Super Colossal

History’s Shadow

Wednesday, 19th October 2011 Tweet

David Maisel History's Shadow

David Maisel:

History’s Shadow comprises my series of re-photographed x-rays of art objects from antiquity. I have culled these x-rays from museum archives, which utilize them for conservation purposes. Through the x-ray process, the artworks of origin become de-familiarized and de-contextualized, yet acutely alive and renewed.”

Forgot to Post This One, So It Is All A Bit Old

Monday, 15th August 2011 Tweet

The model of the The Valley of the Kings at the visitor centre before you enter the valley is a clear fibreglass topography with the complex of tombs suspended beneath:

valley of the kings model

(photo: flickr user ruthhallam)

Old news now, but: J.G. Ballard’s house in Shepperton is for sale. According to the real estate listing, it has the following ‘features’:

Living Room 14’ x 11’10 (4.27m x 3.61m)
Dining Room 13’1 x 10’1 (3.99m x 3.07m)
Kitchen 9’1 x 7’1 (2.77m x 2.16m)
Bedroom One 14’1 x 11’1 (4.29m x 3.38m)
Bedroom Two 13’ x 9’11 (3.96m x 3.02m)
Bedroom Three 8’ x 6’1 (2.44m x 1.85m)
Front & Rear Garden
Off Street Parking

Timelapse footage of the Hector thunderstorm, by Murray Fredericks:

Nicola Twilley’s account of the division and dispersal of the royal wedding cake is fascinating and the whole idea terribly English.

City Traces. A collaborative city mapping project

The Great Unwashed. Painting by Tzu-chi Yeh:
tzu chi yeh

God Knows. A documentary on ARM up on youtube. Good stuff.

Zimoun sound sculpture: (via @Jack_Self)

Virtual tescos grocery store in Seoul. Customers scan QR codes for items from display shelves lining the subway walls and the groceries are later delivered to their home. Soon: Buy anything from anywhere.

A 1973 guide to Canberra to attract women to move to Canberra. (via @katecrawford)

I like this house in an old theatre by Núria Salvado and David Tapias:

house by Núria Salvado and David Tapias

We watched a bunch of Polanski films over the weekend. I like the constrained worlds of his films; the yacht in Knife in the Water, the apartment in Repulsion, and the apartment building in Rosemary’s Baby.

Another great panel from Otomo’s Domu. So good. Apartment building telekinetic warfare:

katsuhiro otomo domu

(Image: Otomblr)


Monday, 11th July 2011 Tweet

(This short piece was originally published in the moon issue of Volume magazine. Thanks for Timothy Moore and Rory Hyde for inviting me to be involved in the issue.)


(Image: ooo1981ooo)

It is 1996 and on the moon’s great walled plain of Mare Crisius—the Sea of Crises—a selenologist is pan frying sausages for breakfast when in the distance a flicker from the top of a mountain in the Oceanus Procellarum catches his eye. With fellow scientists, he sets out to investigate the source of this ‘metallic glimmer’ in this otherwise mute landscape. The team ascends the 12,000ft tall mountain range, the lunar gravity rendering the climb a relatively easy afternoon’s trek, and on reaching the summit discover a flattened peak, and on this dusty plateau sits a pyramid. The pyramid is perfectly smooth, seamless and without detail. It is surrounded by an invisible force field and all attempts to discover its interior, its purpose, fail. As is the method in such circumstances, an atomic explosion is eventually called upon to crack the thing open, revealing that it is some kind of machine comprised of an unfamiliar, alien technology. Our narrator speculates that the pyramid is a sentinel left by an extra terrestrial intelligent species to act as a beacon to signal humankind’s evolution from the earthbound.

This unpublished story by Arthur C. Clarke—“The Sentinel”—along with another, “Encounters at the End of the World” caught the attention of film maker Stanley Kubrick, who had been in contact with Clarke about his desire to make “the proverbial ‘really good’ science fiction movie”. The result of this collaboration is the 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The film concerns the evolution of the human race through the intervention of a rectangular monolith. Like the sentinel from Clarke’s short story, the monolith is a mute, seamless object seemingly without purpose or intention. Its appearance triggers evolutionary leaps for those that come in contact with it, famously from ape to human, and from human to being of pure thought. This is the transformation of a species through the direct intervention of a discrete object, an idea that bares closer attention.

