City of Signs 4

Sao Paolo No Logo

The recent advert for Sky Movies is beautifully shot across the Brazilian city of São Paulo, that recently decreed to remove all billboards. It is inspired by Tony de Marco's São Paulo No Logo photographs, (Flickr set here), as previously written about here.

It is an advert celebrating non-advertising.

The imagery of the city scape presented is depicted as a purer, simpler urban realm, a rather surreal landscape of blank spaces and empty billboards.

As Ads without products points out, this could be the opening sequence to a psychological thriller much more interesting than 90% of the films Sky Movies show.

"And even better, way better, is that the damned thing looks like the opening sequence of an absolutely incredible (and a good deal more horrifying, to many in the wider audience, than Cloverfields, which isn’t very horrifying at all) of a very different sort of speculative fiction, one about a specter lurching back from the place where dismissed specters go in order to decapitate the idols of the era, break open the walls of the buildings in the expensive neighborhoods, and leave most bedazzled and exhilarated at the sweep of violence that has rubbled so many things we thought could never go, that we believed, despite ourselves, that the world simply couldn't live without."


Re-presenting Hadid

Hadid Silver Painting

Hadid Silver Painting

Hadid Silver Painting

Here are a few recent paintings by Zaha Hadid, from a show at the Galerie Buchmann. (see Flickr set here). There were also some of these silver prints on display at the recent Zaha retrospective at the Design Museum.

While visually stunning, they are little more than a striking way of re-presenting computer renderings, rather than design explorations. Does the act of producing these images change the design approach?

The place of design is now within the computer, not the drawing.

These paintings are pure surface.

"The Silver Paintings are executed on a polyester skin treated with chrome and gelatine then mounted on to an aluminium DI-BOND to resemble polished metal.

Different media are used depending on the desired effect. Stained glass paint offers transparency while acrylic and Chinese lacquer generate opaqueness. UV-resistant ink combined with vinyl gives the highest degrees of reflectivity. These techniques combine to suggest a gradual intersection between reflectivity and opacity, from one architectural feature to the next."

Decon in Decay

Few things illustrate the schism between built and graphic representation in architecture more profoundly than some down at heel deconstructivism.


This image, posted by Flickr user 'thegoatisbad', of Zaha Hadid's Landscape Formation 1 (aka LF-1, LFOne and Landesgartenschau) at Weil am Rhein, has attracted a fair bit of attention in the rarified atmosphere of the architectural blogosphere. It causes Douglas Murphy over at ENTSCHWINDET UND VERGEHT 'problems'.

"it does bother me when this spatial language is just the unintended byproduct of some shitty acrylic paintings."





See more images from goatisbad's Flickr collection here.

It's a disturbing image because it gives the work a history, rather than existing in a kind of continuous Suprematist present. It also, inevitably shows the slippage that occurs between 2D architectural speculation (eg drawings, renderings, animations etc), and 3D built form.



It also seems strange that a seminal early work (it even has a book dedicated solely to it) by such a celebrated architect as Zaha would have been let go to seed, seemingly unloved and uncared for, to such an extent, just 10 years after it was completed. A fuzzy, jerky video on YouTube tours the building and lingers over pitted concrete, stained walls, weed-ridden surrounds, and one solitary piece of graffiti.

Hadid's early built works are crude attempts to translate the language and energy of the drawings and paintings into buildings, often constructed cheaply and with little regard for detailing or longevity.

Only in more recent projects such as the Phaeno centre and the BMW Central Building is there an exploration and focus on the materiality of concrete. Conversely the drawings accompanying these projects are much more prosaic - one gets the impression that these buildings are not the result of a design process fuelled by wildly visionary drawings.

In the Source Books in Architecture on the BMW Central Building, Patrik Schumacher of ZHA calls the BMW Central Building a 'field project', and traces the lineage of it back to the LF1 building:

"BMW continues investigations begun in earlier projects such as the Contemporary Arts Center in Rome and the LF1 project in Weil am Rhein. Each of these projects deals with eh organization of a number of trajectories over different levels, with the complexity that arises from these trajectories crossing and intersecting, and with the spatial experience of moving through them."

