Saturday, 31 December 2011

A partial reading list from 2011

I use Google reader, which means that I have a big long list of posts that I was too busy at the time to read, but which I went back to later. The following list is of some of the most interesting things I read in the last year, by no means exhaustive or even remotely comprehensive, but hopefully of interest nonetheless. In a year in which some of the best voices online stopped writing at all, for whichever and whatever reasons, then it's nice to know that some people were still working, discussing and working out ideas in that now-decrepit medium.

Between Channels
This unnamed blogger has been sharing with us their collections of vernacular architectural photography from the post-war period. Dusty & lugubrious, their hoards of images are glimpses of the frequent surreal drabness of Britain's social democracy experiment, of frequently beautiful marketplaces and new town shopping centres.

Stevenage and Wembley 68
Covered Markets of Olde England
Friars Square Shopping Precinct (part 2)

The Medium and the Message
Technically this isn't really a blog, in that it is the online page where BBC employee Adam Curtis posts up notes from his researches, but that's not such a problem when it is so relentlessly interesting. In 2011 Curtis became pretty controversial amongst the left for his sprawling, ludicrously ambitious, but frequently tenuous 'All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace', but he also regularly posted up fascinating archive videos dredged up from the BBC archive, reflecting upon the various unfolding shocks of the year.

Sadat's Dat
The Curse of Tina (I)
The Curse of Tina (II)
Dream On
The Ghost of the Colonels

Fantastic Journal
It wasn't really a good year for architecture writing online, as output slowed to pretty much nothing more than a dribble. One bucker of that trend was Charles Holland's 'Fantastic Journal'. Charles managed to keep the 'mordant photo essay' flame alive, as well as various posts which were great reading, including a really great piece on the palm house at Kew Gardens.

This is a Gateway
Guide to the Not So Modern Buildings of London
Pre and Post Modernism
Around the World

Another trend-bucker, Bauzeitgeist was both reasonably new and reasonably prolific, with some excellent analyses of American architecture, and also, perhaps more useful for ignorants like myself, of African architecture and urbanism. Strong, systematic and frequently excoriating.

Container Stores
Guardian of Guangzhou
The Corporate Parks of Kevin Roche

Charnel House
Speaking of systematic; nobody has has been providing more in-depth architecture writing than Ross Wolfe. A brilliantly generous scholar of early Soviet architecture, he has been posting up all manner of essay, research, analysis and image scans, which if you can give it time is unsurpassed. However, if ultra-left purism is not your thing then you might find his frequent arguments and intellectual hatchet jobs a little hard to digest, but it's more than offset by the density of the academic work.

At the Intersection of Nature and Architecture -Modernism’s Response to the Alienation of Man

Once a week, Giovanni Tiso publishes an essay on all manner of topics, although with a particular focus on technology and memory. I simply cannot recommend his writing enough. 

The Decades
A consensus amongst those I know seems to be that one of the only positive developments in blog-writing this year was the institution of the decade blogs:

With a rotating cast of writers and an open editorial policy, if you want to find idiosyncratic and intellectually exciting historical and cultural analysis I don't know of anything better right now. Sometimes it can be utterly off the wall in ways only blog writing could ever be (the Heideggerian implications of Level 42, anyone?), but that is said as an entirely positive thing.

And last but not least... 

The Future (according to Google)
XKCD's utterly terrifying graphical representation of the googlemind's vision of what is to come.


Ross Wolfe said...

Sorry to be getting around to this so late.

I have to say, your little bit on my blog here is my new favorite blurb that's been given about any of my work. Previously, my favorite was this:

First of all, great blog. I love reading it for the really out-there Marxist futurism and now OWS gossip. I’m not going to say much about my politics other than that they are broadly left-liberal, which means I can bang on Marxists plenty, but that’s been done. I’d rather bang on anarchists, and some of the material I’m reading here has been a lot of help.

But this new one takes the cake. Thanks. And thanks for linking my blog.

I am going to add a link to your blog on my page.

Murphy said...


Thanks very much!

I like your wry response, and I hope you don't think I was being an arse with mine...



Ross Wolfe said...

No, I don't think so at all. Don't worry about it. I try to have a good sense of humor about myself.

Great blog, by the way. And great links!

What's your work about? I'm planning to peruse it a bit, but I'd like to know what your book focuses on. The Architecture of Failure: a promisingly pessimistic title.

Murphy said...

Well, very briefly:

The book looks at late 19th century iron and glass buildings, considering them seriously as 'proto-modernism', but offers a critique of the general macho 'engineer genius' historical narrative, instead trying to sketch out the heady mix of romanticism and modernism that they represented (obv. plenty of Benjamin in there...)

Then I look at various 'engineer genius' periods in architecture since then and try to apply a similar critique.

Good to get in touch,