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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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?


[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.…

[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 Links]

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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


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

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