24 February 2010

City Short: Rotterdam

Soon to be my new home! (Well sort of, I'll be in The Hague first) I like the words unplanned, organic, spontaneous and unexpected when describing a city.

Travel Offbeat and fiercely committed to the new, Rotterdam is home to a number of respected architects and designers. Here, designers Joep and Jeroen Verhoeven and Judith de Graauw from Demakersvan, architect Reinier de Graaf of OMA and architect Ben van Berkel of UNstudio talk about the city's redevelopment, its diversity and how it inspires their work.
Click to watch video: City Short: Rotterdam

23 February 2010

Budapest Tramlines

Okay I finally made something to submit to CSS Zen Garden. That place has been around forever and I've always wanted to do something. It's my little tribute to my time in Budapest.

20 February 2010

Right should always feel this Wrong.

To all the awesome, daring, crazy people I've known through romping around in this crazy jungle of sex, drugs, rock n' roll (or electronic music, or Wagner, or whatever). I can safely say I do not know anyone who has lived their lives like my parents did. In the wake of failed marriages, used hearts, alternative sexual arrangements, post-traumatic stress disorder, social humiliation, body modifications, synthetic mental enhancement, voluntarily physical torture, long term sleep deprivation, streaking naked and other such self-deprecating acts. Despite it all, or perhaps, because of it all, you give me a reason to believe that the life of insanity is a life that is infinitely rewarding.

The following is an extract from a Paul Arden interview.

Hermann Vaske
Why is it WRONG to be right?

Paul Arden
Being right is based upon knowledge and experience and is often provable. Knowledge comes from the past, so it's safe. It's also out of date.

It's the opposite of originality.

Experience is built from solutions to old situations and problems.

And if you can prove you're right, you're set in concrete. You cannot move, with the times or with other people.

Being right is also boring. Your mind is closed. You are not open to new ideas. You are rooted in your own rightness, which is arrogant. Arrogance is a very valuable tool, but only if used very sparingly. Worst of all, being right has a tone of morality about it. To be anything else sounds weak or fallible and people who are right would hate to be thought fallible.

So it's wrong to be right. Because people who are right are rooted in the past; rigid-minded; dull and smug. There's no talking to them. (nonononononononononononononononono)

Hermann Vaske
And why is it right to be WRONG?

Paul Arden
Start being wrong and suddenly anything is possible. The future opens up. Ideas are allowed back in. You are no longer trying to be infallible. Safety is out, excitement in.

You are in the unknown.

You're pushing the frontiers out, extending the imagination into places it's never been. There's no way of knowing what can happen, but there's more chance of it being amazing than if you try to be right.

No one can be be blamed if it doesn't work. Blame belongs to moral situations and being wrong steps outside morality. Also, blame is an attempt to back out of responsibility and what else is responsibility but the ability to respond? People respond much faster to temptation and excitement and other aspects of wrongness, than they do to people being right.

Of course, being wrong is a risk. Risks are a measure of people. People who won't take them are trying to preserve what they have. People who do take them often end up by having more.
Being wrong isn't in the future, or in the past.
Being wrong isn't anywhere but being here. NOW.

Paul Arden was creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi in their most creative years in the eighties.

17 February 2010

Revenge Is... Deconstructionist Architecture.

Whatever that was supposed to mean. No one really knows what "deconstructionist" anything is, I think that it cannot be understood in any concrete terms is an inherent value in the word itself. It's quite alright when they're just words that mean nothing, but another problem altogether when they manifest themselves in three dimensions.

I personally have no problems with outrageous modern architecture, I quite love them in fact. It makes the urban landscape much more exciting. For sure, there are plenty of failed experiments, but to get from one successful peak or design to another requires a few failures. Unsuccessful variations on a theme that worked well. It's alright as long as architectural frivolity happens primarily in the developed world. Post-modern design and all it's non-functionality is eye-candy or intellectual wank, luxuries for the rich.

The Telegraph has an article on this: "Architecture should please the public, not spite them". It starts of as a rant against Daniel Libeskin's extension to the Dresden Military History Museum.

I actually like spaces like that in places like museums. People that hang around in modern museums usually have some time to kill, and contemporary art work doesn't always want to display itself on a wall perpendicular to the ground. Also, crazy architecture gives room for elements of surprise and surreality when you're in a space. The transition of walking from a traditionally built environment to a modern one can also be novel and stimulation. Spaces like that are not ideal of living or working in, but as a temporary escape from reality, they can be interesting experiences.

The comments at the end of the article are hilarious. One guy says, commenting on the Dresden Museum, "So he's of Polish origin, is he? Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold, and after 70 years it must be well chilled."

