Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Today's archidose #65

Ethical Society
Ethical Society by Remiss63.
The Ethical Society of St. Louis by Harris Armstrong. Much more information on Harris Armstrong can be found at Remiss63's own Architectural Ruminations.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mars Bungalow and the Prison of Simulation

[Image: ANY Design Studios, via Building Design].

Following a few links from the perennially great things magazine, I discovered this new attempt at a future Martian architecture.
Meant to house "visitors," we read, at the Martian north pole, "ANY Design Studios has designed a robot on legs built of Martian ice." It comes complete with padded walls and a nice little bed.
Note, however, that the walls (on the right) have been painted to look like the Pacific northwest: even on Mars, we will live within simulations.

[Image: ANY Design Studios, via Building Design].

"What would it be like to spend nearly two Earth years at the Martian north pole," we're asked, "a place where darkness falls for nine months of the year, carbon dioxide snow flutters down in winter and temperatures drop to a chilly minus 150 centigrade?"
Well, I think it would be wonderful.

[Image: ANY Design Studios, via Building Design].

The architecture itself is "a self assembling six module robotic design on tracked landing legs." It's thus a cluster of smaller buildings that, together, "would allow for ten people to live indefinitely at the pole."
The architects behind the project go on to explain that they "have also been exploring the possibility of reproducing programmable Earth environments in a room we have called the ‘Multi Environment Chamber’. Settlers on Mars may well be able to make themselves a cup of tea and settle into a chair with the sun gently warming their skin, cool breezes, and the sound of songbirds of an English orchard on a warm July afternoon" – assuming that such an experience wasn't precisely what you were trying to get away from in the first place.
These "programmable Earth environments," though, should undoubtedly include a setting in which you are sitting in a room in southern California, which has been kitted out to look like a Martian base – inside of which a man sits, reminiscing about a room in southern California that he once decorated to look like a Martian bungalow...
Which would be referred to as the interplanetary architecture of et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
It will come with a free bottle of paracetamol.
Phrased otherwise, of course, all of this would simply be an inversion of what William L. Fox describes in his recent book, Driving to Mars. There, Fox writes about "the idea of practicing Mars on Earth" – which means simply that, even as I write this, there are teams of astronauts on a remote base in northern Canada, acting as if they are already surrounded by Martian topography.
It's a form of psychological training: act as if you have already arrived.
So you simply turn that around and find, here, that anyone living inside this "self assembling six module robotic design on tracked landing legs" will really be "practicing Earth on Mars."
Act as if you never left.
But why not practice, say, Jupiter, instead? Why not be even more ambitious and use each planet in this solar system as a base from which to simulate the rest?
Or you could just abandon simulation altogether, and experience Mars as Mars...

[Image: ANY Design Studios, via Building Design].

It's interesting, though, in this context, to look at the naming practices used by NASA through which they claim – or at least label – Martian territory. Landscapes on Earth toponymically reappear on the Martian plains; there is Bonneville Crater and Victoria Crater, for instance; there is Cape Verde and a cute little rock called "Puffin."
Mars is an alien landscape, then, in everything but name.
Even more fascinating, at least for me, is the small range of Martian hills now "dedicated to the final crew of Space Shuttle Columbia." Accordingly, these hills now appear on maps as the Columbia Hills Complex.
But an entire landscape named after dead American astronauts?
Surely there's a J.G. Ballard story about something exactly like this?
Then again, according to one reviewer: "A story by J.G. Ballard, as you know, calls for people who don't think."
Uh oh.

(Note: For more on Martian architecture don't miss the unbelievably weird proposal behind Mars Power!, discussed earlier on BLDGBLOG).

Half Dose #32: Hybrid Urban Sutures

One of this year's P/A Awards (now administered by the twice-removed-from-Progressive-Architecture Architect Magazine) is Aziza Chaouni's Hybrid Urban Sutures: Filling in the Gaps in the Medina of Fez, Morocco. Started as a graduate thesis and furthered via independent study, the project that "analyzes the urban, architectural, and social issues affecting Middle Eastern historic districts" is an amazing piece of urban design. The project's main component is her proposal to return Al-Qarawiyin University to the medina from its current suburban location, adding public space and cultural facilities to the dense area.

Chaouni picked three sites as University research centers, each acting as an anchor along the Fez River, the medina's urban spine.

