July 10th, 2010
Geoff Manaugh talked to sonic historian Sabine von Fischer about clairadient buildings, The Rumbler, nightingale floors and the tapping machine:
What was the tapping machine?
SVF: The tapping machine, as it was first published in 1930 and as it was standardized in the 1960s, has five steel rods that hammer against the floor. The speed has changed a bit over time – and its speed is now standardized – but it just tramples on the floor. It's a very basic machine.
The principle of the machine can be found in older apparatuses, such as those used in grinding food items, but this particular application was to simulate the sound of footsteps, furniture, and machines on the floors of multistorey buildings. In this form – with five hammers, which are electrically operated – it was first published in 1930, in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
Everyone who has been working on building acoustics claims that, since 1923 or 1926, they've been doing similar tests on structure-borne sound, but almost all of those earlier tests were done with women in high-heeled shoes. High-heeled shoes make a very distinct sound. For impact-sound measurements, these women – and I have never seen a photo with a man or a documentation of a test done with a man – would wear high-heeled shoes, making a very standard noise.
June 1st, 2010
The world's first volcano renovation: it'll be pretty damn spectacular when it's done.
April 26th, 2010
Is this playground in Belleville Park, Paris the best playground in the western world?
Be sure to click on the images to view them at a decent size, the better to appreciate the sheer scale of the thing.
March 13th, 2010
Apparently, the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart has a ventilation system capable of creating an artificial tornado inside the building.
What could possibly go wrong?
January 23rd, 2010
- Best. Blogpost. Title. Ever? ↩
January 6th, 2010
Top 9 Ninja Characteristics of Awesome Architecture Blogs. Never Leave A Trace is especially nicely done.1
- Though I do wish the cartoonist/letterer hadn't inserted an unnecessary apostrophe in six out of the nine frames when pluralising the word 'ninja': once noticed, that aberrant apostrophe is just about impossible to ignore. ↩
December 24th, 2009
December 20th, 2009
This Swiss Mountain House, half-submerged into a hillside, looks lovely and cosy. A house worthy of a Hobbit.
November 18th, 2009
With his review Alain de Botton's A Week at the Airport: A Heathrow Diary, Dan Hill adds another book to my to-read pile:
He is particularly good on the peculiar sense of pervasive yet largely internalised tension created by the emotional and psychological pressures of airports. He makes a series of acute observations predicated on this interplay between banal environment and heightened emotional intensity. Perhaps it's that the situations are indeed essentially emotionally intense, often being a series of greetings and goodbyes, set to the backdrop of persistent minor failures of complex systems amidst the possibility of major disasters. It's quite a brew. De Botton wryly skewers this extraordinary emotional confection, describing the long goodbyes of couples or the simmering cauldrons that are families on holiday.
"We may spend the better part of our professional lives projecting strength and toughness, but we are all in the end creatures of appalling fragility and vulnerability. Out of the millions of people we live among, most of whom we habitually ignore and are ignored by in turn, there are always a few who hold hostage our capacity for happiness, whom we could recognise by their smell alone and whom we would rather die than be without. There were men pacing impatiently and blankly who had looked forward to this moment for half a year and could not restrain themselves any further at the sight of a small boy endowed with their own grey-green eyes and their mother's cheeks, emerging from behind the stainless-steel gate, holding the hand of an airport operative."
September 27th, 2009
September 13th, 2009
After World War II, St Nazaire on France's Atlantic coast was left with a huge concrete eyesore: a U-boat base big enough to house 19 subs and built to survive Allied bombs. The question is, what can you do with 480,000m3 of concrete?:
In the former U-boat pens you can find the Base Bar, the tourist information center for St. Nazaire, a theatre, exhibition space, a museum of Trans-Atlantic ship travel, a night club/performance space, and just some kick-ass concrete caverns. It makes under-the-freeway spaces look pretty tame.
