Despite being a designer, its not actually that often that I see something and am instantly swayed by it.  This coastal decking by Spanish Firm Guallart Architects on the coast between Valencia and Barcelona got me however.  Its got all sorts of nice rational behind its form and design.  But for me it hit the sublime magic button that transcends all that stuff.  Stunning work.  Images from their site:

Some Free Tunes

Our friends Spartacus R are putting the finishing touches on their 2nd album at the moment and are doing a little NZ tour.  To celebrate they are offering up a nice 4 track download for free. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something purple.  One new track of the up coming album, one old rare track from the 2007 Octophonic performance, and 2 new remix’s from guest artists of songs from their 2009 album When The Fever Takes Hold.   Cluck on the picture below for some nice freeness.

Media Screens and Violence

This is a great 6 minute vid that tidily explains the how broadcast television acts to normalize white male violence and power. Suggesting this is simply a cheap and convenient way to market to a global audience.

“Addressing specifically the question of violence and the media, The Killing Screens urges us to think about the effects of the media in new and complex ways. In contrast to the relatively simplistic behaviorist model that media violence causes real-world violence, Gerbner encourages us to think about the psychological, political, social and developmental impacts of growing up and living within a cultural environment of pervasive, ritualized violent images.”

Fish Farming

I recently met a marine biologist involved in the fish farming industry, specifically in Scandinavia where fish farming is more advanced than most of the world. He raised an issue I had never really considered regarding fish farming; what affect does fish farming have on the wild inshore/oceanic environment? As a farming style it is very new <50 years, and the farming of many fish species like cod (i.e. not salmon and shellfish) is even younger. Traditional pastoral farming is hundreds if not thousands of years old and the affect it has had on the terrestrial environment is massive. Pastoral farming has had a great homogenising affect on the landscape. Large scale fish farming could have the same affect, and the process by which it could occur is already happening. The process is escape, not only of adults getting through holes in the net or cage but the fish spawning (mass release of eggs and sperm into the water) . Spawning of the caged fish could have two main affects; an unnatural increase in wild fish numbers resulting in the decimation of their own (and other species) food sources; a sudden swing in the genetic diversity of the natural population (as farmed fish are selectively bred). Both cause homogenisation and the loss of biodiversity just like terrestrial farming.

The Aquapod, a recently developed submersible offshore fish farming cage system.

Bernanke’s and Broadmeadows Dilemma

I was at an exhibition opening last night out in Broadmeadows, which is an outer suburb of Melbourne that has been chosen as one of 6 regional centers that will be developed around Melbourne to ease the pressure on the CBD as the populations grows. The Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab organised 8 different design studios from 4 different universities to participate.  Over 100 students from Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Industrial design and other disciplines created work that aims to confront the massive problems our cities, and particularly the suburban fringes of our cities face in the next 30-40 years.   Problems of the end of cheap energy, transport, food supply, water supply. Fundamental and critical issues.

In the past week the most powerful man in the economic world, the US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, commented on the unusual uncertainly that the world economy is experiences currently.  The predicted bounce back in economies over the world since the recession is not occurring.  No one quite knows why.   One possible, perhaps even probable reason, is that we are hitting planetary limits on growth.  The supply cheap energy and technological progress we have relied on for the past 200 years is not keeping up with our growing demands.   The standard explains this:

“The problem (one of the problems) is that we can’t see the forest for the trees. People still think that the great recession was a problem with the finance system, triggered by a housing crash. But that’s just a proximate cause. The underlying cause was the oil crunch and the next great recession will occur within a matter of years as a result of another crunch, as the IEA, US military, and others have predicted. But the likelihood is that recession will be blamed on another proximate cause and everyone will try to carry on as if infinite growth is possible, as if the rules haven’t changed. Bernanke didn’t mention oil once in his testimony to Congress.”

The reality of this is both exciting and scary.  Scary because it means the established economic models and frameworks are clearly operating in the dark. Exciting because as the head of  VEIL mentioned last night, when your view of the future is uncertain, the only thing to do is to design it.

“Any discussion of design needs to release that we are facing a critical period in human history, I think we are facing a industrial revolution of  scale greater than any other in human history.”

Consider the above to the current discourse around elections in Australia, where unreality’s of phantom immigration problems, and half arsed-green spin dominate proceedings.

We’re in a whole with little illumination and our politicians and media long ago lost their abilities to lead.

The Empathic Civilisation

The video below is a superb and enlightening discussion around empathy.  We all understand that as Humans we have empathetic emotions we wince when we see someone fall over, we get upset when our friends cry.  What is now being discovered is that this empathy is actually wired into our brain, and like many aspects of our brain it can be nurtured into greater fulfillment, or it can be minimized.   Promisingly it suggests an entirely more optimistic version of the fundamentals of humanity than the cold rational selfish thinker that the enlightenment cast upon us.  As Freerange is concerned with how we are all going to live together in the cities of  the future, this new model of the human brain is exciting as it starts to explain why the otherwise stressful urbanity of cities is also so compelling.

Not to mention that this mode of communication is a superb.

Care of The Royal Society of Arts.

“Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.”

Cities of desire and anxiety: urban impressions from Japan

Part 1. Exoticism and the city

Travel can be a strange and inexplicable thing. Every time I return to Japan, I’m constantly intrigued by how fascinatingly different it is as a place on most spheres of life; i.e. culturally, socially, economically and architecturally. As an unashamed tourist armed with my brochures, maps and pamphlets, I’m inevitably drawn to Japan through an exotic eye and it is this exoticism and the idea of what that means for the architecture of cities that I’m most interested in illustrating throughout the following parts.

Part 2. Gardens

As a city, Kyoto is well contained within its semi-enclosed basin topography. The street grid and buildings are located mostly (if not all) on the flat and for this reason one can immediately gain an appreciation for how the tree-covered hills frame the city and add legibility to the north, east and west. I was told that the belt of greenery is more or less a reflection of the municipal government’s intention to preserve the surrounding hills for cultural and historic reasons – in some cases dedicated temple grounds. Most of the temples and its gardens inhabit areas of sanctuary to the north, east and west – between the wooded hills and city proper: a no-man’s land for spiritual connection, but close enough to the city to sense its physicality. In each axial direction, subway lines work in tandem with the seamlessly efficient bus system infrastructure to provide connections to the various tourist experiences. At first instance, Kyoto seems like a virtual city of gardens: a ‘Tourist world-city’ where experience is seemingly specifically engineered for the enjoyment of its visitors. To my surprise, not far away from my mother’s apartment was the ‘Garden of Fine Arts’ designed by architect Tadao Ando and completed in 1994 (see fig. 1). It’s a curious enclave just off the main road in Kamigamo, consisting of a series concrete ramps that lead visitors through a journey of viewing large recreations of well known art works (apparently the recreation of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement is approximately the same size as the original in the Sistine Chapel), carefully reproduced on large porcelain panels: it claims to be the ‘world’s first outdoor art garden’ (see fig. 2).

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