The 300 Year Time Bomb

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Published on : 2012-07-17 10:43:18

This one might be the last project i'll blog from the Design Interactions graduation show.


Diego Trujillo had two interesting projects in the exhibition. The main one was The Generated Man, a software work that flips around the way Google usually creates a digital persona of web users based on their previous behaviour.

For some abstruse reason, i decided that i'd focus on his other project: the 300 Years Time Bomb. There's something both disquieting and strangely appealing about a bomb engineered to explode in exactly 300 years time. Even if none of us will be there to experience it.

The bomb's timer displays the years in seconds making us question what meaning such a large number holds and changing our dramatic relationship with countdown timers.

The explosive is found 100 years after countdown is initiated, by this time it has acquired historical importance and is put on display in a blast proof building. Several generations await for the moment when it finally goes off in this controlled and safe environment. Time and efficient electronics make the nature of the explosive change from an immediate threat to a spectacular display.


Extracts of a Q&A with Diego Trujillo:

300 Years Time Bomb sounds like an action movie to me. Not just the title but also the drama, the fact that it is found 100 years after countdown has started. hence two questions:
One: Was cinema an influence at any point in this project?

The project is in fact very influenced by film, specially the design of the bomb as an object. I realized that the image of a bomb most of us have comes from action film. Real explosives are reserved to such a small portion of the population that most of us don't know what they might look like. Hence, common concepts of a bomb rely on fiction.

After I choose a time bomb as an illustration to talk about time, my research focused on the many ways bombs and countdowns are shown on films. This research is broad enough to write a book on. Some of my favourite explosion countdown scenes are from Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage, the card countdown from Last Action Hero and the spherical bomb rolling down the stairs in The Shadow. However I decided for a more standard Die Hard style or 007 explosive, as they tend to be easier to read objects in which the detonation mechanism can be read on the design.


And Two: The project comes thus with the skeleton of a scenario. Do you want us to fill in the gaps and think about who created this bomb, to what purpose and why wait 300 years? Or did you elaborate a longer scenario?

There was originally a longer scenario. I consciously cut the maker and the purpose of the bomb out of the project as I felt it was getting too political. The same happened when I thought who would make a building to display it. The risk with a detailed scenario was that the focus could shift to a broader debate on terrorism, warfare, politics and economics rather then time. I feel there are many interesting implications that the existence of such an object would have, but I felt it was more interesting for an audience to imagine them under their own ideological standing rather then run the risk of going off topic.

Why wait 300 years was a question I answered quite thoroughly, but again it added many layers which were hard to fit in a gallery based installation. Several ideological and political stands are represented in architectural structures that do last hundreds of years. To a radical mind, many of these buildings would represent a threat to future generations. Another scenario would be manufacturing a perfect crime, if the explosive goes off after the maker has died and has been forgotten then there isn't even a suspect. Once more I felt that these two scenarios could be projects on their own and that there were enough elements for people to make up their own stories.


Sorry for the silly questions but is this a working prototype?

As much as humans enjoy seeing things blow up, this is not a working prototype. I don't have the knowledge or materials required to make a real explosive. I do like that it is convincing enough for this question to get asked though.

What will happen to the time bomb after the show, are you planning to keep it at your house? put it in a super safe place in case an accident happens? (i guess this question makes sense only if you answer 'yes' to the previous question.)

I will keep it in my house. Since it is not a working bomb I am not worried about accidents. However, the home I will store it in is in Mexico City meaning that getting it on an air plane could get a bit tricky, I still have to figure that out.


I suspect that as an interactions designer you're quite comfortable with working with electronics. But with this time bomb, you had to think extra long term. Pieces of electronics are usually not meant to last more than a few years or decades in some cases. So did you change anything in the way you worked, the materials you used, knowing it would have to last 300 years?

This was the thing I spent the most time with. I had to make electronics that would at least be perceived to last 300 years. The first thing I thought about was the battery (represented by a glass cylinder filled with black liquid). I found an experimental battery being developed at MIT called Cambridge Crude which is supposed to be efficient at storing and delivering electricity.

Then I thought about the display. This is where most of the attention would be as this is where the concept of the project is represented. I had to redesign the standard 7-segment display in a way that it would be read as energy efficient for my scenario to be plausible. I started designing a typeface based on it being energy efficient rather than readable or elegant.

