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Showing posts from September, 2012

Book Review: "Theory and Design in the First Machine Age"

Reyner Banham's Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) is an engaging overview of the important theoretical developments of the early 20th century leading up to the "International Style" of the 1930s-40s.  Banham does a fairly good job, in my opinion, of avoiding excessive editorializing, although he has a clear viewpoint on the Modern Movement and finishes with a strong conclusion.  In opposition to his teacher, Nikolaus Pevsner, whose own history of modernism came out in 1936, Banham dismantled the "form follows function" credo that became the stereotype of modernism, arguing instead that formalism (a preoccupation with style and aesthetics) was an important, if not overriding, concern of Modern architects.  Two sections of the book struck me in particular: his analysis of Le Corbusier's famous book Vers une architecture (Toward a [new] architecture) from 1923, and his Conclusion (chapter 22), where he breaks the link between functionalism and …

New Technologies and Swiss Trains

This August, I attended an international architecture workshop at the i2a (International Institute of Architecture) House in Vico Morcote, Switzerland.  A joint project of Columbia University, the Politecnico di Milano and the University of Shanghai, the workshop focused on how we can use digital technologies in tandem with existing infrastructure (in this case, a small commuter rail line) to enhance our experience of urban space.  My Italian partner, Giovanni Nardi, and I proposed a large-scale parcourse for the train line to provide commuters with an easy way to take their daily exercise and meet people.  Each station would have a different fitness activity, as well as showers, lockers, and amenities to facilitate exercise; the train itself would have an exercise car with stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and other equipment that could be used en-route.  To encourage commuters to meet up and form athletic teams, we proposed a smartphone application that would show what facilit…

Television Review: "Doctor Who"

I'm officially obsessed with the BBC's Doctor Who, the world's longest-running sci-fi show with 784 episodes as of this writing.  To be honest, I didn't know live-action television could be that good!  All my previous shows have ended in disappointment.  Firefly was good but was too short-lived to keep my attention.  House had great dialogue and an interesting plot device (medical detective story ftw!) but devolved into senseless drama unsuitable to such a logical main character.  Young Indiana Jones is fun for the history, but the acting is only so-so; Macgyver is hilariously campy but that's about all it's got.  MST3Kis really a series of movies, not a real show.  All the other shows of which I've willingly watched more than a couple of episodes have been animated.  Doctor Who is, like, awesome.  It combines all the things I want in my mindless entertainment: problem-solving, fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, futurism, technobabble, plot continuity (…