The analysis and proposed interventions are helped by the clarity of the graphics, here showing the three anchors, their relationships to the existing context, and their functions.

One intervention is a theology library inserted into an existing plaza. The new buildings would work with the current flow of pedestrians through the site, bringing a certain level of order to the historically unplanned "chaos."

Stacked circulation and stepped massing gesture to the local circumstances, though the patterned punctures in the exterior walls seem to relate to a larger, Middle-Eastern context.

Another anchor is the economics research center, a conglomeration of buildings that incorporates public spaces while also acting as circulation to connect multiple levels.

In addition to the research clusters, classrooms (in pink) are scattered throughout the medina, an admirable decision that creates improvement in places beyond the spine.

Chaouni also tackles the existing leather tanneries, proposing to use the pits as reclaimed green space. This decision is questionable as it replaces a piece of economic infrastructure with something that doesn't apparently offer economic potential. Perhaps flowers and vegetable can be grown within and then sold in the medina.

Regardless of the above criticism, the imagined end result is very appealing.

Chaouni's study is "slated for publication by Paris' Editions Le Fennec." I can't wait.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sleep Labs of the Soviet Empire

[Image: A "garden suburb" outside Moscow. Via Cabinet Magazine].

In the new issue of Cabinet, we read how, following the implementation of Stalin's first Five-Year Plan – and in the wake of food rationing and extended work hours – "the shock-troops of Communism were edging perilously close to physical and mental exhaustion: what they needed was rest."
Soviet authorities thus "announced a competition to design a garden suburb outside Moscow, where workers could be sent to recuperate from the strains of factory labor."
Without getting into specifics – for that, be sure to pick up a copy of the magazine, issue #24 – one detail about the garden suburb that I particularly love, and that the article's author specifically highlights, was a sort of colosseum of slumber. A dream academy.
Designed by Konstantin Melnikov, the building was a purpose-built structure referred to as the "Sonata of Sleep."

[Image: Konstantin Melnikov's "Sonata of Sleep." Via Cabinet Magazine].

Specifically, we're told, "the building consisted of two large dormitories either side of a central block," and the dormitories each "had sloping floors."
This would "obviate the need for pillows."
Even more amazing – or is it absurd? – we read:
    At either end of the long buildings were to be situated control booths, where technicians would command instruments to regulate the temperature, humidity, and air pressure, as well as to waft salubrious scents and "rarefied condensed air" through the halls. Nor would sound be left unorganized. Specialists working "according to scientific facts" would transmit from the control centre a range of sounds gauged to intensify the process of slumber. The rustle of leaves, the cooing of nightingales, or the soft murmur of waves would instantly relax the most overwrought veteran of the metropolis. Should these fail, the mechanized beds would then begin gently to rock until consciousness was lost.
While all this certainly sounds ambitious enough, apparently "Melnikov's original impulse had been much more far-reaching."
His original dream had been to create an Institute for Changing the Form of Man.
The whole article is awesome, frankly, encompassing the resurrection of the dead, a house designed by Melnikov in which residents felt as if they "were floating in thick golden air," and further thoughts about how Melnikov "recombined industrial iconography into a series of spatial adventures," most notably with a building that was "a delirium of gigantic stairways and roller bearings."

[Image: Konstantin Melnikov's "Leningrad Pravda" tower, as modelled by R. Notrott].

While I'm on the subject, though, don't miss this page full of Melnikov's other architectural projects, including the tower, pictured above, where "each floor should turn around the central core," and this outrageous parking garage, to be constructed as a bridge in Paris, over the Seine. Note the bronze, Oscar-like statues holding up either end of the structure.

(Thanks to Leah Beeferman for emailing me the first two images, hot off the press from Cabinet).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Monday, Monday

My weekly page update:
Tietgen Residence Hall in Copenhagen, Denmark by Lundgaard & Tranberg.

The updated book feature is Architecture of the Air: The Sound and Light Environments of Christopher Janney, by Beth Dunlop.

Some unrelated links for your enjoyment:
The Architecture of Fear
"An Independent Study by George Agnew at Columbia University...[that] will attempt to pull together multiple fields, whether architecture, philosophy, psychology, history or science as well as multiple topics such as war, science fiction, art, terror, media, communication, design and destruction to create a relevant architectural theory on how we live our lives under the unconscious umbrella of fear and danger." (added to sidebar under blogs::architecture)

"New York City, Ground Up: The Built, The Virtual, The Bizarre, The Wonderful." (added to sidebar under blogs::architecture)

Built Environment Blog
"Thoughts on places." (added to sidebar under blogs::architecture)

Driving is Murder

On my articles page I added one of my papers from last semester, Driving is Murder: The Automobile, Violence, and the City in Film Noir, for the class Reading the City: Film Noir.


