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Ron Haselden, Fête. Photo Chris Hill

A couple of weeks ago, i was in Derry/Londonderry. It was my first trip to Northern Ireland. Beautiful landscapes as i'm sure everybody knows, super friendly people, vegan-approved yummy food at the Legenderry Warehouse, some stunning socially-engages exhibitions i'll tell you about later and a city-wide event called Lumiere. Lumiere is a festival of 17 projections and installations that lit up as the night came onto the city. It is a crowd-magnet, a place to bring your family and marvel at what artists and designers can do with light. But don't be mistaken: some of the works had depth and bite.

Here's some of my favourite:

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Cleary Connolly, Change Your Stripes. Photo Chris Hill

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Cleary Connolly, Change Your Stripes. Photo Denis Connolly

I don't think i would have been that impressed had i seen Change Your Stripes by Ann Cleary and Denis Connolly inside a gallery. But in the street of Derry, when evening is coming and people are out to walk the dog and stumble upon the installation, it gains a touch of magic. The artwork only comes to life as you walk past.

The huge ondulating black and white stripes are projected on the facade of the Derry Credit Union. They move as people walk by it. Passersby silhouettes are multiplied and distorted in a fluid, dancing stream like in a living version of a fairground Hall of Mirrors.

At this point, i feel like i should add a few words about Derry/Londonderry's political context. First of all because i found the installation to be absolutely brilliant but far less fascinating than the surrounding Bogside murals. And second because it is difficult to avoid mentioning politics when you find yourself in a city which carries political tensions in its very name(s). Please skip the coming paragraph if, unlike me, you are not crassly ignorant about the local history.

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The Free Derry Corner might be a good introduction to the whole Derry or Londonderry issue. It was painted in 1969, shortly after the Battle of the Bogside, one of the first major confrontations of The Troubles, the 30-ish year old conflict about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the relationship between the unionists and loyalists (the mostly Protestant community who wanted Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK) and the Irish nationalists and republicans (the Catholic community who dreamed of a united Ireland.) If you're a nationalist you'll call the city Derry, and if you're a unionists you'll use the name Londonderry.

Now allow me to open a parenthesis. From now on i will refer to Derry/Londonderry as 'the city'. I'm already tired of typing that double name over and over. End of the parenthesis .

The sum up above is a bit rough but that should provide you with some context. The Bogside is also the area where Bloody Sunday took place in 1972.

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The Petrol Bomber (Battle of the Bogside), painted in 1994. Image by Keith Ruffles

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Bloody Sunday Mural. Photo by Keith Ruffles

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Operation Motorman, The Summer Invasion. Image by Keith Ruffles

But let's get back to Lumiere.

Some artists openly engaged with the local context, others didn't. As was to be expected, Krzysztof Wodiczko created a sharp, deeply moving work about local people's perception and memories of the past conflicts and their hopes for the future of the city.

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection Derry-Londonderry, at Lumiere Derry 2013. Photo Chris Hill


Krzysztof Wodiczko, Projection at Lumiere Festival Derry Londonderry Ireland. Video by Maria Niro

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Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection Derry-Londonderry. Photo Maria Niro

Public Projection for Derry~Londonderry was a series of extracts from interviews the artist had conducted with local people. Their words were screened from an ambulance (a fairly ubiquitous vehicle during The Troubles) onto several facades throughout the city .

Wodiczko talked to a cross-section of people, from ex-police officers to victims of the Troubles, from young people growing up in the aftermath of the conflict to people who had got into troubles for being on the 'wrong' side of the political divide at a certain time.

I saw people with tears in their eyes in the crowd....

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A Stitch in Time, Tim Etchells, 2013, Photo Chris Hill

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Tim Etchells piece being lifted into place on the roof of Rosemount Shirt Factory. Instagram by Artichoke

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Tim Etchells, A Stitch In Time. Picture Martin McKeown

Tim Etchells installed a few words that paid homage to Derry-Londonderry's shirt-making industrial past on top of the old Rosemount Shirt Factory.

The work was 23 metre long and 2-metre high making it visible from afar.

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Deepa Mann-Kler">Deepa Mann-Kler, Teenage Kicks. Photo via saatchi online

And so was Teenage Kicks. By this time, you've figured how much i (and the Lumiere festival) like to see big letters invading a city.

