May 9 2007

On Fire

I love this image of the fires in LA:

Photo by: Dave Bullock / eecue

May 3 2007

600 Mirrors

BBC News reports on a solar power-station, which is more proof that we’re living in the future:

The tower looked like it was being hosed with giant sprays of water or was somehow being squirted with jets of pale gas. I had trouble working it out.

In fact, as we found out when we got closer, the rays of sunlight reflected by a field of 600 huge mirrors are so intense they illuminate the water vapour and dust hanging in the air.

Thanks to Craig for pointing this out.

Apr 27 2007

Largest Siberian Cities

The hyperlinked map.

Apr 5 2007

Post-Human London

More world after Man, with a speculative disintegration of London:

Twenty to thirty years after the humans leave, birch woodland would rapidly fill the open spaces, says David Goode, director of the London Ecology Unit. Elsewhere an impenetrable understorey of elder thicket-perhaps rising to five metres in height-dominates. As the birch matures and some trees fall, creating even more ground litter, sycamore and maple move in.

“The whole built townscape would change quite dramatically in something like 30 years,” Goode says. Ivy, carried by birds from the Victorian cemeteries where it proliferates, is growing down from the the roofs of skyscrapers, giving Canary Wharf and Centre Point a spreading green cap.

Oct 28 2006

Vision Of London

The BBC Collective website on Iain Sinclair:

Spend time with Sinclair, either in book form or in person, as we’re doing one overcast afternoon in an overgrown Victorian cemetery, and your surroundings rapidly become richer than you suspected them to be. It’s such investigations of the cityscape, both physical and emotional, that make up London: City Of Disappearances, a compellingly immersive new literary compendium edited by Sinclair.

Sinclair’s vision of London, and that of the 50-odd other writers and artists – including Will Self, Marina Warner, Alan Moore, Stewart Home and JG Ballard – who have contributed pieces to the book, is inimical to chainstore homogeneity, willfully at odds with the “City Hall version of London” and the airbrushed projections of the Olympic Committee. “The reason for doing the book in the end was a sense of threat, a sense that there is a mendacious, top-led voice that gives descriptions of London that I can’t recognise at all. You look at the River Lea and at the moment it’s just a carpet of green algae filled with dead fish and dead dogs. All the Olympic building work is on top of toxic sites – glue factories, piles of maggoty bones – and you can’t clear all that overnight, which is what’s constantly attempted and never works, so you end up with some freakish compromise that looks like JG Ballard’s science fiction.”

And that is a book I will be buying.

Jun 12 2006

“The big-robot storyline was set in a time of war”

Read Jean Snow’s Gridskipper post on the Gundam exhibit at the Bandai Museum.

Apr 30 2006

Dark Tourism


Dark tourism – the tourism of sites of tragedy – may be a recent growth area for the travel industry but it’s not a new phenomenon. As far back as the Dark Ages, pilgrims were travelling to tombs and sites of religious martyrdom. The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 was observed by nobility from a safe distance and one of the earliest battlefields of the American Civil War (Manassas) was sold the next day as a visitor attraction site. More recently, Ground Zero in New York has become an essential part of the tourist itinerary for many visitors.

But why are these sites so popular? Our motivations are murky and difficult to unravel: a mix of reverence, voyeurism and maybe even the thrill of coming into close proximity with death.

The difference between what is acceptable and unacceptable as a tourist attraction is often only a matter of chronological distance. Walking tours of Jack the Ripper’s London are enduringly popular. The world he inhabited is distant enough from our own for his exploits to be deemed entertaining. A Yorkshire Ripper trail would be seen as highly inappropriate by most people.

Further Dark Tourism links.

Apr 18 2006

Top Fifteen Skylines

9. Shenzhen, China
What was a tiny fishing village on the border of Hong Kong in 1970 is now a buzzing metropolis of over four million people. With 13 buildings at over 200 meters tall, including the Shun Hing Square (the 8th tallest building in the world), Shenzen is a marvel of lights after sunset. You can’t help but ask yourself if you are in a video game or in a real city.
Metro/Urban Population: 4.2 million

Mar 28 2006


“Gilles Trehin is an autistic 28-year-old. Since the age of 12, he has been designing an imaginary city called Urville, named after the “Dumont d’Urville,” a French scientific base in Antarctica.”

Via Kircher Society.

Mar 21 2006

As If Too Bored To Think Of Anything Else

JG Ballard at full power in The Guardian, with some extended architecture riffs on bunkers and the like:

The Atlantic wall was only part of a huge system of German fortifications that included the Siegfried line, submarine pens and huge flak towers that threatened the surrounding land like lines of Teutonic knights. Almost all had survived the war and seemed to be waiting for the next one, left behind by a race of warrior scientists obsessed with geometry and death.

Death was what the Atlantic wall and Siegfried line were all about. Whenever I came across these grim fortifications along France’s Channel coast and German border, I realised I was exploring a set of concrete tombs whose dark ghosts haunted the brutalist architecture so popular in Britain in the 1950s. Out of favour now, modernism survives in every high-rise sink estate of the time, in the Barbican development and the Hayward Gallery in London, in new towns such as Cumbernauld and the ziggurat residential blocks at the University of East Anglia.

But modernism of the heroic period, from 1920 to 1939, is dead, and it died first in the blockhouses of Utah beach and the Siegfried line. Yet in its heyday between the wars, modernism was a vast utopian project, and perhaps the last utopian project we will ever see, now that we are well aware that all utopias have their dark side.

This one is definitely worth a read.

And just for reference this is a drawing of one of Piranesi’s imaginary prisons (referenced by JGB):

And this is an essay by Aldous Huxley about such things:

It is said that the first idea of the Prisons came to Piranesi in the delirium of fever. What is certain, however, is that this first idea was not the last; for some of the etchings exist in early states, in which many of the most characteristic and disquieting details of the Prisons we now know are lacking. From this it is to be inferred that the state of mind expressed by these etchings was, in Piranesi, chronic and in some sort normal. Fever may originally have suggested the Prisons; but in the years which elapsed between Piranesi’s first essays and the final publication of the plates, recurrent moods of confusion and acedia and angst must have been responsible for such obscure but, as we now see, indispensable symbols as the ropes, the aimless engines, the makeshift wooden stairs and bridges.