've been sent an apology: Dear Rob, Thanks for your note. I am very, very sorry for the error that meant the email addresses were filed under bcc. I want to offer my profuse apologies. I am very sorry. Gareth

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Bollywood breaks I've snaffled a copy of the fantastic Bollywooded mash-up of Micheal Jackson's Don't Stop Till You Get Enough. You can find the link over at boingboing.net. Get it quick before the server dies from too much traffic (boingboing is rapidly heading towards a million hits a day). Further comments on the post in question unearthed links to boomselection and Si Begg; who's got a 2 hour set coming up on Radio 6 this weekend. All told, a very successful morning of mp3 hunting.

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busked New Street, Birmingham City Centre. 1:45pm. Buskers. Looked like this: [buskers.jpg:centre2] Sounded like this (1.2 Mb mp3 link)

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confused Posted as an offering to those crazy mash-up kids over at GYBO, or anybody else who Googles for that mandatory, obscure spoken word sample that all good bootlegs seem to need. I give you my strangest ever answer machine message: confused.wav

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oops ok, ok - I'm an idiot. The link was wrong before, all fixed now. Try again.

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return ticket to hell and back the darkness breastship Justin Hawkins, front man of The Darkness, greets the crowd at last night's Birmingham gig in what I can only describe as a flying breastship. With flashing nipples. Pyrotechnics, wit and impressive musicianship. Teasing us with the occasional opening bar of a Van Halen track and reminding us not to take it all too seriously by stripping off to his slightly less than perfect (i.e. just like the rest of us) body. Rock fan or not, it's a great show, go and see it.

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guitarchitecture

Buildings that rock: Architectural dream no. 1256

To make a building whose narrative develops when you walk through it with the exact same change in tempo as Lynard Skynard's Freebird. It would take nine minutes and seven seconds to complete the journey.

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A handful of men For War of the Worlds fans: I noticed a billboard on the way to work this morning advertising a guest appearance by Jeff Wayne, composer of the 70s musical version, at St. Paul's Gallery in Birmingham tomorrow night. It's currently being re-released as a collector's edition. Remastered, remixed, DVD etc, etc. A whole bunch of new ways to hear David Essex singing about a brave new world.
Take a look around you at the world we've come to know,
Does it seem to be much more than a crazy circus show?
But maybe from the madness something beautiful will grow,
In a brave new world,
With just a handful of men.
We'll start, we'll start all over again
All over again,
All over again,
All over again,
All over again.
Which, strangely, doesn't appear to need the fairer sex to begin repopulating the planet. Just a handful of men? I'd like to see them try. Scratch that. I wouldn't like to see that at all. links: Jeff Wayne's site and waroftheworldsonline.com

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Rodeohead rides to the BBC

The wonderful Rodeohead by Hard 'n Phirm has made it all the way to John Peel on Radio 1.

It went like this: Sean points it out to Xeni over at boingboing.net. I read it, and as a longstanding Radiohead fan, I follow the link and download it. I listen to it and I laugh. I laugh so hard that tears well in my eyes. I wipe them dry and when my sides stop aching I e-mail Mike Phirman from the band and thank him. Then I e-mail John Peel at the BBC and suggest he plays it on the radio. I tell Mike about my e-mail and he says:
Right on! Thanks, Rob. We really appreciate that. Hopefully it will get all the way to the lads themselves! Cheers,
Mike
Then John e-mails to say that he can't play mp3s on air. Yesterday I sent him a copy on CDR. As I type this, to my absolute delight, John is playing it. Hard 'n Phirm have got some much deserved UK air time and I got to send a message to John thanking him for teaching me about Half Man Half Biscuit a few years ago. I think that's called a win, win.

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listen again Here's the link to last nights show, it'll only be good for a week until the following Wednesday. Rodeohead gets played about 1hr 43 minutes into the show.

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white label Here's the tracklisting from the show.

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to be fair Since this entry has just gone up on boingboing, I thought I should clarify a couple of points. Firstly, when the BBC told me they couldn't play mp3s, I asked them if they meant technically or legally - they replied saying it was technical reasons that prevented it. I didn't enquire any further, but in my experience as a listener to the John Peel show, I've heard him use several different studios (including his own house 'Peel Acres') so perhaps some of them are less well equipped. It does seem odd that Radio 1 isn't tooled up to deliver mp3s. Secondly, as I've mentioned in one of the writebacks below, when I said John e-mailed me I meant the John collective; it was one of his colleagues that I was talking to. I'm sure you can allow me a little artistic license in the re-telling of this story.

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CDR Never let it be said that my entries don't give good value for money. I'm pleased to see that the 'BBC can't play mp3s discussion' is continuing over at boingboing.net. I should confess that the conversation is moving out of my field of knowledge, as I know nothing about audio compression and CDs. The CDR I sent was burnt using a popular piece of software with an option to create CDs that can be played in a normal CD player. Is this what Mike Todd calls a linear version? If so, then his explanation is correct. I'm pretty sure that John used the CD I sent him, since it was confirmed as received by his team, and when he introduced the track he cited me as the source - when you listen you can hear that I managed to confuse him with a comment about how to pronounce my name. I should have had more faith, John Peel has probably introduced more oddly named bands/people than I've had hot dinners.

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Biscuit? Another Peel related entry: I was lucky enough to see a Half Man Half Biscuit gig this week. It's Peel related because it was he who revitalised my appreciation of them years ago when he played their Paintball's Coming Home one evening. Years before that I'd only heard Trumpton Riots, but it was through Peel I came to appreciate the true quality of their razor sharp social critique. They're funny, intelligent and they play guitar. That's enough for me.

hmhb

Two hour set, all the classics, including 99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd, Running Order Squabblefest, C.A.M.R.A. Man and The Light at the End of the Tunnel Is The Light Of An Oncoming Train.
She stayed with me until
She moved to Notting Hill
She said it was the place she needs to be
Where the cocaine is fair trade
And frequently displayed
Is the Buena Vista Social Club CD
There was an interesting mix of people in the crowd but one thing bound us all together; no matter what our background, every single one of us has at some point had our ego sliced in two by a painfully accurate song line that's exposed us for what we really are. Great stuff. Somewhat reluctantly, I'm going to post some video. I say reluctantly because if you're not a fan already then the crappy phonecam quality won't help matters; but it's here so I might as well share it. Links to past entries referring to the mighty HMHB: 1, 2 and (mp)3.

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Now it's in my mind? Ten points to the first person who can tell me the source of the following poetry.
I've been sitting here all day thinking
Same old thing ten years away thinking
Now my days are gone, memories linger on
Thoughts of when I was boy Pennyfarthings on the street riding
Motorcars were funny things, frightning
Bow and hoops and spinning tops
Annie gretzel's lollipops
Comic cuts, all different things Areoplanes tied up with string flying
Telephones and talking things sighing
A radio and phonograph, Charlie Chaplin made us laugh
Silently falling about
Familiar things I keep around, near me
Memories of my younger days, clearly
Now it's in my mind?
Everyday I find, thoughts of when I was boy

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Grandad We have a winner! James gets in first with a combination of vague memories and Google. The text in question is the lyrics to Grandad - the #1 hit from 1971 sung by Clive Dunn. For reasons I'm not prepared to explain, it popped up via the Winamp shuffle button at work this morning and I decided to post it here. I took out the giveaway chorus to make it a little trickier. Congratulations James, you've won...absolutely nothing.

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leather shorts make it difficult to run About a week ago I was driving in to work when I passed a pick up truck belonging to the new Kerrang radio station. I decided to ditch the Today programme and tune in. They were about to do an outside broadcast that involved reading out the number in a phone box and the first person to ring it won a prize. It didn't quite go according to plan, as they managed to read out the number for wrong phone box. As he stood there waiting for the call, you could hear another phone box ringing in the distance. Not a very impressive start. Nevertheless I stuck with it for a few days and found that if I just listened to the music and not the DJ'ing inbetween it was a good station that played some great tracks. Yesterday, I got in the car at about 7:30am, turned on the radio and listened as their roving reporter described how he was stood in Wolverhampton city centre dressed in lederhosen. Apparently it was International Lederhosen Day. He was just about to explain what his plan was when he was suddenly cut off mid-sentence. There was a scuffling noise. A pause. Heavy breathing. Someone was running. More heavy breathing, footsteps darting quickly over concrete. In the background was a voice, 'Oi! Stop!'. He was running down the street chasing the kid who'd just stole his phone live on air. In lederhosen. Back in the studio they were as stunned as everyone else. They managed to get through to the second reporter, who confirmed, breathlessly, that they'd been running through the streets of Wolverhampton after a kid in a gray hooded top, but they couldn't catch him. The rest of the show was devoted to the story of the two of them searching the city for the mugger. They even managed to get him to answer the phone, whereupon he proceeded to grunt a few times in an effort to claim innocence and say that his name was 'D'. It was great radio. For once, the bits in between the music were more compelling than the music. There may be something of great importance to be learnt from this story, but for the moment it seems that the most obvious moral to this tale is not to make a phone call from Wolverhampton at 7:30 in the morning when you're wearing lederhosen.

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stalkers Having learnt that I've turned back to the Today programme, Kerrang radio has sent out operatives to ensure that I'm duly reprimanded. This morning I had to endure the sight of two underdressed women waiting for me at some traffic lights. It was awful. Really, it was. In the background I spied the reporter of phone theft fame learing at them over his microphone. [kerrang.jpg:centre3]

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guitarchitecture

Buildings that rock: Architectural dream no.[series summation]*

To make a building as satisfying to experience on every level - from the minutest detail to the sum of the whole - as Jimi Hendrix's Little Wing.

The feel of the door handles could be sensed from a mile away. It's place in the urban grain would be understood as you put your weight against the door.

(see previous dreams: 654 and 1256) * nail this one and there'll be nothing left - series ends

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Who are you?
The only bit of Live 8 that made any sense to me was the Who's performance. They played Who Are You? with the faces of world leaders flashing up behind them and followed it with Won't Get Fooled Again - one of the best records ever made - meet the new boss, same as the old boss - right every time. And they didn't say anything in between. Everybody else made speeches - the idiotic boy Barbie Doll singer in Razorlight came out with the amazingly erudite: 'we're here to make poverty history, right?' which got him a lot of applause and made him look really good even though, if this was real life, he wouldn't make it fronting a Stooges tribute band. Saint Bob bought on an Ethiopian woman, a survivor of the famine of 1985, and made a speech. He introduced Madonna who came on dressed in white, the same as the band and choir which I read as a sort of show-biz code for we're all equal, and dragged the unfortunate woman all over the stage like a human prop. Jo Whiley (who openly professed to NOT being a Who fan) interviewed people on the front row -
'Are you enjoying the music?'
'Yeah, great'
'And what about the cause, you know, Make Poverty History?'
'Eh? Oh yeah, that too. Yeah, great.' The cause is a worthy one but the intention to 'Make Poverty History' is utterly naive. It's about as realistic a possibility as smashing capitalism. Capitalism is at the root of third world poverty. Poverty is a necessary side effect of capitalism - the accumulation of wealth and the creation of an underclass. Without poverty there can be no wealth. A leading botanist recently claimed that if every nation on earth lived as well as America and Great Britain it would take three planets to sustain us. So there's the answer, and try telling this to Chris Martin, Bono, Sting, Madonna and co - let's Make Wealth History.
from wrecklesseric.com

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memo Note to self - buy this single:

William Campbell & Kevin MacNeil - 'Local Man Ruins Everything' (7") (Fantastic Plastic)

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memo 2 and this too:

Lagos Chop Up (Honest Jon's)

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More mash please Following the previous post, here's a link to a boingboing.net entry - it seems MTV are joining this band wagon too. Here in the UK, the Q music channel has also had a mash up feature for some time.

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Pirate radio More coverage of the now infamous DJ Dangermouse mash-up of the Beatles and Jay-Z, Black and White albums can be found over at Wired. I downloaded this a few weeks ago and, frankly, it's over rated. However, the extra publicity that it's brought to the mash-up arena is beginning to make the discovery of new work easier. After my previous entry's link to City of Sound I was moving through some of his comments and was delighted to find a link to the boomselection site that I was looking at a few weeks ago. I was even more delighted to find that he'd done some of the hard work for me and pulled out a link from the archives to an astounding track called Raiding the 20th Century. It's thirty nine minutes of musical genius that's also full of fascinating spoken word pieces and more than a few cheeky tips o' the hat to the forefathers. Which, in turn, reminded me to revisit the Coldcut led venture piratetv.net. Live streaming feeds most nights of the week, a chat room and occasionally live video feeds to boot. My favourite though, is the theater section. Mercifully, they've finally finished running through the entire Tolkien series and have moved on to a Twilight Zone play. Go back up the list and revisit the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds*, and then go home and ask your TV why it can't deliver anything so exciting or enagaging. Also worth a look: London Booted, a collaborative project to rework the Clash's seminal album. Donations to charity invited before downloading.

*In a wonderfully circular fashion, I've just realised that sections of the Orson Welles play make a few appearances in the Raiding of the 20th Century track.

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keep your ears peeled I effectively turned my back on Radio 1's evening schedule after John Peel died. It turns out that was a big mistake. Stuck in traffic after a late night at the office last week, I caught some of Annie Mac's show and the opening few tracks on the following show hosted by Rob da Bank. In the end I was wishing the traffic jam had kept me in the car longer. Annie Mac has a tendency to play tracks from the Ninja Tunes label, which is reason enough to try it out; as usual you can listen again via the web. If it's not your bag, stick around for the Rob da Bank slot on Thursday nights - the best way I can (not) describe it is to point out that even after being five or six tracks into the show, I still didn't have a clue what was going on. It absolutely refuses to be pigeon-holed, so I shan't attempt it, just go and try it. Highlights from last weeks show were Art Brut, Rachel Lipson and Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo De Contonou Dahomey (streaming video).

bonus post: anyone who'd like to hear John Peel's nonchalant voice again is welcome to revisit the mp3 I posted last summer of the wonderful Rodeohead by Hard'n'Phirm [mp3] [notes]

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radio purgatory Mistyped URLs often provide sublime discoveries. Searching for something different to listen to here at the office this morning, I suggested that we try Radio Paradise - a site that my father-in-law recently suggested to me. I passed on the address incorrectly and we ended up at Paradise Radio - 'The Legends Of Italo-Disco And Euro-Beat'. We've just been listening to Video Kids - Woodpeckers From Space (Disco Mania Remix), which someone requested specifically from the list of over 2000 tracks on the server. Unfortunately, the recently played list tells me that we've just missed Sex Shop Boys - Big Tits (Brasil Import Remix). I'm off to request it again.

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request denied I'm not allowed to request the Sex Shop Boys because it's only just been played - I've gone for Boys by Sabrina instead. Can't wait.

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Summertime love Alright! [paradise_request.jpg:centre2]

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decay by 60dB It's been a bad week, architecturally speaking; making spaces and places hasn't been as much fun as usual. Problems on site, a roof that wouldn't fit, wasting time explaining why it wasn't my fault and grappling with more design codes is a small sample of the last seven days. This week's bid and this week's design brief has some great examples of the dangers of the belief that codes are always necessary and that all aspects of a project can be deftly summarised using recognisably urban designer type words. For example,
...the site layout should be sensitive to the nearby linear canal and edges of the space should be softened with the use of bollards...
If anyone can point me to either a non-linear canal or a soft bollard, I shall be forever grateful. I'm paraphrasing the document in question, but you get the picture. The problem with employing an army of consultants to produce a document like this is that the need to keep saying something outweighs the ability to recognise, and therefore keep quiet about, the blindingly obvious. Musically speaking, it's been a great week. Hence the chosen category for today's entry.
t  =    0.16 V
A
where
t = reverberation time in seconds (s)
V = volume of hall in cubic metres (m3)
A = area of absorption in square metres (m2) Much like the academic culture that has really important things to say about linear canals, reverberation is, according to my Longman text book, the persistence of sound in an enclosure due to repeated reflections at the boundaries. t, in the equation above, is the time taken for a sound to decay by 60dB. One night last week I became a small fraction of A whilst I was sat in the V of the Symphony Hall in Birmingham. When you're sat in the cheap seats1 at the back of hall, as I was during a recital of Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, the value of t becomes very important to you. The wonderful thing about listening to the CBSO in their own hall, is that the designers who were charged with the responsibility of keeping a close eye on the way V and A monkeys around with t, did a great job. In truth, I don't think there's any such thing as the cheap seats, acoustically speaking, and personally I like the view from top2. cbso Regardless of your opinion of classical music, if you live in or near Birmingham you should go and listen to the CBSO at least once in your life. If you do, here's a few things to look for whilst you're waiting for the house band to finish tuning up and for the conductor to swagger on stage with all the usual pomp and circumstance. Since different performances require different optimum values for t, being able to adjust A or V is necessary to get the most out of a space. At the Symphony Hall it's possible to change both. acoustic adjustments On either side of the organ are two large sets of doors. When these are open the hall increases in size by a third of its usual volume. Around the edges are retractable curtains that increase the area of absorption and above the stage is a lighting gantry whose height can be adjusted to reflect sound at the stalls more effectively. Some time ago I attended a lecture3 by the acoustic engineer who designed the hall, he was more than a little smug about what a good job he'd done (both here and in other halls across the world) but there's no denying that fact that he got it right. Here's a quick summary of the music for those more interested in the art than the science, as opposed to the art of the science which I've been talking about so far. The wonderfully named Modest Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain was a good, bouncy start to the proceedings to liven us all up; Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no.4 was complex, restless, unstructured and perplexing; Tchaikovsky was, as usual, flawless. Towards the end of the Rachmaninov piece I started to find a way in by imagining it as the proceeds of an argument between two lovers. Neither of whom were in the right. In the car on the way home the DJ on Classic FM spoke about how Mozart was responsible for introducing the argumentative interplay of opera arias into piano concertos. It seems I wasn't far from the mark and the two lovers should blame Mozart rather than each other. Other musical journeys over the last week: At work, getting our daily fix of 'Legends'4 on the local radio station I've mentioned previously, we found ourselves listening to 'Crazy, Crazy Nights' by Kiss. My knowledge of Kiss is minimal, so I decided to download some more of their work and chose their MTV unplugged album from allofmp3.com. Half way through the set they play a track called '2000 Man'. One of the partners points out that it's a cover of a Rolling Stones track but he can't remember which album. Google tells us that it's from their 1967 album 'Their Satanic Majesties Request' (which, strangely, sounds like it should be a Kiss album). Ultimately we end up listening to and unanimously enjoying a track on that album called 'She's a Rainbow'. I'm willing to bet that most of you haven't heard either that album or that track; it's good, you should try it out. I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll be able to get hold of a copy. Over at kryogenix.org, some kind soul has posted a link in the comments to a download of the first Half Man Half Biscuit track I ever heard (thanks to John Peel) called 'Paintball's Coming Home'. Inspired by Stuart's entry about a particularly dodgy quiz to determine how middle class you are, the track is the perfect accompaniment. There's a second version of this track with different lyrics which you can also download from the site I added to the linklog a few weeks ago. Last week's Mixing It on Radio 3 had a collection of tracks from bands based in Montreal. It was a fantastic show and you've got until tomorrow night to exploit the 'listen again' option on the BBC web site. Tracks to listen out for are the curious Le tresor de la langue by Rene Lussier, which '...was written as a celebration of the Québécois French language, and features some of his improvising colleagues following the speech patterns.'; also the breathtaking Le Projet Ulysse by Christian Calon. Christian has this to say about his work:
The architectural dimension of sound and a reflection on the narrative processes are the main focus of my present work centered around the ideas of Time, presence and transformation. Through various forms including spatial sound installations, acousmatic or radio pieces, my recent pieces explore the modality of the audible and of the listening experience. Space, at the heart of my reflection, has become today an essential way through to the central question of Time.
It seems the values V, A and t are important to him too. It also seems plausible that he had a hand in writing the design code I'm working with at the moment, perhaps whilst he was travelling along a non-linear canal. Pensively.

notes:

  1. Ł7
  2. I've captured this view before in the sketches category
  3. My family often jokes that my grandfather's grave stone should start with the words 'When I was in the desert...' due to the way his stories about the war would always start. I'm beginning to wonder if mine should say 'I once attended a lecture on...'
  4. I learnt this week that this is a word ill suited to describing a radio show, it comes from the latin legendum, which means 'to read about'.