The 30m-long neon sign reading "A teenage dream's so hard to beat" sat on top of the city's BT building. It was inspired by the 1978 pop song of the same name, the greatest hit of Derry band, The Undertones.

"My impetus for this artwork is to celebrate a key moment from the history and culture of Derry," explained Deepa Mann-Kler. "I am an Indian woman who grew up in England, but came to live in Northern Ireland in March 1996. One of my abiding memories while growing up in Leicester, were of Northern Ireland during The Troubles, the TV footage of the army, rioting, and then the music of The Undertones."

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photograph by Chris Hill

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photo Martin McKeown

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Fire Garden, Compagnie Carabosse, 2013. Photo Martin McKeown


Fire Garden. Video by Derry~Londonderry 2013

Fire Garden by Compagnie Carabosse lit up the whole St. Columb's Park and made you feel like you had just stepped into the set of one of those lavish BBC period drama.

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Holywell Trust and the Nerve Centre, The Empty Plinth. Photograph by Chris Hill

The empty plinth was originally topped by a statue of Governor Walker, until it was bombed (twice) by the IRA in 1973/4. It has remained unadorned since then.

Nerve Centre and Holywell Trust gave it a new life with a simple column of white light, as a symbol of togetherness and tolerance of a protestant and catholic cultural identity.

These sound like suitable words to close the post.

A few more images though...
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Daan Roosegaarde, Marbles. Picture Martin McKeown

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RMS Design, Grove of Oaks. Picture Martin McKeown

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The Lumiere public. Via Telegraph Belfast

Lumiere was produced by Artichoke for Derry-Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013.

Related: Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Abolition of War.

I could have titled the post "Gift ideas for Christmas" but to be honest, these books are not christmassy in the traditional sense of the word. Neither is my blog, for that matter. The truth is that this is a list of books i've enjoyed but never found the time to review as they deserved. I always meant to but here we are in mid-December and the "to review ASAP" pile of books is reaching skyscraping dimensions on my table. So here's a few publications that shouldn't be off your radar:

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Bulletproof Skin. Exploring Boundaries by Piercing Borders, by Jalila Essaïdi, was the very good surprise of the year. Its starting point is the famous project 2.6g 329m/s, aka the 'bulletproof skin' developed with the help of the Designers & Artists 4 Genomics Award. The publication is described as A stunning hardcover book with a special cover and paper that feels soft like skin/silk, counting 160 pages that visually explore the process of creating bulletproof skin. Which is true but doesn't do the book justice. What Bulletproof Skin. Exploring Boundaries by Piercing Borders does what very few books about biotech art do: it brings the project but also the whole field into a broader context. Scientists, philosophers and renowned people involved in the 'biotech art' world contributed to the volume with essays that ponder on the ethical, cultural, artistic and scientific meaning of the project and of biotech artworks in general. Among them are Symbiotica Director Oron Catts, Director of the Center for PostNatural History Richard Pell, artist Clifford Charles, scientific director of the Center for Society and the Life Sciences Dr Hub Zwart, expert in spider silk (and its many high tech potential uses) Randy Lewis, science writer Simon Ings, forensic firearms expert Benno Jacobs. A space is also given to random people who commented on the project.

Bulletproof Skin. Exploring Boundaries by Piercing Borders is a smart, entertaining and thought-provoking book. It's also splendidly designed, i can't recommend it enough.

You can get it through amazon UK. Maybe it will be back on amazon USA one day. You can also order it directly from the artist.

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The F.A.T. Manual, edited by Geraldine Juarez in collaboration with Domenico Quaranta. Published by Link Editions.

Yes, i've mentioned that one already. It's a 'best of' F.A.T., a guide to copy/replicate/customize their most astute or ludicrous projects. I still can't believe they've allowed me to plaster a text inside the book.

This one's print on demand (this way, please) and as you can expect from F.A.T., it's also available for free as a PDF. Alternatively, you're very welcome to ruin yourself on amazon UK.

I'd also like to recommend Beyond New Media Art by the same publisher. I reviewed the original version (the one in italian) 2 years ago.