2001 tma2

(Image: 2001: A Space Odyssey. gif by If We Don’t Remember Me)

Fortunately Kubrick was a hoarder of his own research and kept an extensive archive on his estate of this material within boxes he notoriously had specially fabricated so that the lid fit snug; just so. This archive is now based at the University of Arts at Elephant and Castle in London and contains a substantial collection of material relating to 2001: A Space Odyssey, however little relating specifically to the monolith, its design or meaning. There are many slides of pre-production artwork for the third monolith circling Jupiter and the archaeological dig on the moon, a single unannotated photograph of a monolith hanging from a crane in the English countryside, sketches of the proposed lighting rig for the monolith, and most interestingly animation plates used in the sequences of the third monolith orbiting Jupiter-V, a moonlet of Jupiter towards the end of the film. During this sequence, the monolith floats in space, scaleless, and barely visible against the vacuum of space, its surface only apparent when the faint light of the sun illuminates its face, before astronaut Dave Bowman having escaped the psychotic computer HAL floats into its surface, and through the stargate. The animation plates are comprised of torn pieces of black and grey cardboard sticky-taped to a board and covered with a black matte. These rudimentary collages, when expertly lit and filmed are transformed from two dimensional cutouts to perhaps the most solid objects in the history of cinema.

jack kirby 2001 a space odyssey

(Image: 2001: A Space Odyssey comic adaptation by Jack Kirby

Beyond these production artefacts, the best clue to the film makers’ intentions regarding the monoliths may be found in the drafts of the screenplays where we find a series of changing references to the monolith; from tetrahedron similar to that of The Sentinel, to completely transparent crystal cube, to the black rectangular form with the proportion of 1, 4, 9 (the square of the first three prime numbers) that we find in the finished film. While the form of the monolith changes—albeit within a rather limited palette of primitive solids—a consistency may be found in its quality as a seamless, impenetrable object without reflection or surface detail. The characteristic is one of a kind of intense exteriority.

It has no interior and yet as Dave Bowman discovers in the fourth act, is is all interior (“The thing’s hollow - it goes on forever - and - oh my god, it’s full of stars!”).

2001 blaise larmee

The monolith shares this quality of intense exterior and infinite interior with the current bias in portable electronic devices. Apple’s current range of MacBookPro and iPad computers, constructed of milled aluminium form seamless, impenetrable enclosures that for the user have no moving parts or interior space yet like all networked devices contain an infinitely permeable interior.

In Giza, the Great Pyramid of Cheops has perhaps the most enigmatic interior of all buildings. It has been sitting in the desert with the extent of its internal reaches unknown for 45oo years. This chastity is infuriating for humans. If a thing has an interior it must be explored and assessed. In order to do so, specialist devices will be developed with ever decreasing diameters that may travel the narrowest of shafts and when these reach their limits, new devices are developed, now weaponised in the hope that they may break through these defences. Consumer electronics again bare this out, one of the immediate exercises performed on the release of a new Apple product is the tear-down; an electro-autopsy where impenetrable objects have their innards exposed, laid out and photographed under the flattering indirect light.

A team from Leed’s University is currently preparing a new robot to be sent into the Cheops Pyramid in an attempt to delve farther than the previous robot that came to an impasse at a limestone door. This new robot, equipped with drills, will cut its way through the doors and make its way further into the weight of the pyramid, and will uncover, more shafts, fantastic chambers, doors, or not. And if it too reaches an impasse and its successors after it, presumably at some point, like Clarke’s lunar Sentinel the mystery too great to leave unanswered will require something beyond the gently gently approach and the kind of weaponised exploration involving the splitting of atoms will be called upon.

The monolith’s mute calm mixed with its agenda of aggressive social and neurological manipulation (it is referred to in the production notes as the “teaching tableaux”, and its visitation of the group of apes as the “lesson”) is its inherent contradiction. It is at once passive and instructive, intensely exterior and infinitely interior. Beguiling and infuriating, it is representative of the idea that an object, a discrete thing, may be transformative purely through its presence.

