Posts tagged with "Internet":

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The Cursed Architecture Twitter feed showcases the best of the worst

What drives the internet’s (perhaps morbid) obsession with bad design? Strange angles, melting paint, oddly-placed and vaguely threatening toilets, signage that hinders rather than helps, stairs to nowhere, and misplaced windows have all caused digital rubbernecking. Whether it’s critiquing the bric-a-brac nature of suburban homes assembled by the nouveau-riche in McMansion Hell, or posting abject failures in the 1.5-million-member-strong r/CrappyDesign subreddit, the demand for “bad design” to critique seems bottomless. The worst offenders are frequently aggregated on Instagram, meme-y Facebook pages, Twitter, and listicles, repackaged and reshared failures of design for new audiences. Enter the Cursed Architecture Twitter account, which has been posting baffling, incomplete, and/or possibly haunted buildings since September of last year. When asked about where they compile their material from and why they think it has such an enduring appeal, the owner of Cursed Architecture had this to say: "I started collecting the images a couple of years ago because I thought they were funny, and later on made the account for my own entertainment. I never expected it to be so popular—or popular at all. I’m a little stunned by it, honestly. The images come from all over the Internet: house listings, DIY forums, and so on. Some are submitted to me. "We live in a very planned, sanitary, squared-off world. I think that’s why the failures are so funny, and why they resonate. So much current architecture is totally impersonal, but a bizarre mistake is the opposite. It invites the question of who did it, and why, and who thought three urinals crowded into a corner or a staircase to nowhere was a good idea. There’s something very human about that." Perhaps the collective fascination with such failures stems from the internet’s ability to give would-be critics a seat at the table, allowing anyone to weigh in. It’s also possible that when faced with overwhelmingly terrible design that fails at a basic level, everyone can put aside their quibbles and unite to make fun of it, together.
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Net art turns the internet into a space of performance

What happens on the ‘net stays on the ‘net. Or maybe not, according to the new exhibition The Art Happens Here: Net Art’s Archival Poetics, a history of net art from 1985 to today presented by Rhizome at the New Museum in New York. The show brings net art out of the tubes of the internet and into the gallery, part of an intensive archival project curated by Michael Connor, artistic director, Rhizome, with Aria Dean, assistant curator. The show focuses on sixteen artworks selected from Net Art Anthology—Rhizome’s major online exhibition of one hundred works from throughout net art history—born-digital art that both resulted from and influenced a rapidly changing network culture that pervades the real world, beyond the browser. The show’s title comes from MTAA’s 1997 Simple Net Art Diagram, which outlines the relationship of computers, the network, the artists, and the art. Two personal computers are linked with a label, “The art happens here,” pointing to the space between the computers. An important distinction is made here—and in the show—between net art and a broader conception of digital art that focuses on techniques in a new digital media: “net” implies that the art is a performance that investigates how people relate to each other and these machines. We can see how the artworks in this exhibition were at the front edge of using the technology and investigating what the critical and societal impacts might be in the future. These were social networks before social networks, tag clouds before tag clouds, and streaming services before streaming services. Goofier early works include Alexei Shulgin’s 1998 386 DX, a “band” (a computer) that performs punk music, and StarryNight, a 1999 conceptual visualization of Rhizome’s early email listserv content, displayed with tags that connected dots connected to event “pages.” The later work in the show is more overtly political. The earlier works are more concerned with tautological questions about the medium/space of the internet: experiments in relating to one another and defining ourselves across new digital platforms, such as StarryNight and Simple Net Art Diagram. More recent works, however, signal more toward how we use these platforms—and their more advanced, codified descendants like Facebook—as places to enact politics. For example, Miao Ying’s 2007 Blind Spot is a Chinese dictionary with all the words redacted that the Chinese government would censor online. Artist-activist Morehshin Allahyari’s Material Speculation: ISIS was an attempt in 2016 to reproduce 3D-printed replicas of a set of twelve artifacts from the ancient cities of Hatra and Nineveh, destroyed the year before by ISIS. Perhaps this evolution makes sense since those early experiments—the band in 386 DX or StarryNight for the Rhizome “website”—are also a form of political speculation about social relationships in the face of new technology. The show tracks these developments in the technology and art as well as changes in society that unfold alongside the art historical narrative of the show. Or perhaps it is less about the tracking of changes in broader culture, and more of a change in how the technology is used: As it becomes more user-friendly, it becomes available to people who are not only interested in it as an experimental medium. Or, as we become more comfortable with it, we begin to turn to how it can be employed critically, rather than simply as a technological experiment. All of the works in the show resonate as a history that still echoes through our experience of online art, but also the internet in general. Are Facebook and Twitter net art projects, extended to their logical conclusion and rocket-fueled by capitalism? Like all good histories, it recasts our understanding of the present by presenting prescient works such as a recreation of Chu Lea Cheang’s para-fictional Garlic=RichAir, a 2002/3 work that speculated on a future where capitalism had collapsed, and garlic was the only currency. Artist Melanie Hoff created a video game for the 2019 show, complete with a Wi-Fi network where players could claim and trade their garlic. The work reads today like an early version of so many blockchain speculations that artists today are doing. There is also a feedback loop between digital and physical in the net art posited here, which when viewed as a space for performance becomes a sort of new commons where different people come together, but also find people like themselves. Notably, Wolfgang Staelhe’s Untitled, turned a webcam into a lens for landscape photography as it broadcast the physicality of Manhattan’s skyline in 2001, and serendipitously interfaced with current events as it captured the events of 9/11. It would be a stretch to say these online places have replaced physical terrain as the main place of community as well as conflict, but it could be said that they inherited the DNA of conceptual art and spatial practice, leaving it a final, feral Wild West for experimentation. Today, we have more controlled spaces such as Facebook that are mediated by corporate interests, but new spaces are always opening up online and underneath it in places like crypto-raves and online black markets where artists can get their rocks off. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of the most striking works—or spaces of performance—in the show is Olia Lialina’s Give Me Time / This Page Is No More, an archive of GeoCities websites, logged at first at a moment saying, “under construction” and then at a moment when they had been closed. GeoCities was shut down by Yahoo! in 2009.  
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Does architecture have a crisis of ideas?

