Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Cackitecture

I've become somewhat enamoured recently with the word 'cack'. I like the symmetry of the two plosives, and the brittle sound when spoken, like ice breaking. I also like the fact that it describes something like this:



This is, of course, Zaha Hadid Architects. They've won a competition for a new port authority building in Antwerp.

Actually; it's a cock'n'balls:



It won the competition because apparently:

the design preserves as much as possible of the dignity of the present building as a monument, adding a new object to the site.


I'm sorry, what?
Being made into the testicles that hang beneath the new phallofractal offices is not a dignified fate for the existing building. Fair enough, lifting the new above the existing does allow the old to be mostly retained, but retention is not automatically the same as respect. There's no way the old building will ever be 'readable' in a dignified manner now, what with that member-like object thrusting out over it.

This is more honest, however:

the board and its advisors had confidence in a team such as Zaha Hadid Architects being able to further develop the project so as to achieve a high quality end result that can act as a “shop window” for the Port Authority.


Aha, the 'Brandwagon' again. This is about selling. 'Iconic' building = economic stimulus. Signature architect = investment. Architecture = advert. That's all the reading necessary, or possible here. The architectural merit of the building is precisely its imagined capacity for 'selling' the city. Now, of course, this has always been the case with architecture, but whereas there was once a notion of 'grandeur', whereby the scale, level of detail and price of materials would signify the power and status of the civic authority client, nowadays we have little more than shape, as seen in visualisations and photographs found in magazines or on the internet.

The budget is 30 million euros. That's not much, even for a 'normal' building, so the chances are that if it ever gets built, this building will quickly look rather like an unhappy shed that got lost; cackitecture, rather than the sleek, glistening cockitecture suggested from the visualisations ('what's it made out of'? 'Oh, em, shiny-white-stuff'). ZHA have previous for this sort of thing, of course, which lends a certain poignancy to their professed dynamism, but even when it's obvious that Antwerp will get a cheap, poorly built, intellectually vacant and culturally insignificant block of offices, the faith still seems to be persistent that a superficially attractive piece of starchitecture has some kind of magical effect on a civic environment, conjuring money out of thin air.

Anyway, that's enough time spent thinking about this kind of silly cack, especially as the ongoing collapse of the entire world means that this building isn't likely to end up getting built, but- as part of my pledges from new year, I'll suggest better ways of doing this kind of thing:

Now, we're not fans of Alsop by any means, but this is a less phallic, cheaper and more endearing way of doing the 'floating extension':



And this, by EMBT, is part of a far more intelligent way of preserving the 'dignity' of an existing building:

What's so fucking controversial?



Mark Thompson really ought to lose his job over this.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Monday, 19 January 2009

The Ghosts of Liverpool Street Station


So, here's a thing; the Spectacle does 'Flash-mobbing'. This is as pathetic as it comes, taking an activity supposedly defined by its being impromptu and then rinsing it in order to sell some fucking phones, but it's just what one would expect.

I encountered this event, in rehearsal (yes, that's right, there were rehearsals for this, how fucking spontaneous can you get?). I was on my way to catch a train from Liverpool St. Station at 4am one day, recently. Approaching the station, one could hear the sound of music, and then slowly the dancers came into view as I descended the escalator. It was unbelievably cold, and the hundred or so people rehearsing were all wrapped up warm, with plenty of ankle warmers etc... One would have thought it was a flash-mob, apart from the fact it was being filmed and directed from up on the balcony. I thought it was perhaps a bollywood film in rehearsal, but then came to the conclusion that it was probably some stupid advert...

But the event wasn't all wasted, as it managed to provide us with a moment of sublime beauty. After walking along the platform to the early morning train, I stood leaning from the train door, listening to the music and the shuffling of the dancers. I was about 150 meters away, the music at that point was Strauss' 'Blue Danube Waltz', and the acoustic was terrible. It finally answered positively the question: how badly does an iron & glass palace reverberate? The answer is: outstandingly badly. The sounds were muffled, the high frequencies were lost, and each sound hung in the air, drifting slowly away. It may well be the only time I get to really hear music being played in a crystal palace with the appropriate level of surrounding silence, and it was incredible, a very special haunted concert. It took me back to this, which I still haven't revealed properly to the others, but perhaps will someday. The music is the E&V rendition of the Albert Palace Grand March:




But then, I was also reminded of this, from back in the Britpop day. It's Mansun's 'Taxloss':

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The short review



The Wrestler is a far better allegory of America than There Will Be Blood could ever be.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Gaza Statement in the Guardian



A seriously big list.

2009 has begun even more horrifically than any vain navel-gazing could possibly have predicted.