Unsolicited Venice

Wednesday, 6th July 2011 Tweet

There are moves underway to replace the much-maligned Australian Pavilion in Venice. The pavilion, designed by Phillip Cox and in his signature 80’s Darling Harbour-white-sweeping-tubular steel style, was never meant to be a permanent solution, but like so many temporary measures took root and has been in place for the last twenty three years.

This would seem to be a pretty good opportunity for an open competition. However according to The Age the plan is that the new pavilion design “will be selected by invitation, from a small hand-selected group of Australian architects”. Better hand-selected than foot-selected, or algorithm-selected I guess.

Christine and Tania from Openhaus have a good writeup of why this approach is a bad idea. They also have a petition up urging the Australia Council for the Arts to procure the building through an open competition. With luck this growing list of names will prove effective, however, if not, and the process continues as a limited competition, then I am proposing an parallel unsolicited version of the competition.

unsolicited venice

The idea is this. If you are (or work at) one of the offices selected to enter to the competition, leak the competition brief and associated documents assange-style to us. We will then host all of the documentation on our site so that all parties interested will have access to these documents and be able to submit their entry to the official address and following the official submission guidelines.

The NSW Architecture Awards took place last week. Among the winners, our buddies, Tribe Studios for the Milner Schmukler House, Matt Chan won an emerging architects award, Jeremy’s project at TZG for the Australian Indigenous Centre for Excellence took out the urban design award, and Chenchow Little for their Skylight House. Nice work people.

We took a quick walk through 1 Bligh Street, the new office tower in Sydney by Ingenhoven architects. The ultra-ESD (84 Green Star Badges, or something; although there were a ton of lights left on in a mostly empty building when we were there…) thirty story building has a naturally ventilated glazed atrium running through the entire building. The atrium is lined with meeting rooms and lift cars with the overall effect like a hotel lobby, portmanesque. Halfway up the building the service floor sits glazed in like all the other floors, the ducting and machinery visible around the atrium.

bligh street sydney ingehoven architects

From a while back, but I have just gotten around to reading it. An interview with Geoff Manaugh and Liam Young by Rory Hyde on their Thrilling Wonder Stories conference series. Thrilling Wonder Stories looks to science fiction and speculative storytelling to present alternative approaches to the future of architectural discipline. As Liam Young states, “Architects are amazing self-censors. We put the parameters around our profession much more than anybody else does”.

And another old interview, this one between Geoff Manaugh and China Mieville. In my opinion, Mielville has never really reached the heights of invention of Perdido Street Station, but his recent novel The City and The City—a police procedural set in two cities that both occupy the same physical territory—comes close.

The AIA’s student conference, Flux, is on this week down in Adelaide. Speakers include Charles Holland of FAT and Andrew Maynard, Stuart Harrison and so on. The presentations will be live streamed, and the twitter hashtag is #WTFlux.

SVK. A comic where thought bubbles are revealed under UV light. The UV light is kind of a dumb gimmick really, but the interesting thing for me aside from being written by Warren Ellis, is that it is being produced and published by a design consultancy - Berg. It launched today, I just purchased a copy and my order number was #4175, suggesting that they have sold this many copies so far. Mainstream comics—you know the ones with Captain America, Spiderman, Batman all with established fan bases that having been buying comics for decades—sell around 40-50,000 copies each month. SVK is not up to those numbers just yet, but it would be interesting to see how many they ultimately sell. Commercially speaking, comics is a dying medium and disruptive practices like this from Berg are needed if interest in the medium is to move beyond the dwindling fanbase of the underwear perverts.

Intentionally flawed products. Jeremy Hutchinson requests factories to make incorrect versions of their products:

comb jeremy hutchinson

Untitled (Comb), Mr Kartick, Mr Ram, Mr Vikash, Star Creations Ltd, Kolkata, India

The Elements of Fucking Style. An updated styleguide.

Nice photos of Durback Block Jaggers’ Sussan HQ in Melbourne:

durbach block jaggers sussan headquarters

A two panel page from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Domu, where child and old man conduct telekinetic battle through a large apartment building:

domu by katsuhiro otomo

A few weeks ago, I mentioned Rory Hyde’s unsolicited architecture studio at Sydney University. One of the projects was ‘Yakult for the City’ in which a number of micro interventions were enacted through the city. Video of the evidence of the antics:

A widespread taste for pornography means that nature is alerting us to some threat of extinction.