Basically the paper is a response to a consistent theme or trait I saw in the films we watched in class, such as Kiss Me Deadly (above): violence with automobiles. Given that the class was geared towards seeing the city through the lens of film noir and critical responses to that genre, my paper tries to analyze this trait in relation to the car's effect on the city and the American landscape, definitely something taking place during the years of these films. But as I analyzed these films I realized that seeing them in relation to contemporary films or neo-noirs was necessary, to see how attitudes towards violence and the automobile changed as the car became ingrained in the American way of life and urban fabric. Hopefully these things come across in the paper; it's hard to say from my position. So if you are able to wade through the roughly 3,300 words, come back to this post and let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


[Image: Inside the riveted curvature and infinite throughways of Ontario's subterranean generating station, as photographed by Vanishing Point, about whom I hope to post more soon. While you're there, by the way, don't miss the so-called Depths of Salvation. Meanwhile, see BLDGBLOG's own take on urban knot theory, then join our tour of London Topological].

Interchange Tiles

[Image: Four tiles by Jim Termeer].

"This is a set of 25 ceramic tiles," artist Jim Termeer explains. "The patterns are based on satellite imagery of major highway interchanges that have been built worldwide."
So you can decorate your bathroom with the freeways of Barcelona.

[Image: The Barcelona tile, by Jim Termeer].

(Discovered via Mason White, thanks to a tip from Theresa Duncan. If you like these images, meanwhile, be sure to stop by BLDGBLOG's Return of the Knot Driver and, of course, The Knot Driver).

Today's archidose #64

At The Yale Center for British Art
At The Yale Center for British Art by thbonamici.
The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT by Louis I. Kahn.

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Friday, February 23, 2007


A comment by shannon in my last post provided a link to Graffitecture, a book and exhibition with a release party/opening today in Chicago at Hejfina. Forty Chicago-based Graffiti artists were asked to "draw directly on photographic prints of architectural spaces." The online, Flash version of the show is a well-done virtual book that gives a taste of some of the artists' responses, like this modification of the Pfanner House by Zoka Zola.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Structures of the death market

Another cool project from Domus, this time a "vertical cemetary" whose "commitment to quality is eternal."

[Image: Via Domus].

Though it looks like something out of Perdido Street Station, it's really a skyscraping extension to the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica, "a vertical cemetery established in Santos in Brazil in 1983."
This futuristic, insectile extension "will create another 25,000 niches, set inside a 108-metre-high tower block that will complete the complex."
It will be circled by birds, looming alien on the horizon.

[Image: Via Domus].

Quoting the article at great length:
    The vertical cemetery is particularly widespread in Brazil and is also beginning to be used in other places: the Panteón Memorial Towers complex, which consists of 13 towers in a vaguely deconstructivist style, has recently been presented at Bogotá in Colombia and sparked debate concerning changes in funeral rituals related to the social changes that have taken place over the last 30 years. In the South Korean pavilion at the last Venice Architecture Biennale, the project The Last House by architect Chanjoong Kim (founder of System Lab) addressed the same notion, bringing it into line with more contemporary architectural styles and approaches and drawing on a zoomorphic language that echoed systems of vascular circulation. Architecture appears swift to take the opportunity to address a new area where death creates a market, on the borderline between consumerism and entertainment.
Personally, I think it will soon be covered in plastic bags, snagged from the air, and within ten years it will host a bungee-jumping platform.
Then, fifteen years after the tower is completed, a Brazilian George A. Romero will make a terrifying new version of Night of the Living Dead, in which all the corpses come back to life... falling to the ground in packs, then crawling away into the darkness.

[Image: Via Domus].

More images are available at Domus, and a few more thoughts on such projects can be found at we make money not art.

(Elsewhere: "The Hanging Cemetary of Babylon").

Today's archidose #63

Reddish Brown Canal
Reddish Brown Canal by Quod Libertarius [Zakka].
Tietgenkollegiet (student housing) in Ørestad, Denmark, a suburb of Copenhagen, by Lundgaard & Tranberg. More information here.

