Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Archigram revived

Archigram Archival Project is up and running today! The website, run by an architectural research team at the University of Westminster, has collected almost 10,000 items that showcase the group's existence from 1961 to 1974. These items include drawings, collages, paintings, photographs, magazines, articles, and multi-media materials for more than 200 projects, as well as supporting and contextual materials such as letters, photos, texts, and even projects done by the members before they met.

Almost half a century has passed, and LSD is now illegal. Is Archigram still relevant? This is what I'll say: Hell yeah! Look at what you are holding and listening to every day. The only difference is that Steve didn't name it iTomato.
Electronic Tomato: speculative proposal for mobile sensory stimulation device.

To me, Archigram's biggest legacy is a broader sense of culture. Unlike the pretentious cultural "elites" who insisted that architecture was "high art," the members of Archigram took everyday social and cultural phenomena as their subjects of speculation. They embraced pop culture and communicated architecture through unconventional mediums such as comics and collages with magazine cut-outs. They fantasized the Space Age with walking machines and personalized Living Pods. And they reacted to the prevailing consumerism with modular/demountable building systems and instant ephemeral urbanism.

Here, architecture became an agency to reflect culture, and in return, to affect and define culture. It was a vessel of lifestyle, a tool to expression visions about future. This attitude influenced a whole generation, if not two, of architects. Rem said he tried to detach himself from the optimism of Archigram when he was at the AA. But his speculative writings, his
inclusive design method at OMA and involvement in Prada, and eventually the establishment of AMO are all examples of marked enthusiasm for culture in general. He spoke publicly at a lecture about wanting to re-evaluate the legacy of Archigram. Yes, I guess it's about time.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The myth of 117

Scientists have discovered a new element! The latest super-heavy element that completes another row (7th period) in the periodic table! Isn't it a big deal? Well... apparently not that much... The biggest problem is, it doesn't even have a name yet.

This new 117-proton element is temporarily called ununseptium, a Latin placeholder that refers to the number 117. (That sounds lame! How about nilnilseptium?) The last element to be formally named was Copernicium (Cn), Element #112. It received its official name and symbol earlier this year, more than a decade after it was initially produced in 1996. Why so long? First, it had to wait until its existence was confirmed at other laboratories. Then, the process to get an official name at the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) could be lengthy and highly political. During the Cold War, the naming of elements 104-106 aroused a huge controversy between an American group at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and a Soviet group at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna in the 1960s. The Americans wanted to name 106 after American chemist Glenn T. Seaborg, while the Russians wanted to name 104 Kurchatovium to honor their own atomic bomb pioneer Igor Kurchatov. It was as late as 1997 when IUPAC finally decided on the names. To avoid such controversy, the German discoverers of 112 proposed in July 2009 a neutral name Copernicium to honor Nicolaus Copernicus. But IUPAC still delayed the official recognition, pending the results of a six-month discussion period among the scientific community until February 2010.

For this newbie 117, people in Twitterville already started the attempts to name it. To list a few of my favorites so far: Putinium, Pandorium, Yummium, Awesomium, Howmanyelementsdoweneedium, Oneseventeenium, DeLoreum, Gymnasium, Auditorium, Wadafucium, Holycrapium...

Downtown Houston "parkscape"

How much parking is enough for one city?