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guitarchitecture tags: guitarchitecture, music, nightmare, dream

Buildings that rock: Architectural nightmare no. 666

I'm trapped in a building by Satriani. It's suffocating and claustrophobic with nowhere to stand back and view the spaces. If there were you'd realise there are no spaces to view. An architecture whose rhythm is drowned out by the relentless onslaught of over-hand tapped out details on a specialist instrument tuned in a way only the designer and small handful of specialists can understand. Occasionally saved by ironic Hendrix references that provide relief, the neo-classic-rock juxtapositions draw from the collective memory a tantalising moment of populist richness, before disappearing again in a purple haze of drop-D to the power of ten. Bill and Ted's phone booth lands in the foyer. Visitors from the Ry Cooder school of New Urbanism are being held hostage behind impenetrable walls of speed-metal. A flock of students try to mimic the building in the popular new CAD program - AirGuitarUp.

satriani

Joe Satriani. Breathtaking, virtuoso guitarist - terrible architect. (Will the nightmares continue? See previous dreams: 654, 1256 and n=total)

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I like smoke and lightening I learnt something interesting this morning. Forgive me if you already know this, it's possible I'm the only one who wasn't aware of it. The term 'heavy metal' was given to us by Steppenwolf; it's from the lyric Heavy metal thunder, in their song 'Born to be Wild'. What's doubly interesting (for me), is that I was pondering over the source of the phrase only last week.

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guitarchitecture

Buildings that rock funk: Architectural dream no. 654

To make a building whose entrance is as flawless as the beginning of Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Walking in the door and down the hall during the first thirty seconds would put a spring in everyone's step. (see previous dream no. 1256)

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Pimping turntables If anybody is in the market for a turntable, you could do a lot worse than the Bush MTT1, which is currently on sale at Richer Sounds for Ł39.95. It got a blazing review and 5 stars from What Hi-Fi magazine. I bought one this afternoon. I just dropped Frank Zappa's Hot Rats on to test it and it sounds sweet.
I'm a little pimp
With my hair gassed back
Pair a khaki pants
With my shoe shined black
I got a little lady
And she walks that street
Tellin’ all the boys
That she can’t be beat

Willie the Pimp - Frank Zappa, Hot Rats

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U2 on tour The Edge:
"Touring will always be a very important aspect of what we do. When we're in the studio, getting close to finishing a song, you inevitably start thinking about how it's going to be performed. A song you don't think you'd play live, that's not a good song."
Interesting. That's exactly what I was thinking about when The Killers left the stage and U2 came on at the recent gig in Cardiff I went to. How could The Killers have ever imagined they'd be supporting U2 when they were writing Hot Fuss? The quote is from an interesting piece in Wired by William Gibson.

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Poetics électronique At the suggestion of my father-in-law, I've just been listening to Radio 3's Late Junction. It's fantastic. Some beautiful stuff. The most beautiful of which, from Monday's show, was a piece called Poem électronique by Edgard Varèse. Unknown to me until now, it turns out he was the Father of electronic music. Poem électronique sounds like it could be Aphex Twin's latest project, yet it was written in 1958.
"I long for instruments obedient to my thought and whim, with their contribution of a whole new world of unsuspected sounds, which will lend themselves to the exigencies of my inner rhythm." - June 1917
The interconnectedness of this morning's browsing is a treat. I spent the weekend clearing out my cellar in preparation for it being waterproofed and becoming my study. When I opened my copy of The Poetics of Space on the tram, he talked of the phemonological impact of the cellar and the inhabitant as a diagram of all the houses previously lived in. On the Varèse site I visited there is a diagram he sketched of Poem électronique, which is now my desktop wallpaper. It replaced the album cover I had found a couple of weeks ago at franklarosa.com of a 1950's LP of electronic music.

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3 years on

Praise for the wardens ready to find,
Anyone caught saying graphic design.

Time for the annual return to one of my very first posts. To my surprise, it turns out I've been doing this for three years now. Don't forget (as I have this year) the maple syrup. Going for bonus points:

Look what came up on shuffle during the tram ride home: If I Had Possesion Over Pancake Day (mp3 link)

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affordable housing Tags: housing,conference A quick note to announce that I'll be attending the AJ Designing Affordable Housing conference tomorrow. If you're going to be there too, drop me a line.

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Hi honey, I'm home Is there a cake in the world that can rival the Eccles cake? I doubt it. I'm back. It's been a busy few weeks. Thanks go out to Alfie for keeping the motor running with a couple of entries whilst I was away. If you're a lazy aRSSe who tunes in via the newsfeed, you should have received a few image transmissions from me too. In the intervening time I have... This last one was the trickiest.

Building Design magazine ran an article this week called 'Impact 100', it's a chart of the top 100 architects that have had the most impact on the industry in the last year. By combining a number of factors - total value of projects, number of prizes won and number press column inches - they created an impact rating and constructed a chart. Norman Foster came out on top. No surprises there then.

I wasn't on the list. No surprise there either, but as I sat in the living room of a resident who'd lived in his house since it was first built in 1953, raised a family, lost a wife, ended up alone; I couldn't help thinking that he'd probably put me pretty high on the impact list as I asked him to give up his home for the good of the community. I'll remember that next time Foster makes another wobbly bridge or tower block shaped like a vegetable. George Ferguson, President of the RIBA has suggested this week that the future winners of the Stirling Prize, of which the tower block shaped vegetable was one, should be made to wait a year before being allowed to enter. A defect in 300 of the 'gherkin's' windows sent a sheet of glass crashing to street this week. It's a good idea, it should at least get out of the standard defects liability period before we all bow down and pay homage. Maybe it should be even longer. Maybe we should wait until a generation of people have used it. Maybe we should ask the people of that generation if it should win. Coming up: sketches and photos exploring the contents of the aforementioned 'Townscape' book. It's nice to be back.

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Back in the RSS Hello. I'm back in the saddle after a little time away from work and information technology. The office is a little quieter than usual at the moment; partly due to a touch of autumnal melancholy, partly due to the fact that we're a man down. My colleague, friend and axe mentor, Alan Morrissey, has jumped ship and taken a job with the new Birmingham outpost of Ken Shuttleworth's practice Make. He'll be working on the new extension to the Mailbox development that I mentioned a few months ago. Good luck Al, I'll be thinking of you every time a Loudon Wainwright track shuffles to the top of the office Wurlitzer. He doesn't have a web site, but you could still join me in wishing him good luck, as I've just caught him posting a comment over at City Of Sound: Paper buildings force the return of maintenance? I'm sure Dan won't mind us hijacking his thread for well wishing. For the next few entries you and I are going to get out and about more. We'll get some fresh air, be more haptic and allow our eyes to be bigger than our bellies. During my break I've seen some stuff and made some stuff worth sharing. Here's the agenda: I'll add links as we go and with a bit of luck we'll also catch a couple of long neglected entry categories along the way. Somewhere in the midst of all that I suppose I'll have to stop shirking and say something about the Stirling Prize. No promises though.

p.s. - Great news: Joel is back. Bad news: I've had to switch comments off temporarily while I deal with some spam. V. Bad news: Comment spam continues - mail me instead.

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base camp tags: help, competition, everest I need some help. Does anybody know anybody who has been to the Mount Everest base camp? I need to know about prevailing winds or indeed whether there is such a thing in that climate/topography.

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whale beats 13lb of T.N.T I'm at my father's house today, posting this via e-mail. It's his 60th birthday this week and I've come home to give him his gift. He's unearthed a copy of the Daily Express from the day he was born and on the front cover, amid news about the destruction of Budapest, is a piece about a stranded whale. It seems animal rights have changed somewhat in the last 60 years.
Thirteen pounds of T.N.T failed yesterday to move a giant whale stranded on the Mull of Kintyre. A naval squad wearing gas masks then hacked the carcase with axes and played a strong jet of water on it. It slowly broke up and lime will complete the destruction.
Let's hope the poor chap was dead before they got to him. Perhaps if he had been an ordinary size whale, rather than a giant, they would have simply picked him up and put him back in the water.

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so it goes [blur.jpg:centre2] salvaged from my photo archive after reading about BSAG's musings on the most metaphysically slippery of all abstract systems - time.

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boring John Hill points out that the latest online edition of Icon includes an article about what has become boring in the world of architecture and design.
Sustainable Design: The only design project that’s really sustainable is the one you don’t do. The idea that you can save the planet by consuming resources is absurd. If you want to be really sustainable, buy an old house, fill it with antiques and walk everywhere.
It's good. We fell about laughing in our office when we read it a few weeks ago. I'd intended to write to the letters page about it, but never got round to it (because I'm busy reading too many blogs). It would have gone something like this:
Dear Icon, We love your magazine and can barely contain ourselves with excitement during the month long wait for the next edition. You really are the best and I hope my gushing enthusiasm ensures me a mention on your letters page. The article about things that are boring was particularly good. I have one further addition to the list: Sycophantic praise: OK, OK, so the magazine is proving to be popular. Is it really necessary to fill two thirds of your letters page with people who have little else to say other than 'I love you'? Ignoring the opportunity to have some lively debate in favour of the ad nauseum repetition of sycophantic groupies lining up outside your dressing room door is BORING.
Do you think they'd have printed it? Of course I've done my fair share of praising the magazine myself in the past, but I'd like to think it was accompanied by some useful critique*. Although I daren't scroll to the bottom of this page to use the search box to find out.

* obviously, I'm claiming this very entry to be useful critique too. Feel free to disagree in the comments. Or just tell me how great I am.

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boring response Lifted from the comments (I nearly missed it due to spam shenanigins) - Icon editor responds to my entry on 'Boring' article:
Of course we would have printed your letter Robert. Trouble is, most of the letters we get are from sycophantic groupies lining up outside our dressing room to say 'I love you'. If people actually got worked up enough to send us the type of letter you're talking about, we'd be delighted. Which is partly why we did the 'boring' piece in the first place... Marcus, editor, icon
Your mission, should you choose to accept it ... get worked up enough!

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cafe venue [venue.jpg:centre3]

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connect me up

Wanted: pointers and advice about making an RGB/scart video cable.

I have the cable, the RGB connectors for one end and the scart plug for the other - I just need a HOWTO and a diagram to help me wire it up. Anybody know any good links? Alternatively, if you have to skills to do it for me, you're more than welcome to come and work for food/drinks.

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answer machine So a client phones the office this morning and asks for some advice about how best to fill in a three foot hole under his flat. We adminster advice. The phone goes down and we realise that he said he lived in the first floor flat. Odd. Perhaps the three foot hole beneath him is the flat below. This gets us thinking about filling the inside of a flat with concrete, which reminds us (again) of Rachael Whiteread's Turner/KLF prize winning cast of a Victorian house, which turns into a discussion about the latest development in the Saatchi inferno, which prompts us to share our memories of the 1997 Sensations exhibition at the Royal Academy, which leads us back to Whiteread's casts of the underside of chairs, which helps us to wander around the pieces in our mind and think about how crap the Chapman brothers are, how good Richard Billingham is and how indifferent we are to Tracey Emin, until, finally, we agree unanimously, grinning like fools, that Ron Muek's Dead Dad was the most breathtaking experience of the whole collection. I hope we get a phone call like that tomorrow. Mercifully, there is yet to be any report of Dead Dad's cremation.

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dumped By the looks of the latest BBC report, it seems I'm not the only one who feels indifferent to the work of Tracey Emin.

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another image Here's another example of Muek's work: Big Boy

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deep purple

Fashion crisis: I need a pair of purple, velvet, flared trousers. I need them by 2000 GMT tomorrow. Help.

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deposit of fat Depositing notes from mind and pockets; climbing confluences from the last few weeks.

Visiting: wolfmountain.co.uk

A new indoor climbing wall has recently opened in Wolverhampton. Ł6 registration and the Ł5 peak / Ł4 off peak. Visited for a brief look last week - still some construction going on but looks like there are some promising routes. Due for a re-grade as some are too easy for the stated grade. Price of entry may suffer from similar problem as (the now closed) Rock Face in Birmingham - needs a smaller price bracket for guys like me who want to get in and out quickly having blitzed the bouldering wall.

Reading: Primo Levi, The Periodic Table, chapter entitled Iron

Sandro climbed the rocks more by instinct than technique, trusting the strength of his hands and saluting ironically, in the projecting rock to which he clung, the silicon, calcium, and magnesium he had learned to recognise in the course on mineralogy. He seemed to feel that he had wasted a day if he had not in some way gotten to the bottom of his reserve of energy, and then even his eyes became brighter and he explained to me that, with a sedantary life, a deposit of fat forms behind the eyes, which is not healthy; by working hard the fat is consumed and the eyes sink back into their sockets and become keener.

Training: climbtherock

A short review of the Climb The Rock training machine, to formalise my thoughts so that my approach to it might be more focused next time I use one. I found one lying dormant in a gym and had fun covering its virgin holds with chalk.

Related entries: diagramming, crimping and cranking and foot where?

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diagramming I found this map today and decided to diagram my interaction with it. The green and blue lines are the marks I made on it. Ten points to the first person who guesses its identity and purpose correctly. [diagram.jpg:centre2]

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and the answer is... As I suspected he would, Bobby H read the map correctly (see comments). Ten points to him. Here's the answer (quicktime video link).

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Do(h!)main Oops. The site (and my e-mail) was down for most of yesterday as I committed the cardinal sin of forgetting to renew my domain name. Luckily this isn't a commercial venture with an address that people are queuing up to wrestle from my grip. It wasn't claimed by another Annable. In my defence, I never received an e-mail reminder from my site host UK Web Solutions. They're forgiven though, as this has been the first the glitch in an otherwise impressive service. I get a lot of stuff for a small amount of money and their tech support is very fast. I'm happy to recommend them to anyone searching for a new home. The only downside is that I can't telnet or ssh into the account like I can with freeshell.

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Hunter's Moon It's 3am. I was warned that there would be cloud but I chose to get out of bed and see for myself since tonight would be the last total lunar eclipse for two and a half years. I imagine that even the bubbly Mr Jack Horkheimer (Real Player link) is a little less jovial this morning as technology has let us down as well as nature. None of the webcasts are working. It's raining on the East Antrim camera. It's raining on the University of North Dakota. The camera in Iran that I was relying on to be clear? Parssky.net could not be found. Please check the name and try again. Even NASA is timing out. White light hits the atmosphere, blue light scatters, the red light of every sunrise and sunset simultaneously strikes October's Hunter's Moon. It's the Blood Moon. Or so I'm told. All this talk of hunters and moons reminds me of a book I scribbled about on a paper bag. I'm going to take a walk down the street for one last look.
And it revolted me. Because it was a thing that, though you couldn't understand what it was made of, or perhaps precisely because you couldn't understand, seemed different from all the things in our life, our good things of plastic, of nylon, of chrome-plated steel, duco, synthetic resins, plexiglass, aluminium, vinyl, formica, zinc, asphalt, asbestos, cement, the old things among which we were born and bred. It was something incompatible, extraneous. ... It spread out, imposing on our familiar landscape not only its light of an unsuitable colour, but also its volume, its weight, its incongruous substantiality. And then, all over the face of the Earth - the surfaces of the metal plating, iron armatures, rubber pavements, glass domes - over every part of us that was exposed, I felt a shudder pass.
The Soft Moon, TimeAndTheHunter by Italo Calvino

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when the moon hits your eye The second trip outdoors only provided more clouds. I never saw the eclipse, unlike Joel and all these smug people. The next night the Hunter's Moon was out and as bright as I've ever seen it. I took some photos to make myself feel better.