When I started looking for materials to manufacture this, I came across organic LEDs (OLEDs) which are very energy efficient and can be printed in any shape. They are however still very experimental technology. By chance, I met with people from Polyphotonix, a U.K. based OLED company that sponsored and manufactured the display. They made all the individual panels for it by printing the OLED compounds onto conductive glass, this was particularly hard to connect as glass cannot be soldered and I had to come up with a mechanical way of getting electricity to the glass.

The nice thing about using custom made OLEDs is that they are very different from any existing display. Not being a standard part, no one really knows how long they'll last so the scenario becomes plausible as a result of looking at a new technology that people aren't used to seeing.


Your text says "The bomb's timer displays the years in seconds making us question what meaning such a large number holds and changing our dramatic relationship with countdown timers." could you explain in more details what you mean by that?

Being heavily influenced by action films, I realized that any countdown timer has a dramatic element to it. That was the first thing I explored when I thought of the bomb, how will the suspense hold for so long? That would be the first effect very long lasting electronics would have on this system. I made a short animated video early in the project to explore how that 5-4-3-2-1 moment would collapse when the countdown has a massive number on display.

Thanks Diego!
All images courtesy DIego Trujillo.

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The London Festival of Photography (part 2)

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Published on : 2012-07-16 10:39:57

The London Festival of Photography (part 1)

Michelle Tran, Vince, 2010

0abearded lady.jpg
Lantern image of a happy couple c. 1900 (identity unknown)

The London Festival of Photography is one of my favourite events in town. The theme this year was as broad as it can get: Inside Out: Reflections on the Public and the Private. I've seen a magic lantern performance, archive photos of Libya before and during Gaddafi's regime, documents from Apartheid era South Africa, a photo film of the world's biggest event for dog lovers. Some of the festival 18 exhibitions and 30 events were hosted in London's most famous institutions (Museum of London, British Library, British Museum, Tate Modern, the V&A, etc.), some of which relegated the festival exhibitions to a wall by the entrance or a room you could access only when it wasn't booked for some symposium or reception. Fortunately, independent galleries did a more laudable work.

Peter Dench, from the series DrinkUK

Most of the exhibitions are now closed. Except these four! Here's a quick roundup of the ones i've seen:

Starting with what will hopefully be my only reference to the Olympics: Gymnasium by Tarryn Gill & Pilar Mata Dupont.

Do me a favour and watch this one on full screen mode:

The film is a direct reference to Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl's film documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The aesthetics and the innovative motion picture techniques developed by Riefenstahl are almost universally admired. Her connection with the Third Reich, however, don't draw much sympathy.

Gymnasium transposes fascist aesthetic to comment on Australian nationalism. The artists hired 20 actors and dancers to perform as proud ''athletes'' participating in a mid-century-style choreography. They wear forced smiles, stiff haircuts and bodies slightly heavier than the ones of contemporary's athletes.

You have until Friday 20 July to go to Photofusion and watch the full version of the film. It's part of Hijacked III, a survey exhibition of photographic talents from Australia and the United Kingdom.

Evgenia Arbugaeva, Astronaut on Neptune or Tanya wears snow mask, January 2011

Evgenia Arbugaeva, Tanya being Jacques-Yves Cousteau, January 2011

Next is the hardest show to find ever! But it was worth the search. Evgenia Arbugaeva was born in the the small Siberian town of Tiksi. She wrote: In the days of the Soviet Union, Tiksi was an important military and scientific base. People came from all over the country, some driven by employment opportunities, and others driven by a romantic dream of the far North. As the introduction implies, although the town is very far north and surrounded by vast expanses of tundra, there was an abundance of beauty. After the fall of the USSR my family, along with many others, boarded the windows of our home and left for a bigger city.

The photographer went back to Tiksi last year. She found an almost abandoned town and asked Tanya, a young girl in awe of Jacques Cousteau, to be her guide to Tiksi. This year, Tanya's family will leave Tiksi too. They see no future in the small town and plan to move to a larger city.

Evgenia Arbugaeva, Weather balloon on Polar meteorological station, January 2011

Evgenia Arbugaeva, from the series "Tiksi"

Evgenia Arbugaeva, from the series "Tiksi"

The Guardian gallery had an exhibition of Steve Bloom's rarely (and in some cases never) seen photographs from the mid 1970's South Africa.

1976 was a critical year in South African history. The first real cracks in the apartheid system of racial segregation appeared when black school children took to the streets to protest against new laws, which had been introduced to reinforce an inferior education system. The authorities struck back ruthlessly, killing and wounding many defenseless children.