Monday, 20th June 2011 Tweet

ryu itadani tokyo

Title: J.G. Ballard. Image: Tokyo by Ryu Itadani Toky

SC buddy, Anthony Gill has a new website up and running for his office, Gill Architects are producing some really great work including a number of residential projects and restaurant fitouts. I particularly like the front elevation of their Surry Hills project:

Gill Architects-Surry Hills House

Image: Gill Architects, Photography: Peter Bennets

Also, check out their Paddington House at Australian Design Review.

Steve Jobs presenting plans for a new 12,000 person Apple HQ to the Cupertino City Council. Primarily interesting mainly to see Jobs transplanted off the keynote stage and into the democratic planning process we all have to wrestle our way through. I like the part where one councillor asks Steve what benefit the project will have for the wider city, and Steve’s response is to threaten moving Apple out of town and taking its Cupertino-sustaining tax dollars with it. Then councillor in reply begs Steve for free wifi. Weird. The building itself looks like any other Foster and Partners project, perhaps only bigger. Which is something? Gelatobaby notes how soft the councillors are on Jobs, as well as pointing out that Jobs had given almost the same presentation 5 years ago to the same fawning councillors. Also, as Matt points out:

apple pentagon

Image: Apple’s proposed Campus and the Pentagon. To scale as far as can be known from Google Maps.

Who New, an exhibition at UTS of 12 architecture offices that have graduated out of the offices of Herzog de Meuron, Foster + Partners, and Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Curated by Sydney architects Silvester Fuller.

Urban Islands is on again at Cockatoo Island. Read Geoff’s write up of the 2009 Studio at BLDGBLOG. Inhabitat has pictures of Ney Yorks Highline second stage.

Prisoners in China’s Jixi labour camp have been gold farming in MMORPGs to earn online credit/gold/armour/etc that their guards would then trade for real money, the Guardian tells us. The article goes on to say that there are thought to be 100,000 full time gold farmers in China.

Olafur Eliasson’s wonderful rainbow room, or, ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’ at the ARos in Aarhus, Denmark is complete.

In closing, two short films linking porn and real estate together. First, Richard Phillips’ portrait of Sasha Grey, pornstar, filmed at Lautner’s Chemosphere House:

And secondly, far more crassly, this misogynistic advertisement for an house on the Goldcoast, where a woman in her underware, tied to a chair when asked by emergency services where she is, describes her surroundings in real estate jargon, “its a three level home, contemporary design, open plan living, gourmet kitchen” before being rescued from her attackers by a swat team. This is the endpoint of real estate: (NSFW)

The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.

Tuesday, 31st May 2011 Tweet

Not the Rapture

[Image: Batman: Year 100, Paul Pope Title: David Foster Wallace on Roger Federer.]

Pecha Kucha Sydney is on again this Thursday night at Carriageworks. It is the first for 2011, and we have a great lineup including ex-supercolossaler Erin Field, and Hannah Tribe. See the Pecha Kucha website for more info and the Carriageworks site for tickets.

I had a wander through a recently completed house in Rose Bay by buddies and former landlords, Tribe Studio. The house is comprised of a tube with a series of sleeping boxes suspended over the ground floor living area.

House Milner Schmukler, Tribe Studios

House Milner Schmukler, Tribe Studios

House Milner Schmukler, Tribe Studios

Entry. House Milner Schmukler, Tribe Studios. Photo: Brett Boardman

House Milner Schmukler, Tribe Studios

Ground Floor living area with sleeping boxes over. House Milner Schmukler, Tribe Studios. Photo: Brett Boardman

Love: Metric and Calibre. Two new typefaces by NZ type wizard Kwis Sowersby. Leafsnap, an iphone app that will identify trees by photgraphs of their leaves. So far the database covers trees from the Washington DC and New York area, so it will have limited success in Australia for now…

Mark Lee from Johnston Marklee spoke at UTS on Monday night as part of the UTS Public Lecture series. Lots of nice boolean-slice-n-dice houses. I thought the Vault House, occupying a narrow site on a Californian beach was their most interesting project discussed. The overlapping vault forms forming unexpected collisions, overlaps and opportunities on a long narrow site. A list of NYC subway stations that open into building lobbies.