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Update 02.25: This project is also featured on my weekly page.

Europe's Geological Attics

[Image: Carlo Mollino's "architectural solution for extremely high altitudes." Via Domus].

Last year, Domus introduced us to an "architectural solution for extremely high altitudes."
But it's not another weird, home oxygen system; it's a derelict ski lift relay station, designed by Carlo Mollino – who apparently once said: "Everything is permissible as long as it is fantastic."

[Image: Via Domus].

The ski lift itself was meant to cross upward through the Alpine sky, from mountain top to mountain top, eventually alighting upon the crest of the Matterhorn. As such, it was part of a much larger mountain sports complex – or distributed "micrometropolis," as the article describes it – for prestigious (and wealthy) winter athletes.
Wonderfully, these structures – located on various peaks and connected by cable cars – were partly inspired by "the Tibetan monasteries of Lhasa as self-sufficient and self-justifying mountain units."
Mollino himself wrote, referring to this project: "I believe this construction represents an answer to the question of architecture at very high mountain altitudes, and that it is also a new constructional concept. It is literally anchored in the rock, which had to be dynamited in order to create the albeit partial support platforms. All the rest is cantilevered.”

[Image: A sketch by Carlo Mollino. Via Domus].

However, "a secret passageway into the glacier" was also constructed; this was a jagged corridor filled with stairways and machinery that Domus refers to as "the famous rock tunnel."
More poetically, they add, it's "a tunnel through the rock of one of Europe’s geological attics."

[Images: Inside "the famous rock tunnel," that "passageway into the glacier." Via Domus].

Though I want so badly to learn that a manmade labyrinth of tunnels and passageways has been blasted through the highest mountains of the Alps – perhaps even possible to ski through – it seems that this "famous rock tunnel" doesn't go very deep, and that it houses nothing but enginery for the ski lift, bobbing noisily in the wind outside.
But there's just something so incredibly evocative about an abandoned network of Alpine ski lifts.
You arrive in a small town in Switzerland, say, having traveled there to research tectonic stress in the rocks of southern Europe – how that continent's ongoing collision with Africa results in magnificent lumps of folded rock, rising miles into the air. Your guidebook mentions a specific geological formation worth the time if you can reach it, because those rocks have neither been seen nor photographed since the early 1950s.
Turns out, the only way up there – and the rocks are way up there: three or four mountains away, in the wind, ice, and weather – is to take a series of abandoned cable cars. No one is even sure how well the machinery works, but, after a few days' tinkering, using a dozen cans of WD-40, you manage to get the thing back on track.
You pack a lunch, put on some gloves, and you bring a new flashlight – and some granola bars, just in case.
And then you ascend, alone, taking photographs, as you pass from one abandoned outpost to the next, gliding through cantilevered architectural structures, each more fantastic than the one before.
By midday, you have arrived at a spectacular cluster of buildings, now abandoned to the snow for over 60 years – but, of course, at that instant, the cable car jams. Gingerly, you step out.
Looking back, you can't even see the village where you started; looking ahead, you can't see the peak you've been looking for. The cables just sort of disappear, sagging and forlorn, covered in icicles, like thin wires between distant cliffsides.
Soon, it's rather late.

[Image: The Alps. Via Domus].

You crawl into one of the empty buildings in an effort to stay warm – because, outside, the wind has picked up – but you notice that, behind the wood panelling in the back, there's some kind of opening, or even a cave. Or at least there's something: you can't quite tell what it is.
Crawling over to investigate, flashlight in hand, you realize it's not a cave at all, but a manmade tunnel. And it extends downward, at a sharp angle.
Looking closer, you see footprints.
You enter.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Year Reading

So far this year Archinect has posted nine features on its page, a staggering number when one also realizes that only two were posted last year by this time. Of course quantity doesn't mean much if quality is lacking, something the editors don't have to worry about, with a wide-range of what are mostly very thoughtful interviews with upstarts and lesser-known individuals, as well as one catching the Second Life bandwagon.

Naturally, for a voracious reader like me the two-part feature Reading the CNY (Chinese New Year) is the best of the bunch. As much as I'd love to put together my own list here, my schedule just won't allow that sort of free time, so below I've extracted my favorite reads and ones I'd love to read, with quotes from the editor that chose it, a link to their list, and a brief comment of my own; I tried to grab one book from each editor's list but that might not have worked in all cases.