Steve Bloom, Segregated beach, Sea Point, Cape Town, 1976

Steve Bloom, Woman at home, Western Cape, 1976

Steve Bloom, Cape Town, 1976. An Idi Amin lookalike, wearing fake medals, takes part in a parade. The brutal Ugandan dictator was often cited by South Africans as a justification for white rule

Steve Bloom, Teargas, Grand Parade, Cape Town, 1976

Steve Bloom, Crossroads, 1977

One of the main exhibitions in the festival was titled The Great British Public because, you know, everything British has suddenly become 'great' in the UK: the food, the landscape, the music festival.

It was also great photo documentary. Great British photo documentary that celebrates the idiosyncrasies of life in the UK. The photo below is actually too english to be true: the main protagonist in Martin Parr's photo is a performer dressed as a bobby, standing in a mock street in the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, Midlands.

Martin Parr, Dudley, The Black Country, England

Arnhel de Serra toured the U.K.'s agricultural shows. His series, When The Sun Sets Over The Royal, shows that agricultural shows are not just for farmers anymore. They provide an entertaining escape for urban dwellers.

Arnhel de Serra. From the series "When The Sun Sets Over The Royal"

Arnhel de Serra, The Edenbridge and Oxted Agricultural Show, 2008. From the series "When The Sun Sets Over The Royal"

Arnhel de Serra, Peterborough. The East of England Country Show, 2006. From the series "When The Sun Sets Over The Royal"

Nick Cunard's audio slide portrays the working day of an ice cream van man. Mr Whirly aka Ron Sutherland of Chard in Somerset maintains a sunny disposition in spite of the gloomy economic climate, price busting supermarkets, distracted customers and another seemingly crap British summer!

MR WHIRLY [1280X720] from nick cunard - stills moving on Vimeo.

Giulietta Verdon-Roe presents a dramatic portray of rural life. She documented the sharp decline of population in North Ronaldsay, the northernmost islands of Orkney, in Scotland. On her first visit in 2008, the island had 63 inhabitants with four children in the school. When she traveled back to the island two years later, the population had dropped to 51. The school was open but there were no children to teach. And the owner of the only pub couldn't sell drinks because of the prohibitive costs of the government licensing laws.

Giulietta Verdon-Roe, from the series As you are

75 years ago, J B Priestley published English Journey, a study of England in 1933. The writer shared his observations on the social problems he witnessed while touring the country, and called for democratic socialist change. Photographer John Angerson recently set out to follow in Priestley's footsteps to document an England facing recession, homogenisation, celebrity culture and technology addiction.

John Angerson, Repatriation procession, Royal Wotton Bassett. 2011. The bodies servicemen and women fallen during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are transported from RAF Lyneham and pass through the town of Wootton Bassett on their way to the coroner in Oxford

John Angerson, Rob Brown, Deputy Manager of Campanile French Hotel Chain, Leicester

As the title of the series suggest, Hackney - A Tale of Two Cities by Zed Nelson, shows the two faces of a neighbourhood that is associated with gang culture and dereliction, but has also recently become London's trendiest neighbourhood.

Mourners leave flowers and cards at the murder scene of Agnes Sina-Inakoju, who was killed by a gunshot fired through the window of a fast food restaurant in Hackney. The gunman, 21 years old and riding a bicycle, was trying to scare a rival youth gang. - Zed Nelson

Orthodox Jews in Stoken Newington, Hackney. London. - Zed Nelson

Girl, Kingsland Road, Hackney, London. - Zed Nelson

The Museum of London asked visitors to send them information about Frederick Wilfred's shots of London in the years 1957-62.

Frederick Wilfred, Battersea Power Station (1925-2010)

Frederick Wilfred, Butcher looking through his shop window

They were donated to the museum by Wilfred's son after the death of the photographer. Most of them had never been shown before and they came with little to no comment about the scenes and people portrayed. They depict a London slowly emerging from the aftermath of WWII.

Don't miss their fundraising auction on 19 July! I'm really annoyed i can't get there.

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Book review: The Sky's the Limit - Applying Radical Architecture

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Published on : 2012-07-12 10:50:37

0a9ges4229-z.jpgThe Sky's the Limit - Applying Radical Architecture, edited by Robert Klanten, Sven Ehmann and Sofia Borges.

Available on amazon UK and USA.