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euston to wolverhampton [handwritten.gif:centre2]

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suicide is painless This entry is best read to the sound of Loudon Wainwright's song, Donations (2Mb mp3 link).
When they go through my wallet and
fish out my license,
they'll learn my D.O.B
and my eyes were blue. As for my corneas
I don't care who gets 'em,
but all other organs and parts
are for you.
Back in early July, after reading an interesting article by Jacob Shwirtz on the perils of a persistent online legacy that will easily outlive your own feeble mortality, I decided that I should try and tidy up a little before I go. Surely I could spare my next of kin the trouble of deleting numerous online profiles by closing down all those that I no longer use? The first candidate that came to mind was an account I started a couple of years ago so that I could take part in my first MUD. Growing up playing text only adventure games on a Sinclair Spectrum gave me a natural curiosity about the world of Multi User Dungeons and I had promised myself for some time that I'd give it a try one day. It seems a little perverse spending your time playing a text based game not long after you get your first broadband connection, but I couldn't resist finding out about the structure and content of some of the games on offer. I chose Achaea. Mostly because it had the greatest number of positive reviews but also because a brief glance at the game description suggested that it was one of the most complex, having been running for a number of years. It proved to be a good choice, the complexity of the spaces and relationships surpassed all my expectations. It has its own dynamic and evolving economy, politics, theology, weather, conflicts and romances. The users all play an integral part in shaping both the spaces and events. It's backed up by sophisticated methods of interaction and messaging. There's a system of learning that helps you acquire new skills and encourage the use of mentors. You even get presented with your own journal to write your in-game memoirs in. They've been blogging in Achaea longer than most of us. I got quite enthusiastic for a while. I'd been given a new collection of complex urban spaces to crawl around and there was an equally complex cultural system to enrich it. However, the shine began to wear off after a few weeks. With all that content that I've just described there was only one common denominator that seemed to be the primary interest for a lot of the users and a lot of the story making (the administrators develop an ongoing narrative to help construct patterns of events). That common denominator was learning how to get better at kicking each other's butt. Rising to the top meant being the best at delivering the deadliest key bindings. You looking at me? I'm gonna k1-k3-p4 your skinny ass! I've got a black belt in macro commands! You get the picture; my interest quickly faded. Combine that with the fact that it seems impossible for anyone to envisage a MUD that doesn't involve Wizards wielding big staffs and Dark Lords of some description and the genre soon starts to get a little dull. Why isn't anyone interested in creating a MUD that takes normal, contemporary environments and lets the stories develop without any unnecessary Dungeons and/or Dragons? No, wait, we have that - it's called Real Life. Witness the following quote from the Achaea site news in April 2002. Bloody J.R.R.Tolkien has a lot to answer for.
Sartan Triumphant! Sartan, the Malevolent, the embodiment of Evil, consolidated his power today on the Isle of Evil. He raised Mount Mhaldor under the Baelgrim Fortress, which served as a magnet to any Evil influence within Sapience. As such, he gained control over the Ruby Sphinx, Thoth's Bough, the Demon mirror, the Garden of Midnight, the Stygian Totem, the Valley of Shadow, and Blood Falls. He further destroyed the one landmark most closely representing Chaos, the Cave of Golgotha (and with it, the Crystal Cave). Finally, he renamed the Fist of Dameron to the Fist of Sartan. In a gesture of spite, he forever cut the flow of essence to the Occultists Guild.
Enough already! It would have to go. The first of my attempts to tidy up my online estate. I logged on and checked my location.
The bright sun shines down, blanketing you with its life-giving warmth. Some graffiti has been scrawled here. It reads, "Don't not feed the humgii." The Ratman stands here quietly. A sewer grate looms darkly beneath your feet. A cute little humgii is sitting here placidly, attached to a leash. A runic totem is planted solidly in the ground. The corpse of Trevorp is here, impaled by a narrow bone. A note on it reads, 'This is the end of those who would trifle with Indrani.' There are 2 mounted archers here. Casually causing electricity to dance across the iron gauntlet worn on her right hand, a War Witch of Ashtan smirks here haughtily in tight red leather.
Seems as good a place as any to shuffle off this mortal coil. I shall end it and join the unfortunate Trevorp, who has clearly decided that he too has had his fill of the Fist of Sartan. I'll soon wipe the smirk from the War Witch's face. Drawing my final text only breath, I type the word SUICIDE and press enter...
We do not allow customers to commit permanent suicide, to protect financial records. Read HELP SUICIDE for alternatives.
Ah, I see.
It's been too long since I posted an entry of any real substance. By substance I think I probably mean an entry on architecture - I know at least a few of my readers visit mainly for that and could probably do without stories about cyber suicide. In my defense, the main reason for the neglect over the last few weeks is because I've been too busy making it to write about it. We've made the shortlist for the competition I mentioned a couple of weeks ago and the workload is pretty heavy for stage 2. Next week I shall be offline and on holiday. I shall be accompanied by Peter Eisenman's Diagram Diaries and a copy of Postmodernism for Beginners. Oh, and my wife and kids too. Not exactly holiday books but I've been thinking about Eisenman's ideas on architecture's 'interiority' ever since I read Peter's entry on Fred Brooks, so I want to revisit the text and see if there is any connection. Book number two is Peter's fault too, I dug it out from under the book pile to post to him and then decided I'd better read it one last time. This is all rather neat, as they are perfect companions. If I decide to blog anything else before the holiday, you'll be the first to know.

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farewell my friend It's been a year and a half since we met and since then we've been together everyday; inseperable, living in each other's pockets. We've seen so much together. Shared so many sights. I remember it all as if it was yesterday. The highlights, the low lights, the traffic lights, the tea lights.

35700-a 35171 32353 18720

We've had our head in the clouds but kept our feet on the ground. There were mood swings, there were head spins.

20795 62346 42697 86039

We've been underground, overground, wombling, free.

90569 66425 65962 80178

Off like a rocket and back to earth with a splash. Took time to reflect. Let off some steam.

50619 41814 39697 42696

We've reached the summit, hit the tarmac but remembered to roll with it. 1 But despite all that, or perhaps even because of all that, I've decided to move on. I've been seeing someone else. I can't help it, I'm seduced by her promise to show me the world more clearly and widen my horizon.

love-revealed

And her digital zoom.

Farewell, Nokia 6230.2

Hello, Ericsson k750i


notes:
1.quicktime movies
2.For the full, gory details of our relationship, view our diary of the past year and half on moblog.co.uk

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Farewell URL tags: no2self, blog, admin Hello 2007. Hello new blog address: no2self.net When you have a blog that's named so as to remind you not write posts that are too self centred, using your own name as the URL is a little daft. After 3 years I finally got round to re-launching under a proper address. The RSS feed will continue to be the feedburner address (http://feeds.feedburner.com/no2self) so it should be a seamless transition for most, but please check your subscription as anyone who came along some time ago may still be running on a previous address. I shall also be swimming with the tide of conformity and switching to Wordpress. Blosxom has served me very well - with just the right amount of geekery involved in keeping it trim and the basic txt file format to avoid locked in content - but the comments options and spam has always been a problem. People who know much more about this than me tell me that Wordpress 2 does a great job with preventing spam. That's good enough for me. A huge thank you is owed to Brett O'Connor who has very generously put up with me nagging him over the last few years for help to keep the del.icio.us linklog script running. With perfect timing he's just this minute e-mailed me with the latest version. I'll be continuing to use it for behind-the-scenes blosxom blogs I use. Can anybody recommend a good del.icio.us daily log plugin for Wordpress? Layout at the new blog is currently based on the One Column theme but I imagine I'll be tweaking it over the coming weeks. Underneath the main content is the latest trail left by my data shadow, with various highlights from the other key sites I use. All the usual suspects. So, farewell http://rob.annable.co.uk, we're all off to http://no2self.net.

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favcollage Wait a minute, if we put Matt and Paul's favcol project together with Geoff's landscape printer we might at least get a colour reference for the 'molten rivers of the city'. Tag: favcol+wolverhampton = #625E5E

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All clear Lunch. Yesterday. Conspicuously, I sit in the shade on the north side of St.Phillips cathedral watching as the rest of the city basks in the sun. It makes sense to stay in the dark when you're only a few hours away from picking up the biopsy results on a suspicious mole on your back. The attraction of a green, landscaped space in the centre of an otherwise gray, urban environment, seems to be enough to allow people to overlook that they're eating, drinking and sunbathing on a graveyard. Waiting for an event to come my way, I stare across the square and remember something I was once told about the design of town squares. Location and author are now forgotten, but I vaguely recall somebody telling me that, historically, the size of many squares in towns and villages have a direct relationship with eye sight. The distance across a square being best defined by the ability to recognize someone on the opposite side. If you have 20/20 vision, the square that St.Phillips cathedral sits on just about works. I don't recognize anyone across the square, so I move on. It turns out that the event was waiting for me in the coffee shop. Well, events, actually. I pick up a booklet advertising a festival called Fierce and find some interesting stuff. Just a selection of stuff that interests me. There are a bunch of other projects happening in the Midlands over the coming months. The results of the biopsy came back that afternoon. I'm in the clear. Although the consultant tells me that I have moles that are architecturally dysplastic, which seemed rather fitting. I'm back there in a few weeks to have another removed. Spending so much time with stitches in my back is doing nothing for my fencing and climbing practice.

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Play it again Mr Crick I spent Saturday night dining with a bunch of doctors. Even the partners of the doctors invited were doctors. The conversation was mostly about other doctors who weren't fortunate enough to attend the party of doctors and doctors partners. Thankfully this is an environment I've spent may years training for so for the most part I managed to keep up and had a very enjoyable evening. At one point the discussion turned to the topic of teaching (aren't teachers lucky having so many weeks off?) and discipline (it's impossible to control kids today!), giving me the opportunity to tell the following story passed to me some years ago by Peter Godber, a fellow architecture student from my time at BSA. I'd asked him to remind me of it a few weeks ago and since he went to the trouble of writing it out the least I can do is pass it on. Take note all those who are planning to commence a career in teaching...
From first hand experience I can now vouch for the need for any school-teacher to gain the attention and respect of a new class from the moment of entrance at the very first lesson. There are many varied ways to do this but I don't think any could be as singular as the first five minutes of my brother's first English lesson at Tonbridge School when he was fifteen. Joe and his class were sitting and waiting for their new English teacher, Mr. Crick, for ten minutes after the bell signifying the beginning of the session had sounded. This gave them time to recover their breath for the classroom was situated in Room 15 which occupied the top floor of the School's main tower (5 stories up). What breath they had recovered soon left them when Mr. Crick strode into the room, making up for with garment any stature that nature may have deprived him in height. Mr. Crick at that time adopted the atire of a 16th Century Polish priest; this consisted of a long black gown topped with a wide-brimmed, and when I say wide-brimmed I mean a good foot of brim, circular black felt hat. In one hand he had a large silver portable Hitachi HiFi and in the other a Sainsbury's bag. Without a word of greeting, or even acknowledgement of their presence, to the class Mr. Crick walked the length of the room to his desk where he unloaded himself of his burden. Having plugged in the HiFi and opened the cassette deck he reached into the Sainsbury's bag and produced a large white fish. Mr. Crick frowned at the fish. I have been unable to ascertain the type of fish, all I know is that it was reasonably large, white and was causing the good school teacher some kind of upset. Anyway Mr. Crick now pressed play on the HiFi and proceeded to jam the fish's head into the tapedeck. This did not seem to appease Mr. Crick as he began muttering to himself and trying to force the rest of the fish into the HiFi which was making a low but faintly unhealthy sound whilst all the time being covered in more and more fishy matter. After about a minute of this activity Mr. Crick became frustrated, shouting "Stupid bloody thing, never works!!" and promptly threw the whole assembly of fish, HiFi and bag out the window. After a couple of seconds there was a crashing sound far below. Mr. Crick now turned to the class, appearing now to be aware of them for the first time and introduced himself formally to the class and took the register. Fortunately no-one was walking through the tower, the bottom of which was an arched thoroughfare crowded with students out of lesson time, when the fishy HiFi crashed to the ground but my brother assures me that Mr. Crick neither checked before or after throwing them. All I do know by way of ending this little tale is that Mr. Crick never raised his voice with the class for the rest of the year, he also never felt the need to punish them and he experienced no classroom management difficulties from any of his charges.
You'd never manage that with an iPod. Peter moved on from architecture and took up a career in teaching a few years ago. As far as I'm aware this has yet to involve torturing any fish with audio devices. Early days yet though.

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folksonomic zeitgeist At work, we're in the midst of another design code led competition and when the project began I launched a website for the design team using the impressive CMS from drupal.org. So far it's been very successful. So when Friday's copy of BD landed on the desk and I skipped straight to Ian Martin's column on the back page, I couldn't help but be impressed by his impeccable timing.

Friday:

A few weeks ago, I foolishly agreed to join a team working pro bono on a community centre extension. Geoff, the semi-retired architect and churchwarden who agreed to maintain the project website, seemed full of energy, and jokes. The first warning bell went off when the homepage acquired an intro, featuring a Flash-animated cartoon version of Geoff in a hard hat asking you where you wanted to go. Original buttons - Latest Drawings, Planning Update, Treasurer's Report and Team Contact Details - had been turned into a History Of The Community Centre, Have Your Say, Meet The Parishioners and Geoff's Worldwide Wonderful Web. The past month has been fairly quiet - waiting for the planners, fundraising, continuing, etc. Geoff, though, abhors a vacuum. A weekly digest of "project news" appeared in the form of an email newsletter, which now includes a section called Geoff's Go-Tos: "I challenge anyone to find a weirder collection of knitted bungalows on the net!" ... From today the weekly project newsletter will be supplemented, says Geoff, "by a daily blog, with podcasts and moblogs. The RSS is fulltext. Trackbacks and comments are on and unmoderated. Keywords are tracked and shuffled in a folksonomic zeitgeist. Technorati link cosmoses are constellated in real time..."

Saturday:

It turns out that the community centre extension had been built without anyone noticing.

Sunday:

Turn self into podcast, in the recliner.

Thomas Vanderwal, inventor of the word 'folksonomy', might be pleased to see his creation spread from the pages of the Observer into other magazines.

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4 Despite responding with this:
Curse you Mottram! It’ll give me something to do on the tram at least.
I shall take a leaf out of Anne's book and show the latest meme some love. Why get grumpy when somebody takes the time to reach out and say hello?

Four jobs I've had:

  1. Dish washer in a cafe that sold Stotties (Ł15 a week!)
  2. Elderflower collector for a wine maker (not too smart for a hayfever sufferer)
  3. mobile phone salesman (sales - best training for my career I ever had)
  4. ride operator in an amusement park (Gee, I like your accent. Are you from Australia?)

Four films I can watch repeatedly:

  1. Back to the Future I (What did I tell you?! 88mph!!!!)
  2. Canonball Run (God is our co-pilot? Remember our car? 2 seats? Where's he gonna sit?)
  3. Any of the Indiana Jones movies (Ah, snake suprise!)
  4. Fight Club (The first rule of...blah, blah, blah)

Four places I've lived:

  1. oddly named places in the English countryside, such as: Bottesford in the Vale of Belvoir
  2. in the shadow of the Aston Villa football ground
  3. on the beach front in Santa Cruz (fond memories of the women's beach volleyball tour)
  4. a series of late Victorian terraces - thanks to my childhood fascination with Mr Benn.

Four television programmes I like to watch:

  1. anything on BBC4
  2. most things on MTV2
  3. Coupling
  4. Duck Dodgers

Four places I've been to on holiday:

  1. Turkey
  2. Barcelona
  3. Tuscany
  4. Florida

Four of my favourite dishes:

  1. pancakes
  2. any dessert prepared by my Mother
  3. rice pudding
  4. cheesecake
(main courses are mererly a vehicle to get you to dessert)

Four websites I visit daily:

  1. mybloglog.com (I'm watching you!)
  2. bloglines (I'm reading you!)
  3. biroco.com
  4. my wiki

Four places I would rather be right now:

  1. in bed with Sarah
  2. a world that hadn't invented the internet yet
  3. a world where independent coffee shops with big sofas and their own library could survive
  4. climbing some rock

Four bloggers I am annoying:

  1. Peter
  2. John
  3. Anon
  4. Javier
Cheerio. AutoCAD is calling me.

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G It's my turn now. Gmail are obviously starting to relax about numbers for their beta test, as I've now got 6 invites to give away. Mail me if you'd like one.

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Going green Today's the day I start shopping here, instead of here. Wish me luck.

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Good Gift tags: advent, gift

Architectural Advent day 18:

Our office Christmas card is provided this year by goodgifts.org.

2006-Axis-Design-Card

Merry Christmas!

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gothicjoinery.co.uk

Seen from the window of the tram this morning - must investigate further.

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Grey album mp3

You should all go here: http://www.illegal-art.org/audio/grey.html

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wish you were here [postcard_front.jpg:centre3] [postcard_back.jpg:centre3]

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tidy up A little housekeeping before I go away for the weekend. It's been quite rightly pointed out to me that I'm guilty of something I swore I'd never do: neglecting the humble 56k modem. Apologies to any readers who've been cursing at the number of graphics on the page of late and the time it takes to download. I couldn't resist posting the paper bag as a GIF file so that I could use transparency around the edges - I've commented enough about the perils of form over function, so you'd think I'd have the good sense to follow my own advice. Anyway, I've adjusted it to a JPEG now so it should move a little quicker (Peter - the one you have directly linked is still in place so your post will not be broken). Notes from the stats:

  1. I hope that the 22 people who've downloaded my RIBA exam paper have taken heed of the warning I posted with it.
  2. Somebody got here via a Google search for Alexis Butterfield - friend and fellow author of the Deconstruction and Tea entry. Alexis, if that's you Ego-Googling, shame on you - drop me a line and say hello.
  3. My error log tells me that quite a few people have been frustrated by some broken links in my Pigs in Space project site - all fixed now, do your worst.

Except for the automated linklog in an hour or so, I shall be offline until Monday. See you* next week.

* metaphorically speaking of course, since this damned online existence means I never actually see anyone. Ask Joel if you don't believe me, he'll back me up.

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notes from the housekeeper Weirdness continues. Cut me some slack while I get to grips with the aggregator that pulls together the words and pictures. Comments are back on with better anti-spam measures thanks to help from Bill Ward. Currently naked due to lack of CSS but it's a start. Unfortunately the widget that tells me you posted a comment is broke, so if you really need me to reply quick mail me instead. I'm now filtering my linklog from del.icio.us more carefully so that you only get the choice cuts. Everybody say thank you to Brett for adjusting his deloxom plugin for me. Normal service will resume shortly.

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hypertextualisation I was hoping to finish a 'proper' blog entry this evening, but once again the hours have slipped through my fingers and I'm left with only minutes. Gone are the days when I would just ignore the natural desire for sleep and work on into the night. Instead I shall quickly hypertextualise my day.

(I must be tired. I just got up to pour some boiling water onto some white tea and reached for the iron instead of the kettle.)

One of the reasons for this evening's disappearance is that I got a text message from a friend reminding me that Channel 4 were broadcasting the documentary 'Fight for Ground Zero'. My pizza and I watched it together. It charts the design development of Libeskind's masterplan for the WTC site. It also charts the way the project has been completely hijacked by the land owner and his architect David Childs. I've had disparaging things to say about Libeskind in the past, but this time it's pretty clear that he was right and everyone else was wrong. Whilst he was agonising over the grain of the masterplan, Childs was only interested in pumping his erection up to new heights. The old cliche about male architects and towers was writ large throughout the program. I also got a running commentary throughout from my friend via text message (who was well placed to critique it from a distance, being neither a male or an architect). Highlights included; Bet you like the short fella's design and Typical architect...wearing all black. She was right on both counts. [m9.jpg:out] Flashback to lunch. A trip to the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery to see 'Life on the Vale' - an exhibition that shows work inspired by the the Castle Vale housing estate in Castle Bromwich. We've been working on the estate in various roles for about ten years. I'm still very proud of some of the new housing that we designed there. So I was delighted to find that one of our projects featured in the photographic work of Richard Harris. That particular project is quite dear to me, as the CAD model I made in the early stages of the design was used as part of a study on consultation and virtual reality. I've had fun touting it at seminars in the past. And so to the remainder of this evening. Revisiting the link that Matt sent me, I've been listening to some radio interviews whilst drawing a cross section. One of the most interesting being David Adjaye, in conversation with Isabel Hilton.
Hilton: What do you like about having artists as clients? Adjaye: Artist's vision and artist's clarity. An artist struggles to resolve something clearly because they have to manifest it very clearly. Architects, generally, have to manifest things but they are embroiled with the business of technique and problem solving and I think it can sometimes be a problem in itself and a resolution in itself; and the art of architecture, I think, sometimes gets lost in this process.
Note to self: That's me, that is. I lose site of the art in all the process and technique. This is exactly why my love of Anish Kapoor's work feels so dirty. In the middle of all that lot, a photo on moblog.co.uk got me thinking about euclidean space. Which, in turn, lead me to axiomatic systems.
In mathematics, an axiomatic system is any set of axioms from which some or all axioms can be used in conjunction to logically derive theorems. A mathematical theory consists of an axiomatic system and all its derived theorems. An axiomatic system that is completely described is a special kind of formal system; usually though the effort towards complete formalisation brings diminishing returns in certainty, and a lack of readability for humans.
Do you see how those two quotes collide with each other? Boom! As my friend Bobby H would say (ask him for the full story when he pops up on the comments later). Finally, you should all watch for tonights linklog as it has a couple of great discoveries. Two links from entirely different ends of the musical spectrum, sharing a medium as common ground - both are flash movies. With this in mind it's quite possible that they are so far apart that they meet up, like communism and fascism, somewhere round the back. As I once heard Lars Spuybroek say at an RIBA lecture, A Straight Line Is Just A Badly Informed Curve. A rather neat axiom to finish this euclidean (data)space with.