The NYT on the current exhibition, ‘Cronocaos’, by Koolhaas on at the New Museum in NYC:

Mr. Koolhaas’s vision is even more apocalyptic. A skilled provocateur, he paints a picture of an army of well-meaning but clueless preservationists who, in their zeal to protect the world’s architectural legacies, end up debasing them by creating tasteful scenery for docile consumers while airbrushing out the most difficult chapters of history. The result, he argues, is a new form of historical amnesia, one that, perversely, only further alienates us from the past.

Jilted Bride. #notkatemiddleton

whitney museum extension renzo piano

Above: Work has started on the Renzo Piano Whitney extension project. The Australian tells us that “rather than a traditional turning of the sod with a silver spade, the museum hired members of the Streb Extreme Action Company to dive through glass, and be covered in dirt.” Nice.

The Weather Ring is an architecture ‘zine based out of Perth. Also - Archizines, collating architecture zines.

The second episode of Stuart Harrison and Simon Knott’s ‘Good, Bad or Ugly’. This time focussing on Federation Square and more spaghetti western face-offs.

Please in My Backyard. As a way of delivinering a community what it wants, rather than what it is given, Bryan Boyer asks “what would happen if you took the Kickstarter strategy and applied it to the city. How could we de-risk new shops, restaurants, cafes, services, institutions, and even government outposts by aggregating commitment in advance of capital investment?”.

Möbius Ship:

Möbius ship

[Image: ‘Möbius Ship’, Tim Hawkinson]

The Sun Was a Hammer

Wednesday, 18th May 2011 Tweet

moebius dune storyboards

[Image: Storyboards Moebius for the aborted Jadorowsky Dune project. Title: David Foster Wallace, ‘Infinite Jest’]

Funny how things come around. A couple of years ago I put a post up on here tracking each of the ocean pools along Sydney’s coastline. It was a series of screenshots from google earth assembled north to south.

A few weeks ago Luis Cajellas and Sebastian Mejia from Paisajes Emergentes were in Australia to speak at the national conference, where they showed among other (awesome (seriously, some great stuff in their portfolio))projects, including their recently completed complex of pools in Medellin, Colombia. Chatting with Luis after their talk he spoke about how the blogpost on Sydney’s ocean pools came right at the time they were working on the competition. They had seen a link from Pruned to the post and that the pools in Sydney were in their mind when they were des

So when Luis was up in Sydney after the conference we spent a day touring some of the pools. Luis seemed a little obsessed with the things, extending his stay in Sydney so he could see them all, Pokemon style.

Luis Cajellas at Palm Beach

Luis going native, hunting pools.


Dan in Finland. Sad to see he and his family leaving Sydney, but excited to see what comes of his new digs at Sitra.


Steven Holl in Colombia

I like the folding, twisting concrete in this project for the Schools of Law and Economic Sciences at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá by Steven Holl. Via Archinect.

A page from Batman:The Dark Knight Returns sold at auction for USD$448,125.00 last week. It is a pretty iconic piece of American superhero art I guess, but I never really saw the attraction of splash page images like this. The beauty of comics lies in the sequential nature of the medium and splash pages end up being posters when taken out of the context of the book.

Some competitions: There is an open EOI for a shortlisted competition for Brisbane Airport, the first competition being run by Andrew Mackenzie’s (ex-Architecture Review editor) new competition-tank City Lab. Also! Would you like to curate the next Australian Pavilion at the 2012 Venice Biennale?

WOAH. A documentary on the aborted Jadorowsky and Moebius adaptation of ‘Dune’ is showing at Cannes this year. Bitcoins - untraceable, unhackable, untaxable online currency. This article (by Jason Calicanis, so you know, it is typically sensationalist) goes into further detail on the technology and usage of this unlisted, growing, currency market. The evolution of lids.

nottingham cave

Image: Nottingham’s caves. The Nottingham Cave Survey.

City of Holes, where we learn about the laser scanning of the sandstone cave system below Nottingham. Related, a trailer for Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary on the paintings in the Chauvet cave in southern France. I guess he is too far along now for anyone to be seriously surprised by his choice in subject matter, but even so, a 3D documentary on cave paintings is a sublime choice for a followup to a remake of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans. By all accounts it is superb.

This is too many crabs.