NOTE - there are three academics from architecture departments on the list; Prof. Fraser at Westminster, Prof. Rendell at UCL and Dr. Weizman at Goldsmiths. While this is obviously better than none, there really ought to be more.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Villalobos - minimoonstar (Shackleton remix)


I seem to have missed this previously, but it's rather good. The returned favour of 'Blood on my Hands'.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Keith Coventry Pre-emptively Stole My Idea!





One of the innumerable little ideas that we've idly dreamt up, entertained for about five minutes and then discarded, through a mixture of satisfaction at the concept itself and the usual 'it's not worth it' attitude to production and dissemination (or, of course laziness), was a series of paintings based on the billboards at the entrance to post-war housing estates, and the strangely suprematist maps they have displayed on them. A strange movement of sign, whereby pictorial function invites aesthetic comparison with avant-gardism, connected by a strange Utopian quotidian.

It's interesting, for we have never, ever seen a map for a suburban 'garden city' style estate. Is this indicative of something? Quasi-vernacular estates are certainly no less visually homogenous nor labyrinthine than their Modern relatives, in fact, they are often more so. In a naive vein; why would a municipal authority charged with providing housing for society also provide a service such as a visual guide to those visiting, and why would a speculative house-builder not? Could even an object as simple as a map be prone to ideological coding, infused with notions of individualism and collective space? Or maybe it's just the relation to the street, the coding of mass housing in named blocks (oh, and what names they have!) as opposed to houses off a street, numbered according to a universal system.

Well, luckily for the populace, Keith Coventry has been painting these for a while now. We've just missed an exhibition of his, but I'm not sure there's much to find on the canvases themselves that isn't graspable in a jpeg, in fact, just conceptualising the paintings may well have been enough.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

FUCK OFF, YEAR.

So, in the courageous spirit of total blog cliché, we give you a very brief e&v round up of our last little spin round Old Mother Sun.

2008 – we’re fucking glad it’s over, but 2009 has a strong chance of being much worse.

LISTENING
We aren’t really in a position to discuss the year’s best music, because our dire financial situation permitted us the purchase of no more than a dozen or so albums / individual releases across the whole year. Hooray. Sadly, some of these few purchases were from the wonderful shop Sound323, which has now closed, no doubt the first of many such caterers to minority interests we will lose in the coming period.
Out of the pathetically slight dribble of music we did treat ourselves to, we can recommend Philip Jeck’s ‘Sand’ and The Caretaker’s ‘Persistent Repetition of Phrases’. On a related note, the ‘Hauntology’ symposium in the summer was interesting, entertaining and probably the best musical event we managed to attend all year, even if it answered very few of its own questions. A genuine Hooray for Mark and Jon for setting that one up, and another hooray for Jon, this time for all the sound seminars that we’ll miss now that we’ve gone.
Also, a dubious highlight was the ‘Jelly', some of the disgracefully small amount of original sound/music that we wrote this year, but also the most prominent, though that had very little to do with us.

WATCHING
Being told off for giggling at ‘Threads’ was our cinematic highlight of the year.

READING
Zizek was disappointing, Meillassoux tantalising, we were told to read fiction and thus found the Safran Foer thrust into our hand rather mawkish, we went back in time and read Kant and Hegel, covering brain holes. We returned to Beckett countless times, also to Lacan, finally beginning, as all those who endeavour with him must do, to draw out our own lessons from his acting up. Wikipedia gave us countless hours of wonderfully democratic ‘fact’ accumulation, but combined with iPhones, it promises to ruin pub conversations forever. Collapse IV was fantastic, but the flaws in Benatar almost made one think life worth living. The Wire was still the best game around, and Savage Messiah gave us the chance to dream about London.

ARCHITECTURE
Globally- it’s not really going very well, is it?

Personally- E&V gained a few extra letters after their name this summer, to what looks thus far to be no avail. After six years of repeatedly making ourselves ill, ruining a number of perfectly good relationships (and maybe some less than perfectly good ones too) and just generally falling to pieces, all in the service of an unbelievably inefficient, rarefied and backward pedagogical system, we were told that our recent massive attempt to intellectually reinvigorate the haunted history of the exhibition palace typology would have been ‘more interesting if it had a tie-rack in it’. What glory…

Then of course it turned out to have been a waste of time, thanks to the fuckups of the massed armies of greedy bastards, but then wasting time is all that we’d have been doing for the last six years anyway…

PREDICTIONS
More misery for all. Obvious, really. If we’re lucky, the misery will be more evenly spread than it has been in the past, but that’s a bit too optimistic to be plausible.

Actually, fuck it, we promise to be lovely in 2009. In fact- we promise to update regularly and find some contemporary architecture that we genuinely like.

Hooray!