Shuttle Hexagon Lensflare

Shuttle hexagon lensflare

During the first few minutes of the rather curious documentary Around the world in 60 minutes, shown recently on BBC Four, there is a stunning short sequence of the Space Shuttle Atlantis (mission STS-132) as filmed from the International Space Station.

As the shuttle slowly approaches the ISS, suddenly a myriad of iridescent hexagon lensflares flood across the screen. It's beautiful.

Here are some screen shots.

Shuttle hexagon lensflare
Shuttle hexagon lensflare
Shuttle hexagon lensflare
Shuttle hexagon lensflare
Shuttle hexagon lensflare
Shuttle hexagon lensflare

Red Mars

Since June 2010, six would be astronauts have been locked in a sealed capsule in research facility outside Moscow, pretending to fly to Mars.

Mars500
In probably the longest ever role-playing session ever attempted (and certainly beating the time some friends and I tried to play Dungeons and Dragons for a continuous 24 hour stretch), the six volunteers have been going through all the motions of a spaceflight to Mars (except the zero gravity), in a project called Mars500. The experiment is designed to test the stresses and strains that come with being locked in a box for 500 days, conducted at the [Institute of Biomedical Problems])http://www.imbp.ru/Mars500/Mars500-e.html).

Mars500

Mars500

Now, on Valentine's Day, Feb 14 2011, the Mars500 team will attempt a fake landing on Mars, and step out on the surface of the mock Red Planet - a Martian Potemkin village. They will explore the alien planet for 2 days, before climbing back inside the capsule for the 8-month flight 'home'. Once again the simulation has superseded the real.

Capricorn One
All this sounds identical to 1978 sci-fi movie Capricorn One, the basic premise of which was a faked manned mission to Mars. In this film, James Brolin, Sam Waterston and OJ Simpson manage to break out of the their film-set captivity into the desert, to try and reveal the deception that is being foisted upon the American people.

Capricorn One
The theme of a fake Soviet space mission was the subject of Victor Pelevin novel Omon Ra, published in 1992. Here, the protagonist believes he has flown to the moon only to discover himself in part of the Moscow Metro.

The Soviet Union has long been obsessed with the effects of long-term space travel, the Soyuz missions of the 80's and 90's to the Mir space station placing their cosmonauts on ever increasing mission durations and tests of human endurance. In 1992, Sergei Krikalev was aboard Mir when below him the Soviet Union collapsed, but that didn't stop him flying future missions to the International Space Station, and he holds the record for the most days spent in space, at 803 days.

Having lost the race to land on the Moon, the Soviet Union turned their attentions to Mars. It seems that while NASA were sending spacecraft further and further to explore the outer reaches of the solar system, the Soviets became ever more preoccupied with conquest and colonisation, rather than discovery. Pelevin used Omon Ra to illustrate the fixation of the Soviet establishment on "heroic achievements" which could be broadcast to the outside world. Mars500 is perhaps the latest continuation of this.

This post sponsored by Portakabin:
Modular construction

Cities and Cosmonauts

cosmonaut

The Cosmonaut is crowd-sourced and crowd-funded film from the Riot Cinema collective based in Spain.

They hope to create a feature length film with support from private funding. On the website there is currently a trailer, plus a host of supporting material, including a full script, and a full business plan. There's also an "aesthetic dossier" - a collection of related imagery from the Soviet space program, adding background and context to the project.

cosmonaut

The theme of the film, of a lost cosmonaut returning to earth to find everything changed, is a familiar enough theme, and there are also aspects of the script which reminded me of fictional works such of Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin, Gibson and Sterling's Red Star, Winter Orbit, Solaris, even Capricorn 1 or the eternal triangle of Jules et Jim; and real events from Soviet space history such as the death of Komarov, At its heart is the romance of the Soviet space program, a consensual hallucination, the belief that when you dream something hard enough you can make it happen.

cosmonaut

Much of the film is set in Star City, the cosmonaut training facility just outside Moscow, and the filmmakers, who have describe it as a like a movie set, hope to be able to film on location there.

The motif of The Cosmonaut film is a hummingbird, Kolibri, a fictional name given to Brezhnev's plan to land a Soviet on the Moon by 1970. As described here:

"Back came the ritual reply - a Soviet manned lunar landing must be achieved by the 100th Anniversary of the Birth of Lenin (April 22, 1970). On that date a Soviet man would plant the Red Banner and unveil a bust of Lenin on the lunar surface. Unlike the US President, Brezhnev would never get to see a manned launch to the moon."

cosmonaut

In the shop you can purchase merchandise and also make a donation to be a producer on the film, earning a mention in the credits. Currently they have about 2400 producers and 19% of the funding they require, so why not show your support of this exciting venture.

This is another in a series of posts on Kosmograd sponsored by Portakabin:

Prefabricated buildings from Portakabin.