15 February 2010

Melbourne Southern Star

The Ferris wheel has got to be up there on the list of useless things in the world just asking to be re-imagined into something better. Things don't have to be useful to exist, but the Ferris wheel isn't even fun. One can suppose it's value comes from the provision of a unique city skyline... whoops, I think not! I suppose it's become a sort of symbol for major cities around the world, with names that bring out the inherent wishes and hopes of the people living in the city. The Singapore Flyer, the Melbourne Southern Star, the London Eye: for an increasingly paranoid city of pedophiles and junkies.

That said, they are structures that stir the imagination. Carriages that suspend you in the air and go about in a circular motion, without the intention to achieve anything. Perhaps it's elliptical structure is used to break the monotony of modernist steel blocks that rule the skyline of most modern cities. Being something different, it calls out at people to imagine it in ever more different ways.

Behold, the Melbourne Southern Star, re-imagined...

we came up with the following reuse strategy; a greek windmill inspired sci-fi future with a ‘wind driven, solar sail energy collecting wheel, as a hub for a new fleet of flying steam powered trams’ to alleviate congestion in a newly greened Melbourne. Click on the images to view the full scale versions.
 Via BuroNorth.

12 February 2010

HBO's Autistic Slaughterhouse Architect

Half a decade ago I picked up "Thinking in Pictures" from the book exchange tray outside the University Mini-mart. It was more like a supermarket trolley than a tray really, and as a place meant for discarded books, it had a quite a lot of decent books in it. The book is the personal biography of Temple Grandin, who is an autistic slaughterhouse architect. I'm not really surprised someone finally made a movie about her life, although the combination of "autistic" and "slaughterhouse architect" did make me think that it was possibly one of the weirdest memoirs out there, and that it was such a niche topic the book was not about to become a best-seller anytime. But there you have it, HBO has made "Temple Grandin", the biopic of a slaughterhouse architect.

On retrospect, it does have the makings of a film with great popular appeal. It is two things that a certain type of person (e.g. the Social Liberal) would find compelling in a story. The humane treatment of animals and the understanding of people that are significantly different from the rest of us. Like some of the reviews say it, it's a cross between "Fast Food Nation" and "Rain Man". Throw in the feminist element and it's one hell of a lefty hit.

The biography is really refreshingly written too. Temple Grandin's autism puts her on an extreme end of the visual-logical segment of the intelligence matrix, and this way of thinking is expressed in her style of writing. I feel like I really got a sense of how she thought through the way she strung sentences together. She is also shocking self-aware at times, and I remember thinking occasionally, while reading the book, that the way she wrote was so straight forward and honest that it was unmistakably different. It was like entering another world, but one that actually exists and is a part in all of us. Only that it can't be reached because our brains are wired differently.  

Also, who knew how much thought had to go into designing slaughterhouses. A knowledge of the animal, and animal crowd behaviour, and the designs that can affect them psychologically for better or for worse. In this case, as in a lot of other cases to do with living spaces, the form definitely affects the function. 

10 February 2010

Extapolating into the Future.

This is an old one. We all know we'll always get it wrong when it comes to technological progress. We're always stuck way behind the curve when predicting new gadgets that would consume our lives like a steamy romance always in need of an upgrade. Whatever that was supposed to mean. Politics however will always be the same shit in a different pig, in a different pen. Or any other combination on the matrix.

09 February 2010

Female is What is Good for Us.

China Smack has a whole gravy train of Transsexuals lined up in the latest post. I read the title but was almost convinced that they were women by the end of it. I'm not the best when it comes to figuring out the genders of individuals that don't fall strictly on either side anyway, and I'm not bothered by it really. I think it's a skill that is developed naturally only if you re in constant danger of taking home a lady boy against your knowledge.

Perhaps it's because I live in sex-is-cheap-and-sometimes-free Asia that I get the feeling there's a hell lot more transsexuals over here than across the Pacific, or maybe it's more accepted here as a personal lifestyle choice. Or even as an economic one.

I read some research awhile back done in India on gender ratios of new births depending on castes. The lowest caste had a skewed ratio of a non-negligible amount of females to males. In a tough economic situation, it makes more sense to be female, and if the gods won't do their duty, I don't think anyone sees a fault in helping nature along its desired course. Perhaps in some implicit manner, this affects individuals not born in that lower lot anyway.

Then, there's also the case for population control. Post-op lady-boys are quite unlikely to give birth. We often view such human choices as artificial and as a construct of society. But I like to view human choice as something that is developed on a canvas with millions of years of evolution behind it. We think it's artificial, but it's not. There is something, a kind of collective knowledge, that compels certain trends.


08 February 2010

The Ocean Sea Effect

Colors Lab is making calls for entries on "The Sea". Most of the submission are contemplative and undoubtedly tinged with a sense of magic realism. Stories and images of the sea always seem to convey a sense of another world that is almost part of ours, but not quite.