But while LF-1 is pure composition turned into a building, a drawing made flesh, the BMW building (which was the winner of a competition) was always designed to get built. Its composition arises to fulfil programmatic functional requirements, on a tight, restrictive plot.

The series of drawings and computer renderings of the BMW central building, fascinating thhough they are, bear this out. Only a few characteristic squiggle sketches show any sense of 'artistic' rather than programmatic composition. There is much more concern about materials, textures and details.

BMW and Phaeno are buildings first, theoretical playgrounds second. Hadid certainly does concrete a lot better now. LF-1 was an architectonic composition that had the fortune (or misfortune) to get built. Desperate to avoid the epithet of being a "paper architect", most architects seek the legitimisation of having a project built.

Which leaves LF-1 as some kind of bastard offspring that no-one wants to know. Now windswept, graffitied, and with weeds poking through the terrain, it looks rather forlorn. How well it works as an operating building is unknown.

That LF-1 is now a landmark of 'accidental brutalism' might perhaps gives it a second act, as a posterchild of decon in decay.

341 images of Hugh Ferriss

Hugh Ferris

Hugh Ferris

For your viewing pleasure, I have created a Flickr set of 341 images of drawings by Hugh Ferriss.

They are taken from the collection available online at the Avery Libary of Columbia University, where you can also download scalable high-resolution .SID files.

What this Flickr collection does is allow you to easily view the stunning work that Ferris churned out during a career spanning 40 years as the foremost architectural delineator or perspectivist in the USA.

If this doesn't inspire you to dig out the pencils this Christmas and start drawing, then nothing will. Happy Holidays from Kosmograd!

36 posters by Willi Kunz

Willi Kunz montage

Whilst browsing the MOMA recent acquisitions site, as you do, I noticed that 39 Posters by Willi Kunz,, created for Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation lecture series, have been added to the MOMA collection.

These brought back some powerful memories. I saw them pinned up at college by a tutor who must have been on Columbia's mailing list - I knew I should have pinched them off the wall. And I was in New York in 1990 and went to the Jean Baudrillard lecture shown here.

I've created a Flickr set of 36 of them. Taken as a whole they are quite overwhelming, too much to take in - I find myself sucking for air. Poring over them individually, you can see a master at work, a perfect blending of typographic control and expressive composition.

Willi Kunz posters for Columbia GSAPP

Willi Kunz. (American, born 1943). Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Lecture Series Fall 1984. 1984. Lithograph, 24 x 12" (61 x 30.5 cm). Gift of the designer

As Ellen Lupton wrote in an essay originally intended for Kunz' book Micro + Macroaesthetics:

"Kunz explained in Octavo, “Through the translation of architectural elements into typography, the posters present a visual summary of the quality and spirit of the events they announce.” In a series of posters for architectural lectures and exhibitions at the GSAPP, this act of “translation” takes form through grid-like geometric frameworks, partially filled in with color or expressed with rules, which serve both to create abstract compositions and to organize information. Kunz uses typographic bars and the play of positive and negative space to suggest metaphoric “floors” and “foundations,“openings in a wall surface, and symbolic staircases.

Kunz began designing this series of bi-annual posters in 1984. The series, which Kunz continues to produce today, is a remarkable document of one designer’s work for a single client over more than a decade. The posters’ consistent format and precise focus link them into a coherent sequence, while allowing Kunz remarkable room for variation. It is fascinating to watch his use of color, form, and typography shift to reflect changing ideas in the architectural world."

Wireframe London

Wireframe London

Wireframe London

Wireframe London

I picked up a CD at Tate Modern recently, featuring a wireframe representation of central London, animated by Cian Plumbe, with various landmarks highlighted, the river the only solid. By rendering the wireframe lines as 3-dimensional tubes, it turns the crude wireframe into a stylised graphic representation, whilst still symbolising something nascent, not yet fully formed.

These kind of wireframe animations offer a powerful antidote to the bland, polished photo-realistic computer graphics that abound in most architectural representation, caught in a fallacious trap of trying to mimic reality. A wireframe makes no such claims, and as such, allows us to project our own realities onto it.

Wireframe London

Wireframe London

Wireframe London