Publisher Gestalten writes: Thanks to innovations in building materials, design technologies, and construction tools, a new generation of architects can finally realize structures that would have previously remained mere dreams. This emergence of a new vernacular of radically sculpted buildings, rooms, and installations melds rigorous usability with a playful and cutting edge aesthetic, facilitating highly functional yet undeniably exhilarating spaces.

The Sky's the Limit serves as a compelling exploration of these seemingly impossible, yet surprisingly practical structures and spaces. Unleashing the creative potential offered by the latest developments in design and construction, this book presents spectacularly formed buildings, façades, and interiors as well as inspiring temporary projects and urban interventions by both young and established talents. The projects featured here have all been built, are actively in use, and transport us to the outer limits of our spatial imagination.

Clémence Eliard and Elise Morin, WasteLandscape, Paris. Image ©Martin Eliard

The Sky's the Limit - Applying Radical Architecture shows architecture that defies inhibition and doctrines but its 'radical' element shouldn't be confused with the critical investigations of Archigram or Superstudio. Many of the buildings presented in the book have been commissioned by major cultural, political and religious institutions and by business organizations. They act as striking symbols of their power. Given the high number of ambitious buildings erected in Spain, one can also suspect that they were commissioned and financed long before the crisis that is bringing Europe to its knees.

One thing is sure though, every single building in the book is arresting, unique and worthy of more newspaper columns than The Shard and other candidates in the race for tallest skyscraper.

The chapters in the book divide radical architecture into:
- Organic Flow with buildings that twist and turn, bend and undulate.
- Sharp Structures is all about angles, edges and geometrical volumes.
- Smarter Surfaces, the ones we've been reading about for years are finally applied to the façades of sports halls, museums and office blocks. The technology is impressive, the result is not always pleasing to the eye.
- Internal Affairs because there's no reason why innovation should stop at the façade.
- and Point of View is all about architecture that learns from the nature it has invaded.

The Sky's the Limit is a collection of cutting-edge buildings. And it is a remarkably well-curated collection. But don't expect detailed descriptions of the technology used, of the challenges encountered or the impact the building had on the people who work inside it or live around it. This is a coffee table book, theory is scarce.

Another thing! This is probably not the place for such comment: but why is architecture literature suddenly so fond of the preposition 'atop'?

Still, i loved that book, its content is magnificent. Quick selection:

Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world's first commercial space terminal.



Foster + Partners, Spaceport America, New Mexico. Photo © Nigel Young/Foster + Partners

Invisible from a distance, the Moses Bridge is a wooden passageway that parts a river in two.

RO&AD Architecten, Moses Bridge, Bergen op Zoom, NL. Photo © RO & AD Architects

The terminal, control tower and storage spaces of the Aeroport Lleida-Alguaire are drawn in a continuous line, forming a single construction.


b720 Fermin Vazquez Arquitectos, Lleida-Alguaire Airport, Spain

A playground structure turned into a joyous pavilion covered in funhouse mirrors and wood panels.


MLRP, Mirror House, Copenhagen, Denmark. Image © Laura Stamer

Twelve buildings shaped like archetypal houses and stacked upon one another.

Herzog & de Meuron, VitraHouse, Weil am Rhein. Photo by Iwan Baan © vitra

The 4-story building has plants in lieu of a façade, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows and curtains to make up for the absence of interior walls.

Office of Ryue Nishizawa, Garden & House, Tokyo

On the coastal border between Turkey and Georgia:

J. MAYER H. Architects, Sarpi Border Checkpoint, Sarpi, Georgia. Photo © Jesko Malkolm Johnsson-Zahn

A concerte building for the employees of the Paris transportation system. Shaped like a ship with round windows.


Stéphane Maupin, RATP Formation Center, Paris

Twisting staircase:

UNStudio, MUMUTH House for Music and Music Theater, Graz, Austria. Photo © Christian Richters

Ordos Museum is covered in metal tiles that can stand violent sandstorms.

MAD, Ordos City Museum, Inner Mongolia, China

Little Hilltop with Wind View, a 8 meter-tall viewing tower commissioned by a Japanese wind power company, allows people to admire the landscape as well as the company's wind turbines. The light and flexible building is also responsive to the wind, swaying slightly on its platform when the wind blows. Like a tree in the breeze.