Message for Joel: Check out the intersite references on that! Also, here is another leg for you.

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I C U The weekly check on my web stats tells me that someone from d5architects has been reading me of late - if that's you, feel free to drop me a line and say hi. I just paid a visit to your site, it's looking good. I'm pleased to see that it hasn't been flashed to death. I took a trip to Compton Verney today and as luck would have it, there was an exhibition by Peter Greenaway about his new film trilogy The Tulse Luper Suitcases. I don't have time to write it up today though, as I've got several hours worth of working drawings to do for Brandwood End. I'm supposed to be on holiday.

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iDisappointed I bought my first Apple product yesterday. A big part of the attraction with Apple products is the quality of the design, right? A comprehensive approach that gets all the details just right, right?
Rob: 'I'd like a 60Gb iPod in black* please.'
Apple: 'That'll be Ł299 please.'
Rob: 'I assume the headphones that come with that are black as well.'
Apple: 'Er, no, they're white.'
Rob: 'What?! That's rubbish.'
Apple: 'Well, the iPod's s'posed to be white, innit?'
I bought the white one instead. I've been deliberating for months about what mp3 player to get and at one time had seriously thought about a DIY project. In the end, the temptation to be able to carry everything I have was just too great. The Beethoven/Slipknot/Otis Redding/Ozric Tentacles shuffle induced train wrecks were irresistable. To the point of this entry (the last thing the world needs is another blog entry on iPods): I'm looking for suggestions on good podcasts to add to my Odeo subscriptions. What do you listen to?

* architects dig black, right?

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Ig Nobel tour dates Coming to Birmingham on the 20th March, to be held at Millennium Point. There will apparently be guest appearances by members of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. Could be worth the entrance fee just for that.

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ISO 216
The ISO paper size concept In the ISO paper size system, the height-to-width ratio of all pages is the square root of two (1.4142 : 1). In other words, the width and the height of a page relate to each other like the side and the diagonal of a square. This aspect ratio is especially convenient for a paper size. If you put two such pages next to each other, or equivalently cut one parallel to its shorter side into two equal pieces, then the resulting page will have again the same width/height ratio. The ISO paper sizes are based on the metric system. The square-root-of-two ratio does not permit both the height and width of the pages to be nicely rounded metric lengths. Therefore, the area of the pages has been defined to have round metric values. As paper is usually specified in g/m˛, this simplifies calculation of the mass of a document if the format and number of pages are known.
Ah, I see.

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is written down in rings of grain Weblogging continues to work for me. My last moblog post delivered a Larkin poem in the comments from Phoenix.
The Trees Philip Larkin The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

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Lines from the tram [Picture_8.jpg]I'm about to step on the tram that I catch to and from work for the last time; tonight I collect my new car. I'd rather ride on public transport - it's one of the few times in the day that I get chance to read - but I need to have a car for work, so it's back to the traffic jams for me. Despite being hampered by endless technical problems* (vandalised ticket machines, power cuts, doors that won't shut) and numerous social issues (people refusing to pay, violence towards the conductors who were employed to replace the vandalised ticket machines and BMW drivers who meet a grisly end after shooting the lights in front of a moving tram), it's been a good service that has served me well.[Picture_9.jpg] I suppose that a certain amount of technical problems were inevitable, since I hear that the firm who built the line and supplied the trams, returned to their home country upon completion leaving only a few sheets of instructions; all of which were in Italian. The images posted here (along with others posted in my gallery) were taken during various trips over the last year. Some of which were used to make the graphic at the top of the site. * just as I was writing the words 'technical problems' the driver announced that there is a power cut that meant the tram will only be going as far as St. Pauls. Luckily, that's my stop.

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layers 7:45 am. Arrive at office. Stand outside feeling stupid - brought wrong keys. Walk in to the city while I wait for colleagues to arrive. Coffee. Sunshine. Crisp morning air. Long shadows. Earth from the air exhibition on Victoria Square. I learnt that: the rapid prototyped versions (carved from plastic) of the photographs on display are often more interesting than the originals, a small section of the corten steel on Anthony Gormley's Iron Man sculpture has been worn smooth by passing fingers, the circular housing developments in Copenhagen seem to make some of the same mistakes that the British Radburn planning system did in the 50's, and one of the reasons I love the city is that only an urban environment could deliver such rich layers of...stuff. For example, where else might you find a vista that includes waste, art, moving images, the industrial aesthetic and Corinthian column capitals? [layers.jpg:centre2]

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a call to the lazyweb About a year ago I found a project that used a flash file to record network traffic and then allow you to shape the data in a graphical format. I think it was called Cannibal. I'd like to take a look at it again but I've had no luck Googling for it. It was an arts project of some description and possibly the winner of a competition. I'm paging the lazyweb blog for help to find the link. Add a comment if you know the project I'm looking for.

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loosen up tags: sketch, drawing, technique I spent most of today encouraging a colleague to loosen up, pick up a pencil and push aside the CAD software for a while. After lunch I finally succeeded. The next challange was to get her to loosen up her drawing technique and enagage with the action of drawing before worrying about the final result. It's not a means to an end, it's a process. You've heard me say that before. I didn't have much success, but then it's only day 1. Perhaps I'd have done better if I'd seen the recent post over at 37signals.com: "Forget the detail" and other animation inspired lessons Quoting from notes posted at animationmeat.com:
The artist, when he first gets an inspiration or tackles a pose in an action analysis class, sees the pose, is struck by its clarity, its expressiveness, then after working on it for a while that first impression is gone and with it goes any chance of capturing it on paper. That’s the reason. we should learn to get that first impression down right away – while it’s fresh, while it’s still in that first impression stage – before it starts to fade...
Much to be learnt - go read. A great compliment to the second section entitled Abstracting the essence would be Rod's recent sketches at a Brian Eno lecture. Let's hope I have more success tomorrow.

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mint sauce I've just been out in the garden with the kids. My son has been pestering me for months to drag my bike out from the back of the shed so that he can look at it. Tonight I gave in. Of course, after one push round the garden he'd had enough; a short attention span is acceptable when you're only 3 years old. I always had a slightly uncomfortable relationship with my bike. It probably has something to do with the girl I fancied when I was 12 - she laughed and told me I looked stupid when she first saw me riding it. I shrugged it off at the time, but I suspect the wound never really healed. Buying a drop-handle-bar racer, the very week that fat tyred mountain bikes came into fashion in the UK, probably didn't help either. That said, I had years of pleasure out of it and the two of us clocked up some serious mileage around the Vale of Belvoir in the years that followed. If it wasn't for the sticker on the frame that caught my eye as I was putting it away again, the memories would have passed quickly. The sticker says 'Ride and find where all the freedom has gone' and it was written by Jo Burt, the author of the wonderful Mint Sauce comic strip. Published every month in the back of Mountain Biking UK magazine, it was a beautiful, captivating story that was worth the price of the magazine alone. Actually it was worth more. I would buy the occasional copy just for Mint Sauce, and would always read the ones that belonged to friends who actually had mountain bikes. It didn't really matter whether you had fat tyres or thin tyres, nothing inspired you to get out on your bike as much as reading about the latest exploits of this existential sheep. I dashed inside and did some Googling to share with you. A disappointing haul so far but there are a few images and words to be had here and here. Does anybody have anything else? I use to have a couple of old magazines and a poster but I think they've long since passed away.

p.s - tonights de.licio.us links will be slightly less fresh than usual, I've been playing with the set up and it was broken for the last couple of nights.

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mobclubbing You might remember that I previously wrote an entry about the flash mob event in Birmingham that happened last summer, this year the meme seems to have evolved into something called mobile clubbing. There was dancing at Euston station on Friday night. [mobclubbing.jpg:out]It looks like a pretty cathartic experience, I wish I'd been there. I'd expected someone to provide the music when I first heard about it, but from the looks of the pictures, everyone just moved to the beat of their own drum using headphones. This must have been an even more striking sight for the casual passer-by, as the dancers gyrated around the station to an implied rythym. I've been talking to a friend earlier this week about the possibility of using an iTrip for broadcasting improptu sets at street parties, but somehow the thought of people dancing to different music instead of a single sound track is even more appealing. The web site is mobile-clubbing.com and events are organised via a Yahoo group

image supplied by misternavid

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press coverage A copy of an article in The Independant from June 4th 2004 can be found here. It has an interesting quote, cited as being taken from a web site somewhere.
This was raw. There was no night, no unison, (except in self awareness). No way to defuse one's silent twitching with a laugh/joke/anecdote/drink. It was an awkward, slippery affair that made me think about the mechanical factors of a good night out. And watching pop videos with the sound off.

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More tea Mr.Bond? More stuff to give away. Sending a couple of books to biroco.com has spurred me on to further acts of altruism. Buried beneath some Connect 4 pieces, inside a pen holder I made from clay when I was eleven, I found the key that opens doors at MI5. [tea_key.jpg]I've been looking for it for months. Ever since I heard that Jessica could give it a good home. It's over a year since we moved house, and I'm still unpacking boxes, still finding things that make me smile/frown. This one provides the links to memories that will keep me smiling all day. Thanks must largely be paid to Tom. It was he who salvaged it from the empty shell of the old MI5 headquarters in London, during a foray into dereliction (PDF link) as part of his work at the Bartlett. Left behind in the empty shell that used to house the secrets of the Nations security, was a key to supplies that must have been crucial to the day to day life of any self respecting British intelligence officer; the tea cupboard. The description embossed on the copper plate key-ring, says that it belongs to 'tea station 1901a'. Perhaps there were at least 1900 other tea stations. If you include the alphabetical variations A through Z, that makes a total of 49,426 tea stations. That's a nice image - think of all the sugar cubes. In a satisfying, circular fashion, this takes us back to biroco.com. Although I landed at Joel Biroco's site via research into flash mobs, it was a story about keys and going places you're not supposed to, that convinced me I'd finally found a web log worth bookmarking. Sadly (for us), he's moved on to other projects now. Archives are still accessible though, here's the link to the entry about keys.

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lost! jessicapierce says
"Oh! I meant to tell you yesterday - it did come, only it didn't... I received one of those dreaded over-envelopes from the post office, marked on the outside with "we screwed this up, sorry" - and inside was your envelope, almost ripped in half, mangled and empty except for a bit of paper and a bit of bubble-wrap. This is why I trust the post office NEVER. Dammit"
My reply went something along the lines of Nooooooooooooo!!!!

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die spammers

I've had to switch off the comments again until I sort out the spam coming in. Lately there has been some discussion on the blosxom mailing list about how best to deal with it, so I'll take a look and try and tackle it. Mail me if you want to get in touch.

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you're dead The anti-spam device is in place. I've got everything crossed. More comments please.

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I'm dead Ok, that almost went according to plan. The changes I've implemented mean that all the previous comments on the site are now broke. Arse. I'll fix them all but it'll take a few days.

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new tribe They redesigned the profile page of tribe.net. Here's me:

http://people.tribe.net/eversion

First reaction, after about 60 seconds of scrolling/clicking, is that it's looking pretty good. I might have to start using it again. Or at the very least return the compliment to all the people I owe testimonials to.

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quick one off the wrist Tags: sketches,drawing,CAD 'Design software weakens classic drawing skills' says Jim Christie in the Washington Post (via ArchNewsNow). Abso-bloody-lutely says I. Agree with the article whole heartedly, however, this section championing the role of CAD, actually does the opposite.
Computer graphics allow artists to move briskly. By contrast, drawing on paper can be frustrating, forcing concentration, introspection and revision as an idea or vision takes shape.
Firstly, there's not a way made that I can get my PC to move as fast as the speed I need things to move from my brain to the page. Briskly maybe, but not nearly briskly enough. Secondly, frustration, forced concentration, introspection and revisions of an idea or vision are all conditions that should be sought out and embraced. Not eradicated with ctrl-z.

lay_02

Related categories: sketches.

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concept Tags: sketches,drawing,CAD I should explain my choice of image. I'm talking primarily about the early diagrammatic, conceptual level of idea exploration. The level at which the softness (4B) of the pencil and the amount of pressure you apply through your fingertips has a direct influence on the outcome. The sketch is from a house design I was recently working on and represents a key turning point in the process. The action of drawing those ellipses (having chosen to rotate my thoughts and the client's actions through 45 degrees) some slowly, some fast, some darker, some lighter, was as important as the result itself. Months later, I still remember the action as much as the image and if the project goes ahead the memory will still be there to call upon when I'm stood on site talking about where to put the plug sockets. It seemed important to say this, as that evening I went home and had fun briskly drawing up some ideas in Sketchup. Drawing up. Jack understands the value of pencils too.

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get messy More on the value of the hand crafted by Luke Chandresinghe - take a look at his breathtaking Bartlett thesis project.
I think the computer is one reason why many drawings today are so lifeless and empty. There is no soul. It would be nice to see the blood, the sweat, the tears on the page, but you just don’t see that very much anymore. It’s an important process, to get messy, try, and test things on the page. I see an empty sheet of paper as an empty construction site – a test site for architectural constructions.
Found via the always interesting Anne Galloway linklog.

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Philip Johnson's new job After the recent news that architect Philip Johnson has decided to retire, I was a little surprised to find this in my inbox a few minutes ago. It seems he has found himself a new vocation.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: revphiljohnson1@tiscali.it
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 13:02:19 +0100
Subject: RESPONDS
To: Calvary Greetings, I am a preacher with the Seed Harvest Ministry, and I will like to get advice from you. I believe the advice I need is secular to some extent, but do have the patience to understand my intention. A few year's ago I was in Liberia were I had established a little congregation where I preached regularly, but the civil war escalated and the church was converted to a hospital of soughs. On one faithful day three Nigerian Soldiers came to me and left trunks of Money with me and swore to come back for it....
I think you can guess the rest of the message.
I will be glad to get a response from you to show your interest.
My Regards,
PHILIP JOHNSON
philjohnson01@mail.com

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Dear AJ It's probably best if I leave my name off any planning applications at work for a while. The AJ published my response to the article they wrote the week before about Philip Singleton, the new head of Birmingham City Council's urban design unit.
Dear AJ, "University applications are up in both our universities and I have a hunch it is because of this building." - Philip Singleton, AJ number 17/219 Dare I ask which of Birmingham's three universities was left out of the discussion during the interview about Philip Singleton's new role at the City Council? Since applications for the undergraduate course at Birmingham School of Architecture are currently down (perhaps because of this building?), it would appear that the University of Central England is the one that doesn't make the cut. Good luck to both Birmingham and Aston University*. Yours sincerely, Rob Annable
*who, by the way, don't have any architecture courses

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PDA

I've got you in the palm of my hand. I resurrected my old Handspring Visor today to use for this journal. Speeding between stations (when the doors aren't jammed), I scrawl the strange symbols that represent letters.

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permabroke tags: housekeeping

I've just realised that the site permalinks are broken. I upgraded my Blosxom install last week so I imagine that's the cause. If you've been looking for a particular entry and getting a blank page then it'll need a a little more info. Just add a .txt suffix to the until I get it fixed.

Update: fixed by returning to previous version of Blosxom. Bloody upgrades, eh?

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phrase jamming A friend of mine has a fantastic talent for unwittingly mashing up well known phrases. Unbeknown to him I've been jotting them down over the last few months. Here are a few of my favourites. Time period of indeterminate length:
...it's like waiting for a piece of string...
Warning! Heinous violence towards fruit:
...this is our first stab at the cherry...
Double negative:
...it could be one of my mistyping errors...
Are you a dogsworth?
...I'm the office jobsbody...
The pastry is the key:
...as light as pie...
Do you believe in reincarnation?
...I suspect that one is gonna die a duck...
And finally, my personal favourite because of the image it conjours up:
...Well, we spent the first half of the meeting just finding each others feet...
If you can beat any of those, be sure to add them in the comments.

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Pillow fight club Flash mob variation number 4: spontaneous pillow fighting outside St. Pauls Cathedral. It's organised by the same guys who brought us mobile clubbing.
Here's how it works: 1. Turn up at the venue with a pillow hidden in a bin liner/Fresh & Wild bag. 2. At the stroke of 4.40pm (see, these people really don't work), pull pillow from bag and fight. 3. Avoid hitting anyone without a pillow. 4. Get a bit bored and retire to the nearby All Bar One. ... Though the organisers claim no motive for these events beyond fun, you could tell a few fighters thought they were "sticking it to the man" in their own sweet way. In much the same manner, part-time nudists flock in their thousands to Spencer Tunick's mass nudity displays, claiming they are exercising some other downtrodden human right (the right to look fat and ugly in the nude?).
taken from Grauniad article (scroll down a bit). There are pictures here. I'm not sure Tyler Durden would approve.

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the first rule Tonight at 18:09, Pillow Fight Club II.

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pin head tags: people, architects, designers, technique A sketch that will make me pause to think every time I include a figure on a drawing from now on:

Stolen from: blackbeltjones.com

I (architect) draw people like the one on the left because... 1) it's all about the body in space, 2) hands are always in pockets where they can't do any damage, 3) heads - and therefore eyes and sight lines - are tightly controlled, and 4) I learnt it at school copying examples handed down from the previous generation. You (interaction designer) draw people like the one on the right because ... [answers on a postcard to the usual address please]

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closed, consensual, directed tags: advent, gift, planning, lecture, urbandesign, pdf

Architectural Advent Day 6:

Making Urban Places lecture 8. Paradigms of change

End state planning / Phased End State planning / Directed Process Planning / Monitored Process Planning (PDF link)

*update: Of course it would help if I actually remembered to upload the file, and it would be even more helpful if I could now remember where I put it. Will fix when I find - thanks for the heads up Bobby H.

