Sunday, September 28, 2008

He's out there!

First-ever spacewalk for China! Yea... I know Americans and Russians did that... But we are the third! Not bad at all!!

Zhai Zhigang floated out of the Shenzhou 7 orbiter module's hatch at 4:30pm Beijing Time, September 27, 2008. Liu Boming also emerged briefly to hand Zhai a Chinese flag. "It feels good. Greetings to all the people of the nation and all the people of the world," Zhai said.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bucky and Randy

With the Whitney exhibition on show, Bucky Fuller has again caught people's attention recently. A friend asked me, "What's so great about Fuller? Almost everything he invented failed." I didn't think too much and said, "maybe a positive attitude?" 

Now reading "The Last Lecture" book, i think i actually got a point - one's legacy can we way beyond materiality. Randy Pausch and Bucky Fuller had the same optimistic anticipatory attitudes. They are both dreamers, and both really tried to achieve their dreams. Randy never gave up. He said, "the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough. They're there to stop the other people." So as Bucky, not even after Dymaxion car crashing, Dymaxion houses leaking...

- "What time does the park close?"
- "It is open until 8 p.m."

When object becomes medium

Visited the Anish Kapoor show at the ICA Boston on its last day. Very impressed by the series of interesting and mysterious objects. When I saw the "S-Curve," I can't help wondering: is this Richard Serra? Gut feeling told me no, but I didn't quite figure out why... When recently hearing some comments on Kapoor's "funny shapes" I realize, that's it! Serra is about shapes, but Kapoor is not! In the case of the "S-Curve," the sculpture is not shaped to form a beauty. It's to give you two reflections at once. It's to give you dynamic distortions when you pass by it... In Kapoor's world, object becomes medium; it becomes an instrument engineered to achieve the magic of optical illusions.

Same thing can apply to the Cloud Gate. Does it really matter what it looks like? A cloud or a butt? I would say the key aspect of that piece is rather to enjoy the reflection of the historic buildings on the other side of the street, and to look for yourself from the illusionary reflections when you stand underneath it.

A good example to prove Kapoor's sculptures are not about the object is the "Hexagon Mirror." The visual effects are fantastic, especially when you walk towards it, passing the focal point of the parabolic dish. But when you look at the back, the mirrors are taped together, glued on a plastic thingy and mounted on a cheap-looking frame. Now you know what he doesn't care about. (The image and the video were taken at the Met.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Farnsworth flooded

This is the true reason why Mies decided to raise the house off the ground. (Touching the earth gently is just some architectural blah blah blah...) Although lifted by 1.5m, the house was flooded again on Sunday 9/14 by the record breaking rain as the joint force of Lowell and Ike. Floodwaters rose 60cm in the house. But this is not the worse one. In 1996, heavy rains left more than 1.5m water in the house and a $500,000 reconstruction bill.

Oddly, the house looks quite beautiful with the reflection...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Recent amusements

NL Architects
Lee Broom

Son of Empire State and Chrysler plus one other

Bizarrely, thirty years after Empire State and Chrysler made out (watch video), OMA finally unveiled their child (his name is Tom). A view towards some green space is scarce in Manhattan. If somebody is in your way (especially your big brother), you have to lean sideways and peep. That gesture surely gives the impression of a pervert, but in fact he isn't. That's just how he was born. His parents believe in Darwinism and know how the market w
orks in New York - an upright person can't survive any more.

Yet there comes another one. This time by H&dM. The consensus is: uprightness in Manhattan is doomed. But the strategy is different. He (his name is Axl) decided to shake his head as hard as possible until the parts are all off. As opposed to a collective leaning and peeping, this one chose to let each individual part go in a different direction and have its own little piece of green. Individualism is fully embraced in capitalism as well. But I think, unlike Tom, in whom you can still see the genes of his parents, Axl looks rather foreign...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Can it be worse?

MVRDV won a competition for the urban master plan creating a new urban neighborhood at the shore of Tirana Lake, in the south of the city of Tirana, the Albanian capital.