In no particular order:
Bow-wow from Post Bubble City
"Atelier Bow-Wow. INAX Publishing, 2006.
On the heels of the genius of Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture, the Bow-wowers this time offer a monograph of their own work demonstrating what they have learned from Tokyo. The book is divided into twelve sections with brief self-interviews serving as thematic introductions to each. The work is thoughtful and restrained, making this Bow-wow book wow yippy yo yippy yeah." [ed. - I loved the two previous Bow-wowers, too, and even though a friend gave me this a gift I've yet to read it; looks great, though.]

Landscape Urbanism Reader
Charles Waldheim, Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
"Circulating between high lines, fresh kills, and waterfronts is an emergent collective of designers and thinkers chronicling a landscape revolution. Landscape Architecture has joined forces with its former nemesis, Urbanism, to generate a seductive elixir for the city’s eager desire for reclamation, brownfielding, and landscape tourism. This Reader compiles 14 authors in search of an emerging choreographed urban field." [ed. - Another book I own but have yet to read, minus Graham Shane's essay for his class.]

Mediterranean In The Ancient World
Fernand Braudel. Penguin Books, 2002.
"A great history book I read on and off." [ed. - I found both volumes used in a bookstore, though I've yet to crack them. Perhaps on and off should be my strategy for tackling Braudel's weighty history.]

Land Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook
Max Andrews. The RSA and Arts Council England, 2006.
"A book that launched with the RSA's No Way Back? conference, this book reaches 'beyond environmentalism,' to take a critical approach to the ways that art can operate in relation to the global debates of ecology, geography, economics and globalization. The most compelling essay examines contemporary projects, including those of The Center for Land Use Interpretation, in relation to the dialogue opened by Robert Smithson in terms of site, non-site and territory. Related: a new publication from The Cape Farewell Project, a series of expeditions that bring artists, scientists and educators to the Arctic to raise awareness of climate change." [ed. - This looks like a great companion to Landscape Urbanism, above.]

Earth: An Intimate History
Richard Fortey. Vintage, 2005.
"For some reason I wasn’t interested in reading this book at all – but then I couldn’t put it down. It’s a geological tour of the earth’s surface, including those strange and unimaginable subterranean pressures that torque, fold, mutate, bend, and shatter the ground we stand on. The American paperback edition is terrifically designed & printed. Really great, frankly, if you have even the slightest interest in geology or landscape." [ed. - Sounds like BLDGBLOG in print form.]

Future Anterior, Journal of Historic Preservation
Jorge Otero-Pailos, Founder and Director. GSAPP, Columbia University.
"Great time every few months when I get my copy of Future Anterior in the post, which is at the forefront of theory on preservation, but most of the issues are also up on on the web as PDF's for y'all. Simply, where else would I have learned about prophylactic preservation?" [ed. - In another life, I'm a historic preservationist.]

Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists
McSweeney's. Vintage, 2006.
"Unleash the urban planner within by reading "Things This City Was Built On, Besides Rock 'n' Roll" or spice up your next crit with some fodder from "Adjectives Rarely Used by Wine Tasters." In typical McSweeney's fashion, this book presents a completely random assortment of lists which will almost certainly provide no practical benefit whatsoever (except a lot of laughter)." [ed. - These things crack me up when I look them over a couple times a year.]

Guide To Contemporary Architecture In America: Vol. 1 Western U.S.A.
Masayuki Fuchigami. Toto, 2005.
"Please, please, please before you spend your money on a trip to some far-flung country, get in your car and drive (or take a train or bus)! If you live in the US drive to the Grand Canyon, to Toledo, to Denver, anywhere! If you live elsewhere, drive to the interesting, out-of-the-way places that your own home turf provides. It's easy to see the greener grass elsewhere, but America does have some pretty fantastic things to see between NY and LA, and this guide book is a great way to see them." [ed. - I'm really looking forward to volume 2.]

A+U No. 428: Implementing Architecture
Moshen Mostafavi and Mason White. A+U Publishing, 2006.
"Edited and assembled by Archinect’s own Mason White, an in-depth exploration of the realities of architectural practice. By focusing on project architects, this volume is a refreshingly honest dissertation on how buildings get built and how field decisions get made - minus the clutter of theory. Taken together, the essays can be seen as one complete narrative, culminating in a revealing essay by Prince-Ramus on the Seattle Public Library where he sidesteps the question of his role as project architect altogether by espousing the death of authorship. Also included are essays on the history of architectural education at Cornell. This volume should be required reading."