** 12th/12th - link fixed

see previous: Mythical City and Typology Matrix

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in motion Thoughts and links from yesterday's National Poetry Day: Wake up call.
1: Ah. I'd like to have an argument, please.
2: Certainly sir. Have you been here before?
1: No, I haven't, this is my first time.
2: I see. Well, do you want to have just one argument, or were you thinking of taking a course?
I'm always jealous of Stuart's ability to write entries that incite comments. His entry on Vachel Lindsay's The Congo (surely the inspiration for Baldrick's The German Guns) was no exception. Thank you, Stuart (today is National Good Manners Day). Lunch. Arthur Dent:
I liked it. Oh, yes. I thought some of the metaphysical imagery was really particularly effective. Oh, and interesting ... rhythmic devices ... which seemed to counterpoint the, er ... Counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the, er ... Vogonity ... Of the poet's compassionate soul, which strives through the medium of the verse structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other, and one is left with a profound and vivid insight into ... into ... Into whatever the poem was about.
Create your own Vogon poetry on the BBC Hitch Hiker's site. Has Arthur been writing architecture reviews? From the September Architectural Review found on the coffee table, my boss points out this:
...and more curiously a horizontal void, 770mm high, that articulates the the structural division between concrete basement and timber frame; a continuously expressed interstitial datum that lies coincident with the re-entrant cutout.
I'm not sure what's more worrying; the tortuous use of words or the fact that I had to admit that I knew exactly what it meant. Going home.
Word to your Moms, I came to drop bombs.
Zane Lowe was on top of his game last night. Kicking off his 90 minute Fresher's Mix with the poetic sound of the fantastic Arctic Monkeys. Go and listen again - a great, great set.
I bet that you look good on the dance floor,
I don't know if you're looking for romance or,
I don't know what you're looking for.
TV dinner. If Nigel Williams doesn't win an award for his script on Channel 4's Elizabeth I, then surely heads must roll.
The evidence we have of her table talk, poems and speeches shows her also to have been a persuasive and eloquent speaker who, in spite of occasional lapses into Tudor brutality, was also gifted with that rare virtue of supreme rulers – compassion for her fellow creatures.
To sleep, perchance to... fat chance, too much coffee.

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power tool A fellow LUG member on the power of using Linux:
I think Linux is like a power-tool. In the right hands and with plenty of practice it can produce beautifully crafted custom-built furniture but many people would just damage themselves trying to use it without instruction. Linux is for people who are willing to go to woodwork classes and build a few wobbly tables in their pursuit of excellence. The others would be better off buying a flat-pack kit in the full knowledge that it will fall apart after a few months and need to be replaced.

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re-de-construction http://www.house-projects.com More than 50 students, from Fine Art and Architecture at the University of Newcastle and Newcastle College, formed two groups of builders who constructed and de-constructed two identical shells of House simultaneously for 22 hours. The shells were built out of bricks and mortar up to first floor level and juxtaposed with each other in rotational symmetry. The project was synchronized so that the construction and de-construction was choreographed sequentially: the opposite segments of the shells slowly moved around each other until House was completed.

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radio recycle Never let it be said that no, too self is unsustainable. I recycled the Little Nemo post and squeezed another entry out of it this week, and now I've reached back into the archives a little further and dusted off one those architectural anecdotes that I keep harping on about. Radio Bonfi, a project running at the Architectural Association, is into its second week and I've submitted a recording I made last year about the Rietveld House. Go and take a listen to the show and try out the interesting interface they've designed (flash required). My entry is the first section listed as a 'sideshow'.

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a plea To the administrator of the server that broadcasts the contents of biroco.com. Please, will you fix Joel's site soon? It's been too long. He was on the verge of something beautiful and then the lights went out. Joel, if you're out there, give me an update.

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lazy aRSSe If you subscribe to this site using RSS you may have noticed that a few of the entries you've already read have just popped up again. Don't adjust your set, I've moved the newsfeed over to an aggregator that pulls in extra content. Scroll back down the list and you'll see some extra images - it's the feed from my subscription at moblogUK. At the moment the old address is set to redirect, if you want to change your subscription (and I'd appreciate it if you did) simply amend it to: http://rob.annable.co.uk/rss20.xml Don't worry about image size if you're on a dial-up, the photos are all taken with my phonecam and the file size is quite small. If you're made of stronger stuff than most of us (including me), and you've yet to succumb to the lazy attitude that makes syndication so atttractive, you can see the combined feed in your browser at http://rob.annable.co.uk/index.html. Unfortunately it currently has zero formatting and gets delivered as naked as the day it was born, has no comments option and an odd problem with image repetition. This will be remedied in time. A lot of time.

ps - Hello to the handful of new subscribers I've picked up over the last few days, I hope the changes don't put you off!

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*sigh*

The RSS problems continue. Normal service will resume shortly. I hope. If anybody out there is a wizard with the planetplanet aggregator, drop me a line. Ahem. I'm an idiot. The reason the RSS wasn't working correctly is because the redirect command I'd put in place was also redirecting the redirection, hence the repetition of images. In my defense, I'm an architect, not a geek. Both feeds will remain in place but if you'd like to get images as well as text from this point on you'll need to resubscribe to the new address: http://rob.annable.co.uk/rss20.xml.

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burn, baby, burn, disc[o] inferno My timing is a little off. I chose to launch the extra image RSS during the same week that moblogUK had the mother of all disc failures. It's all fixed now and you shouldn't have to see the image the repeats any longer. I knew we'd get there in the end.

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timestamp problem OK, rather predictably, this hasn't gone as smoothly as I'd hoped. There seems to be a problem with the image feed and it's repeating the last picture with every cron job. Bloglines is ignoring it because it recognises the repetition, could somebody who uses a different news reader let me know how it is behaving? Without swearing at me.

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technical glitch The timestamp problem continues. For the moment we shall remain text only until I've got the photo feed to work.

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BArch My friend Sean made this: [sean.jpg:centre2] He just graduated from the University of Liverpool. His favourite phrase right now is gizza job. Let me know if your favourite phrase happens to be you're hired.

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double bluff Er, if that was Sean makes, then this is Sean says.
By the way, this web site of yours.....have you managed to hardwire your cranium to your pc and thus all of your thoughts and activities are automatically monitored and displayed? Otherwise it seems to me that either you must spend at least as much time writing and logging your activities and thoughts as you actually spend undertaking the said activiteis and thoughts, in which case what happens to all the thoughts you had whilst you where logging all of the previous ones, and there seemed to be no section telling us about your time spent typing up the notes - oh it could all get horribly confusing! Either that or you are undertaking a daring and subversive project to undermine imposing and invasive nature of our increasingly monitored lives; the massive and dramatic spread of surveilance and monitoring technology in our cities and towns is built on the premise that we all have information, activities and thoughts that we wish to remain private, but your web page is clever - by proactively displaying and publishing your thoughts and activites, you undermine the theory of privacy, thus convincing the reader/ monitor/ surveillor that they have intimate access to the minutiae of your life, and this is the bit that I like, once you have convinced said observer of this fact you are then at liberty to alter your entries to cover and hide the very activities that you deem to be private - Genius, absolute fucking genius! Rob I admire your devious and underhanded thinking! Well done. A lesson to us all, especially if our friend Dave Blunket gets his way with his little id card proposal.
I've been rumbled.

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Peter Lindberg wrote:

(some correspondence between Peter and I about Paul Shepheard that seemed worth hyperlinking)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262691663 Have you read it? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on it. Best,
/P.
Dear Peter, First of all I should start with an apology, since my thoughts on your Fred Brooks entry about software architecture still haven't made it from my brain into the computer. It inspired me to go back to some of Peter Eisenman's writing, as it felt as though Brooks' definition of software architecture seemed to have a similar quality to Eisenman's ideas about 'interiority'. Eisenman, however, is rather difficult to read. A few weeks ago the Architect's Journal printed a quote by Libeskind that said Eisenman was '...a hateful person and a terrible academic...' I can't comment on whether he is hateful, but I fear that Libeskind may be right about his academic skills. His writing is almost inpenetrable. You bounce off the surface of each sentence with exactly the same momentum as the last, the rhythm never changing. I shall have to try harder to find my way below the surface. [pm.jpg:out] Luckily I was helped along the way by the book on postmodernism that I promised to send you. After digging it out of one of the boxes that I still haven't unpacked since we moved house nearly two years ago I decided I should read it again before I mail it to you. It proved to be quite timely since the lead figure through most of the book is the infamous Jacques Derrida. He died the week I finished it. I was sat in a Starbucks coffee shop at the time (see attached picture). This seemed quite fitting; the reinvention and re-presentation of a drink that has been with us for centuries, repackaged and delivered as new via the application of some careful branding, skimmed milk and Fair Trade decaffeinated coffee. The postmodern drink. Perhaps this is why I was met with such hostility on the architecture forum at tribe.net when I posted a link to his obituary - people blame Derrida for making all their coffee houses the same. Perhaps they're right. I'll send you the book later today and you can decide for yourself. I haven't read any of Shepheard's work, but from the quotes you posted on your site it looks like fascinating reading. Something about the cover of the book gives me a sense of deja vu; either I've looked at in a book shop before, a lecturer has shown it to me or I'm remembering the time I used to live near an airport and would see the Red Arrows perform every year at the air show. Although this is a little odd as there were never any Egyptian burial tombs in the rural East Midlands when I was growing up. I particularly enjoyed his comment about the '...the unimpeachable natural world.' It reminds me of something we were discussing previously when I said '...There are certain immovable forces in architecture, such as the laws of physics and building control inspectors.' I think Shepheard and I would get along quite well. It has been duly added to my Amazon Wish List. The problem with blogging is that I keep promising things and then running away. Based on past commitments I still owe my blog (and/or Aq) some words on usability vs. beauty, a write up of Compton Verney, a half baked idea about IT and koans and of course the aforementioned Mr Brooks. The list, like the one at Amazon, gets ever longer. Hope you are well. Regards, Rob p.s - I enjoyed your webstats assessment. It was infinitely more useful than my bad poetry. The interesting thing about posts like that is that they are iterative, I've been wondering whether I should carefully mould the results by reposting occasionally and introducing a new word each time.

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extra, extra, extra

More here: What is Architecture? And here: Better than a blog?

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sketchmore and more Tags: sketches, CAD, drawing More on sketching vs. CAD - Edwin Heathcote in the FT (via ArchNewsNow).
Computers may be efficient at processing complex data, but they are far from efficient in the creative process. Sketching is not only practical but essential. It is the quickest, most accessible way to find out if a space, a vista, a progression can work and also to communicate it to others.
Related entry: quick on off the wrist.

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blows own trumpet <smug> Ahem. I won. First prize in the recent competition at moblog.co.uk for the Hard Copy competition has been shared between myself and Helen. Oh, and my old entry on h2g2.com (which you've also read here) was up on the front page this weekend. </smug> Help me celebrate over some pancakes and maple syrup this evening.

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spamback Comments have been temporarily turned off until my first comment spammer gets bored and goes away. WHOIS tells me that it could be the same guy who left a mark on the Waffle blog a few days ago.

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spam, spam, spam, spam Comments are off again. I've just been nailed with 244 spam entries.

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fresh start Comments are back on. I've deleted all the previous comments - it's the best way to tidy up at the moment, I'll remount the non-spam ones as soon as I've filtered out the rubbish. If you've uttered something enlightening here in the past, sorry but you'll have to say it again.

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A squirrel and a mole Yesterday morning I got an e-mail from Joel at biroco.com to tell me that he'd posted a new entry to his journal. This is great news. It's one of the few sites I actually read, rather than scan as you spin the wheel on your mouse. You should all pay him a visit. Four hours, or so, later (yes, I get up at 5am) I was walking across town for a 9am appointment with the doctor, thinking about the contents of his journal entry as I walked. It wasn't until I was passing Bantock Park that I realised the odd confluence of events that was taking place. My trip to the doctor's was brought about by the changing appearance of a mole on my back, which my wife thought I should have examined by a dermatologist. As you'll see when you visit his site, Joel's latest entry is about a trip to the doctor to have a mole on his hand examined. It's not so much that the commonality is odd, rather that it took me about half a mile to spot it. Perhaps I saw a squirrel in my peripheral vision as I walked past the park. Nuts. I've been reffered on to have it examined properly. I'll probably need a biopsy as it's looking a little suspicious. Nuts. Other news is that I've finally started to make use of moblogUK - here's a link to my page: http://moblg.net/blogs.php?show=75 Al has also sent me a link to an interesting blog that I'm looking forward to reading more of - http://www.cityofsound.com/blog/

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on strike

As you've probably noticed, <strike>strike</strike> is my favourite HTML tag

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t610 I've finally upgraded my camera phone. My Ericsson T610 is getting replaced later this week with a Nokia 6230, which should give me a much better picture quality. To commemorate the passing of my first phone camera, I've compiled all the shots I've submitted to MoblogUK over the last few months (a site I've blogged about previously). Having a camera with me every day has been an interesting experience and I'm quite proud of the results. I've noodled about with photography quite a bit over the years, cutting my teeth on a Canon AE-1 whilst I was studying. These days my photography is almost all digital. Two main points about mobile phone photography strike me as important; firstly, the well documented and discussed issues around being encouraged to look more closely at what's around you, and secondly, the fact that convergence with another inconspicuous everyday object* (the mobile phone) makes people much less self concious about being 'photographers'. Some of the results I've seen from the users on moblogUK have been stunning and I've enjoyed taking part. I suspect that a very small number of those users would have previously called themselves 'photographers'. [contactsheet.jpg:centre2]

* the current ownership figures of mobile phones means that they are becoming inconspicuous ojects of the everyday due to their sheer number, of course some people actually use them in a somewhat less than inconspicuous fashion

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If you don't shit for Christmas Before we all pack the decorations away and begin the laborious task of vacuuming pine needles out of the carpet, let's have a final Christmas related journal entry. This post is mostly for the attention of boingboing.net subscribers who read the story about the Catalan caganer tradition and the caga tio character. Excerpt:
Customs surrounding caga tio differ, but all agree, caga tio means "shit log." Here I relay to you what I think is the full blown caga tio ritual. Fifteen days before Christmas, caga tio makes his appearance in the dining room, where he must be fed at least once every day. He likes oranges, crackers and sweet wine. In some families, caga tio starts small, but grows as the days progress toward Christmas. At some point, caga tio is moved out of the dining room, into the living room, and covered with a blanket to keep him warm. On Christmas Eve, before the traditional Christmas dinner, the kids are sent to their rooms to say three Our Fathers, which gives the elders enough time to stash presents under caga tio's blanket. After their prayers are done, the kids return to the living room and start beating the hell out of poor caga tio with big sticks. And they sing a song. One version goes "Shit, log, shit! If you don't shit well, we will whack you again!" Another goes "Log, log, shit candy! If you don't shit for Christmas, we will whack you once more!" After the children have gotten their fill of flogging the log, the blanket is removed to determine caga tio's state of digestion. Typically, a miracle has occurred, and the log has pooped wrapped gifts, which are called "the shits." Often one of the shits will be something weird, like an egg, to let everyone know that it was the last one deposited by caga tio.
I'm indebted to Dave Thau for submitting this information. For the last three years I've been witnessing this ritual with neither an explanation or subtitles to help me get to grips with it. If you're a parent with a child who likes watching the Teletubbies then it's quite possible you've been witnessing it too, since the whole event can be seen on the video Teletubbies and the Snow. As well as the usual high jinks that take place around the Teletubbie house, the video is interspersed with footage of children from around the world celebrating Christmas. About half way through the video you can see a group of Catalan children thoroughly enjoying their assault of the shit log. Twice. Again, again, again! shout the Teletubbies. On reflection I'm glad that neither my children or I had the faintest idea what was going on or being said. It's nearly as bad as the time that Auntie Mabel and her dog, Pippin, visited the sewage plant. At 6:30am. Whilst I was eating my breakfast. Look Pippin! Look at all that poo! Can you see your's? For those of you eager to experience the abuse of caga tio I've uploaded some screen captures onto flickr.com and made use of the slideshow feature: The Caga Tio Show (and I've added notes to the photo set). Ho, ho, ho.

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the last apple I had a delightful weekend enjoying the autumn at my parents house. The horse chesnut tree had dropped all it's conkers but I climbed it anyway, swinging from the branches as the harvest went on below me. [last_apple.jpg:out] A single apple remained on the apple tree so we claimed it before it fell to the ground and was carted off by the ants. It's time my kids learnt how to climb trees and it's also time that they learnt how to play conkers, since it's looking increasingly like it will be banned in the UK when they start school. Madness. We strung a few up and I took my best one to work this morning; it's now a one'er after quickly dismissing it's first opponent. Challenge me if you dare. A book bought by my Mother at the local library provided this:
If I could be an architect
I'd draw up new designs
With ears and tails and curly bits
Not angles, corners, lines,
And then, instead of boring flats
And houses shaped like boxes,
We'd live in brick sheep, tiger towns
And rows of terraced foxes.
It's from If Only by Richard Edwards, a children's book of short poems along with ink illustrations by Alison Claire Darke. Mothers seem to be a running theme on this blog lately. Craft has also been a theme of late, and this will continue in my next entry. This is merely an intermission, typed to pass the time as I record (ahem) the Radio 3 program about pottery and ceramics I heard on Sunday evening as I drove around Ironbridge in the dark, completely failing to find the hotel that was hosting Matthew's wedding reception (sorry Matt!). It's an interview with Edmund de Waal about his career as a potter. The whole interview is brimming with Ideas and it crosses many of the fields of thought that I've journeyed across here over the last few months. I shall transcribe my favourite bits and post them over the next few days. In the meantime go and have a listen via the BBC's 'listen again' feature. When I've finished the typography course I think I shall take up pottery.

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Touche Predictably, my comments in the AJ a few weeks ago prompted a response in this weeks edition from Thom Gorst.
Yes, the University of Central England in Birmingham is likely to be the university that Phillip Singleton left out when implying that the city had only two universities (AJ 29.04.04). We are the university that hosts the region's only school of architecture, and I was also disappointed that Rob Annable in his follow-up letter (AJ 6.5.04) should associate us with poor recruitment. If anyone should want to see for themselves just what has been happening in the Birmingham School of Architecture and Landscape during the past year, then please visit our show at the Arts cafe in St Martins at the Bullring (opposite 'that' building) from 21-24 June. The school is buzzing with a new energy, and has been greatly strengthened by a healthy relationship with our colleagues in practice. Professor Thom Gorst, head of the Birmingham School of Architecture and Landscape
Well done Thom. A balanced response that managed to back up my original point, reprimand me for doing the school a disservice, get in a plug for the upcoming show and flatter the visiting tutors. Not bad for a couple of paragraphs. The good news is that a couple of e-mails between us earlier this week has hopefully put us all square, and I've been invited to the private viewing of the show next month.

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Tony Goodall 1939-2006 tags: tony, tonygoodall, architect It's with a heavy heart that I return to this journal. On Thursday of last week at 4am, my friend Tony Goodall lost his fight with an illness that had hospitalized him a few weeks earlier. It all happened much quicker than any of us expected and at the time I was on holiday, camping in North Devon. To begin with I felt guilty about being away from the office, but I know that Tony would have heartily approved of me spending the week under canvas, drinking red wine, reading Proust and watching kites being flown on the beach. Upon my return to the office this week I wrote a few words about him in my notebook (click for larger versions or get the PDFs). Since his influence resulted in many past journal entries I'm going to post it here followed by some links to a few relevant pieces that you and I owe to his wisdom and creativity.

tony-goodall-1

tony-goodall-2

tony-goodall-3

Links: Death of a Drawing Board, Brighton Memory Palace and Concrete Evidence.

