Archive for May, 2007

vacant space

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

You’ve missed Janek Schaefer’s Vacant Space.

Fortunately, I visited on your behalf. 1

A video installation at Birmingham’s MAC, it’s a white box containing 360 degree panoramic images of interiors projected on the wall. They scroll, scrape and judder past with transitions between images that feel like a fight for supremacy between the wildly different spaces depicted. Plug your headphones in to one of the sockets on the surface of the wall and the sound you hear is the mediator/referee/commentator for the fight. A random combination of field recordings of empty spaces creates a soundscape that is used to control the brightness, rotation speed and transition parameters of the photographs.

Vacant Space

This averaged out soundscape becomes the lowest common denominator between physical space everywhere. A Normandy tool shed takes on Grand Central Station by projecting itself with noise. Environments previously imagined to be incomparable are not only held up against each other; the boundary between them is utterly destroyed as we glitch fade through the liminal space filled with the sound of the world banging into, whooshing past and running over itself.

It’s rather good.

Depending on which side of the Wigley line you stand on, this is either:

a) analogous to the Deleuze and Guattari refrain, explored through Proust and his descriptions of “…Vinteuil’s little phrases: they do not refer to a landscape; they carry and develop within themselves landscapes that do not exist on the outside.” 2;


b) the jaw clenching, cheek wobbling moment of brute force space/time bending that everybody’s favourite Hero, Hiro, goes through in an effort to chart his way clumsily through every single point in the universe simultaneously and travel mistakenly to a Normandy tool shed instead of Grand Central Station. 3


If you could see the look on my face right now you’d know which one I prefer.

Consider this part Deleuzian, part sci-fi influenced entry as a small offering to the crowds currently gathering at Storefront in New York for the Postopolis! event. Wish I was there!

1. tip o’ the hat to D’log for pointing it out to me. D’log also notes that you can hear Schaefer talk about the project and see an example of the footage on this video: 10Mb mov)
2. A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari – Continuum Publishing 2004 – page 352
3. Hiro image via: OmarC

In the swing of it

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

In the swing of it

a day in the life

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

From comments I’ve had in the past I think a fair number of readers and passers-by here at no2self are either students currently at schools of architecture or people considering joining a course. Driving home this evening it struck me that today’s events gave a pretty good representation of what it’s like to practice. So if you’re considering a career in architecture I offer the following as a taste of things to come.

07:30 – Leave house.

08:30 – Meeting with Police Architectural Liaison Officer to discuss crime prevention performance of my scheme. Agree to re-think some parking and highway, think about Oscar Newman’s ‘Defensible Space’.

09:00 – Meet site manager and guy with digger. Find missing manhole under abandoned kayak. Acknowledge hill, think about retaining wall tanking detail.

09:30 – Stand around in rain with structural engineer, stare down a hole provided by aforementioned guy/digger combo, rub earth between fingers, think about geology.

11:00 – Arrive at office. Phone client and explain latest development regarding confusion over legal boundary of site, who ground is to be conveyed to and what the landscape design will need to accommodate. Talk about procurement. Think about thermal mass.

12:00 – Explore timber cladding detailing. Talk about cedar, larch, Thermowood, Accoya, oak. Think about UV and rain weathering.

13:00 – Lunch with fellow architect. Debate current state of our profession. Agree that suburbia is being attacked by modernists who think the word ‘vernacular’ is a pejorative term. Think about staying in bar.

14:00 – Back to office. Draw a house. Think about today’s IT problems.

15:00 – Get telephone call announcing we’ve won bid to design environmentally friendly refurbishment of Victorian terraces in Stoke on Trent. Think about blog entry to announce it.

16:00 – E-mail environmental design consultants to discuss timetable for collaboration on detailed design of passive solar spaces we recently won funding for. Think about 3 year post occupancy research.

17:00 – Visit home of resident group chairman to discuss anecdotal survey design and local resident training to monitor success of aforementioned solar spaces. Think about the fact that he’s known me since before my children were born.

18:00 – Visit home of resident objecting to my planning application. Apologise for things I could have done better, discuss complicated commercial realities, demolition techniques and future market value of property. Find a solution. Promise client you can solve it by the end of the week. Think about going home.