Variations on a Theme Park
Michael Sorkin. The Noonday Press, 1992.
"I picked this up for $7.50 at a used bookstore in Wicker Park (Chicago) over the holiday break. Although 15 years old, many of these essays (by the likes of Margaret Crawford, Mike Davis, and others) still apply, perhaps now more than when they were initially published." [ed. - I've read about half of these essays and definitely agree that they're relevant today.]

Thinking Architecture
Peter Zumthor. Birkhäuser, 2006.
"Here's an excerpt from my favorite portion of the book, perhaps the most telling of his thoughts on architecture, as compared to the thoughts and preoccupations of many others:
'The world is full of signs and information, which stand for things that no one fully understands...Yet the real thing remains hidden...Nevertheless, I am convinced that real things do exist, however endangered they may be...objects, made by man...which are what they are, which are not mere vehicles for an artistic message, and whose presence is self-evident.'" [ed. - I've been known to excerpt myself, but only from the best.]

Gravity's Rainbow Illustrated
Zak Smith. Tin House Books, 2006.
"Weird, difficult, challenging … yet absolutely ravishing in scope." [ed. - Isn't the original weird, difficult, and challenging? Maybe these illustrations make it less so.]

Heidegger's Hut
Adam Sharr. MIT Press, 2006.
"An interesting and detailed analysis on the philosopher and his place. Chalk full of images concerning the man and his hut. Sharr even went as far to produce models and architectural drawings. Can seem overly technical at times, but for me definitely shed a new light on what building, dwelling, and thinking was all about."[ed. - Anything that helps explain Heidegger's ideas is good in my book.]

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Transparent Soil and the Gardens of Tomorrow

[Image: Tomas Saraceno, via Domus].

"A sun is rising behind a large glass surface among the trees," Daniel Birnbaum writes in Domus, and that sun's "bright light is reflected in the water. Huge balloons hover in the air, some transparent, others lit from within. Hundreds of people gather on the small green island at night. What kind of strange place is this?"

[Image: Tomas Saraceno, via Domus].

This "strange place" is actually "a small island in a river running through a large European city." Specifically, if somewhat disappointingly, it's an art institute called "the new Portikus," and it's located in Frankfurt, Germany.
As it happens, the new Portikus is in the midst of a long run of art installations, and so the sun we just saw "rising behind a large glass surface among the trees" is really a project designed by Olafur Eliasson’s Light Lab. The project is "visible at night from across the city," and is part of what Birnbaum calls "a solar lab."
After all, he adds, all of the artworks in this series "will all relate to the notion of heliotropism."

[Image: Tomas Saraceno, via Domus].

However, artist Tomas Saraceno, also exhibiting at Portikus, is "more interested," we read, in how people could start "living in the skies."
Saraceno thus "explores the possibilities of air-borne housing as a conceivable solution to the problems of population growth and rapidly changing climates."
Elsewhere, in an interview with Stefano Boeri and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Saraceno says: "Up in the sky there will be this cloud, a habitable platform that floats in the air, changing form and merging with other platforms just as clouds do. It will fly through the atmosphere pushed by the winds, both local and global... in a permanent state of transformation, similar to nomadic cities."
In other words, it'll be a bit like the Helicopter Archipelago...
In the same interview, Saraceno then describes another project called the Flying Garden. The Flying Garden will be an "invasion" of the sky, "made up of plants, humans and animals."
For instance, "there will be 'air plants'," he says, taken "from the genus Tillandsia. Native to South America and Africa, these are true air plants: they derive all their nutrition from the air, imbibing rain and dew and whatever nutrients the air brings to them through their leaf tissues. There are no roots for water and nutrient uptake so they are quite air-sufficient."
This actually reminds me of an image I've had in my head for several years now: which is a forest, growing at its own faunal pace, over years, decades, even centuries, yet all the plants are rooted in transparent soil – clear hillsides like plastic or glass – so you can actually sit there in the sun, reading Charles Darwin, everyday, every week, watching those slow and ancient roots push deeper and deeper into the earth.
Worms crawl, as if through space, forming tunnels – underground landscapes of air. After the sun goes down, you walk out into the middle of the woods with a flashlight and you shine it straight down through the surface of the earth, illuminating tangles of roots and buried streams.