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Outerviews. Conversations with Artists, published by MoTA. 17 interviews with artists, selected from the pretty spectacular archive of the ArtistTalk.eu project. The conversations included illuminate the processes behind the making of art works, which in have in our view proposed the most interesting challenges to the common conceptions of art.

Included artists: Zbig Rybczyński, Eyal Sivan, Harun Farocki, Piotr Krajewski, Jorge Rodriguez Gerada, Arjan Pregl, Societe Realiste, Zimoun, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Emptyset, Plaid, Burnt Friedman, Julian Oliver, Roy Ascott, Joe Davis, Ion Sorvin - N55, Biennale de Paris. Endless fun though.

You need to email the address at the bottom of this page for a copy. Well worth the trouble.

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Narcoland. The Mexican Drug Lords And Their Godfathers, by Anabel Hernandez. Published by Verso.

The definitive history of the drug cartels, Narcoland takes readers to the front lines of the "war on drugs," which has so far cost more than 60,000 lives in just six years. Hernández explains in riveting detail how Mexico became a base for the mega-cartels of Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. At every turn, Hernández names names--not just the narcos, but also the politicians, functionaries, judges and entrepreneurs who have collaborated with them. In doing so, she reveals the mind-boggling depth of corruption in Mexico's government and business elite.

This one's on my kindle and i've only just started reading it but so far, so very good. Gripping, informative in the 'i can't believe i'm reading this' sense.

Available on Amazon USA and UK.

0landscapefut420.jpgLandscape Futures: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Inventions, edited by Geoff Manaugh. Published by Actar.

From autonomous tools for remote archaeology to radio telescopes scanning electromagnetic events in space, by way of colorful mechanisms allowing children to experience the animal superpowers of other species, Landscape Futures looks at the world of extraordinary scientific machines and their hypothetical alternatives that filter, augment, clarify, and transformatively reproduce the world they survey.

Another book from the one and only Manaugh, the guy who makes good old planet earth look like a distant, slightly bonkers and ever fascinating planet.

Available on amazon USA and UK.

0cover_Fabricate.jpgFABRICATE: Making Digital Architecture, by Ruairi Glynn and Bob Sheil. Published by Riverside Architectural Press.

The publication comprises of 38 illustrated articles on built projects received through a Call for Work. Punctuating these articles, a series of conversations between world leading experts from design to engineering, incl. Mark Burry, Philip Beesley, Gramazio & Kohler and Hanif Kara, discussing themes on drawing to production, behavioural composites, robotic assembly, and digital craft. This densely illustrated publication is intended to impart unequivocal evidence to the reader on how these projects were made, to encompass the breath, complexity and skill required in making digital architecture (i.e. its not as easy as some make out), and to impart the vitality of making as a collaborative and exciting practice.

The book accompanied a conference that took place in 2011. I only got my hands on it a few weeks ago. And because it is still as relevant as ever, it's now available in paperback.

You can get it on Amazon USA and UK.

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Art Since 1980: Charting the Contemporary, by Peter R. Kalb. Published by Laurence King.

Art Since 1980 charts the story of art in contemporary global culture while holding up a mirror to our society. With over 300 pictures of painting, photography and sculpture, as well as installation, performance and video art, we are led on an illuminating journey via the individuals and communities who have shaped art internationally.
(...)

Kalb approaches art from multiple angles, addressing issues of artistic production, display, critical reception and social content. Alongside his analysis of specific works of art, he also builds a framework for readers to increase their knowledge and enhance critical and theoretical thinking.

I wouldn't advise this book to anyone who has only a flimsy interest in contemporary art, they'd be put off by the amount of information to ingest. However, this is a solid reference book for people who are passionate about art and think they lack some of the basic knowledge necessary to better understand and appreciate its meaning and context.

Available on Amazon USA and UK.

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All that Is Solid Melts Into Air. Jeremy Deller. By the aforementioned and Published by Hayward publishing.

Deller explores how the trauma of the Industrial Revolution and chaotic urbanisation affected British society, focusing on emblematic figures including: Adrian Street, born into a Welsh mining family, Street rejected a life in the mines to become a flamboyant androgynous international wrestler; James Sharples, a 19th centrury blacksmith and self-taught painter from Blackburn, famous for his much-reproduced image, The Forge; and rock stars from industrial towns whose roots can be traced back through generations of workers in factories and mills. The radical transformation of the landscape in the early industrial era is powerfully evoked in Victorian images of factories ablaze at night, shown alongside an apocalyptic painting by John Martin. Industrial folk music, the incessant rhythms and racket of the factory floor, and heavy metal will also permeate the exhibition in sound installation and film.