Why 2010 wont be like '2010'

2010

In 1984, during the third quarter of Superbowl XVIII, Apple aired its infamous advert, directed by Ridley Scott, to launch the Apple Macintosh, and proclaimed that "1984 won't be like '1984'".

2010

Fast forward 26 years, and it's clear that 2010 won't be like '2010'.

Written by Arthur C Clarke in 1982, and made into a film in 1984 by Peter Hyams, '2010' is the sequel to '2001', and follows Dr Heywood Floyd (Roy Schieder), as he travels onboard the Soviet spacecraft Alexei Leonov to retrieve USS Discovery and try and revive HAL. The story is set against a backdrop of escalating nuclear tension between the two superpowers.

2010
2010
2010

Visually, while not as intoxicating or sensuous as Kubrick's masterful '2001' (about which I've written previously), '2010' is still a great film. I love the interior shots of the Leonov, aglow with thousands of brightly-lit buttons and instrument panels. The computers aboard the Leonov are tactile, push-button, and display crude (but charming) simple vectorised graphics.

2010
![2010] (http://www.kosmograd.com/newsfeed/images/2010/2010_07.jpg)
2010

But it's not just the Cold War that has faded in the interim, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I was watching a video of '2010' on an iPhone when I was suddenly struck by the dichotomy between the future presented on the screen and the future as it turned out, with the iPhone representing perhaps the definitive piece of technology of the current decade.

2010

Computers have become personalised, miniaturised, portals into another space - cyberspace. Released, like the film of '2010', in 1984, William Gibson's novel Neuromancer has been a far more potent vision of the future than Clarke's 'hard' sci-fi vision. Neuromancer represents a phase shift rather than simply a projection of contemporary technologies into the future. In many ways, Neuromancer helped define the future.

2010
2010

Unlike the computers of 2010, the computers in '2010' do not create space. The computers of the Leonov, and even HAL 9000 on the Discovery, are little more than tools or automatons, tactile and solid. Whereas HAL looked out into our world, today we look into the world created within the computer.

2010
2010

We've replaced the dreams of visiting other planets with the inner space of computer devices. Our focus has shifted from exploring outer space to the computer generated world of cyberspace.

As I write, the tech-press is building itself into a frenzied state of excitement speculating what the new Apple tablet, iSlate, or whatever is revealed at the launch event on Thursday 27th January 2010, might do to create a new paradigm for Human Computer Interface, the next evolution of personal computing technology. The horizon of our vision for technology is no longer interplanetary travel but multi-touch user interface designs.

Our ambition seems to have shrunk to the size of a touchscreen tablet. Expect a monolith of a very different kind.

City of signs 9

Logorama_01

Well covered by the blogerati, (such as here, here and here) but worth investigating further, Logorama is a short film by H5 that has been doing the recent round of film festivals including onedotzero, In the animation all characters, objects and buildings are represented by logos, the city of signs in the most literal way possible.

Logorama_02
Logorama_03

The film takes the concept that we are immersed in a saturated advertising landscape to its logical conclusion, the city becomes a brandscape of overlapping marks and symbols. The ubiquity of these logos as part of a collective visual consciousness has overtaken their role as badges denoting a product's provenance.

Logorama_04

A trailer can be watched here.


Previously:

Klushantsev

Without Pavel Klushantsev, Kubrick might never have made 2001.

Road to the Stars vs 2001

In 1954, Klushantsev, pioneering Soviet sci-fi film director, began working on a short film, part-documentary, part-visionary projection, about the Soviet conquest of space. The film follows a young man as he learns the basic principles of space flight, before the final parts of the film depict the launch of the first Soviet man in space, life on an orbiting space station, the first man to set foot on the moon, and concludes with the possibilities of colonising Mars.

You can watch the film online here.

Road to the Stars vs 2001

Road to the Stars vs 2001

In 1957 Sergei Korolev, the 'father' of the Soviet space program, proclaimed "the road to the stars is open" following the historic flight of Sputnik 1. Klushantsev quickly shot footage to represent this momentous occasion, and the film was released a month later.

Road to the Stars vs 2001

Road to the Stars is a delirious film, stunning in its prescience about many aspects of space exploration that would unfold over the next 40 years.The similarities between Road to the Stars and Kubrick's 2001 are obvious, and Kubrick was known to have been inspired by Klushantsev's film. Indeed, parts of 2001 can be considered a homage, or as this article states, a shot-for-shot copy.


[Slightly related, here's an article I wrote called Road to the Stars for Kino Fist about Baikonour and a space station called Kosmograd from the short story Red Star, Winter Orbit, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.]

City of Signs 8

Channel 4 idents

Channel 4 idents
Over the last few years the Channel 4 idents have become a ubiquitous presence for UK viewers, making it easy to take for granted their visual significance.