Years ago, I picked up a gorgeous book titled "Ocean Sea", by Alessandro Baricco. It was one of those books you had to read slowly and feel as you sank your teeth into it, only to find that the bite was elusive but nonetheless present. The only way you know you had bitten into it was the linger aftertaste. In his words, it was just like the seashore. 'Neither land nor sea. It's a place that does not exist.'

At the end of the novel, there is an index of all the paintings made by one of the characters, the Artist Plasson, who is on a metaphysical quest to find where the sea begins and how to capture the her essence on canvas. He spends a good few years of his life standing where the ocean meets the land, with his paints and easels, trying to achieve this. An entry from this index of paintings might read:
Untitled 01
36" by 42"
Oil on Canvas
Description: Un-primed, covered in blue save the corner on the bottom right. There is a bright red spot suspended off center.
It goes on, pages and pages describing the paintings the Artist has made, it works because by the end you really want to answer how the artist has captured such an elusive thing as the ocean. The novel also has another memorable (and highly original!) character, the Professor Bartleboom, who is penning "The Encyclopaedia of Limits", whose quest is to find where the ocean ends...

In the real world, Hiroshi Sugimoto has managed to capture this elusive concept of our relationship with the sea in photographs. In these photographs, it's all about the horizon, how it moves, how it changes, and when it disappears.

Is most famous piece is "Boden Sea" taken on the Lake of Constance, which is more famously known as "No Line on the Horizon", the cover for a U2 album of the same name.
In an interview, he said,
"That's the effect of seascapes," he said, before explaining that a view of a boatless ocean is one of the only things left in the world that we can experience in the same way that our primitive ancestors would have experienced millenniums ago. "The works are really connected to the very deep roots of the human mind,"

05 February 2010

Underwater Sculptures

Jason de Caires  has managed to combine childhood fantasy and ecological awareness into one monumental installation located under the shallow waters surrounding Cancun, Mexico.

I believe childhood fantasies, the sort we read about in books when we were little children eventually seep into the creations of architects, designers and artists years later. But by then, it is no longer mere fantasy. The dream worlds that are created, which can be inspired by anything from Hans Christian Anderson to Star Wars are now infused with a sense of society. They need to say something, particularly about the geographic or social environment we live in.

Architects create environmentally integrated glass towers that turn green in summer, pale in winter and create their own sources of energy. Environmental designers dream up facades that respond to anything, from human interaction to current weather conditions with light, sounds and other sensory stimulation. All these and more have been in some way or other inspired by the technological fantasies we had as children.

While creating his sculptures, de Caires has had to consider the physics of what is effectively, a foreign world. Our experience of the underwater world is very different and skewed from the reality on land. Our senses, designed to receive sensory information through air are now being made to process this information through a different medium, one we have not been accustomed to for millions of years.

In his artist statement, de Caires has pointed out the optical distortions that come from seeing in a watery medium. These distortions, on top of the refractions that result from the heavier density of water, also include current and turbulence.

In his way, Jason de Caires has created his own magic reality that has augmented both reality and fantasy in the analogue world. His statues are contemplative pieces that make us think about the way we experience reality through our senses, and also of our place in the natural world. They also go several steps further by not just simply being objects to be viewed at but also as work that is being directly interacted with over time. Slowly, they are being transformed into home bases for coral reef, and by natural extension, also turning into an environment for the lives of other aquatic fauna.

This Country was not Built by Men in Suits.

Shot by one of my favorite Photographers, Ryan McGinley for Levi's, via The Fashionisto.

This campaign seems especially relevant, maybe somewhat poignant, considering the great financial crash and the current disillusionment we have with wealth generated out of thin air. There is a collective yearning, perhaps, for the values we used to hold for work that had something to show for it.

Could this be a new dawn for artisans, engineers, craftsmen and the like? Or is that far too romantic a notion.

Hedi Silmane and Hare Krishna.

I was reading a portion in The Life of Pi about Hinduism, and about being lost in spirituality and in the moment when I looked up at my wall and saw this.

I know you must be thinking "What the hell?" The thing is, I've had this pin-up on my wall for ages. It's purpose is to announce to the random nerds I shack up with that I'm a total design nerd (bk ref. Snoop) , and that I like esoteric things like smoke rising in a black void.

There have been times when I was totally fucked off my head with lack of sleep or otherwise and staring at this one (there are 2 other similar pin-ups) thinking, man I should have something more interesting up there. I mean, this is boring! But I always still stare long at it anyway, trying to see if something will out.

Then it happened. I was reading about Hare Krishnas and I looked up and I saw why this photo was chosen for the pin-up.

(It's a face of a girl with thick sensual lips blowing smoke).