In my inbox today landed a link to a page called The World as Flatland, with the brief description that it is the "first project of the multi-part series 'Visualizing Feedback' on the design and interpretation of statistics."


Upon visiting the page it appears to show a snapshot of those viewing the page at that moment. Each time I visited there were very few visitors, as can be seen in the latest view below, a far cry from the e-mail image above. So I'm sharing the page here to spread the word and aid the flatlanders in their project. Additionally, a pull-down menu on the flatland page illustrates some statistics, such as longevity, Nobel Prize winners, and happiness.


Update 02.25: Less than a week since this post, it looks like the world is filling out:

Monday, February 19, 2007

Monday, Monday

My weekly page update:
Scheepvaart Workshop in Schoten, Belgium by Loos Architects.

The updated book feature is GA Houses 90, by Global Architecture.

Some unrelated links for your enjoyment:
Arch | Diaries
A new architecture blog, from Brazil (in Portugese). (added to sidebar under blogs::architecture)

"Exploring the convergence of the metaverse with the real life practice of architecture," or , in other words, a blog about Second Life. (added to sidebar under blogs::architecture)

Food for Design
A "delectable meal for the mind." (added to sidebar under blogs::architecture)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Today's archidose #62

Villa La Roche-Jeanneret by Le Corbusier
Villa La Roche-Jeanneret by Le Corbusier by fotofacade.
Villas La Roche-Jeanneret (1925) in Paris by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, now housing the Foundation Le Corbusier.

To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool, and/or
:: Tag your photos archidose

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Museum of Assassination

[Image: The window through which JFK was shot, recently purchased for over $3 million on eBay].

Leaving aside for now whether or not this is the real deal, the window through which JFK was assassinated has been purchased on eBay for more than $3 million.
"The starting price was just $100,000," the BBC reports, "but bidding was brisk and the item eventually fetched $3,001,501."
Why was it available for purchase at all? Well, apparently, "the window of the Dallas building was removed shortly after the assassination because people were stealing bits of it." They presumably then took those bits home as macabre souvenirs – latter-day relics, perhaps carefully enshrined in secret temples to American history, next to devotional photographs of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.

[Image: Three frames from the infamous Zapruder film, an amateur tourist reel that captured the assassination of JFK in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, 1963; via Assassination Research].

No one is entirely sure, however, if this particular window is authentic; for instance, the BBC mentions a few "conspiracy theorists" who say that it cannot possibly be the real window – after all, they claim, "a man from Tennessee bought the building years ago and took the window with him when he left town." What he did with it next just adds to the mystery.
Perhaps you've even looked through it, whilst visiting your parents' neighbors in Memphis; or perhaps you saw a man with a Southern accent hanging out at a gas station in New Mexico, and he was transporting a large window in the back of his minivan. Looking closely, you saw that it was secured with several padlocks, and the man was carrying a stun-gun...
Perhaps this mysterious dealer in architectural fragments is actually amassing items for his future Museum of Assassination, in which pieces of architecture, historical documents, and associated weaponry will be put on display. A complete, hyper-realistic simulation of Dealey Plaza is being constructed out back.

[Image: A "building cut" by Gordon Matta-Clark, along with two "Bronx Floors"].

