Yolo Buggies

May 31st, 2014

Geoff Manaugh, on the work of 19th century surveyors in California who set out to map out the borders between counties:

Like a dust-covered Tron of the desert, surrounded by the invisible mathematics of a grid that had yet to be realized, these over-dressed gentlemen of another century helped give rise to an abstract model of the state.

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Like some kind of gallstone

May 5th, 2014

19 feet down and 9 feet to the west of the original site:

Like the Pentagon, its better-known counterpart in the United States, Britain's Ministry of Defence building is a fairly mundane, if gigantic, office block camouflaging a much more exciting subterranean realm of secret tunnels, bunkers, and – at least in the MoD's case – a perfectly preserved Tudor wine cellar. […]

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Čumil

March 9th, 2014

Meet Čumil the Peeper:

His name is Čumil and he is either resting after cleaning the sewer or is looking under women's skirts. […]

Čumil

[Prompted by the header image of this New Statesman article about Slovakia]

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The TARDIS of furniture

February 24th, 2014

Roentgen Objects are genuinely remarkable pieces of furniture:

The furniture is a process – an event – a seemingly endless sequence of new spatial conditions and states expanding outward into the room around it.

Each piece is a controlled explosion of carpentry with no real purpose other than to test the limits of volumetric self-demonstration, offering little in the way of useful storage space and simply showing off, performing, a spatial Olympics of shelves within shelves and spaces hiding spaces.

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Shards B&W

March 12th, 2013

John Naughton's Shards B&W:

Shards B&W

Best viewed as big as possible.

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Test Room

January 6th, 2013

BLDGBLOG relates the story of a 'Test Room' in Eugene, Oregon:

In August 1965 […] "ads in the local newspaper… promised complimentary checkups at the new Oregon Research Institute Vision Research Center." But these promised eye exams were not all that they seemed.

The office was, in fact, a model – a disguised simulation – including a "stereotypical waiting room" where respondents to the ad would be "greeted by a receptionist" who could escort them into a fake "examination room" that turned out to be examining something else entirely.

I guarantee that you won't guess what they were testing for.

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Balconies

November 24th, 2012

Daniel Kalder has a very particular idea about his perfect dwelling place: it absolutely must have a balcony

On a recent visit to Istanbul I stayed in an apartment looking out on the Bosphorus. Every morning I'd get up and see the sun sparkling on the surface of the water as birds circled languidly overhead. At night it was even better, as the thumping techno from the pleasure boats and the call of the Muezzin intermingled. It was very different from my usual mode of accommodation when I travel: cheap hotels, dirt, and the lingering possibility of sudden, violent death.

In many ways it was the culmination of a quest that began years ago in my hometown of Dunfermline in Scotland. Over there, you don't see too many balconies. It's too windy and wet. Yet I remember one house that had a huge balcony on the second floor. I used to walk past, wishing I lived there. I didn't care that it was useless, that if I sat up there the wind would probably pick me up and drop me in the North Sea. I only saw the ideal of open living, close to the sky. […]

[Via The Browser]

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Steps

November 21st, 2012

I'd never heard of a 'stepwell' before reading about the one at Chand Baori in India.

Chand Baori is the oldest stepwell in Rajasthan, having been constructed in the 8th-9th centuries A.D. It is 19.5 meters, or roughly 64 feet, deep. The overwhelming majority of its surface area consists of steps – thousands of steps – all of which lead down to the water table, turning weekly water-gathering trips by local families into a communal spectacle, a social event framed by this extraordinary act of excavation and architecture.

'Extraordinary' is absolutely the word for it:

Chand Baori

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Book Mountain

October 10th, 2012

How can I resist posting a picture of a five storey Book Mountain?1

Book Mountain

[Via The Morning News]

  1. Actually, it's a new public library in Spijkenissse, near Rotterdam. But 'Book Mountain' is a more evocative term.

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Fuck Yeah Brutalism

August 1st, 2012

Fuck Yeah Brutalism.

I mean, who wouldn't want to celebrate the warmth and elegance of a building like Citizen's House, Frankfurt am Main, Germany?

_tumblr_m3az81xprP1qzglyyo1_1280.jpg

[Via Subtraction]

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Swiss is hardcore…

June 20th, 2012

At BLDGBLOG, evidence that the Swiss take the concept of national security very seriously:

McPhee describes […] how the Swiss military has, in effect, wired the entire country to blow in the event of foreign invasion. To keep enemy armies out, bridges will be dynamited and, whenever possible, deliberately collapsed onto other roads and bridges below; hills have been weaponized to be activated as valley-sweeping artificial landslides; mountain tunnels will be sealed from within to act as nuclear-proof air raid shelters; and much more.

[Via Bruce Schneier]

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Amen to that

January 29th, 2012

Tweet of the week, courtesy of @kjhealy, a.k.a. Kieran Healy:

Alain de Botton plans to build a series of temples for atheists. Apparently he has never heard of Apple Stores. dezeen.com/2012/01/25/ala…

[Via Crooked Timber]

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'We're in a present where a £100 point-and-shoot camera has the approximate empathic capabilities of a infant.'

August 9th, 2011

Matt Jones has posted a summary of a recent talk he gave pulling together his thoughts about The Robot-Readable World.

Robot-Readable World is a pot to put things in, something that I first started putting things in back in 2007 or so.

At Interesting back then, I drew a parallel between the Apple Newton's sophisticated, complicated hand-writing recognition and the Palm Pilot's approach of getting humans to learn a new way to write, i.e. Graffiti.

