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Archive for November, 2012

Cosmonauts by Jeremy Geddes

November 27, 2012 1 comment

Whilst looking up some images for a future post, I came across these wonderful paintings of floating Cosmonauts by the New Zealand artist Jeremy Geddes.

They have a haunting, ethereal quality bourne of the muted colours, the displaced floating figures and birds, and the familiar yet at the same time, otherworldliness of the settings.

Geddes paints buildings, vehicles and streetscapes in a beautifully observed and painstaking hyper-realistic style, and then inserts a note of the surreal to create these fantastic and intriguing images…

I think they are truly amazing and I can’t stop looking at them…

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Theo Jansen & his Kinetic Strandbeests…

November 26, 2012 4 comments

One of my colleagues here in the office was sent a link to an intriguing clip of film earlier today…

Watch it from about 45 seconds in and then marvel at the fluidity of the Strandbeest’s movement…

It’s really quite spooky, a thing almost alive and independent, with beautiful junctions, cams and bearings that allow the “animals” to move, and all made from PVC pipes.

The Vimeo clip below is from a film currently being made about Theo Jansen, who has been making, developing and refining these things for over 20 years now, and it really highlights how complex they need to be to create such effortless and fluid motion unaided.

Jansen thinks of these intriguing constructions as new forms of life and hopes that they will eventually develop into self sufficient entities inhabiting the beaches of the future, a task that he is dedicating the next twenty years of his life to, teaching them how to adapt and survive…

I have no idea how mad this actuually is or how successful he will be in his goal, but I wish him well. I think it’s good to have a dream and it would undoubtably be pretty amazing to see herds of these seemingly freewilled creatures gliding across the horizon powered only by the wind and the sun…

Lebbeus Woods – A Visionary Architect

November 22, 2012 4 comments

I’m rather late with this small tribute to an architect who was little known outside of the profession, and who sadly died at the end of October at the age of 72.

When I was at University in the late 80’s & early 90’s, I became rather obsessed with the work of Lebbeus Woods, an American architect and academic who had an amazing  imagination that was luckily for us, coupled with an unbelievable talent for drawing.

I tried (like many others I guess) to copy his style and I borrowed his ideas for the basis of some of my projects, most notably this one with a series of faceted structures stuck to the side of the Post Office Tower. I soon realised however that despite my best efforts, my drawing and presentational ability were not up to the task, and so I had to be satisfied with buying his books and stroking the images that lay within…

And what wonderful images he could make.. flying, dynamic, structures rendered in layer upon layer of perfectly weighted pencil crayon lines, truly wonderful stuff…

Woods was unusual for an architect in that I don’t think he actually ever completed a building. In fact I think he only ever completed one physical project, a light sculpture that sits within a Steven Holl building in China, completed earlier this year. All his projects were almost always theoretical, often based around ideas of conflict and war and the resultant destruction and rebuilding of the cities fabric.

He was often described as a fantasist, producing work and imagery that would grace any decent sci-fi story. This was an accusation he always fought however, saying instead that his work was intended to invoke real architectural solutions albeit ones which were free of conventional limits, and experienced through a different set of rules. One fine example would be his Einstein Tomb in which a structure travels the universe along a single beam of light, forever..

I will leave you with just a small selection of some of Lebbeus’s wonderful drawings, but if you would like to know more, Oliver Wainwright’s blog at the Guardian is a good place to start, as it gathers comments from some of his many students and contemporaries, all of whom held him in very high esteem…

Patrick Vale – Empire State of Pen

November 9, 2012 2 comments

This is a sickeningly enviable thing to be able to do…

I’m not sure how Patrick (who is a London based artist) is drawing this, by memory or from a photo on his computer maybe. He dosent even seem to pencil it out first.. just gets on and draws it..

From the Vimeo site it seems it took Vale “about 4/5 days on and off, shot on iPhone so had to export a lot of pics every half hour!”

An amazing achievement and undoubtedly a lovely thing… and for £345.00 you can even get a beautifully coloured version.. very nice indeed.

Democratic Donkeys v Republican Elephants…

November 7, 2012 1 comment

Firstly a huge congratulations to Mr. Obama.

I’m both pleased and relieved that the American public saw sense and voted in the only real contender for the top job. From where I stand, the world would seem to be a much safer place in the hands of an honest, believable and credible man like Obama sitting in the White House, than those of a rather dodgy Mormon…

Anyway enough with political opinion, that’s not what this blog is about, but Obama’s second term win and the almost blanket coverage we’ve had over here in the UK, has prompted me to write about the rather odd logos that represent each of the parties : a donkey and an elephant…

Firstly the Democratic Donkey.