I read this one in a couple of hours. I'm obviously biased. I love Jeremy Deller's work and i've always been fascinated by the Industrial Revolution. The artist clearly isn't the best writer in the world but some of the parallel he draws between now and then (in particular the working conditions in factories in Northern England at the time of the IR and today's culture of zero hour contracts) are worthy of consideration.

This is the publication that accompanies an exhibition of the same name. It's now up at the Manchester Art Gallery and i'll review in the coming days.

It's on amazon USA and UK.

Obviously, i enjoyed these books too in 2013.

Image on the homepage: Bio-artist Jalila Essaidi, who used Professor Randy Lewis's special spider-goat silk to create "bulletproof skin". Picture: AP Source: AP.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

Another focus on one of the artworks i discovered at the GAMERZ festival in Aix-en-Provence in October...

The Trophies from the 6th Continent are lifeless, plastic 'skins' of computer generated models found in 3D environments. Deflated of any volume nor life, they were hanging in the gallery of the Ecole d'Art of Aix-en-Provence like bloodless carcasses. Cimolaï tracked down these hunting preys on the 'sixth continent', the land of our 3D digital entertainment made of video games, special effects, post-production works, etc.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Installation view at the GAMERZ festival. Photo Luce Moreau

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Installation view at the GAMERZ festival. Photo Luce Moreau

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Luce Moreau

The concept and result are quite simple. Yet, they are brilliant. The empty plastic parts of vehicles are pitiful and you can't help feeling sorry for these former glories of the screen.

Scroll down if you want to read the original french version of Thomas Cimolaï's answers.

Hi Thomas! I read that the objects you brought into the gallery were originally protected by copyrights. Where did you find these objects? And why do you call them trophies?

The Trophies from the Sixth Continent constitute a fiction collection. The whole process is based on "an adventure story" developed from gestures made with a computer - vision, research, tracking, targeting, intrusion into forbidden territories and capture. The Sixth Continent is the land accessible through screens and through data transmission technology (in this case, internet). The collection includes the debris of computer generated objects found on the web and originally intended for video games and special effects.

Why was it important for you to engage with shapes protected by copy rights?

The attack on copyright is part of the game.


And once you've extracted these objects from their original universe, what remains of their copyright?

I think there's nothing left, just like their shape and their initial state. They are out of order :).

What was the creation process that led from 3D virtual forms to these deflated, miserable bits of flying engines? How did you make them?

I was surfing on the net looking for a hat for a project inspired by the novel The Invisible Man when some objects attracted my attention. Engines belonging to memories of television such as the Iraq war, games or mythical fictions (Airwolf , Platoon, etc.) and that were all destined to simulation in video games and movie post- production. There began a fiction where the challenge was to be the main mode of relationship to my subject. Once the objects had been acquired, I looked for the technical way to understand their construction so that, gradually, I could disassemble their mechanism, as if it were a dissection, an anatomy. Once they had been re-appropriated, I decided to push the craziness further. The objects were pulled out of the screens, their original environment, and I brought them back to the "real" sometimes on a one-to-one scale. By doing so, I could appreciate the availability of their heads, of their wheels and other means of traveling or of their antennas and other detection tools. They were stripped of their power.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

I fell really sorry for these objects. Am i slightly deranged or were you expecting these trophies to trigger some emotions in people?



There was absolutely no premeditation to cause emotions. I work with what I have in me, which is a certain way to look at issues related to freedom, to the industrial cultural object and to our relations with digital interfaces. This project embraces the concepts of play and power and also the desire to own. Everything is voluntarily orchestrated with symbolism and a mock-heroic tone.

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Thomas Cimolaï, Trophies from the Sixth Continent, 2010. Photo Patrick Galais

How do people used to see these objects 'alive' in video games react to the work?