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UCEless
Q: Where can we explore the complex to make things clear? @:UCE
The University of Central England has excelled itself once more. Not only does the latest advert look as bad as all the previous ones, it barely even makes sense the first time you read it. The colour balance is wrong, the composition is clumsy and the typography is abismal. Even from 10 feet away, on the lower level of the tram, I can tell exactly what the problem is. It's not the poor sucker who designed it, it's the marketing department of UCE Inc. A few years ago, Tris, Tom and I were asked to design a new poster for the School of Housing. We were given a set of rules that were not be broken: the image must be x number of millimetres from top and y from the bottom, the text must be z points tall and Frutiger etc. We tried to bend rather than break, blurred the boundaries here and there, adjusted it to make it work. Initially the client was happy, but when it was passed up the line for approval it came straight back with the instruction to change it. You can see the results in our gallery. The irony is that the cheeky monkey twins featured in the advert (who look as confused as I am) are from the Fine Art school and could probably do a better job with a few potato prints.

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UOGB Free concert, March 30th, at the MAC in Birmingham. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Dare you miss it?
Purists: prepare to do battle. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain challenge the complex world with their simplicity and prove that both anything can be played on the uke, and that the uke can play anything. Their latest CD, The Secret of Life, is a tour de force of all music from the early baroque period onwards; held together with a common instrument and a lot of laughs. source - http://www.longman-records.com/
Send an e-mail to nick@cgstudio.freeserve.co.uk to apply for the tickets. Their web site is http://www.ukuleleorchestra.com.

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Vanity project The name of this blog is born of the recognition that all blogs are to some extent a vanity project (and the fact that I need somewhere to store ideas and links); No, too self / Note to self. Palmpixel over at MoblogUK agrees, adding;
Vanity project or abjectly yet self referentially depressed goth pointing out the shortcomings of others.
Hello to all the goths out there.

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PDAlfie ooh, I just checked out palmpixels.com, veerrry interesting. Downloadable content and links for your PDA, I'm off to dig deeper...

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*waves* It's always good for the ego when a blog you've been enjoying for a while takes the time to wave back at you from their side of the information superhighway*. Hello to anyone who got here via the always informative thingsmagazine.net. I've posted an entry about the name of this blog before, but reading the entry at things has highlighted a new way of writing it. It started life as Note to Self, since it's goal was to make a record of ideas that might come in handy later on. Then, feeling uncomfortable about whether or not the world needed another blog, I changed it to No, too self in recognition of the fact that every blog is, at least in part, a navel gazing vanity project. Then for some reason, as I was typing the title section of the HTML, I decided to write No, 2 self. Perhaps I was just too lazy to write too. Now, thanks to thingsmagazine.net, I've just realised that No.2 Self is equally fitting; welcome to my second self, my alter ego, my number 2. Just when I thought the word play was perhaps a little infantile and overly ambiguous, it's now beginning to seem suitably robust. I leave it up to you to decide whether this blog is waving or sticking two fingers up.

* I decided to blow the dust off that phrase just for old times sake

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Weetabix Club no longer exists Found in an old box and posted here for posterity (with additional hyperlinks) before I consign it to the waste basket. The date is the 7th November 1988...
Dear Robert, Thank you for your letter regarding the Weetabix Club. Since we started the Club in 1983, it has grown so quickly that it is now very, very hard to keep a record of our members and where thery live. In view of this, we are sorry but we have to tell you that the Weetabix Club no longer exists. You will still see the Weetabix characters on current Weetabix packs, television and in the children's comics. Watch out for them as they continue fighting and beating the titchy breakfasts. Yours sincerely, A.D.Lee - Sales Promotion and Development Manager

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wish you were here

glebe_place

[more]

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writeback Since a few visitors to the site have recently commented on my lack of comments, I've decided to add the necessary plugin to allow people to write responses and leave trackback connections. The result - writebacks - can be seen at the bottom of each entry and you can click on it to read or leave a comment. There are two reasons I didn't implement this from the beginning. When I first started this log book, it was designed to be an ideas/links dump for myself; it wasn't my intention to use it as a discussion forum. Since then, as its content, role and worth have begun to take shape, I've become more interested in its ability to spark debate. With this in mind it seemed a comments section would be useful. The second reason is that there are few things as depressing as visiting a site that says 'there are 0 writebacks' across all the entries. Let's hope that doesn't happen here. Note: for some reason it isn't working with the linklogs that get delivered by de.licio.us, it may be something to do with the numeric titles. I'll get it fixed soon, but doubt that many people will need to comment on links anyway.

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can we fix it? I just fixed the writeback option on the de.licio.us links - I was right, it had something to do with the numeric file titles

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king kong in brum Inspired by the latest entry at thingsmagazine.net, a link to Keith Berry's wonderful photos of old Birmingham has reminded about some photos I uploaded last year.

king_kong_1

king_kong_2 king_kong_3

King Kong on the move. He used to live in the city centre, then ended up on a car sales forecourt for a few years until the students at the architecture school rescued him for a party sometime during the 70's. I understand he is still alive and kicking and stands guard over a market place up north somewhere. I'll double check the story when I get to the office and speak to the photographer himself. More Birmingham photo archives here: the car park on the roof.

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flickrmap tags: mapping, photography, gps

Flickrmap have just announced version 2 of their photo/map mash up service. They've improved the Google Earth network connection that you use to tag photos with GPS and also introduced a Google map rendered option as well as their own stylised version.

Here's mine: (which, of course, doesn't appear in the RSS feed)



And I've set up a Google map version here: Google Flickrmap The subscription rate has gone up, but at $9.75 for a year it's difficult to grumble. Worth a look if you want to easily tag your photos with GPS info and spit out a map easily at the other end. This is the system I used to quickly tag the photos to accompany podcast episode 2 - ArchWeekWalk.

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60k house winner 60k house winner
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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and it burns, burns, burns the ring of fire.

and it burns, burns, burns

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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as lucky can be Winter camera hibernation is officially over, finally there's some light worth capturing. as lucky can be
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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brown field silver porsche brown field silver porsche
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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coming soon coming soon
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Denys Lasdun's arse ...once enjoyed these chairs. And now they're mine. AHAHAHAHAHA!! A 1962 Robin Day design for Hille. More on Denys: wikipedia, BBC audio, Open University, Archinform. Denys Lasdun's arse this entry has more images
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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early zaha? Found outside the toilets at a Japanese restaurant - early Zaha Hadid? early zaha?
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Europan 8 This should have won. Disappointing set of chosen entries. Winner has already won 3 times before - major embarrassment for CABE. Europan 8
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Europan winner 1st place. For the 3rd time. Europan winner
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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falling tags: photography, moblog

falling

(link:) [no, 2 self photos]

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from Birmingham Post '400,000 new homes for West Midlands' ... Hold all my calls, it looks like I'm gonna be busy. from Birmingham Post
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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from today's Observer from today's Observer
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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join the travelator join the travelator
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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life of grime

life of grime

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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look out

look out

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Mash up Mash up
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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No idea No idea
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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or aura

or aura

this entry has more images

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Paris mosque Paris mosque this entry has more images
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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park up
park up
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Pei pyramid Pei pyramid this entry has more images
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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picture this

Found in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham - an alternate plane of reality that only aligns with ours from one particular coordinate.

picture this

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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Pompi-done Pompi-done
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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spacebox
spacebox
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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steely glare steely glare
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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the end is nigh the end is nigh this entry has more images
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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To the heavens To the heavens
(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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tower crane

more BT tower posted for Kozika tower crane

this entry has more images

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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traffic light

traffic light

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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twinkle twinkle

twinkle twinkle

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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urban splashed Rotunda refurbed and resold

urban splashed

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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wood blocks

wood blocks

(link) [no, 2 self photos]

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thrown away Damn it. I missed an opportunity to enter a photography competition in BD magazine. The winners have just been published.
Developing nicely - 27 January 2006 What you see ... is the fruit of the ninth BD/Zumtobel photo competition which gives Building Design readers the chance to show off their photo skills with nothing more than a disposable camera. Because you sent in your cameras unprocessed, you don't know how your snaps turned out, but our judges do. This is the cream of the crop.
Related entries: kids with cameras - 1 and 2. (two disposable camera photo comps I've helped run recently)

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bleu Tags: Proust,Paris,blue
"How nice he is! How gallant! Why the boy's a bit of a ladies' man already: he takes after his uncle. He'll be a perfect gentleman,", she added, clenching her teeth to give the phrase a slightly British accent. "Couldn't he come have a cup of tea with me sometime, as our neighbours the English say? He need only send me a 'blue' in the morning."
Travelled to Paris. Sent you some pictures. Visited the Shakespeare and Company book shop.

DSC00353

Bought some Proust. Seemed like I had little choice.

DSC00352

Learnt, on the tram home today, via the footnotes to the above quote, that a 'blue' was an express letter transmitted by pneumatic tube within Paris. Learnt, later, at my desk thirty minutes ago, via bloglines.com, that Matt Webb's latest post - a wonderful collection of slides from some recent teaching he did - covers the very same topic. See slide 26 of Fictional Futures. Better yet, read the whole thing, it's a rich seam of ideas.
There'll be more on Paris. Probably more Proust. In the meantime you're welcome to peruse some of the other pictures I took: Paris, April 2006.

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Bournville, Birmingham article submitted to everything2.com Each of the houses in Bournville were planted with six fruit trees. George Cadbury would visit personally every once in a while, to ensure that the gardens of his properties were being properly tended for. This was no vision of sustainability, his primary goal was to ensure that his staff were kept busy during their 'leisure' time; thus keeping them away from the Gin and the bedroom.

The Bournville Village Trust have a specific colour that all the external woodwork on the houses must be painted in. The British Standard for it is BS 10 B 15.

William Morris and his merry band of pre-Raphaelites were one of the major influences on domestic architectural style of the time. Their interest in the medieval period was born of a desire to return to a time of perceived simplicity and moral righteousness. The fact that they were often busy bedding each other's wives didn't seem to prevent them from being both prolific and influential. I would advise that anyone who is in the area of Birmingham should take the time to at least go through Bournville once, to see an example of some fantastic social engineering, and experience an architectural vision that was to influence the aesthetic of City Council estates in Britain for years to come.

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cave man? Are you still trying decide what to buy this Christmas for that friend who has everything? Time's running out, so here's a suggestion; how about a cave house in Spain? My good friend, regular inspiration and fellow architect, Tom Booker (who you may remember from the entry about the key to the MI5 tea cupboard) and his partner Claire Johnson recently teamed up with some friends to buy and renovate a cave cut into the limestone of the hills of Andalusia. The first of two is now complete and available to buy, full details are at www.visionremota.org/cuevas. We paid them a visit just over a year ago during the construction and the transformation is startling. Here's a picture of Tom shortly after the completion of one of the fire places. cueva_tom Here's the plan of the house. In some primal, long forgotten memory of our prehistoric ancestors, the layout of the rooms and passages is so seductive that it seems you could sell it on the strength of this drawing alone. Plan The front of property, rebuilt after the interior has been cut into the hillside, looks like this: facade You can click on all the images to see them at full size. From what I saw mid-construction and from what I know of Tom and Claire (who's also an architect), the finished product will be beautiful. Find an architect with good design skills who's also prepared to get his hands dirty and craft it himself and you're on to a winner. Of course if you do buy it as a gift this Christmas, you may need some help from Christo when it comes to wrapping it.
Merry Christmas to you all, I'll be back next week. I've got to go and buy a tree before it's too late.

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Venturi, Scott-Brown and Walt A sample from the excellent article in Metropolis Magazine by Robert Venturi, discussing Disney's Pop Century resort. The full article is here.
But let us remember that throughout the history of architecture and urbanism, iconography has always dominated the scene, instructing and persuading us with its religious and civic content in ways no different from today?s vigorous (and despised) commercial iconography. Let us acknowledge the validity of those signs as a flourishing element within that vital, generic American scene, as well as within the great tradition of architecture and urbanism! Let us today transfer the murals from the inside to the outside of the buildings! Let us not be limited by the intimidations of taste and a Modernist revival that promotes decadent/dramatique abstract expressionism and industrial rocaille for the postindustrial age. Let us be stimulated by the vigor of iconography appropriate for our information/electronic age!

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Travel tips tags: travel, dublin I'm spending this coming weekend in Dublin. Anybody have any good suggestions for places/spaces/buildings/restaurants to visit?

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uneven territory I just got back from a weekend in York. Spoils from the trip include a copy of Ted Hughes' Hawk in the Rain (which I first encountered on a previous trip to York whilst dining in The Tasting Room) and some sneaky phonecam photos of the inside of Fairfax House. hall chippendale detail bureau main stair rear stair annes bureau It's a beautifully restored 18th century townhouse with a mind blowing collection of Georgian furniture and clocks. One of which was apparently worth Ł750,000 when valued some years ago. Every piece had at least three different functions and numerous secret compartments - a vital requirement back in the days before password protected zip files and .htaccess controlled folders were available. Take the time to visit if you are ever near York. One word of advice though; avoid visiting Fairfax House, the medieval Clifford's Tower and the nearby Cafe 31 in the same morning. All three are suffering from settlement and movement to some degree and there isn't a perfect right angle to be found anywhere. Result: dizzyness and mild nausea until you find some flat ground again.

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flickr + google maps + birmingham Chris Heathcote over at anti-mega.com has put together a neat little hack between Google maps and Flickr. Photos tagged with gps info are located and previewed over a map or satellite image. He's published the perl so I couldn't resist the temptation to try a page for myself. Here's the city where I work and (occasionally) play:

http://rob.annable.co.uk/flickrcity/birmingham.html

I'm an architect first and a geek much later, so there are still plenty of teething problems with it. I haven't really worked out how to do a proper job yet but I've sent Chris a message so I'm hoping he'll be able to help. It's a static page at the moment that I've manually renamed as I haven't managed to get it to spit out the file with a suffix that a browser will render. I think it's supposed to work on the fly rather than with a cron job. I'm also short of a way to distinguish Birmingham in the UK with other Birminghams around the world; some of the links take you off around the planet. The other teething problem is the rather frustrating discovery that the satellite imagery for the UK's second city isn't up to scratch yet. The higher res stuff ends just at the edge of the city centre. Perhaps by the time I've worked it out there will have been time for the satellite to make a few more passes...

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crimping and cranking In an effort to wash away the rage that was building inside me after too many car journeys to work, I paid a visit to the climbing wall at Aston University last week. I really need to start getting on the tram again. Hatred for your fellow motorist hops from car to car like headlice in a school assembly and you quickly become infected. Last week I leant on the horn and hurled abuse at someone only to realise a few minutes later that they had been completely in the right and I, and my horn, had been wrong. [climb.jpg:out] Something had to be done and one of the best ways I know to empty your mind and relax is to potter about on a bouldering wall. Climbing is one of the most laid back sports I've ever done, both mentally and socially - getting uptight about a move is the best way to guarantee you'll fall off and I've never met anything but warmth and friendliness from a fellow climber. Once, during a 3 month stay in Santa Cruz in California, I tried to learn how to surf. You know, that easy going, not-a-care-in-the-world, life's a beach, kinda sport. Rubbish. I met nothing but aggression. On one occasion I got told to f**! off before I'd even got in the water. Aside from that, a ten foot wall of water bearing down on you like a freight train is significantly more frightening than slipping from a rock and sailing gracefully and silently through the air. More dangerous too; I have the dislocated clavicle to prove it, but that's another story. I've mentioned an indoor wall in Stourbridge in a previous entry; this time I had only my lunch break to fit in a session on the rock resin. If you're going to climb indoors in Birmingham, there are a couple of choices. You could choose to go and tackle the 70 foot high walls at The Rock Face, but you'll not have time to tackle many of those feet during your lunch hour and it's quite expensive unless you put aside a whole day. The alternative is to spend Ł2.50 and practice your crimping 1 at the wall in the Gem Sports Hall at Aston University. It's small but quite well formed - technically challenging in some places, all muscle in others. A few minutes cranking hard 2 whilst listening to the haunting soundscapes of the group I mentioned in the linklog a few days ago and I was soon forgetting about both car and horn. I'm not quite in the shape I used to be when I was climbing 10 years ago, but then, who is? If anybody is looking for a climbing buddy in Birmingham and can deal with the fact that I'll be in and out again in no more than about 25 minutes, before dashing back to the office, let me know. Tomorrow I shall be embarking on my first outing with the skateboard I've just finished building. It's been 15 years since I last got on a board, you may expect stories that involve both broken limbs and broken pride. I wonder if they have WiFi at the hospital?

  1. come with me one lunch break and I'll explain what that means.
  2. Ibid.

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more sky Tags:art,skyspace,photography More Skyspace details from Neil:
A couple of extra observations: I was in there on Sunday. We had a really grim weekend with stacks of rain, and the floor was all grimed up, plenty of mud and water in the drainage channels. The roofhole /is/ open to the elements, and it's actually quite nice when it's drizzling. I hadn't noticed them before, but there are lights installed on top of the side-bench things. Significantly less ambient light on Sunday, so they were visible although it's only a slight glow. Can't see them, but I'd guess they're fluorescent tubes and the light they give off is slightly peachy. Maybe that's just in contrast to the very- white walls, though.

pour

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a panoply Tags: panoplee,freecycle,community A local post for local people. This is the height of laziness, but I'm going to let Matthew announce a new project I'm involved in since he's already done such a good job on his own blog...
Wolverhampton Freeycle has quietly been building up over the past few months. With virtually no promotion, there are now 601 of us giving away useful items and benefitting from the things that other members no longer need. It's great to get rid of something and know that someone else can make use of it, when it would otherwise go in the dump. Rob and I have been thinking, for a while, that we'd like to build something more out of the community that has developed around Wolves Freecycle. The Freecycle group itself works best when dedicated to messages offering or requesting items. Also, the original American Freecycle group is very specific about how its trademark should be used. Freecycle groups are run using the Yahoo Groups system, which is a mailing-list/forum hybrid. Several other Freecycle groups have created what they call their cafe group, also using the Yahoo system. We felt that was too limiting: not only are you bound to accept Yahoo's advertising but you have no room for future growth, when people have good ideas for new features. A couple of weeks ago, we set up panoplee.com and began looking for suitable forum software. It's frustrating that almost all forum software is virtually identical, in terms of clunky user experience, despite their authors' protestations to the contrary. Vanilla, however, is clean, fast and user-friendly. We're now telling people about panoplee.com. I'm surprised that a city the size of Wolverhampton doesn't already have something similar.

Wolverhampton community website.

Local or not, we'd welcome your thoughts/links.