This is from MVRDV's concept text:
"The cantilevered and leaning buildings allow for a great variety of apartment types, shopping and offices and ‘echo’ the Tirana typology. The stacked and twisted volumes create spectacular public spaces and provide dramatic vistas. Clad in local stones the buildings turn into a series of ‘rocks’, the ‘Tirana Rocks’."

1. Great variety of apartment types, including the bad ones that are compromised in order to fit in the sloping envelope;
2. Can you hear an echo with no sound source? Perhaps I am retarded... can't really find the "typology" anywhere in the surroundings.
3. The "left-over" spaces inside this mess could be spectacular... but I guess the gaps create no better vistas than Windows.
4. Will the "rocks" be real monolithic without any windows for the apartments? Or they are carved by erosion and become a bunch of pretentious egos?

Oh dear... Since when architecture becomes all nonsensical?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google Chrome

Google's new web browser is said to be out tomorrow. Don't know if I would like it but just wondering if there's something Google is not planning to do...

How a skyscraper was born

Part of Madelon Vriesendorp's Caught in Action animation featured in Dreamland. I think it deserves a separate post.

Sorry it keeps trying to focus and the music was almost not captured...

Dreamland @ MoMA

Thirty years of Delirious New York. Time flies. Although the guy claimed New York is delirious no more, MoMA is still very proud of the recent acquisition of the Dreamland watercolor - it organizes a whole exhibition to celebrate that.

I don't care who is celebrating what. It is an enjoyable nice collection of interesting stuff.
Hans Hollein, when he was still dreaming.

Who can leave out Superstudio in dreams?

Gaetano Pesce, very Cooperish...

Tschumi, when he was red.

Hello boss!

Lebbeus Woods's piece is the most fascinating one for me. Look at that! He surely deserves the NYT front page exposure.

Mansilla Tunon in the front, Eisenman in the middle, Jean Nouvel to the left.

Not sure how a Japanese sensibility can fit in here, but yeah...

Slow House, Diller Scofidio

Museum of Sex by SHoP

Lindy Roy

Hotel Habitat in Barcelona by Cloud 9

Monday, September 1, 2008

Re:CP snacks

Been reading Cedric Price recently. It's fun. Sharing some quotes:

- "Design is concerned with conscious distortion of time, distance and size. If it achieves none of these distortions it is unlikely to be more than the elaboration of the status quo."
Really, design is all about change. If nothing is changed, why bother?

- "Architecture is too slow in its realisation to be a 'problem solver'."
The current economy shows us the speed of architecture. How many projects are on hold, not mentioning those that are already dead? One may argue, what if I build in a good/fast economy? I would say, in that case, problems would probably change even faster.
But did CP say design is about "change"? I think the bottom line is to alter the status quo. The design may be a critique/opposition of the status quo; or
a step forward; or it's some sort of brand new visionary dreamland that you would never think of as present...

- "A city is where you would be unlikely to meet a sheep in the road."
Brendan Behan, 1960

- A survey Tate Modern made of its visitors: "Most people observed spend from five seconds to one minute reading texts about the work and from two seconds to fifteen seconds glancing or looking at the work." They spend more time reading the guides than looking at the work!

- "I like the NASA museum in Houston... I like the fact that... they mention not the sponsor but the producer of the object... and also, that they have a lot of samples of things that didn't work. I think it's rather nice to see museums which save objects that don't quite work, and give them a new life just because they're history."
In the time when everybody only cares about the end result, this is rather rare but encouraging.

- "... excellence of performance does not necessarily produce excellent results unless they are viewed as part of the whole process... the need for a mediocre condition or product may demand an excellence of preparatory performance."
Didn't mention what an excellent condition or product demands... What about excellence in both process and product?

September 1st Inaugural Address

It's Labor Day in the US today - first Monday of September. Everybody goes to the beach. But I am so used to the idea that it's a starting point - fall semester always starts on September 1st in China.
OK, let's start something.

As titled, this will be just a collection of my scribbles - random thoughts on whatever subject... No promises of frequent posting, serious contents, nor high-quality photography. Good excuse, isn't it?