They come not only from video games but also from special effects. The most recognized one is the big black head of the stealth aircraft called F-117 Nighthawk which first appeared in conflicts broadcast on TV and soon after in games Night Storm, Empire Earth or Zero Hour which I have not played. Then, because the collection is partitioned into categories relating to motor, sensory devices.... few people can remember which wheel, radar or reactor belongs to which vehicle. The younger generations tell me that "it's cool" or "that's interesting" and will see the logic of simulation and of video games pushed to their limits.

Merci Thomas!

------------------------------

Version française de l'entretien:

I read that the objects you brought into the gallery were originally protected by copyrights. Where did you find these objects? And why do you call them trophies?

Les trophées du sixième continent constituent une collection fiction. Toute la démarche est basée sur « un récit d'aventure » élaboré à partir des gestes effectués avec un ordinateur - vision, recherche, traque, ciblage, intrusion en territoires défendus et capture. Le sixième continent est le territoire accessible par les écrans et par les technologies de transmissions de données (ici, internet). La collection regroupe des dépouilles d'objets de synthèses trouvés sur la toile et destinés à l'origine aux jeux vidéos et aux effets spéciaux. 



Why was it important for you to engage with shapes protected by copyrights?

L'attaque du copyright fait partie du jeu.



And once you've extracted these objects from their original universe, what remains of their copyright?


Je crois qu'il n'en reste rien, comme de leur forme et de leur état initial. Ils sont hors service :).



What was the creation process that led from 3D virtual forms to these deflated, pitiful bits of flying engines? How did you make them?



J'étais sur le net à la recherche d'un chapeau pour un projet inspiré du roman de l'homme invisible quand certains objets ont attirés mon attention. Des engins appartenant à des souvenirs de télévision comme la guerre d'Irak, de jeux ou encore à des fictions mythiques (Supercopter, Platoon...) et qui avaient tous comme destinés la simulation dans des jeux vidéo ou la post-production cinématographique.
Une fiction où le défi serait le principal mode de relation à mon sujet commençait. Une fois les objets acquis, j'ai cherché le moyen technique d'en comprendre la construction pour petit à petit en démonter la mécanique, comme une dissection, une anatomie. Une fois réappropriés, je décidais d'aller plus loin dans le délire.
Les objets ont été extirpés de leur milieu initial, c'est-à-dire les écrans, et je les ai ramené dans le « réel » parfois à l'échelle un. Ainsi je pouvais apprécier la mise à disposition de leurs têtes, de leurs roues et autres moyens de déplacements ou encore de leurs antennes et autres outils de détection. Ils étaient défaits de leur pouvoir.

I fell really sorry for these objects. Am i slightly deranged or were you expecting these trophies to trigger some emotions in people?



Absolument pas d'émotions à provoquer de manière préméditée. J'ai fonctionné avec ce qui me constitue, c'est à dire un certain regard sur les questions liées à la liberté, à l'objet culturel industriel et à nos relations avec les interfaces numériques. Ce projet embrasse des notions de jeu et de puissance et aussi de désir de possession. Le tout mis volontairement en scène avec du symbolisme et sur un ton heroï-comique.



How do people used to see these objects 'alive' in video games react to the work?

Ils n'appartiennent pas seulement aux jeux vidéos mais aussi aux effets spéciaux. Celui qui est le plus reconnu est la grande tête noire de l'avion furtif dénommé Faucon de nuit - Nightfalcon f117 qui est d'abord apparu dans les conflits retransmis à la télévision puis a rapidement été le sujet des jeux Night Storm, Empire Earth ou encore Heure H auxquels je n'ai pas joué. Ensuite, comme la collection est compartimentée en catégories relatives à la motricité, aux appareils sensitifs..., peu de personnes peuvent se rappeler à quel véhicule appartient telle roue, telle réacteur ou encore tel radar. Les générations plus jeunes me disent que « c'est cool » ou encore « c'est intéressant » et y voient la logique de la simulation et des jeux vidéos poussés à leurs paroxysmes.

Merci Thomas!

Previously:
Constance, an installation in weightlessness.

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Trees, Woolsington, 1967-8 by Gordon Ryder of Ryder and Yates. Listed grade II. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century was a very small but enlightening exhibition that celebrated post-war listed architecture in England. I went to see the show one day before it closed so, for once, i have a good excuse for the ridiculously late review. It took place at the Quadriga Gallery, on the second floor of Wellington Arch right in the middle of Hyde Park Corner. I don't think i had ever been to Hyde Park Corner before.