Like everything, architectural history and theory have been radically realigned by the internet and digital culture. Now, ideas are passed through relatively unfiltered media, such as 140-character tweets that have turned writers’ attention from writing to spewing fragments of criticism that float off into the ether. Curation today is often merely a manic production of online content driven by clicks, which come from posting more (and more, and more) content. This makes young writers who are feeding this content beast truly starved for new things to write about. It is a dramatic shift from the days when magazines like Architectural Forum and Progressive Architecture were the curatorial gatekeepers that held the conversation at a high level.

The result is that bad ideas can come to be front and center in the architectural discussion very easily due to metrics and algorithms. What passes for “radical,” “idea,” “theory,” and “concept” today is becoming eroded as quickly as our political discourse.

For example, a recent headline on a popular architecture-oriented website proclaimed: “Designer Dror Benshetrit releases three conceptual proposals for residential skyscrapers in New York.” The article showed a series of towers as rudimentary as a student project before a first crit. While it makes business sense to do speculative projects on sites in New York that could attract luxury development, the media has a responsibility to question whether these are actually conceptual, or just a bad unbuilt project. What purpose these serve is unclear, although one claims it is a new, efficient structural system. As far as ideas go, this leaves much to be desired.

In a similar pointless exercise in mediocre conceptual architecture that looks good on the internet and keeps content producers busy, oiio—which also made a clever proposal to add onto the Guggenheim by extending its spiral upward—has proposed one of the least likely and most useless pieces of architectural speculation in history. According to the Huffington Post, this speculation was “The Big Bend, A U-Shaped Skyscraper, Could Become The Longest In The World.” But it almost certainly couldn’t. The conflation of possibility and wild speculation harms the media’s credibility and creates the architectural equivalent of fake news. And the project, essentially two 432 Parks that bend to meet at the top, isn’t even a compelling idea. It barely even qualifies as formalism, let alone conceptual architecture.

That would be the silliest architectural concept ever, except that an article on Forbes, “New York Architects Plan Enormous Skyscraper Hanging From An Asteroid In Space,” wins that prize. This bizarre fantasy is based on some actual scientific research, but when translated sloppily to architecture, it becomes simply childlike: Why would we want to “hang” a skyscraper from an asteroid, and why are we taking this proposal seriously? It would be hard to find something more useless for architectural discourse than the hanging-asteroid skyscraper.

Where are the relevant ideas in architecture? While taking the latest philosophy or digital technology and applying it to architecture is at least a stab in the right direction, what happened to innovative formal ideas, or cultural innovations in architectural form? Where are the radical ideas that might spark our imagination and make us think differently about the discipline and the world in which it exists?

Where are the good ideas, and how can we help to get them into the discussion?