In these idents, the camera moves through a landscape - such as a brutalist housing estate, an American city, a Japanese city a series of pylons - which for a brief moment reveals itself as the Channel 4 logo.
Signs become fleeting structure, for an instance, structure is resolved into meaningful sign.

I've often daydreamed whether it would be possible for architects, urban planners and landscape designers to hide codes and signs into their creations, which would only be revealed when viewed from a certain position.

Google Earth has revealed new symbolism in buildings, such as this Navy base in California:

Navy building, California

In the meantime, there's always GeoGreeting.

Kosmograd


Previously:

Madin Men

Birmingham Central Library

image by Flickr user manicstreetpreacher

Thanks to Rob over at No. 2 Self, we can enjoy a remarkable TV programme, shot in 1965, one of a series called Six Men, profiling an architect from Birmingham, John Madin. Click here to watch it.

There has been a resurgence of interest in the work of John Madin since Birmingham City Council decided they were going to knock down one of his later works, the Birmingham Central Library. More on this below.

Back to Six Men. In this episode we see Madin striding purposefully towards his office, talking through plans with staff, presenting designs to clients, and enjoying time with his young children.

Six Men: John Madin

Six Men: John Madin

Six Men: John Madin

But it's the period touches that really stand out for me. The drawing boards, the blueprints, and especially the rampant smoking. Added to the casual sexism and disregard for secretaries, and it's easy to read Six Men: John Madin as a British architectural version of US hit TV show Mad Men.

Six Men: John Madin

Six Men: John Madin

Six Men: John Madin

Others have commented on the beautifully observed design touches of Mad Men, the TV show set in a New York advertising agency back in 1960. At the moment, designers seem to be in love with the mid-century aesthetic, with a yearning for the physicallity of Knoll furniture, IBM Selectric typewriters and a private office with your name on the door, contrasting against the ethereal placelessness of the laptop carrying, mobile-toting nomad, connected everywhere but inhabiting nowhere.

Mad Men

Mad Men

But why are advertising agencies such catnip for television producers, whereas architects seldom are? A mid-century Howard Roark/Don Draper character wowing clients with dazzling pitches, berating planners and haranguing contractors would surely be television gold. With the conflict between his beautiful Modernist house and family, and his trysts with the wives of his clients, why the scripts would almost write themselves.

But what of Birmingham Library? It's an intriguing building, an inverted ziggurat of gray concrete and glass. But at ground level it has never really worked, due to cost-cutting measures it was never fully realised according to Madin's design. My memory of it from the 80's was an empty windswept concourse, occupied only by puddles and the occasional skateboarder.

Paradise Circus

In the 90's, a bridge was built across the Paradise Circus roundabout, part of a long overdue strategy to free Birmingham from the stranglehold of its inner ring road. This linked Broad Street and Centenary Square, with the Rep Theatre, International Convention Centre and Symphony Hall, to the rest of the City Centre, turning the area underneath the library into a thoroughfare. This area was then decked out with a rather naff assortment of shops and cafes - Wetherspoons and McDonalds anyone? - another missed opportunity to make some special in this intriguing void.

The new library, to be designed by the excellent Dutch practice Mecanoo, is to sit between Baskerville House, and the Rep Theatre, while the old library is to be demolished to make way for more commercial development that will fund the new library and further development of Centenary Square.

Birmingham Library

I've no doubt that Mecanoo's new library building will be exquisite, as long as the Council don't start interfering in its design. But, regardless of what you think of Madin's building, demolishing the old Central Library won't solve the problem that exists between Centenary Square and the City Centre. It is the other buildings around the library that are the problem. Opening up the site to commercial development has already given us two hideous black-glazed hotels, and a building (the triangular building on the north corner of Paradise Circus - I think it was originally built for Barclaycard) so unspeakably awful that it makes me sick in the mouth just thinking about it. It's as if someone found a secret Ugly command in AutoCad - Ctrl-Alt-Shift-U - and kept hitting it repeatedly.

Birmingham Library

image by Flickr user kevin_r_boyd

Take a look at this picture and think which building you think should be demolished. I'm sceptical that selling the land on which the current library sits, for commercial development, is the way create a unified public realm between Centenary Square through to Chamberlain Square and the rest of Birmingham City Centre. But then Birmingham always seems to find a way to shoot itself in the foot.

Tower Bawher

Tower Bawher

Tower Bawher

I know it's been around for a while now, but I couldn't mention Tatlin's tower without referencing the amazing animation Tower Bawher by Theodore Ushev. In a hyperkinetic homage to Soviet Constructivism, a tower is built, set to the strident score of "Time, Forward', by Georgy Sviridov.

While there are clips of the animation available on YouTube, the best quality version can be found on the Canadian National Film Board Animation Day site.

There's also a great interview with Ushev here.