Brutal & Beautiful: What is Brutalism?, one of the films by Alun Bull, James O Davies and Leon Seth about twentieth century listed buildings, written and presented by architectural historian, Elain Harwood

Brutal and Beautiful, thus. The images below speak for themselves and I won't need to comment much on the adjective 'beautiful', even if, for many people, their aesthetic qualities are somewhat debatable. But brutal, in this context, requires a few lines of explanation. It comes from the term New Brutalism coined by architects Alison and Peter Smithson in 1953 to define a style that used the béton brut (raw concrete) as much as it used light and innovative materials. The term probably contributed to the unpopularity of the style but in fact, what the Smithsons had in mind was not concrete aggressively poured all over the country but 'honesty of expression and of natural materials.' This is therefore not a show about brutalism even though the style has a strong presence in the gallery.

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Engineering Building, Leicester, 1961-1963 by Stirling and Gowan. Listed grade IIº. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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Centre Point, designed 1959-1962 by George Marsh of Richard Selfert and Partners, built in 1962-1966. Listed grade II. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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RAF Upper Heyford, 1950-1. Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

The exhibition presents brutal and beautiful cathedrals, libraries private houses, landscapes, war memorials, schools and industrial buildings. They were built between 1945 and the 1980s, in times of austerity and boldness. Each of them has been listed which means that they may not be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority. Buildings and landscapes can be considered for designation once they are 30 years old. Younger structures can be protected when they are under severe threat or are considered outstanding, that's how the Lloyd's building became the youngest listed edifice. And ultimately, the exhibition invites us to rethink what makes a historic building:

Now the Royal Festival Hall and Coventry Cathedral are popularly admired but at the time post-war listings were fiercely debated and the future Tate Modern was rejected. Brutal & Beautiful looks at our love/hate relationship with England's recent architectural past and asks 'what is worth saving?'

It's fascinating to see how buildings that have been much maligned are now seen as iconic. Think of the Trellick Tower --and the smaller but equally arresting Balfron Tower-- by Ernö Goldfinger, an architect as famous for his arresting council blocks as he is for his unpleasant character so much so that, as you probably know already, Ian Fleming named one of James Bond's villains after him.

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Trellick Tower, Cheltenham Estate, Kensington, 1968-1972 by Ernö Golfinger. Listed grade IIº

The Barbi! The upswept balconies, i read in the gallery, reduce wind resistance.

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Cromwell Tower, Barbican, City of London, 1964-1973 by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. Listed grade II. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

That said, all's not rosy and cheerful in the world of Brutalism. The Heygate Estate, in Elephant & Castle, provided the gloomy setting for violent scenes in the Luther tv series until its demolition started and John Madin's Birmingham Central Library will be teared down in 2014. But, hey, at least the the Preston Bus Station is doing ok.

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The Preston Bus Station, 1968-1969 by Keith Ingham and Charles Wilson of Building Design Partnership with E. H. Stazicker. Photo Dr Greg via wikipedia

And i'm going to leave you here with some brutal and not so brutal archi porn:

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Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

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British Gas Engineering Research Station, Killingworth, 1966-7. Designed by architect Peter Yates of Ryder & Yates. Listed Grade IIº. Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

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British Gas Engineering Research Station, Killingworth, 1966-7. Designed by architect Peter Yates of Ryder & Yates. Listed Grade IIº

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Lloyd's Building, City of London, 1981-1986 by Richard Rogers and Partners. Listed Grade I. Photo © James Davies, English Heritage

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Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, 1962-7 by Frederick Gibbero and Partners. Listed grade IIº

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Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool, 1962-7 by Frederick Gibbero and Partners. Listed grade IIº

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The Royal Festival Hall, London, 1949-51 by the London County Council. Listed grade I. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage

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Library (Phillips Building) to the School of Oriental and African Studies, 1964-1974 by Denys Lasdun and Partners. Listed grade IIº. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage

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Templewood School, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire County Council, 1949-1950. Job Architect A.W. Cleeve Barr. Listed Grade IIº. Photo via The Decorated School