The connection I was trying to make was that there is a deliberate design approach that makes use of the plasticity and adaptability of humans to meet computers (more than) half way.

Connecting this to computer vision and robotics I said something like:

"What if, instead of designing computers and robots that relate to what we can see, we meet them half-way – covering our environment with markers, codes and RFIDs, making a robot-readable world"

The entire post is packed with fascinating ideas and links to other writings on the topic, including one to this terrific BLDGBLOG post on The New Robot Domesticity that I happened upon earlier the same day I read Matt Jones' piece.

We live in interesting times.

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Meaningful adjacencies

June 20th, 2011

Artist/designer Jer Thorpe on designing the list of names on the 9/11 Memorial:

In late October, 2009, I received an e-mail from Jake Barton from Local Projects, titled plainly 'Potential Freelance Job'. I read the e-mail, and responded with a reply in two parts: First, I would love to work on the project. Second, I wasn't sure that it could be done.

The project was to design an algorithm for placement of names on the 9/11 memorial in New York City. In architect Michael Arad's vision for the memorial, the names were to be laid according to where people were and who they were with when they died – not alphabetical, nor placed in a grid. Inscribed in bronze parapets, almost three thousand names would stream seamlessly around the memorial pools. Underneath this river of names, though, an arrangement would provide a meaningful framework; one which allows the names of family and friends to exist together. Victims would be linked through what Arad terms 'meaningful adjacencies' – connections that would reflect friendships, family bonds, and acts of heroism. through these connections, the memorial becomes a permanent embodiment of not only the many individual victims, but also of the relationships that were part of their lives before those tragic events. […]

Reading the article, I found myself wondering whether it wouldn't be simpler to just say 'to hell with it' and list the names alphabetically in a simple, multi-column layout. It speaks volumes for Jer Thorpe's professionalism that at no point in his post does he so much as hint that any such thought had ever speculated about the possibility of crossing his mind.

[Via Waxy.org Links]

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Decking

May 21st, 2011

Nice bridge, shame about the decking.

[Via You Look Marvelous]

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Abandoned, dilapidated but still awe-inspiring

April 29th, 2011

25 Abandoned Yugoslavia Monuments that look like they're from the Future:

These structures were commissioned by former Yugoslavian president Josip Broz Tito in the 1960s and 70s to commemorate sites where WWII battles took place (like Tjentište, Kozara and Kadinjača), or where concentration camps stood (like Jasenovac and Niš). They were designed by different sculptors (Dušan Džamonja, Vojin Bakić, Miodrag Živković, Jordan and Iskra Grabul, to name a few) and architects (Bogdan Bogdanović, Gradimir Medaković…), conveying powerful visual impact to show the confidence and strength of the Socialist Republic. […]

I feel sure that I've seen these two monuments on film before – possibly as a backdrop to the action in some science fiction film or TV show?1

[Via Subtraction.com]

  1. Podgarić, in particular, looks like something the Goa'uld built.

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Genius. And evil with it.

April 10th, 2011

Who enjoys shopping in Ikea?

Professor Alan Penn describes the way that architects use space to sell you things, showing how space creates patterns of movement bringing you into contact with goods. In IKEA though, the story gets more interesting, here the designers deliberately set out to confuse you, drawing you into buying things that are not on your shopping list.

[Via 90 Percent of Everything]

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Hedonistic sustainability, Danish-style

March 26th, 2011

Copenhagen will soon be home to the world's least boring power station:

Planned for completion in 2016, the former factory-shaped eyesore will ferry visitors up a vertical elevator to a series of slopes at the top of the smokestack.

Meanwhile — as a gentle nod to the pyramids of garbage churning beneath it — the chimney is designed to puff a 30-meter-wide smoke ring every time a ton of C02 is produced.

"You'll be able to stand in the middle of Copenhagen and tally-up exactly how much carbon has been emitted into the atmosphere," said [architect Bjarke Ingels]. "It's this kind of visual connection that should encourage people to consider their own energy consumption."

[Ingels] said that heat-tracking lights will also be used at night to position lasers on the smoke rings and turn them into glowing artworks, or even pie charts.

[Via The Morning News]

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Flood

January 15th, 2011

Dan Hill has posted an epic tale of life in Brisbane as the floodwater started to rise:

We spot a large advert for chocolate milk adorning a building. "Dive into chocolately fun" it says. It seems newly relevant as we see the river, looking exactly like a vast, smooth soup of milk chocolate. The Brisbane River is famously brown at the best of times, being an extremely silty bit of river, but is now browner than ever.

The landscape round here is distinctly suburban. Not quite the manicured suburban of rich Los Angeles suburbs, or even 'Erinsborough', but the slightly more raggedy Australian version, with cars parked on lawns, rampant foliage growing in and around the low, angled roofs, set against straggly gum trees and paperbarks, a most unruly genus. But it's distinctly suburban nonetheless, which adds to the surreal aspect of views like Witton Road, where that chocolately fun engulfs a training shoe, some wheelie bins, and a box of breakfast cereal, and most of the street.

The most striking observation, for me, came as he recounted a trip to stock up on sandbags:

We've run out of sandbags […] so we have to drive out to Kedron to pick up as many as we can load in the boot of the car. Plotting routes in and around the city is relatively complex, as you're listening for road closures on the radio, looking for the blue wriggle of creeks and rivers on the map, and trying to remember the topography of the city, all those swoops of valleys.

When was the last time you had to stop and think about whether your route took you uphill or downhill as you drove around a city?

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Breezy

November 27th, 2010

Is this the most inhospitable smokers' lounge ever built?

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