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For Al, Joseph and Nikos My friend Al just got back from a weekend in Paris but he didn't have time to visit Parc de la Villete; Joseph Clarke of That Brutal Joint is in Paris this week and has just posted his thoughts on Parc de la Villette; and for all I know Nikos Salingaros may even be in Parc de la Villete right now. Even if this isn't the case I thought he might like to know a little bit about how a text he believes can only convey messages of violence resulted in such an enjoyable park. Also, since, according to Salingaros, my previous entry on Tschumi '...unwittingly gave us a poignant cinematic characterization...' and nothing more, I thought it best to flesh out the whole dead/alive zombie thing (pun completely intended). In other words, Al, this is what you didn't see; Joseph, here's a little more about what you did see; Nikos, here's a little something that I wish you could see. So, disassembled and reassembled from some past writing, I give you...

Parc de la Villette

Situated in north-east Paris in the 19ème arrondissement, Parc de la Villette was built during the 1980's to redevelop an area of the city once used as an abattoir. As a collaboration between architect and philosopher, it was one of the first examples of a genre that would influence both architectural education and cutting edge practice throughout the remainder of the 20th century.
To achieve architecture without resorting to design is an ambition often in the minds of those who go through the incredible effort of putting together buildings. Behind this objective is the desire to achieve the obvious clarity of the inevitable; a structure in which the concept becomes architecture itself. In this approach there is no need to design ‘new' abstract shapes or historically grounded forms...according to ones ideological allegiance. Here the idea or concept would result in all the architectural, social, or urbanistic effects one could dream of without reliance on proportion, style, or aesthetics. Instead of designing seductive shapes or forms, one would posit an axiom or principle from which everything would derive.
This statement by French architect Bernard Tschumi, is both the essence of his architectural quest, and a bridge between present day contemporary theory and its predecessor - poststructuralism. We’ll begin by examining the essence of his ideology and then look at how this became the design rational behind one of Paris’ grande projet.

architecture without resorting to design...

A singular obsession can be read between the lines of Bernard Tschumi's work since the publication of 'The Manhattan Transcripts' and the later 'Architecture and Disjunction'. His search for the almost indefinable 'in-between' or interstitial existence was the beginning of architecture's intellectual cross fertilisation with poststructuralist philosophy. The previous structuralist manifesto of a world consisting of signs and its concept of 'signifier' / 'signified', was accused of being too rigid and ignorant of time or place. In poststructuralism the notion of these binary oppositions - such as up/down, male/female or alive/dead - are challenged in an attempt to break down accepted hierarchies. One of the most important figures in this movement was Jaques Derrida. His written disassembly of structuralist work, such as that by Claude Levi-Strauss, became known as 'deconstruction'. Here his connection with Tschumi begins in their work together for Parc de la Villette.
Our aims were to displace the traditional opposition between program and architecture, and to extend questioning of other architectural conventions through operations of superimposition, permutation, and substitution to achieve "a reversal of the classical oppositions and a general displacement of the system," as Jaques Derrida has written, in another context, in 'Marges'.1
Parc de la Villette consisted of the collision/superimposition of three separate programs - 'system of points', 'system of lines' and 'system of surfaces'. Their pre-collision exclusivity is an expression of the notion of working 'within' a preconceived order and the production of a flat hierarchy. The superimposition is then administered arbitrarily and any form of controlled composition is avoided. The Parc expresses two vital parts of the Tschumi/Derrida technique or 'pharmakon': That of the creation of an unpredictable 'event' at the point of superimposition, derived from the critique/construction occurring 'in between' the texts/programs; and (as already seen in the opening quote) the desire for complete objectivity during the creative act.
Although each is determined by the architect as 'subject', when one system is superimposed on another, the subject - the architect - is erased.2

Two further Tschumi projects demonstrate his desire to erase his subjective persona from his architecture. The glass video gallery at Groningen in the Netherlands, and Le Fresnoy, the Centre for Art and Media at Tourcoing in France 3. Le Fresnoy, a re-inhabitation of an old school building, is perhaps the complete distillation of all Tschumi's desires into one project. The combination of the old and new programs producing the most physical manifestation of his quest for 'interstitial' or 'event' space. The placing of the roof plane over the existing buildings generates a new circulation space between the two.

How well I would write if I were not here! If between the white page and the writing of words and stories that take shape and disappear without anyone's ever writing them there were not interposed that uncomfortable partition which is my person! Style, taste, individual philosophy, subjectivity, cultural background, real experience, psychology, talent, tricks of the trade: all the elements that make what I write recognizable as mine seem to me a cage that restricts my possibilities. If I were only a hand, a severed hand that grasps a pen and writes... 4

visiting Parc de la Villette...

Get there by taking the metro to Porte de Pantin or Porte de Villette. If you’re in Paris during the summer, all the better, the park comes to life when the sun is shining. The structure of surfaces, lines and points laid out by Tschumi is inhabited by numerous spaces designed with different themes. Look for the bamboo garden for some sensory delight and try not to be too disappointed by the discovery that the aural treats are just recordings. Other things to look for include the chairs by Phillipe Starck and the huge pop art sculptures by Claes Oldenburg.

references:

  1. Tschumi, Bernard (1996) Architecture and Disjunction , MIT Press.
  2. Ibid.
  3. see the projects section of tschumi.com.
  4. Calvino, Italo. (1981) If on a winter's night a traveller , Minerva. (see previous post also)

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folly Link to an image of Tschumi's constructivist follies: courtesy of Dave Morris' flickr photostream.

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For Pat We'd journey, seemingly forever, from the town to the country. Darkness would fall, the headlights of the car only just winning the battle against the rural pitch black. Sleep. Breakfast in a farmhouse kitchen. Tea towels draped over the handles of the range. Spot, the farmhouse dog whose name is all that's necessary to describe his appearance, darts frantically around at your feet. A Jack Russell's demeanour never seems to change. Out to the yard to fetch the sheepdog, between the barns there's a mist trying hard to be fog. In the back of a Land Rover dog and I climb, I perch on the wheel arch, this is his space not mine. He eyes me suspiciously, I'm not his master; he suspects I am quick but he knows he is faster. The four by four vehicle forces dirt tracks to yield. Supermarket? School run? No. Sheep in a field. He's given the order and carefully slinks. Slowly at first then a whistle says FLY! Surgical precision. Away. COME BY! I fill pockets with stones that I find on the field. There are millions, they're worthless, I'm told it's called flint. They can make sparks and fires - now that's worth a mint. My memory grows hazy, it's a new time of year. I climb on a tractor - a Ford? A John Deere? Lambs I would later be able to eat - so cute, so cuddly - now my favourite meat. Some fed on bottles, I feel no remorse, knowing little of gravy, spuds or mint sauce. Here comes the harvest, a barn full of grain, protected from splashes of autumnal rain. I ride on the trailer towed by the tractor; it's bumpy, hilarious, dangerous even - but all thoughts of accidents don't seem to factor. Marks from the tractor scribed on the mud, straight lines and arcs, circles round trees, I'd repeat their perfection with a pen if I could. Back at the farmhouse a pheasant's our feed. Shot by the farmer, he carves it in tweed. A pipe. Pipe cleaners. The smell of tobacco. Spot jumps. We go home.
I learnt last night that my Mother's best friend - whose husband was my Father's best man at their wedding and whose daughter was born on the same day as me - died this week of a heart attack. As a child I would visit their farm and, unsurprisingly, images of the place began to return when I heard the news. Tainted by the passing of time, some may be idealised fabrications; most are as vivid as if they were only days old. The slightly bouncy rhythm I'm going to blame on the fact that I was recalling a time when everything was a form of play. Every child deserves to have the opportunity to see the life blood of all of us - the products of working the earth - nutured and harvested. Yet I doubt I'll even be able to provide that experience for my own kids today. How many of you know someone who works with the land? Not many of you I'll wager.

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as early as you please An article I was reading about the current exhibition at the V&A in London reminded me of a book I have by John Ruskin, which, in turn, reminded me of some photos I took during a trip to Tuscany. Returning to the 101 year old book and the 3 year old digital photos, it seemed only fair to bring them together and share them with you. Here's a brief excerpt to wet your appetite. If you ever travel to Florence, let me know and I'll lend you the book.

Mornings in Florence by John Ruskin (1904)

Today, as early as you please, and at all events before doing anything else, let us go to Giotto's own parish-church, Santa Maria Novella. If, walking from the Strozzi Palace, you look on your right for the 'Way of the Beautiful Ladies,' it will take you quickly there.

mornings_in_florence_1

Do not let anything get in the way of acquaintance, sacristan, or chance sight, stop you in doing what I tell you. Walk straight up to the church, into the apse of it; - (you may let your eyes rest, as you walk, on the glow of its glass, only mind the step, half way;) - and lift the curtain; and go in behind the grand marble altar, giving anybody who follows you anything they want, to hold their tongues or go away.

mornings_in_florence_2

You know, most probably, already, that the frescoes on each side of you are Ghirlandajo's. You have been told they are fine, and if you know anything of painting, you know the portraits in them are so. Nevertheless, somehow, you don't really enjoy these frescoes, nor come here often do you? The reason of which is, that if you are a nice person, they are not nice enough for you; and if you are a vulgar person, not vulgar enough. ... Well, now you must ask for the Sacristan, who is civil and nice enough; and get him to let you into the green cloister, and then into the less cloister opening out of it on the right, as you go down the steps; and you must ask for the tomb of the Marchesa Strozzi Rifoldi; and in the recess behind the Marchesa's tomb - very close to the ground, and in excellent light, if the day is fine, - you will see two small frescos, only about four feet wide each, in odd-shaped bits of wall - quarters of circles; representing - that on the left, the Meeting of Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate; and on the right, the Birth of the Virgin1. No flourish of trumpets here, at any rate, you think! No gold on the gate; and, for the birth of the Virgin - is this all! Goodness! - nothing to be seen , whatever of bas-reliefs, nor fine dresses, nor graceful pourings out of water, nor processions of visitors? No. But there's one thing you can see, here, which you didn't in Ghirlandajo's fresco, unless you were very clever and looked hard for it - the Baby! And you are never likely to see a more true piece of Giotto's work in this world.
If, however, you no longer have a single romantic bone in your body and you have no interest in holding the slightly yellowed pages of the original in your hand - unable to turn the pages due to the blisters on your mouse finger - you could simply download the whole thing from the Gutenberg project.

notes:
1. this image doesn't appear to be the one Ruskin is describing as the details are slightly different, the general theme is the same though and it's all I've been able to find so far - I'll have to go back again!

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skyspace Tags: jamesturrell, art, installation, photography, concrete Friday. A long day of CAD drafting ahead of me. My spirits are lifted briefly by the latest article by Hugh Pearman about James Turrell's installation, Skyspace. I get to the links at the bottom and realise that it's at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Hooray for the interweb! I know someone nearby...
From: Rob
To: Neil
Date: 28-Apr-2006 09:54
Subject: in the name of art Dear Neil, Need a big favour. Please could you fix it for me to see some photos of this: http://www.hughpearman.com/2006/13.html I know you've got the skills to nail it. All the best, Rob
A couple of e-mail exchanges later...
From: Neil
To: Rob
Date: 30-Apr-2006 14:44
Subject: Re: in the name of art Rob, Mission accomplished! Here's all the pics I took today, smallenised down for easy emailage: let me know if you want particular ones biggerified. I picked a busy time, Sunday afternoon, so that The Art Guards would have more people to bother with, and I was all hoodied-up for some sneaky phonecam action. Rather disappointed, then, that there isn't a member of staff /in there/, just one on the door. And I knew him. People were taking photos in there with normal cameras quite openly - in flagrant disregard of the rules - so I joined in. Don't get me started on the two incredibly loud women...

viewers

Then there was a lull in the traffic and it was just me in there for a while, so I got some architecturally bits and pieces that I thought you might be interested in: since the roof is open to the sky it seems to be designed a little bit like a wetroom, with channels in the concrete sides and a sort of drainage ditch running around the edge of the floor.

escape bench drainage corner shaft

It's very calm in there, provided there aren't any talking people (quite an echo). It's a perfect square in plan, and I wouldn't be too surprised if the height of the room was the same, too. The sky-window seems to have almost no lip to it - it's a frame, not a shaft. Quite cloudy but bright today, so the sky was a big glow of white rather than blue. The walls and the ceiling around the frame are white, the sides/benches are that sort of smooth concrete stuff they seem to like using in modern builds these days and the floor is a rougher concrete-eqsue stuff. The sides and particularly the door frame with its slab of lintel lend the place a tomblike feel. The sides are sloped back at just the right angle to gaze upwards. Apparently they're going to open it at night sometime, which will be /so/ cool. I'll probably sneak back in during the week when there are less tourists about, and get some realcam pictures. Enjoy! Neil
Like I said, hooray for the interweb. And hooray for folks like Neil. I was a little skeptical when I first started reading the Hugh Pearman piece, much less so by the time I finished it. Now I'm entirely sold on the idea. It looks like an absolute delight for eyes and fingers. Anyone for a trip to the YSP?

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lost and found

18 KIs
National
Museum,

1977, cou

steps

Tidying the office, looking for a missing drawing, found this photocopy of a book with the annotation just off the edge of the page...my boss can't remember the name of the architect, any takers? Beautiful, isn't it?

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Foot Where? At the climbing wall this evening. Chalk from my fingers infiltrating my PDA, each letter taking three attempts to write - my tendons sluggish from the lactic acid pouring into my forearms. A single missing trainer/sneaker/pump/dap1 meant I had to retreat to the resin rockface instead of my usual Thursday night trip to the Fencing Club. For those interested in details, Crystal Leisure Centre in Stourbridge has a small climbing wall that's good for bouldering. It's £2.70 to get in and they're open till 11pm. The wall has a good overhanging roof which, sadly, is now beyond my strength or skill. I like to stare at it and reminisce.
  1. delete as culturally applicable

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the kids are alright tags: modernism, design, serpentine, koolhaas In respectful silence we shuffle around the room. Lips tightly sealed, chins being stroked pensively; nobody daring to appear unaware of the importance of the artefacts on the walls and floor. We're monks in a monastery of modernism. Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch. Chattering as she goes, my three year old daughter rattles across the floor with her toy buggy and parks herself over the sign that says please do not touch on the plinth carrying a Rietveld chair. Disapproving looks ensue and a stoney faced guard starts to stride towards us. The games commence. The modernism exhibition at the V&A has only a few days left to run. I can't report on the contents in much detail (too busy stopping my daughter sitting on iconic furniture) but I can tell you that the compact layout and the hushed atmosphere that everyone seems to fall into doesn't make it easy to take kids. You win some, you lose some. It's important though, for both us and them, to keep in the habit of going to galleries and exhibitions. In the courtyard outside, free from the clutches of the gallery police, I'm feeling quintessentially British with my trousers rolled up to my knees paddling in the blessed relief of ten inches of cool water. Matt Webb - trousers in a similar state - confesses that he would never have thought to paddle in the V&A courtyard pool had he not seen the kids do it first. You win some, you lose some. We talk about rabbits, neo-cons and perturbations.
Perturbation theory comprises mathematical methods that are used to find an approximate solution to a problem which cannot be solved exactly, by starting from the exact solution of a related problem. Perturbation theory is applicable if the problem at hand can be formulated by adding a 'small' term to the mathematical description of the exactly solvable problem.
Next stop: Hyde Park and the Serpentine Pavilion. As I'm taking some photos of the outside a passer-by notices the golden cover of the Zumbotel photography competition disposable camera in my son Josh's hand and stops to talk for a moment.

edge light side anchor dark side

He asks about the building and I explain that it's a temporary structure by Rem Koolhaas constructed as one of a series of pavilions that have been erected each summer over recent years. Going for bonus points, I repeat something I'd half read in the press earlier that week about how the up-lift of the inflated roof is roughly equivalent to the weight of the lower section, therefore cancelling each other out.
"So it's a neutral building then?"
Well, yes, I say. I suppose it is. Neutral. Oh dear, this doesn't feel like a good start. We step inside and I deploy my 'small' term to find an approximate solution to a problem which cannot be solved exactly.

heave

Reconfigurable, adaptable, democratic space? Building blocks. Like any other five year old would, he's built an island in the time it takes most adults to realise the foam chunks can even be moved.

to me, to you stepping sliding pushing

Great stuff. Meanwhile, Tom and I wander and take some more pictures. Some nice detailing, shimmering translucent surfaces everywhere and an unexpected form to the underbelly of the balloon. Having completed perturbing the space, Josh is now leaping between foam stepping stones, zig-zagging between visitors.

sliver nestle

Neutral. The idea won't budge. If the actions that define its position are cancelled out to zero, what do you have left? Nothing. I'm feeling nothing. Josh takes a tumble and lands in a heap on the sharp holes punched through the stainless steel floor. As I step forward to pick him up a staff member chooses that moment to move in front of me, preventing my progress, and points out that jumping on the blocks is unsafe and the floor is sharp. I thank him for the timely advice. Bloody exhibition police. Can't we create any space today that doesn't need policing?

An approximate solution to a problem which cannot be solved exactly ... If we accept that the quest for the perfect architectural solution is a problem which cannot be solved exactly ... the model or diagram or sketch is the utopian exact solution of a related problem ... so perhaps the final, constructed problem at hand can be formulated by adding a 'small' term to the mathematical description of the exactly solvable problem or diagram ... meaning that we need to admit perturbations by 'small' terms are necessary to move from the idealistic exact solution of a related problem to find an approximate solution to the architectural problem we wisely recognise cannot be solved exactly.

Meaning that a system which denies the possibillity for perturbation by 'small' terms is still just mucking about with the related problem, not the problem. The pavilion feels like the exact solution to a related problem because I can't perturb it with a personal, subjective viewpoint given it's neutrality. Perturbing the foam cubes is fun though. 24 hours later I realise that the emptiness is also to do with the way I feel about actions defining character. We head for the Diana Memorial. An Aussie in a lifeguard t-shirt gets perturbed, waves a walkie-talkie at us and tells us to stop paddling in it. Strewth.

Related entries: Tyred, Fantasy Architecture, Fantastic Architecture, Hands that do fountains. If nothing else I can at least say that I now know how to spell pavillion pavilion correctly. Full flickr set of photos: Serpentine 2006 Elsewhere: Dan Hill, Rod McLaren.