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Struggling to express yourself? Try an Archemoji

Until now, architects have had few ways of expressing themselves when faced with a palette of emojis. The dull depictions of a hospital, hotel, or town hall simply do not suffice the range of architectural expression in the modern world. Cue Alexandra Lange and Curbed, who recently launched Archemoji. The name says it all. Emojis, whether you like it or not, are part of modern day life. Last year, the Oxford English Dictionary officially added "😂", or "Face with Tears of Joy", and so it's probably only fair that the architecture scene got in on the act. After all, Kim Kardashian has already added her own set, Kimoji. Thankfully, #Archemoji has taken twitter by storm, trending for all the right reasons, and now there's even a quiz that lets you know what specific Archemoji you are. https://twitter.com/kelseykeith/status/702869324118286336 With Archemoji, you can now swear at someone with Frank Gehry without having to source a meme from the web. You can let someone know you disapprove with the disapproving-Zaha emoji, or passively send them a Doric column to let them know how basic they are. Denise Scott-Brown's power-stance, Lange's favorite, is also featured. Quite how emotionally liberating Archemoji's will be remains to be seen, though Lange points out that the common dilemma of articulating yourself through emoji's to say "fell into a Brutalism rabbit hole online" has now finally been solved. "Won’t it be nice to just say Heart + Villa Savoie? Or Side Eye + Shipping Container? Sadly, I know I’m going to get a lot of use out of Heartbreak + Wrecking Ball + Boston City Hall, as yet another heroic concrete building goes down," says Lange.
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Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill selected for high-tech overhaul in South Bend, Indiana

Union Station Technology Center (USTC) in South Bend, Indiana began its life as a train station. Now it's a data center and the state's second largest carrier hotel. As a piece of internet infrastructure, it's high tech. With the help of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, the building owners are aiming for a design to suit. The building is in South Bend's Studebaker Corridor, so named for the wagon company turned automobile titan. Before it closed in 1963, Studebaker was the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the nation, employing as many as 23,000 people in South Bend. Union Station Technology Center is among the tech-oriented rehabs that local businesspeople like Nick Easley, director of strategic initiatives for USTC, and developer Kevin Smith are using to rebrand the area as South Bend’s Renaissance District. AS+GG was selected as the emerging district's master planner in 2012. On Sunday it was announced that the Chicago-based firm—known for energy-efficient, eye-grabbing projects around the world—would lead the redesign of USTC, as well as “a mixed-use campus consisting of more than one million square feet of Class A office, education, technology, research grade manufacturing, data center, and live-work spaces.” A press release promises to turn USTC into “a large scale, sustainably designed tech hub that promises to spur a second economic boom for South Bend and the surrounding region.” South Bend's boosters hope the cold climate—which cuts server cooling costs—and local knowledge base at University of Notre Dame will help it stand out among cities from coast to coast currently chasing tech jobs to replace manufacturing work.
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Using Unused TV Channels for Connectivity in New Orleans

New York–based conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll will debut her newest project, PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0, at New Orleans' contemporary art biennial, Prospect.3 in Fall 2014. In it, she identifies communities across New Orleans that remain choked for resources since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. Responding foremost to the lack of connectivity in these areas, Carroll is utilizing unoccupied TV channels, cultural motifs, and an innovative wireless technology developed at Rice University in Houston, Texas, to create infrastructure that will become a permanent characteristic of The Crescent City. PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 will consist of two broadband Internet broadcast towers built in sections of the city that will then connect to hubs. The locations of the hubs will be distributed throughout greater New Orleans based on crowd sourcing. By using Internet broadcast towers, Carroll hopes to reimagine traditional city planning by prioritizing what she calls “the elevation plan and broadcast spectrum.” In doing so, physical location will have little correlation with lack of connectivity of under-resourced communities. A key motivator of PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 is its potential impact on a national policy debate about the scheduled auction of airwaves for wireless broadband in 2014 by the Federal Communications Commission. Carroll compares the government selling the unused television spectrum to selling public land. The technology that empowers PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 is in the developmental stages in Rice University’s Wireless Network Group, led by professor Edward Knightly. The group is experimenting with launching residential broadband Internet service through “TV white space” or TVWS. The service will function like a WiFi hotspot, though it differs in that TVWS emits “lower-frequency TV signals [that] penetrate walls and propagate over distances, meaning it can serve a larger population. The latest TVWS technology released by Knightly’s team earlier this week is estimated to reach a range of about 1 1/4 miles. Carroll hopes PUBLIC UTILITY 2.0 will reach beyond New Orleans to become a template that other U.S. cities can utilize. She envisions the broadcast towers becoming cultural symbols similar to Moscow’s Shukhov Tower, LA’s Watts Tower, or the RKO transmitter. “The towers would be the visible presence in the city, and the connections they provide would create a cultural, economic, and social platform for greater New Orleans,” she said.
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Kansas City: Silicon Prairie?