Shingo Masuda, Katsuhisa Otsubo & Yuta Shimada, Little Hilltop with Wind View

Views inside the book:







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HMPark Life, the new panopticon

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Published on : 2012-07-10 11:50:43

Alexander Kalli's graduation project for the Architecture department ADS3
 at the Royal College of Art offers a provocative reflection on the punishment system in the UK.

HMPark Life was triggered by the reaction to last Summer's England Riots: the public wanted to see the looters severely punished, courts were advised to hand out tough sentences, the Daily Mail suggested that incarceration might not be enough since -they wrote- prisons are little more than 'holiday camps' and the government stepped in with the proposal to subject inmates to 40-hour working weeks.

HMPark Life is a radically new type of prison that would be built in the middle of London. The project questions this drive to turn a prison population into a cheap labour force - one that works not just to provide skills to inmates in the name of 'rehabilitation' but forces offenders to be both visibly productive and punished to quench the public's ever-present blood thirst for justice.

The prison is modeled on the concentric circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno: the higher the offense, the harsher the punishment and the deeper within the Earth the sinner is sent.

Prison Canyon Section

At HMPark Life, the gradation of current UK prison security categories reflect this gradual increase in offense and need for security. The architecture of the prison pushes the analogy even further: it is built deep into the ground, with the most dangerous offenders finding themselves at the bottom of the structure. But the project also introduces an element of spectacle with the possibility for the public to come during their leisure time and gape at the prisoners.

With high security at the deepest point climbing up to an open prison at the surface of the offender-made canyon, this seeping of the prison into the well-healed high street of Herne Hill provides moments of inmate / outsider interaction in the form of a theatre, library and workshops. A public viewing platform perched on the prison main's circulation core provides an ideal point from which to survey the throng of productive inmates, leaving the public with the sense of satisfaction. This is the new panopticon.


I had to interview the young architect who brought Dante Alighieri and the Daily Mail in such close contact:

Hi Alexis! The project seems to be a reaction to last year's riots. Did any other event, piece of news, aspect of social or political life inspire the project?

While writing my dissertation, investigating the physical implications of Michel Foucault's 'Heterotopias', which are a series of principles that define the nature of what creates deviant/ synchronised/ paradoxical/ time based/ exclusive or inclusive and illusory spaces; I came across the essay Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard with the statement,

"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth - it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true."

As a Londoner, watching the riots unfold on the rolling news from the safety of my suburban family home. I was not only astonished at the randomness of the violence, but also the erratic reactions to it. Passers-by, "social commentators", politicians, all had their own over-simplified and unsurprising takes on the events blaming education, the benefits system, bankers' bonuses and the X Factor. But as statistics started to emerge that a majority of the perpetrators had previous criminal convictions, everybody knew there was going to be some kind of reactionary policy making by the Conservative lead coalition Government. I didn't have to wait long.  

The Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced less than a month after the events sweeping changes to the way offenders were to be reformed in Prisons.  The phrases "providing skills", "rehabilitation through purposeful work" several weeks later turned into "offenders shall 'earn their keep'". Working a full 40hr week doing menial tasks like laundry or gluing light bulbs together and getting paid up to £10 per week.  

This apparent confusion over the purpose of skilling-up offenders or work as punishment is what inspired me to create HMPark Life. Rehabilitation was no longer for the benefit of the offender, but was a tool for the state to either reassure the liberal section of society that offenders were being offered skills to better themselves and the more conservative amongst us that offenders were being put to work as punishment.  

To me this resonated with the Jean Baudrillard quote.  With this new legislation what was now the purpose of being locked-up?  HMPark Life is the state's cover up that conceals the truth that it has no vision for the purpose of incarceration, only to appease the public.


Could you describe exactly how HMPark Life works? Its structure/architecture? In particular Dante's Inferno and the circles of Hell.

Dante's Inferno, the first part to the epic poem 'The Divine Comedy' acted not just as an allegory for the horrors and turmoils of hell but also for its clear programatic and spatial organisation. Throughout history there have been many versions of diagrams explaining the descending rings of hell and all follow the poem's stepped, conical canyon description bellow the surface of the earth, with Lucifer and a frozen lake at its deepest point.  The lower you descend the more heinous the sin one had committed. This logic seemed appropriate for a prison.  

