OBSERVATORY : HUGH DUBBERLY
We recently published a poster depicting “the 892 unique ways to partition a 3x4 grid into unit rectangles.” This project was inspired by a patent received in 2006 by William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand of Winterhouse ("Method and system for computer screen layout based on a recombinant geometric modular structure," Patent No. 7124360) that modeled screen-based grid systems. However, their early work with grid systems never mapped all possible combinations within a given screen space. We made this our challenge.
CHANGE OBSERVER : JOHN THACKARA
Up to 1,500 litres of water are needed to grow enough biofuels to move one car 10 kilometers. Two thousand liters are needed a day to feed each one of us. It takes 140 liters of water to grow enough beans for a single cup of coffee.
PLACES : RADEK SKRIVANEK
For several years photographer Radek Skrivanek has been documenting the ongoing death of the Aral Sea, widely acknowledged to be one of the great ecological tragedies of our time. Once the fourth largest lake on the planet, the Aral Sea is today mostly a toxic desert, a result of extensive irrigation-canal projects begun by the Soviet Union and continued by the Central Asian republics that share the Aral basin. Skrivanek describes a haunting landscape: "Walking on the desert that is the former sea bed, you hear a constant crackle under your feet, and are startled to find that you are stepping on piles and piles of seashells."
OBSERVERS ROOM : ALEXANDRA LANGE
Where ETFEs are as good as marble: Foster + Partners' Kazakh capital.
PLACES : TIMOTHY BEATLEY
"One year ago this week the Deepwater Horizon, a massive drilling rig operated by BP off the coast of Louisiana, exploded, opening a sea-floor gusher that began spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster that unfolded — some five million barrels of oil would be spilled in the three months before the well was capped — was a gut-wrenching reminder of how profoundly American dependence on fossil fuels affects our marine environments." To planning professor Tim Beatley, the Deepwater Horizon disaster underscores the vital connections between our terrestrial systems and lifestyles and the health of the planet's oceans. Urban designers need to think not just green but also blue.
OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
Last week I travelled up to the Canadian Centre of Architecture, in Montreal, to review Architecture in Uniform
, a new exhibition on architecture and World War II, curated by Jean-Louis Cohen. That review is forthcoming (in AR
), but for the moment let it be said that this fascinating, disturbing, and provocative show was absolutely worth the trip. Among its discoveries: the modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley designed the courtroom of the Nuremberg Tribunal.
OBSERVERS ROOM : JOHN THACKARA
Dr Martin Schuepbach from Dallas, Texas, has the following plan, concerning natural gas, for the Cevennes region of France, where I live. He will take millions of gallons of our clean mountain water, to this he will add a cocktail of up to up to 600 toxic chemicals
including highly corrosive salts, carcinogens like benzene, and radioactive elements like radium.
OBSERVATORY : JOHN FOSTER
Welcome to Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities set aside for your perusal and enlightenment.
OBSERVERS ROOM : MARK LAMSTER
Is there any more pejorative word in the architectural lexicon than postmodernism? There is no style more reviled, not even modernism itself. I've come to know this first hand studying the work of Philip Johnson, and it was repeatedly emphasized to me as I was reporting my story on the history of postmodernism
for the (must-read) 30th anniversary issue of Metropolis.
OBSERVER MEDIA : DEBBIE MILLMAN
Steve Frykholm has worked for Herman Miller for the last 40 years. In this audio interview with Debbie Millman, he discusses the ups and downs in his long career with the National Design Award-winning furniture company — and talks about an extraordinary series of posters he has made for the annual company picnic.
CHANGE OBSERVER : MICHAEL MURPHY
On March 25th, Zaha Hadid Architects
laid off more than 90 employees because of “unforeseen events in North Africa.” The reason was the democratic uprising in the Middle East, and specifically Libya, where Hadid’s new conference center outside of Tripoli had been “put on hold” while the beleaguered dictatorship’s post-meltdown kleptocracy returned its financial priorities to maintaining its grip on power.