Google’s grand experiment on the Great Plains, dubbed “Silicon Prairie” by some, is to revitalize Kansas City with superfast internet. That network hookup could make KC a hotspot for new businesses, too, according to some entrepreneurs eyeing the new “fiberhoods” where the infrastructure exists. Kansas City may not have aspirations to be the next Silicon Valley, but Google’s investment has invigorated the city’s startup culture. On top of efforts to clean up the region’s vacant land and the highly-anticipated return of KC's streetcar, startups are just one reason that Kansas City will be a city to watch.
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STACKing Up

It's seems everybody's on Facebook and Twitter these days (us included—and if you're not already following us, get on it!) while MySpace and Friendster have been all but abandoned. There's the new Google Buzz, but that's been more like Google Glitch. What all these social networks have in common is that they're designed for people. But what if there was a social network designed exclusively for buildings? May we introduce you to STACKD. Started by the fine folks at Supermetric, who just so happened to help design Archpaper.com way back when, STACKD takes social networks out of the virtual world and transports them to the real one, a place where the burgeoning site needs our help. Wish it were true that we weren't all so glued to our computers that we had time to meet other people in our building, STACKD helps foster such old-school connections. And with a focus on buildings, and particularly those occupied by members of the creative class, it can not only become a means to meet that cute girl from the ad firm three floors down but also for the video editors on the third floor, the production company on the fourth, and those ad folks to team up on projects—an especially important asset during these difficult economic times. Speaking of which, STACKD has been nominated for a Pepsi Refresh Project grant, which'll net the site 50 grand, assuming it places in the top 10 in its category. As of this writing, it's ranked 113. Which is where you come in. In addition to signing your building and your business up for the site, click over to the Pepsi contest and make the allotted once-per-day vote through the end of the month to help push this awesome crew over the top. Then we'll see what they can really build.
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Finally On Facebook

You're hopefully following us on Twitter, and you're obviously reading our blog and maybe watching our videos on YouTube. Today, we're happy to announce that AN has taken that final, belated step into the Internet age and launched a Facebook fan page. Do show your support and follow us there. We look forward to your comments, contributions, and, yes, criticism. Until then, safe surfing.

The Stimulus, Uploaded for Your Pleasure

There has been a great deal of criticism that the Obama administration has failed to uphold a number of its campaign promises, such as shirking lobbyists and business-as-usual, and reaching across the aisle to craft bipartisan public policy. One thing that has not changed, however, is the commitment to open and transparent governance, particularly through the use of the World Wide Web. And so, today, Recovery.gov was launched, the better to help America keep tabs on the stimulus bill. The site is chock-full of useful information, like where the money is meant to go and when, as well as ways for users to track its use and help play watchdog in the process. As the president puts it in the above video, "When money is spent to build new schools and create new jobs, you'll be able to see how, when, and where it was spent." And for the real wonks among you, there's links to source documents, like the bill itself. There's even a nifty map with state-by-state breakdowns of estimated job creation. So how does it all work? As far as we can tell, the venture--granted like most of Obama's--looks promising. The experts over at Pro Publica, a non-profit investigative journalism site, give Recovery.gov a generally favorable review, though they also note that a handful of news outlets--theirs included--have provided more thorough breakdowns of the numbers. They also point out that this is familiar territory for the president:
So what will Recovery 2.0 look like? One guide is USASpending.gov, a 2-year-old government Web site that compiles data on all federal contracts. The site was created by a bill President Obama sponsored (with Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.) when he was in the Senate.
We'll let you know what we find. And vice versa.
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A Pat on the Back

Archpaper.com, thanks in part to this very blog, was named one of the Top Ten Websites for 2009 by Planetizen. At this time, we'd like to thank everyone who might have nominated us or put in a good word. We do this all for you, and couldn't have done it without you, either. Our commendation after the jump.
A clean and informative site covering the latest projects, developments and trends in the architecture world. Published since 2003 and now offering a California edition, the Architect’s Newspaper has joined the ranks of essential news sources for architects and those concerned about design and development issues. Archives are available dating back to the first issue, and the site recently branched out into the blogosphere, with near-daily postings since September 2008. A useful resource for planners seeking to understand more about architecture from an insider’s perspective.