Archive for July, 2005

secret history

Friday, July 29th, 2005

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.

latest discoveries: via <a href=""></a>

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
  • Pamphlet Architecture

    ‘…an opportunity for architects, designers, theorists, urbanists, and landscape architects to publish their designs, manifestos, ideas, theories, ruminations, hopes, and insights for the future of the designed and built world…’ (via Daily Dose)

  • Smart City: Home

    ‘…Smart City is a weekly, hour-long public radio talk show that takes an in-depth look at urban life, the people, places, ideas and trends shaping cities…’ (via Anne Galloway)

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via

death of a drawing board

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

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.


How times change. Here’s Tony’s response to computers when they first appeared in our office about 8 years ago.


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. 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…

latest discoveries: via <a href=""></a>

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005
  • the eisenman principle

    “…I’d rather have good look and bad theory. If you can bring them together, fine, but if it don’t look good to me, forget it…”

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via

Book Baton

Thursday, July 21st, 2005

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:

  • Field Event / Field Space by Kevin Rhowbothom (picked it up again after further thoughts regarding ‘loose design’ I mentioned in the last entry)
  • Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (attempted it as an undergraduate some years ago but wasn’t ready for it, worked better for me this time round)
  • …and I’ve also been reading some great essays on globalism suggested to me by Anne Galloway after I quizzed her for ideas to kick start me with a concept for the exhibition I’ve been threatening to do for about a year – there are links on my wiki.

Other books currently on the go and dotted about my life are:

  • in the living room: Ted Hughes’ Hawk in the Rain (discovered this in a great restaurant in York – first piece of poetry that ever literally took my breath away)
  • in my car: Edwin Abbott’s Flatland (discovered following an entry by Peter)
  • in my wife’s car: Goethe’s second part of Faust
  • by my bed: Homer’s Iliad (remember what I was saying about chronology?), Cullen’s Townscape and a copy of Angela Hatherell’s dissertation Who do they think they are?
  • in the bathroom: E.M.Forster’s Where Angels Fear to Tread (a bookcrossing find in the city)

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 £1 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.

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.

MADA s.p.a.m

Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

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

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

latest discoveries: via <a href=""></a>

Sunday, July 17th, 2005

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via

latest discoveries: via <a href=""></a>

Friday, July 15th, 2005

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via

lost and found

Friday, July 15th, 2005

18 KIs

1977, cou


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?

latest discoveries: via <a href=""></a>

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

delivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via