In any case, what all this actually made me think of was New York artist Gordon Matta-Clark's project "Bronx Floors."
To produce artworks like these, Matta-Clark "would chainsaw large circles or other shapes in abandoned buildings and exhibit both a photograph of the building after the operation and the parts that had been removed" (emphasis added).
In other words, many of the "objects" that Matta-Clark displayed in New York City art galleries were really decontextualized fragments of existing buildings – including, of course, several Bronx floors. These mobile pieces of real architecture – a fever of walls and floors on the loose in New York City – became instant works of sculpture, somewhere between a readymade object, archaeological remains, and a kind of experiment in found architecture.
So what's interesting about the JFK window, at least for me, is that it seems to exist – purposefully or not – as a Matta-Clark-like sculpture, a "building cut" if there ever was one.
Perhaps we may even find that Gordon Matta-Clark did not die of cancer at all – in fact, he moved to Tennessee, only to purchase, years later, a certain building in Dallas, Texas...
On the other hand, the auctioning off of JFK's fatal window also opens up the possibility that we could chainsaw, chisel, or otherwise reclaim – i.e. steal – historically important bits of architecture, removing them from their original contexts and exhibiting them elsewhere. The balcony over which Michael Jackson dangled his baby in Berlin; the terrace from which Juliet addressed Romeo; the windows through which administrators were defenestrated in Prague.
Perhaps we could even re-assemble all these into a complete, if eclectic and quite controversial, new building – add the JFK window as the coup de grâce – and you've got a 21st century version of Sir John Soane's Museum in London.
But, of course, archaeology is full of such acts of structural burglary. Whole temples and friezes and doorways and rooms have been removed and transported elsewhere. Just ask Lord Elgin – or, for that matter, ask the Getty.
In light of all this, then, are we witnessing some new Lord Elgin of the 21st century, raised on the novels of J.G. Ballard, as he or she begins a new quest to collect pieces of architectural morbidity?
The sale of JFK's window would thus be the opening salvo in this death-obsessed archaeology of tomorrow.

Skywalk Update

About a year and a half ago I posted about a horseshoe-shaped, glass-bottom walkway that would jut into the Grand Canyon, sitting nearly a mile above the Colorado River. It was optimistically planned to open on the first day of 2006, but that obviously did not happen. An LA Times article, though, indicates that construction is underway on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and it is set to open soon.

Photo by Mark Boster / LAT

The article also indicates that the Skywalk "will be the catalyst for a 9,000-acre development [on the Hualapai Indian Reservation], known as Grand Canyon West, that will open up a long-inaccessible 100-mile stretch of countryside along the canyon's South Rim. [The development] may eventually include hotels, restaurants and a golf course."


The Hualapai are using the Skywalk and future developments as a means to address social problems within the group, including poverty and alcoholism. People outside the tribe are arguing that the plans will deface the Grand Canyon and turn it into a "tacky commercial playground." These appear to be the two sides of the argument, though the former is the one grounded in law, as the tribe owns the land and any rights to develop it. The latter could perhaps try to steer people away from visiting the Skywalk and paying its $25 admission, towards more sustainable ways of enjoying the canyon.

To me the Skywalk in and of itself is not a bad thing (or not as bad as the rest). It's quite an engineering feat and surely gimmicky, but without the development it's not as harmful to its context; road access, a place to eat, a gift shop, some toilets. But the irony is that Skywalk cannot exist alone. It's a piece meant to generate the other parts of the development. The Skywalk is meant to bring people to a side of the canyon more remote than the usual tourist spots, while the rest of the development is meant to keep them there much longer. It's unfortunate that the Skywalk will be linked to a golf course and other "non-native" amenities, but at this point it's well on its way to fruition.

(via Core77 & The Green Head)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Churches of remathematization

[Image: "Adams in Saint Flour Cathedral," a 360°x180° panorama by Seb Przd].

Flickr user Seb Przd has been re-mathematizing his photographs of French cathedrals, using a program called MathMap.
The results are delirious whorls of rock and decoration, space folded onto itself and circled round again to match up with itself at the beginning. All very M.C. Escher-esque – but nonetheless exhilirating.

[Images: "Saint Etienne Two Times," taken inside Saint Etienne du Mont, Paris; another view of Saint Etienne du Mont; inside the same church; and a final view inside Saint Etienne du Mont, Paris. All photographs by Seb Przd].

Further clicking took me through to an entire Equirectangular Pool on Flickr, and further still to a specific Equirectangular set by another Flickr user called HamburgerJung. In particular, I like his shot "Treppe."
However, even then I found myself clicking back to look at images by Seb Przd, including "On the side of the cathedral," "Don't drink and pray," and "Notre-Dame de Reims."
If you look at enough of these, though, you begin to see that specific styles of architecture are better than others when it comes to this sort of optical distortion. The old stone cathedrals of Europe are fantastic, for instance, but modern – even art nouveau – structures look pretty lame, frankly. I also think meadow shots, or straight-up landscapes, just look really gimmicky.
So perhaps we should send Seb Przd, armed with a camera and loads of film, on a six month trip through Europe, photographing every Gothic cathedral from within...
A kind of optical encounter between Christianity and mathematics.

[Image: "The Ceiling and Columns of the Cathedral" by Seb Przd].

(Discovered via MetaFilter).