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Pop in for Art A visit to Wolverhampton Art Gallery proved to be, as usual, quite fruitful. Coincidence took me there on the same day the local paper announced the news that the new pop art gallery will go to planning commitee next week. To promote the proposal there is an exhibition in the contemporary gallery of the usual suspects, including quotes on the wall from Andy Warhol and Marshall MacLuhan. At the back of the room is a plan and cut-away aerial view, showing the proposed design by Niall Phillips Architects. I'm encouraged by what I saw and hope Development Control treat it favourably. Although if it's dealt with by whoever approved the monstrosity next to the market; anything could happen. Triangular in plan, the new building sits in an existing courtyard space with one side parallel to the existing buildinq - the other two travelling towards the street and colliding just past the building line of adjacent properties. The wedges of remaining space will provide an interesting tension between old and new. You might describe it as being one third respectful, two thirds cheeky. Which seems like a fitting recipe for a building to house pop-art. Inside, the gallery is top lit and there appears to be some form of internal brise soleil to control the sunlight on the walls. Using natural light in a gallery is notoriously difficult; let's hope Niall Phillips can pull it off. Viewing the work in a triangular space should be interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing the pieces chosen to face each other in the corners. Could be a happy marriage, could be Clash of the Titans. Either way, there is a danger that the form will negate the program. It wouldn't be the first time this had happened with a gallery design, just ask Guggenheim. Often called the 'mother of all arts', Mother Architecture sometimes forgets that her children should be given the space to grow up on their own. [colorado_vi.jpg]The main gallery is currently running an exhibition called 'Forest'. A mixed bag really, but there are one or two items worth a look. Such as, Colorado Impression No. vi by Dan Hays and The Wax Room by Ken Parsons. Hays' work was inspired by Googling for his own name on the internet and finding another Dan Hays who'd published pictures of his home town, Colorado, on a web site. The resulting landscapes are painted pixel by pixel, as if produced by digital rather than analogue means. From across the room their form is quite clear, but as draw nearer you realise they've been heavily compressed; the jpeg algorithm forming new landscapes at the boundaries between objects. It's equally captivating from any distance. [wax_room.jpg]Stepping into Parsons' Wax Room made me wish I'd worn my flares. Psychadelic and hippyesque1, the walls and ceilings are covered in back-lit, kaleidascope like panels depicting different types of landscapes. Scatter cushions are provided for you to sit on whilst you listen to the voice over tell you about the imagery, in between the rise and fall of atmospheric music. If you have an Afghan coat; wear it. All that aside, the detailing of the panels is a delight and each is executed with care and rigour. [cucumber.jpg:in]Later, in the cafe on the fourth floor, whilst I struggled with the metaphysics of popforestart2, my nine month old daughter struggled with the physics of cucumber slices. The beginning of this entry was accompanied by a cup of Gunpowder green tea and a Martin Joseph CD playing on the stereo3. It was a little bitter to begin with, but mellowed after I'd had something to eat. I'll leave you to guess which one I'm talking about.
  1. Yes, I made this word up.
  2. Yes, I made this word up as well.
  3. One of the first CDs I ever bought was by Martin Joseph, it was called Dolphins Make Me Cry. I was clearly a rather melancholy teenager. Strangely, he was on Radio 2 again the morning I posted this entry.

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Wolverhampton Gallery tags: gallery, wolverhampton, critique, architecture Opening (I'm told) in March 2007, here's a preview of the nearly completed extension to my local gallery.

pop pop (1)

I'm looking forward to reviewing it next year, as the original proposal was the subject of one of my first blog entries in 2004:
Triangular in plan, the new building sits in an existing courtyard space with one side parallel to the existing buildinq - the other two travelling towards the street and colliding just past the building line of adjacent properties. The wedges of remaining space will provide an interesting tension between old and new. You might describe it as being one third respectful, two thirds cheeky. Which seems like a fitting recipe for a building to house pop-art.
You'll note that back then I believed this journal would be all about words with the occasional carefully placed image. Could I have been more wrong?

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icast Tags: podcast, architectureweek, jencks, erskine, events, birmingham

no, 2 self podcast episode 1:

Charles Jencks and Ralph Erskine - Participatory Politics and Organic Design (mp3 file - 17Mb).

It was only a matter of time before I got seduced by the idea of doing a podcast. This will hopefully be a two part program (if I manage to finish part 2 next week!) that will lead us up to Open Practice Day next Friday. The proposal is that you listen to them on the way to the office when you come and visit.

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ArchWeekWalk ArchWeekAnecdotes tags: architectureweek, podcast, googleearth, birmingham, events

google-earth-route

Following on from the podcast to cover your journey to Birmingham, here's an annotated walk to the office for tomorrow's 'Open Practice' day. Either follow it by walking the streets or be lazy and download a copy of Google Earth then use it to open this file:

http://rob.annable.co.uk/docs/Birmingham-ArchWeekWalk.kmz

Alternatively, add a 'network link' to the above url and get the live version that I may update occasionally.

I've recorded some audio to go with it but I've got to try and reduce some of the wind noise on it before I publish it. Howling gales between the buildings played havoc with my microphone.

Update:

Audio guide to the office:

Podcast Episode 2 - ArchWeekWalk and an ArchWeekAnecdote. Upload to your mp3 player and follow the directions.

Subscribe to this and future episodes in iTunes: no, 2 self podcast

See you tomorrow today!
The images linked to the Google Earth file are here: ArchWeekWalk flickr set.

info shed bt tower tesco metro grovesnor house natwest civic-centre

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You'll have had your tea My boss has just returned from a weekend in his home country, bringing with him a national delicacy - the Scottish Buttery. He brought a pack into the office this morning and we had them lightly toasted with marmalade. They were absolutely delicious. Especially when washed down with my new tipple - white tea. So I donned my Google goggles and went hunting. As you might imagine, it didn't take long to find something...
The comparison between Aberdeen Rolls and French Croissants, at least in terms of texture if not appearance, has been made by several writers. It has been suggested that rolls and croissants have a common ancestry that dates back to the end of the seventeenth century in Budapest after the defeat of the Turks. It's unclear as to when rolls were first made in Scotland but where ever they came from they have subsequently became an Aberdeen speciality. If you visit the Northeast of Scotland you will find Aberdeen Rolls on sale in every bakery, corner shop and supermarket and if you taste them you will be hooked forever. The names Aberdeen rolls, Butteries and Rowies are interchangeable so take your pick or even use them all, you'll be understood what ever you call them. These quantities will make about 16 rolls.
taken from http://www.ifb.net/webit/recipes.htm (there are full instructions on preparation on the site) That's this weekends baking sorted.

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Caipirinha There are probably about a million places on the web that you might find a recipe for the following drink. However, I feel no shame in making it one million and one, as this entry is repeated verbatim from the instructions given to me by work colleagues on my birthday last year (along with a bottle of Cachaca and some limes). I don't want to lose it and I want to be able to find it easily, so here it shall rest.
Caipirinha - a brazillian kick ass cocktail What you need: Cachaca, crushed ice, caster sugar and a plastic mixing jug with a lid (if you are making for more than one person).
  1. Crush loads of ice and put in freezer along with Cachaca bottle.
  2. Wet and chill glasses in freezer with a sugared rim ready for later.
  3. Wash, quarter and juice your limes, 1-2 or more per drink. Don't be fussy about this, try to get as much lime into the cocktail as possible and throw in the bits of skin if you like. The more zing the better. Keep some lime slices for decor in glass.
  4. Put crushed ice, a shot of Cachaca and lime juice in mixer. Add caster sugar to taste - start with a tablespoon although the Brazillians like it with about 2.5 per glass. Shake well and pour into chilled glass with more crushed ice if you want.
  5. The amount of Cachaca can be varied, start with the normal spirit measure.
  6. Sit back, sip, enjoy and think of the Rio Office*.
A slightly odd entry, since I've given up drinking, but I'm sure I'll be able to find a special occasion worthy of a few cocktails and a brief lapse in my alcohol free regime. *The Rio Office is a long held dream by myself and co-workers who find ourselves stuck in an office in the West Midlands.

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spoon the mix into the ring

Libby has asked me to type it up, so here's a wonderfully simple cheescake recipe, passed to me by my father-in-law (who found it online somewhere), that's been impressing everyone I've made it for so far. The original used two lemons and more Mascarpone cheese but it works better by switching one lemon with an orange, using some double cream and reducing the Mascarpone.

The recipes category is feeling neglected. For further justification see the comments of the very useful round up of architecture weblogs over at thingsmagazine.net.

Ingredients:

Method:

1. Crush the biscuits and combine with butter and honey. Place this mixture into a metal ring and press the mix evenly on the bottom of the mould. 2. Add the juice and zest from the orange and lemon, along with the sugar, to the Mascarpone and whipped* double cream. Stir together gently to avoid splitting the mixture. 3. Spoon the mixture over your biscuit base and encourage it to set by putting it in the fridge for a couple of hours. 4. Eat it. 5. Groan with delight.

* I forgot this bit once - still edible but difficult to serve elegantly

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architects and their tools Podcasts I can recommend:

brulee

In a moment of extreme generosity and bravery, I let Al Morrissey cut loose with the final part of the latest recipe from Crash Test Kitchen this weekend. Homegrown cookery lessons on video, much easier to learn than reading a list of ingredients: http://crashtestkitchen.com

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Do(ug)h! Still not quite getting the Chinese Dumplings right. Last time I ended up making the dough too thick around the pork and it didn't cook through properly. Next time I'm going to try a different dough recipe that doesn't use oil or egg. Found this one at a different site: Jiaozi dough Filling

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eve's pudding I promised a series of more haptic entries and then disappeared back into the Real World to deal with the all too haptic experience of moving house. So, where were we? Amidst the colours, shapes, sounds and smells of childhood rests the memories of certain TV personalities. Delia Smith, Ken Hom, Madhur Jaffrey - all regulars on our TV thanks to my Mother's interest in cooking. Nestled in there, alongside Delia's half hearted smile, Madhur's sari, and Ken's wok, is the nameless domestic godess from the cover of the Be-Ro recipe book. bero_cover My mother's cookery skills have long since surpassed the need for recipe books so I recently liberated it in order to share it with you. I tried the 'Eve's pudding' a couple of weeks ago and can report that it's fantastic with custard. Put down your Jamie Oliver and get back to basics.

victoria_sandwich eves_pudding

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Fettuccine spinaci e pollo I cooked this a few weeks ago when Mike and Libby came over one evening, but haven't had chance to write it up until now. Since I've been trying a few dishes from Asia recently, I decided to switch location and move to Italy. I'm a sucker for any pasta dish, and I think Mike probably gets enough Asian food at home and at his parent's house - he's Vietnamese. It was pretty successful but perhaps a little bland, I suspect I should have added more herbs.
Ingredients for 4 : Cube the chicken and heat up a generous amount of olive oil in a solid non-stick or cast-iron pan on maximum heat until it smokes and add the chicken, frying it until it has a tasty golden brown colur. Turn down the heat to medium and add the onions and the garlic, stirring continuously. When the onions are golden and soft, add a generous slosh of red wine and stir furiously to generate a nice fond. Now add the spinach and the chopped tomatoes and a tablespoon each of oregano, rosemary (fresh or rubbed) and basil. Let the sauce simmer for ca 45 on low heat and add salt , pepper to taste and finish with a generous helping of creme fraiche.
Liberated, as always, from the pages of everything2. We have Heisenberg to thank for this one.

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Dont forget the route, Ginger Saturday night's visitors, Simon and Gemma, got to sample my cullinary skills. Inspired by the comical name for the new wine bar on Ludgate Hill in Birmingham - 'Mongolian and Motown' - I decided to try the Mongolian Beef recipe submitted to everything2: Ingredients For the marinade Marinade the beef, brown it in a wok and then put to one side. Fry the chillis and shredded onions, add the meat and remaining ingredients. Keep the chopped spring onions to add when complete. Don't make my mistake and forget the ginger root. Added this to rice and made some Chinese style dumplings for starters. These are a doddle (minced pork, cabbage, soy sauce - wrapped in dough and deep fried) but my dough could do with some practice. Later, after I'd saved my laptop from a cloud of steam pouring from the microwave, I sent a message to the author of the recipe over at everything2. Got a reply suggesting we try ohagi, but by then we had already polished off a tub of ice cream.

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Pancakes Lifted this recipe from everything2 on Tuesday. Visit the site and do a search for pancakes to see the rest of the write up; it puts forward a pretty convincing case for the delight of making things for yourself. Put down that packet mix and get out the mixing bowl. Last minute shopping in Wolverhampton town centre highlighted a gap in the baking powder market. Tesco Metro were sold out. Marks and Spencers (the only other grocery store in that part of town) have a 'bakery' section, however, upon closer inspection I realised it consisted entirely of ready-made cakes in boxes. The sign appears to be a signal to people who want to avoid bakery. The local Indian supermarket came to the rescue on the way home - replete with baking powder, directly opposite the Halal meat. Oh, and don't forget the Maple Syrup; it's a crucial requirement for this American style pancake.

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blind contour friday Stuck in a terrible traffic jam on the motorway on Friday, I was travelling so slow I could reach for my pen and try my first submission for blind contour Friday run by Inkfinger.

blindcontour1

I think I need some practice.

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drawing on the past It's been a busy week. There are a couple of entries waiting to be written, including one about the galleries I've been able to visit over the last few days. In the meantime, I'm posting an image instead of words. Predictably, looking at the art work of others has made me think about my own work. Having revisited some of my old sketchbooks - driven by the guilty admission that it has been too long since I last picked up a pencil instead of a mouse - I've decided to post a few to remind myself whenever I look here, that I should look elsewhere too and record events with more than just words. First up, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, as seen from seat 10, Row K on the 12th February 1998. I don't remember what was being played that evening, but since this was back in the days of Simon Rattle, I imagine it was pretty good. [cbso.jpg:centre2] Curiously, following my recent entry about Tschumi, I note that below the sketch is a comment about pages 205 and 213 in Architecture and Disjunction - I had apparently some interest in the sections on cross programming and rejection.

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crop [chairs.jpg:centre2]

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iron man [iron_man.jpg:centre2] Contrary to my Doctor's advice, I sat in the direct sunlight to draw this a few weeks ago. I think they call that suffering for your art. It's the sculpture by Anthony Gormley in Birmingham's Victoria Square. I mentioned it a while back. Whilst I was sketching this I started to think about some of his other work and a phrase I used on an entry about 'mobile clubbing' came to mind - implied rhythym. More on that later when I find a source for the specific sculptures I have in mind. For the moment I'm more interested in the realisation that my drawings are a device for capturing implied rhythym. Scrutinise them too closely and you'll find that the proportions of the individual parts are somewhat less than accurate. Be patient and wait until the last pencil stroke is finished and somehow the sum of the parts seems to equal the essence of the underlying form; a sort of Platonic ideal that keeps the whole thing together. No. Wait. That can't be right. I don't believe in Platonic ideals. There's no such thing. Aaarrrggghhhhhh! *snap* Anyone want a slightly damaged 4B pencil?

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noric [lines.jpg:centre2]

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meat pei Tags: Paris, Louvre, sketch You may already know, from things I've said in the past, that as a rule, I tend to get excited by process. The cause rather than effect. So, as a rule, I'm not a big fan of rules of form that prejudice the final effect before you've fully understood the cause. Rules can be broken. Standing on one of the upper levels of the foyer under the Pyramide at the Louvre with sketchbook in hand, I realised that I was looking at a pattern book. A pattern book of formal effects that you could point at and say, I'll have a bit of this, a touch of that and smattering of the other. So here it is, the I.M. (Meat) Pie Pei. It's got the lot.

meat-pie

If I were Rod McLaren I'd tell you that you could visit this location by standing at the base of Nelson's Column. See it in full colour in the Paris photo set. Watch for it when The Da Vinci Code movie is released in a few weeks. Related entries: The Dark Arts.

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120 [120.jpg:centre2]

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perspective [britrail.jpg:centre2]
The first thing in painting is that the objects it represents should appear in relief, and that the grounds surrounding them at different distances shall appear within the vertical plane of the foreground of the picture by means of the 3 branches of Perspective, which are: the diminution in the distinctness of the forms of the objects, the diminution in their magnitude; and the diminution in their colour. And of these 3 classes of Perspective the first results from [the structure of] the eye, while the other two are caused by the atmosphere which intervenes between the eye and the objects seen by it.
Quote taken from page 17 of The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. Delivered daily by RSS thanks to Matt Webb and Project Gutenberg. Image taken from one of my old sketchbooks.

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signals [signal.jpg:centre2]

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blind-cab

eversion posted a photo:

blind-cab


(link) [sketchmore - eversion's Tagged Photos]

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Pompidou

eversion posted a photo:

Pompidou


(link) [sketchmore - eversion's Tagged Photos]

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terrazzo [honeymoon.jpg:centre2]

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sketchup mashup And here's why I'm really starting to enjoy this blogging business: the web editor

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three streets [natwest.jpg:centre2]

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Here and There From the introduction to Townscape by Gordon Cullen:
One building standing alone in the countryside is experienced as a work of architecture, but bring half a dozen buildings together and an art other than architecture is made possible. Several things begin to happen in the group which would be impossible for the isolated building. We may walk through and past the buildings, and as a corner is turned an unsuspected building is suddenly revealed. We may be surprised, even astonished (a reaction generated by the composition of the group and not by the individual building). ... In fact there is an art of relationship just as there is an art of architecture. Its purpose is to take all the elements that go to create the environment: buildings, trees, nature, water, traffic, advertisements and so on, and weave them together in such a way that drama is released. For a city is a dramatic event in the environment. ... We turn to the faculty of sight, for it is almost entirely through vision that the environment is apprehended.
In exactly the same way that Thom Mayne1 isn't, Cullen is interested in the formal appreciation of the city. If Jane Jacobs - writing her introduction to Death and Life of Great American Cities in the same year (1959) as Cullen was writing his - writes solutions to the social/cultural problems of urbanity; Gordon Cullen sketches solutions to the formal/visual problems. His proposals are categorized under three main titles: Optics (or Serial Vision), Place and Content. In an effort to better understand his principles and simultaneously revitalize the somewhat neglected sketches category here on no, too self, I'm going to try and explain a few using drawings. As a homage to the originals, they'll be in a Cullenesque stylee, except I'll be using Photoshop instead of Letratone. First up will be examples of Place.
Place...is concerned with our reactions to the position of our body in the environment. This is as simple as it appears to be. It means, for instance, that when you go into a room you utter to yourself the unspoken words 'I am outside IT, I am entering IT, I am in the middle of IT'. At this level of conciousness we are dealing with a range of experience stemming from the major impacts of exposure and enclosure. ... Arising out of this sense of identity or sympathy with the environment ... we discover that no sooner do we postulate a HERE than automatically we must create a THERE, for you cannot have one without the other. Some of the greatest townscape effects are created by a skillful relationship between the two...

Sketch 1: Glebe Place (sight of the previous postcard entry):

glebe_place_sketch showing (click image for flickr notes),

fluctuation: '...the stimulation of our sense of position through moving from the wide to the narrow and out again into some fresh space...'

closure: '...the creation of a break in the street which, whilst containing the eye, does not block out the sense of progression beyond...'

notes:
1. winner of this year's Pritzker Prize - see his lecture at architecture-radio.org for more on his interest in process rather than form: Part 1 | Part 2.

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train to cardiff On the way to a U2 gig on Wednesday. Reading G2.

train2cardiff

Notes dump on the reverse as future reminder - book to add to wish list and details of a phonecam competition.

train2cardiff-notes