21:00 – Go home.

homes of the future?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

I’ve seen the future and it’s expensive. Not to mention cold, sterile and utterly charmless.

homes of the future

I look forward to seeing more of this development when it appears on the next series of Lost as the home of the as yet undiscovered and even more sinister community: The Other Others.

Speaking about the project, Richard Rogers said: ‘Our partnership with George Wimpey has given us an opportunity to take a fresh look at housing design.

‘By working closely together, we have been able to develop an approach which links construction closely to design, giving real value to the homeowner.

‘The scheme at Oxley Woods is highly flexible and sustainable and will, we hope, provide homes for a diverse community for many generations to come.’

Early guides put the market value of the houses at £199,995 for a two-bedroom property and £249,995 for a three-bedroom home.

From ajplus (my emphasis)


As usual, input from older, wiser colleagues at the office this morning forces us to ask the question: Has housing progressed in almost a century?


(image source)

from Weissenhofsiedlung built in the late 1920’s – more images on flickr

tools of the trade

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

It’ll be a sad day here at no2self when I’ve finally made my way through all the shelves and boxes at the office and uncovered all the gems worth sharing with you. I suspect I’ve got some way to go yet though.

A special issue of the AJ from December 1986 called Drawing the Line – Hugh Cullum, Louis Hellman, Eric Parry, Richard Reid and John Winter talk about their favourite pencils:



(If I’m not mistaken, Hugh Cullum, having discovered the secret to eternal youth, has now swapped his pencil for a guitar and is currently touring the world under the name of Willy Mason)

subject he cares about most

Tuesday, May 1st, 2007

Jonathan Jones in the Grauniad (via rodcorp, again!) on Serra and Gehry:

Serra is on video in a little cinema in Gehry’s museum, talking about how he loathes architects. But surely you must be grateful to Gehry, objects the interviewer. “Oh, yeah! I should be grateful!” says Serra. He goes on to assert that he draws better than Gehry – “and Frank would agree” – and to argue that architects are just plagiarists who cannibalise sculpture.

Jones carefully weaves his way through the tension between artist and architect, sculpture and building. Ending with a confidence that I dream of seeing more often in architecture criticism.

This is as good as it gets. If you don’t like this, you don’t like modern art. If you do, you must revere Serra.

As you might expect, I like the power behind the seemingly simple put down about drawing better than Gehry, and along the way he draws in comparisons with Borromini and Bernini. I was reminded of some other notes I’ve been meaning to move off the piece of scrap paper in my back pocket:

Quotes from Simon Schama’s immensely enjoyable series on BBC4 a few months ago, The Power of Art, taken from the episode on Rembrandt (chosen because they fit nicely over the landscape of entries I’ve been making about drawing and sketching over the last few years).

Here too, in his drawings, just a few summary lines here and there, that manage to conjure up an entire scene. It’s a huge compliment don’t you think? Making us his partner in completion. Giving us the benefit of the doubt that we wouldn’t want anything so boring as the literal details.

And just look at the sketchiness of the whole thing. He doesn’t care about finish any more. In fact, Rembrandt’s in the process of doing something which horrified academicians – he’s abolishing the difference between a sketch and a painting, and he does it for the subjects he cares most about.

Serra, Gehry, Rembrandt – just a few summary lines here and there.

Elsewhere in an entry about the impending MoMA Serra exhibition, Adam Greenfield talks about where those summary lines meet:

Torqued Ellipse even manages something I didn’t think anything or -one could pull off: it redeems the single most wretched thing on Manhattan’s skyline, the Chippendale crenelation on the pediment of Philip Johnson’s atrocious AT&T Building. When you stand just so in Ellipse, in the hour before dusk, the two circles rhyme, the enclosing curve of the sculpture coming neatly into alignment with the egregious Johnson. It’s a moment of grace that I very much doubt is accidental.

Check the comments for further links to images and a fascinating anecdote about the tension between Mies van der Rohe and Henry Moore.

As for me; I spent my morning drawing summary lines through a presentation that moved from drainage proposals, through circulation, to car parking, around planning law, past environmental physics, into self-sufficiency from office to garden, touching on renewable technology, arguing the current market conditions, imagining various future societal conditions, exploring funding recycling and the balance between scientific post occupancy research and anecdotal quality of life dividends. Ultimately demonstrating that after all that you could still swing a cat.

For someone who just cannibalises sculpture, I sure do make a meal of it.