Apparently it dates back to the 1820’s, when the Presidential candidate Andrew Jackson used the image of a donkey or jackass in response to the nickname he’d been given by his opponents.

He took the intentionally derisive name and redefined it in terms of being strong willed, smart, hard working, reliable and brave, a twist that obviously worked, as Jackson became the very first Democratic President of the US in 1829.

The Republican elephant came into being in the 1870’s after a drawing by the famous American cartoonist Thomas Nast. The cartoon (shown below) showed the Democrat’s donkey hiding under a lion skin scaring all the animals in the zoo with only the elephant remaining unafraid…

Not much to base a choice of logo on perhaps, but it stuck and the elephant has been used ever since, supposedly representing strength, dignity and persistence.

One thing that does occur to me looking at the two logos is how similar they are, both have a red bottom half and a blue top with white stars and both are animals…

If I think about the different logos for the Political Parties here in the UK, they all have a very distinctive colour and appearance, which I would have thought was essential when you’re trying to distinguish yourself from the others… (not easy in a coalition as the increasingly irrelevant Mr Clegg is finding to his cost)

Maybe this lack of distinction is part of the problem with US politics. It’s all so much to do with personality rather than policy (the face and character of Obama versus the face and character of the other guy) that the identity of the party itself becomes secondary, almost irrelevant.

In fact, as I’ve researched for this post, it would appear that neither party has ever really claimed one colour over another and in fact it’s only since the 2000 elections when a TV company denoted blue States and red States on a map of the country, that the colours have become more separated and synonymous with one party or the other…

William Mitchell’s Lee Valley Water Company Mural gets Grade II Listing

November 6, 2012 4 comments

What with one thing and another, I haven’t written about my friend William Mitchell for a while, so as I’ve recently learnt that one of his larger works, the fantastic cast concrete mural at the former headquarters of the Lee Valley Water Company in Hatfield, has recently been granted Grade II Listed Status, I thought I’d pen a few more lines to my favourite craftsman.

Bill is without doubt one of this countries most overlooked and under appreciated artists, a man whose highly idiosyncratic murals and sculptures reached a creative highpoint during the 1960’s and 70’s, gracing public spaces, civic buildings, subways and town centres right across the country.

This magnificent structure is one such example and it was created in a similar way to the Three Tuns Mural in Coventry, whereby Bill carved negative moulds out of polystyrene blocks (there is a similarly complex pattern on both sides of the wall) which were then contained within a timber formwork and concrete poured into the gap between.

The whole mural forms an intrinsic part of the building’s structure, effectively a freestanding feature wall holding up one side of the roof. Bill tells me it was the largest freestanding cast concrete structure of its kind in Europe when it was completed in 1965.

Being commissioned by a water company, Bill also ensured that water played a part in the murals design, and from what I can gather, it trickled down through the heavily moulded surface, ending up in a reflecting pool outside the main entrance. I’ve never seen this mural, but it sounds wonderful…

So, fantastic news for Bill. I think this is the ninth or maybe even the tenth of his works to be Listed and I’m very pleased that his work is finally getting the recognition it so rightly deserves…

I’ll leave you with another image of the Lee Valley mural from the Winter 1964 cover of The Concrete Quarterly Magazine, that’s Bill bottom right, looking up at his creation… (NB. the photo above was actually taken by Bill himself whilst the wall was being constructed, and he’s very kindly allowed me to use it, for which I thank him).

As an aside, for lovers of Mid Century design like myself, the Archives of CQ are a phenomenal treasure trove of images, information and idealism.

Go and have a look if you don’t believe me, you won’t be disappointed…

Suppose Design Office

November 2, 2012 4 comments

Based in Hiroshima, Japan, SDO a small architecural and design practice formed by Makato Tanijiri in 2000, has produced some of the most intriguing and wonderful houses that I have seen for a long time.

Whilst not always the most traditionally “beautiful” of things from the outside, the internal spaces are more often than not something really special, demonstrating an enviable ability to manipulate seemingly tiny and unprepossesing plots of land into spacially impressive and practical (at least in Japanese terms) places to live.

Take this image of a house recently completed on a challangeing site next to the railway lines in Miyoshi, a town near Hiroshima

From the outside it appears to be grey box with no windows, oddly angled walls sitting on a plot of concrete. Not a great start you might think, but then look what happens on the inside. Top lit light wells invisible from the outside, flood the interiors with daylight, creating a series of interlinked spaces which, whilst undeniably contemporary in appearance, nevertheless create a warm and welcoming place to live.

There are many more examples of these amazing spatial conundrums on the SDO site with bigger and more legible photos, but here are some screen grabs to whet your appetite…

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