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Rogers House, Wimbledon, City of London, 1981-86 by Richard Rogers and Partners. Listed grade I

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Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, London, 1960-4 by Denys Lasdun and Partners. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage


Brutal & Beautiful: The Royal College of Physicians, Regent's Park, London, designed by Sir Denys Lasdun. One of the films about twentieth century listed buildings, written and presented by architectural historian, Elain Harwood and screened at the exhibition Brutal and Beautiful

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Stockwell Bus Depot, 1951-3 by Adie, Button and Partners. Listed grade IIº. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage

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Stockwell Bus Depot, 1951-3 by Adie, Button and Partners. Listed grade IIº. Photo Courtauld Institute of Art

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Bracken House, City of London, 1955-9 by Albert Richardson for the Financial Times. Listed grade IIº

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Elliott School, Putney, 1953-6, by London County Council. Photo: James O Davies/English Heritage

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Apollo Pavilion at Peterlee in County Durham, 1963-1970 by Victor Pasmore. Listed grade II*. Photo James / cacophonyx

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B2 Prefab, 55 The Crapen, Cashes Green, Stroud, 1948

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Turn End, Buckinghamshire, built in 1967 by Peter Aldington. Photo James O Davies/English Heritage


Brutal & Beautiful: Peter Aldington and Turn End. Shot by photographers and filmmakers Alun Bull and James O Davies and screened at the exhibition Brutal and Beautiful

The photographs in the exhibition were by James O. Davies. They will appear in a forthcoming book, Space, Hope and Brutalism: English Architecture 1945-1975 which will be published next year by Yale University Press. I'll definitely get my hands on that one.

Related: Utopia London.

Brutal and Beautiful: Saving the Twentieth Century is thus closed. The next exhibition to open at the Quadriga Gallery, however, seems to be equally interesting: Almost Lost: London's Buildings Loved and Loathed. It will run from 4 December to 2 February 2014.

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Halley VI, Copyright A. Dubber, British Antarctic Survey. Image © Anthony Dubber

Last week i went to Manchester. I could never go too often to that city, especially when a number of exhibitions made another day in London less attractive. My first stop was for Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica at MOSI - Museum of Science & Industry.

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Google Street view of the geographic South Pole (image slashgear)

Ice Lab presents some of the most innovative and progressive examples of contemporary architecture in Antarctica, drawing together projects that not only utilise cutting-edge technology and engineering, but have equally considered aesthetics, sustainability and human needs in their ground-breaking designs for research stations.

The show focuses on some spectacular research structures but it also presents some of the most extraordinary scientific and geological characteristics of Antarctica. That's the bit that got most of my attention. Here's some of random facts i learnt while visiting the show:

Because of its extremely cold and dry climate, Antarctica is the closest analogue to an extraterrestrial site on Earth. The region is thus used to test technologies that might be used for Mars exploration. The NDX-1 is a planetary suit prototype designed by a team of graduate students lead by Pablo de León and mobility expert Gary L. Harris.

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The NDX-1 space suit

Nacreous clouds form only when temperatures in the high atmosphere drop below -85 degree Celcius. They might be beautiful but they also trigger the depletion of the ozone layer.

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Nacreous Clouds glowing in the winter sky above Rothera. Image British Antarctic Survey

The Antarctic Plateau, at 2800m high, is great place to observe planets and stars. The air is unpolluted and the atmosphere is stable and very dry. The geographic South Pole hosts a complex of telescopes that use wavelengths other than visible light to look for evidence of dark energy and for cosmic microwave signature left over from when the universe was formed.

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The South Pole Telescope built to investigate cosmic rays and explore dark matter. Photo Keith Vanderlinde / National Science Foundation (via Smithsonianmag)

Ice cores, obtained by drilling into an ice sheet or glacier, are formed of layers derived from snow that fell at a certain time, and each layer is like a time capsule. The bubbles of ancient air they contain reveal information about the past climate and environment, such as Palaeolithic weather patterns for example.

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A slice of an ice core showing trapped air bubbles. © British Antarctic Survey, Pete Bucktrout (via Discovering Antarctica)

The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are located in a polar desert blasted by ferocious winds. The harsh environment provides ideal circumstances for the creation of ventrifacts, geologic formations shaped by the forces of wind.

