Archive for June 2006

Chameleon the beast, and other stories

“By its nature Chameleon the beast does not eat anything but the wind and it has the habit of walking constantly, day and night. And on its way home it changes into any color it approaches. In this manner it changes into different colors.”

Russian Lubok, via bibliOdyssey.

More about luboks, from Vladimir Tsesler and Sergey Voychenko, a duo of contemporary Russian artists who, for a short period, produced work reinterpreting the idiom for the modern age, introducing “characters of the modern folk mythology into evergreen foliage, where they were met as relatives by fabulous kings, marvelous animals and mermaids.”

In the same vein, a page of lubok renditions of modern movies, again via bibliOdyssey, some obvious, others less so. Which one’s this, for example?:

Clue: This is not a Hollywood movie – if it were, as a commenter puts it, way down in the comments on the MonkeyFilter post which brought these images to light, “…I’d have to assume I’d gone through life simply NOT NOTICING a movie where a crocodile plays an accordion. That would make me feel very bad about myself indeed.”

Words and pictures, just what I like. I have high hopes too, of this forthcoming title from Princeton Architectural Press:

book jacket

Blackstock is autistic and an artistic savant. He creates visual lists of everything from wasps to hats to emergency vehicles to noisemakers.

The table of contents alone is tantalising – The Trowels, The Housekeeping Tools, The Spatulas, THE NOISE MAKERS, Colorful Egg Pattern Favorites to Go for, etc. You can inspect some sample pages from the book at Tributary Books.

Seattle Weekly has an article about Blackstock, with another image.

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Written by Dave Lovely

June 19, 2006 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


Two stories I’ve lately come across via The News is NowPublic might make you think again about shipping containers:

Innovative architects turn used shipping containers into homes.


The city’s magnetic rhythm:

A metal shipping container sits in an abandoned industrial site. Inside the container, which is empty and cloaked with quilted fabric, unseen speakers immerse the visitor in the sounds of our thronging metropolis, our Pacific Rim city. There’s the booming, screeching, clanking, and shunting of a busy railway yard; the walkie-talkie shouts of port workers directing cargo; the clamour of traffic, the saxophonic threads of stories and conversations, and the calls of a Chinatown vendor. Also entwined in the urban soundscape is a shifting symphony of electronic bells and chimes—eerie and celebratory.

Photograph from IN[ ]EX

firmitas.org has lots of information and further links about architects using shipping containers as architectural elements  – Australia’s Sean Godsell, for one. Although, apparently, this is so 2004, as an interesting article called (of course) “The Shipping News” at The Architect’s Newspaper reveals, shipping containers can also make good mobile homes for elephants. I like the idea, from the architectural practice LOT-EK, that “around the world, there could be colonies of standard container docks where an urban nomad population could arrive and plug in its module houses.” Perhaps even colonies of elephants…

There’s also the extraordinary 7th-Kilometer Market, near Odessa in the Ukraine, the largest market in Europe, “a state within a state, with its own laws and rules”1 which occupies 170 acres and consists almost entirely of shipping containers: “part third-world bazaar, part post-Soviet Wal-Mart, a place of unadulterated and largely unregulated capitalism where certain questions — about salaries, rents, taxes or last names — are generally met with suspicion.”2 It even has its own website, with a directory, and maps.

1Ukrainian newsweekly Zerkalo Nedeli.2The New York Times.

Meanwhile sablier, a thoughtful French blog of my acquaintance, wonders if cities like Chongqing (pop: 31 million – more than Peru, or Iraq, or Malaysia) are making a tabula rasa of the past. Perhaps what’s really happening is that the countryside, the source of all our folk-memories, is beginning a transition to a memoryless, association-free state – by the start of 2007, according to this Guardian article on Chongqing, humanity will have become a predominantly urban species.

Another statistic, from the same article: every year, 8.5 million Chinese peasants move into cities.

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Written by Dave Lovely

June 18, 2006 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


Israeli architect Eyal Weizman on influence of radical critical theory on the tactics used by the Israeli Defense Force against the Palestinians:

The attack conducted by units of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’… During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of ‘overground tunnels’ carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

photograph of Israeli soldiers

Or, in other words, as described by a Palestinian woman:

‘Imagine it – you’re sitting in your living-room, which you know so well; this is the room where the family watches television together after the evening meal, and suddenly that wall disappears with a deafening roar, the room fills with dust and debris, and through the wall pours one soldier after the other, screaming orders. You have no idea if they’re after you, if they’ve come to take over your home, or if your house just lies on their route to somewhere else. The children are screaming, panicking. Is it possible to even begin to imagine the horror experienced by a five-year-old child as four, six, eight, 12 soldiers, their faces painted black, sub-machine-guns pointed everywhere, antennas protruding from their backpacks, making them look like giant alien bugs, blast their way through that wall?’

Or, again, as Weizman puts it in conclusion:

…when the military ‘talks’ (as every military does) to the enemy, theory could be understood as a particularly intimidating weapon of ‘shock and awe’, the message being: ‘You will never even understand that which kills you.’

Source: Frieze magazine.

Eyal Weizman is an Israeli architect whose various projects investigating the ramifications for architecture and urbanism of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank have been banned by the Israeli Association of Architects. He has said, in an interview which you can find here:

If you are an architect and you understand that the main manifestation of this conflict is through the landscape and the built environment, it is almost your responsibility to act vis a vis that. It would be bizarre now for me to engage just within a normal architectural practice in Israel, building houses and so on.

A version of Weizman’s forthcoming book, The Politics of Verticality, is online at opendemocracy. In this series of articles and photo-essays, he paints the extraordinary, three-dimensional battle over the West Bank: from settlements to sewage, archaeology to Apaches.

For more “open source warfare” (in the felicitous phrase of John Robb at Global Guerrillas), see this article at CSMonitor.

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Written by Dave Lovely

June 8, 2006 at 10:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized