The more I look at this illustration, a work of satire from 1895, the more I like it.
The illustration was recently exhibited at Brown as part of Building Expectation: Past and Present Visions of the Architectural Future although the only information I can find about this specific illustration is scant. The illustrator is Grant E. Hamilton and the title printed at the bottom reads “What We are Coming to.” According to a snippet of curatorial text:
“In this satirical take on the trajectory of urban evolution, Hamilton pokes some rather pointed fun at the tendency of capitalist industry to relentlessly intensify the scale of real-estate development, in this nominally residential building are found not only shops, living space, and a steam-powered mass transport system, but also religious institutions and the houses of government —the public realm has been totally absorbed by the monolithic power of the private.”
But I like it for different reasons. It seems more relevant than most 19th century political satire, to me, because it resembles a kind of hodgepodge that has persistently interested illustrators and architects alike. For instance: Catrina Stewart’s London City Farmhouse project has a similar aggregation of unlikely programs and mechanical structures; the same assemblage is apparent in REX’s Yongsan Experiment. But there’s another, more immediate problem for architects in 1895: how to design tall buildings.
The steel frame evolved faster than the faculty of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, putting American architects in an odd position of having the ability to build taller and taller, but not the skill to refine the building’s expression. Because architects at the time predominately drew inspiration from classical structures, and because the Greeks did not build skyscrapers, architects struggled to play with the proportions and orders of classical architecture as buildings stretched higher and higher. Why this obsession with classic structures? The Chicago World’s Fair, which just two years before this illustration was printed impressed millions of visitors and sparked it’s own Architecture and Urban Planning movement: the City Beautiful Movement. Louis Sullivan (who famously said “form follows function”) disliked most things, but especially backward-looking architecture, saying that the World’s Fair set american architecture back “half a century” which is strange since he participated in the fair, having the largest building that wasn’t painted completely white.
So even though the illustration above is older than most everything living today except for turtles and trees, it’s foreshadows a modern critique of its time. It’s still funny a century later, and surprisingly informative.
As the snow settles in across most of the known world and we steep ourselves in some holiday flavor, I want to share a track that sounds like the sunshine most of us will see at 35,000 feet. Dela, a Montreal based producer and instrumentalist, put out his proto-hip-hop record Translation Lost this year. The record is exemplary of the sound of hip hop in 2011 (a snappy MPC, a laptop, and a bunch of hot samples) and has frequent cameos from the great Los Angeles MC Blu. Dela has called Translation Lost a record of love stories gone wrong, of transition and change.
But this track is the happy, upbeat, blissful part of the story. Westside Story seems to draw from the current resurgence in the electro funk of the 1980s. The original sample, Zapp’s Heartbreaker, is a bonafide boogie-funk classic. This gem from 1983 has been sampled endlessly (you’ll hear snippets of it on tracks by anyone from Dr. Dre to J. Dilla) and Dela does a great twist dropping bombastic drum beat under the key-tar flavored synths.
While I was crossing over the heartland this track got skipped on and I had no choice but to open the shade on the window, smile, stare at the clouds below. It’s great to enjoy the tranquility that can only be found in transition. That being said, this track is just one part of a great record, which you can find here.
For a number of years the English painter Graham Crowley has been creating these striking paintings inspired by the landscape of Rineen on the west coast of Ireland. Often described as “one of the most distinguished living painters in the UK today”; Crowley is a painter’s painter – an artist completely caught up in the world of paint. He is an artist whose work can be read as reflections on what it means to be a painter, and particularly to be a painter who is living and working at the start of the 21st century.
One part of Crowley’s practice that I find particularly interesting is how, over the last 20 years, he has completely changed his style. His landscapes of Rineen look almost unrecognizable when compared with the work he had been producing during the 70s and 80s. This idea of an artist changing their style is something which has been discussed on this site before, and it is something which I find really interesting.
In an interview with a-n Magazine in 2010, I was delighted to read Crowley’s response when asked about this change in style. “It’s only right that [these paintings] should be different to those that I made when I was 26” he says, “I’m a different person.” Crowley also talks about how his work isn’t wrapped up or guided by what he describes as ‘product identity’, he just creates what he feels he should be creating. If people feel that this might betray his market identity, then so what “..if that’s all they’re worried about then tough”.
It’s refreshing to read of an artist of Crowley’s calibre who still just cares about staying true to their own creative voice and who are willing to change creatively as they change as a person. You can view more of Crowley’s work (including images of earlier work) online here.
It seems like it’s been a while since I’ve heard a remix I like. I guess I don’t listen to much new electronic music these days, so perhaps that’s a part of it. When I listened to this Jamie xx remix of Radiohead’sBloom though, I was totally entranced by it.
I really shouldn’t call it a remix, in fact it’s a rework, as state in the title. Jamie xx took some pieces and parts of the track and has made a distinctly different track from that essence. The track is like a 8 minute journey, it kind of goes all over the place but continues as a steady, enthralling rhythm. I love how he layers Thom Yorke’s vocals over the top of the whole thing, giving it that modern day Pure Moods vibe.
I’ve also posted his initial rework which was much shorter. I’m really glad he decided to expand upon it and make it something so much more rich.
Thanksgiving is only a couple days away now, so I thought it would be quite appropriate to post this vision of Thanksgiving by Lisa Hanawalt. She’s taken the familiar Thanksgiving traditions and skewed them a bit (that’s probably an understatement). My favorite of the bunch is definitely ‘bottom turkey’, or using your unpaid bills as stuffing. I can only hope my Thanksgiving is half as entertaining.
I feel like there’s a very distinct British style going around these days. This style is embodied by a looseness of stroke, a care-free attitude about what the person is creating. It’s not necessarily beautiful, but it’s certainly interesting and has a lot of character, which makes the work quite charming and enjoyable to look at. I’d definitely say that Jay Cover is a part of this British style.
His quirky and fun “dudes” at top were the first thing to grab my attention. I think they’re foxes, as he uses a lot of foxes in his work in general. I also liked his work revolving around funny statements like “Look for hidden gems”, which honestly sounds like something I might say myself. Finally, I thought his editorial work was also really strong, as you can see in the last image. His sense of color is spot on and it shows in that piece particularly well.
Peter Jellitsch (kind of) draws the wind. Which is hard. Maybe you’ve seen pretty terrible representations of the wind in sections meant to illustrate cross-ventilation or in animations of how fans work, but these are better. What Jellitsch actually does is use wind analysis software to generates these fluid surfaces that he renders by hand. In his own words:
“‘The hand drawing’ is an essential part of my work. It allows me a physical acquisition of invisible digital calculatory work and includes, of course, mistakes and instinctive extension.”
What’s remarkable about these drawings, to me, is how such a simple drawing technique can achieve such visual depth. Essentially these drawings are a kind of hatching, but bear almost no resemblance to the hatching patterns that fill cross sections to delineate what is concrete or what is brick. This is the wind, and in tall buildings that use this kind of software analysis, the lateral forces from wind can become as important as gravity.
I’ve a lot of love for LEGO, and so when I saw Swedish programmer Hans Andersson‘s Time Twister clock I just knew I’d have to share it. His creation is noisy, slow and indeed the epitome of chunkiness, and yet it’s a beautiful creation.
For me, the raw simplicity of Andersson’s design is really attractive and the way in which his creation goes about slowly-revealing each of it’s digits is almost hypnotic. When I watched the video above, showing his design in motion, I was shocked at how much anticipation and excitement I felt just simply watching the time being revealed.
Hans has also built some other amazing creation including two puzzle-solving robots which are pretty incredible. One can solve sudokus and an other one can solve a rubik’s cube. Both are well worth checking out.