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Ventifacts in the Dry Valley. Photo by George Steinmetz via from Amazing photography

But let's get to the architectural part. The exhibition presents 5 case studies: Halley VI, UK (Hugh Brougton Architects) Princess Elizabeth, Belgium (International Polar Foundation), Bharati, India (bof architekten/IMS), Jang Bogo, South Korea (Space Group), and the Iceberg Living Station (MAP Architects), a speculative design for a subterranean station carved out of compacted snow.

Architects of the research stations face three main challenges: ensure inhabitants a pleasant working life sheltered from the harsh weather conditions, build a station that will be strong enough to withstand the Antarctic's onslaught and construct a structure that will have minimum environmental impact.

The featured projects are:

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Halley VI, Copyright A. Dubber, British Antarctic Survey. Image © Anthony Dubber

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Aerial view of Halley VI Research Station. Halley VI, Copyright A. Dubber, British Antarctic Survey. Image © Anthony Dubber

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Aurora above the Halley signpost. Halley VI, Copyright A. Dubber, British Antarctic Survey. Image © Anthony Dubber

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Halley VI Research Station in winter. Halley VI, Copyright A. Dubber, British Antarctic Survey. Image © Anthony Dubber

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Close-up view of Halley VI's legs. Halley VI, Copyright A. Dubber, British Antarctic Survey. Image © Anthony Dubber

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Fully operational since February 2013, the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects and engineered by AECOM (UK). Located on a floating ice shelf, the structure is the first fully relocatable polar research station, it is also self-sufficient, able to withstand freezing winter temperatures of minus 55ºC and has minimal impact on Antarctica's pristine environment.

Halley VI is built using modules supported by hydraulically driven legs with giant steel skis which allow the station to mechanically 'climb' up out of the snow every year. As the ice shelf the station is built on moves out towards the ocean, the modules can be towered by bulldozers further inland, to eventually be taken apart when the time comes.

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Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station © René Robert - International Polar Foundation

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Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station © René Robert - International Polar Foundation

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Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station. Photo © René Robert - International Polar Foundation

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The newly-discovered 9,000-strong emperor penguin colony on Antarctica's Princess Ragnhild Coast. Photo © International Polar Foundation/Alain Hubert

Belgium's Princess Elisabeth is the first zero-emission station in Antarctica. Perched on a nunatak, the aerodynamic stainless steel structure integrates renewable wind and solar energy, water treatment facilities, passive building technologies and a smart grid for maximising energy efficiency. It has no interior heating system.

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Polarlicht. Bharati.bof Architekten IMS.copyright NCAOR (National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research

Bharati Research Station India's third Antarctic research station by bof Architekten / IMS is made from 134 prefabricated shipping containers.

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Architect Impression: Jang Bogo / Space Group and KOPRI

Jang Bogo Korea, by Space Group (South Korea), will be one of the largest year-round bases on the continent when it opens in 2014, able to accommodate up to 60 personnel in the Summer.

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South Pole Section, Iceberg Living Station / MAP Architects © British Council Architecture Design Fashion

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MAP Architects, Iceberg Living Station. Animation made for Icelab Exhibition

Unsurprisingly, the speculative design for a research station was the one that seduced me the most.

Iceberg Living Station, the concept for a future research station by David Garcia / MAP Architects, would be made entirely from ice. The station would be holed out of a large iceberg, using caterpillar excavators that are traditionally used to clear snow. Icebergs have an average life span of about 12 to 15 years. The inhabitants would then leave the iceberg, taking with them all the energy and work infrastructure, "leaving only the architecture behind to melt away and be part of the oceans again," Garcia explained.

Finally, Torsten Lauschmann was showing two a new audio and light works, 'Whistler' and 'Ice Diamond', both commissioned for the exhibition.

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Torsten Lauschmann, Ice Diamond (still), 2013

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Torsten Lauschmann, Whistler (still), 2013

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View of the exhibition space. Photo Jo Fells

You can (and you should) download the free eBook version of Ice Lab catalogue.

Ice Lab: New Architecture and Science in Antarctica was curated by Sandra Ross of the Arts Catalyst and initiated by the British Council. The exhibition remain open at MOSI - Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester until 6 January.

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