The photos at the linked article are impressive, not least the shot taken directly in front of the U-boat pens that turned out to be so big it had to be posted sideways.
August 14th, 2009
What is the appropriate scale to remember a man who operated on everything possible – from the studied renovation of his own human form to the creation of an architectural-scale wunderkamer at Neverland Ranch? What design proposal can top his own unrealized plans to construct a 50-foot robotic replica of himself that roams the Las Vegas desert shooting laser beams out of its eyes?
An excellent question, that…
August 11th, 2009
All high street bookstores should look as good as the Libraria da Vila in Sao Paulo.
It's like a TARDIS for books.
July 26th, 2009
It seems that the armaments manufacturers were worried that the government would reuse the captured cannons for its own military forces, and hence the firms wouldn't be able to sell more cannons to the government. After representations to the government, it was agreed that the loss of business would close several companies and as a healthy arms industry was (and still is) considered to be vital to national security, Parliament agreed to scrap the French cannons.
It sounds like an urban legend, but I haven't found a better explanation so far.
July 3rd, 2009
Ceiling porn. (SFW, honest…)
June 13th, 2009
I've never heard the term 'nail house' before, though as it turns out I have seen photographs of a couple of them.
The house in Changsha, China1 looks especially surreal, not least because in one of the pictures it looks as if there's another remnant of the original street a couple of hundred yards down the road.
- The fifth house pictured in the linked article. ↩
May 18th, 2009
The influx of 'forty-niners' who descended upon the port of San Francisco in the wake of the gold rush left their mark on the city:
In 1847, the small settlement of Yerba Buena, which had just recently been claimed as United States territory, changed its name to San Francisco. At that time, the town consisted of just 79 buildings and a population of less than 800. But the following year, in 1848, gold was discovered nearby, and as the area's major port, San Francisco rapidly ballooned in size. By the end of 1849, the population had skyrocketed to 100,000, making it the largest city in California. [...] San Francisco soon averaged 30 new houses built – and two murders committed – each day. And a plot of San Francisco real estate that cost $16 in 1847 sold for $45,000 just 18 months later.
Meanwhile, many of the new arrivals in the port of San Francisco headed directly to the hills to search for gold. In fact, more than 200 ships were completely abandoned and left to rot in the Bay as their crews and passengers went off to seek their fortunes. This both caused and solved a problem. The empty ships were clogging up the harbor, while the rapidly growing downtown business area needed room to expand. So the townsfolk took matters into their own hands and decided to put the ships to good use. Some of the ships were salvaged for their wood, which came in handy as the city had to rebuild itself from no fewer than six major fires that nearly wiped it out between 1849 and 1851. Other ships were towed onto the beach and turned into buildings – a hotel, a jail, a store, or a warehouse. But quite a few of them were sunk intentionally in order to fill in the cove.
May 3rd, 2009
The Wikipedia article on New York planner Robert Moses quotes an evocative vignette, taken from Robert Caro's biography of Moses, featuring former presidential candidate Al Smith:
Robert Moses had the Central Park Zoo built for Al Smith – the former governor, and president of the Empire State Building – who lived near the park on the Upper East Side. Moses gave Smith a night key, and the elderly former king of Irish New York would go down to the Central Park Zoo by himself to talk to the animals. Smith loved to spend hours in the zoo after hours, "and he would switch on the lights as he entered each one, to the surprise of its occupants, and talk softly to them…And if one of the zoo's less dangerous animals was sick or injured, Smith would enter its cage and stand for a while stroking its head and commiserating with it." [Caro, 382]
I wonder if Tony Blair has a night key to the
Millennium Dome The O2…
February 26th, 2009
Matt Jones has put up a terrific slideshow he presented, entitled The Demon-Haunted World, or the past and future of practical city magic.
Take Grant Morrison's The Invisibles, Dave Hill's The street as platform, Tower Bridge twittering and the equation media = rhino poop and you have a piece that's well worth a read.