UK prisons are divided into 7 different security categories, 4 specifically for adult males. Category A is the Highest security for those who pose the most risk to the state and public, B is for those who still pose a risk to the public but also is where remand prisoners are sent (those awaiting trial or sentencing), C is for offenders who cannot quite be trusted in an open prison and D is open conditions. This security gradient fitted easily with the Inferno and so by placing the highest security (greatest sin) at the base of HMPark Life with B, C, on levels ascending with the Open category D on the surface it gave the project a clear structure. From then on the rules were to keep the 'enlightened' programs such as the library/ visitors' centre and theatre on the surface and more arduous menial tasks such as furniture making or clay pit digging for those in the descending levels.  

Prisoners' circulation is always on the surface of the building to offer a full view to public onlookers while wardens are hidden in a warren of tunnels running behind the main structure. Everything in the prison is made out of bricks manufactured on site as part of the category B punishment. The idea being that the arc segment of prison would one day complete itself into a full circle. Cells have different sized window openings depending on the level of punishment while those at the very bottom live in hollowed out caves, barely above the water table. The architecture is borne out of a need to maintain secure barriers between each level and for the structure to securely hold back the earth. The building therefore becomes the surface of the canyon face.


Dante's Inferno also worked as a way of planning the views to depict parts of the project. The poem is divided into 34 Cantos or chapters, each describing Dante's journey further into the depths.  The Canto numbers on the views relate to the points within the poem that are identical to parts of the prison; for example Canto III describes the 'Lost forest' and the entrance to Hell, which in HMPark Life has become a woodland littered with trees disguising columns and the library/ visitor centre.  Some of which function as light funnels for the prison workshops bellow and provide perches for CCTV cameras.  Canto IX is the point at which Dante looks back at where he had come from, Canto V is where judgement of sins are passed deciding on the level of inferno, so here I show the public observation tower.  Canto XXXIV is the lowest point depicting the worst sinners' accommodation with cells of category A.



Why did you locate the prison in Brockwell Park?

Brockwell Park is just south of Brixton, where some of the worst rioting occurred. It acts as a barrier between the affluent neighbourhood of Herne Hill to the East and a large council estate to the West and contains the must have pleasant park facilities such as a restored 1920's lido, an organic community garden and tennis courts. It is also half a mile from the existing HMP Brixton.  

During my Research I discovered HMP Brixton to be the worst in terms of the Prison system's own ratings. No outdoor space, offenders spend up to 23hrs a day in their cells designed for one in the 19thC but now accommodating up to 4, unsanitary conditions, rat infested and the building is Grade II* listed so updating the facilities is bizarrely out of the question. By placing the prison in the park I'm merely following current legislation to its extreme.  

"Prisons should be built within close proximity to communities in order to form close links and aid integrating offenders back into the community" planning guidelines state.

London's inner city prisons such as Pentonville and Brixton occur in the midst of residential areas, behind high walls barely sign posted they almost disappear into the urban fabric. It was important to the project that opportunities were borne out of program conflicts with the context: Pleasure/ Punishment, Play/ Work, Freedom/ Enclosure.  

Finally with prisons being so over crowded, and London's prisons lacking in the legally required space then London's parks become an ideal site, especially since the prison is to be our prison and become part of our leisure time experience.


Also i was wondering about the kind of people who would want to watch the inmates working. I suspect, like you probably did, that among them we'd find mostly readers of the Daily Mail. In my view, most readers of the DM are far more dangerous than prisoners. So what would protect the inmates from the public?

I did draw a lot of inspiration from the Daily Mail. It is always useful to look at something so opposed to your own opinions in order to draw something out of yourself.  The headline "Prison is a Holiday Camp" popped up a few times in the Daily Mail, citing inmates' ability to access TV (for a fee) and table football.  Though if you asked the inmates of HMP Brixton i'm sure their opinions would differ.

HMPark Life does not respect the inmates rights to a decent level of privacy. At the central point to the prisons arc is a public viewing tower. In Jeremy Bentham's 'Panopitcon' the institution, or prison warden lie at the centre of the plan, with uninterrupted views of the prisoners' cells. The point being the architecture creates the constant feeling of being under observation without a warden needing to be there. HMPark Life places the public at the centre of this new panopticon.  

There is a viewing platform for each level of security as you descend the tower. I imagined the more casual park passer by might take their children as a warning for misbehaving and perhaps the lower one goes you might come across characters like Jeremy Kyle, or a demonstration by 'Parents Against Pedophiles'. Now i'm thinking Gordon Ramsay would happily sit there with the Daily Mail crowd. I caught 5 minutes of his new series where he's getting some inmates of HMP Brixton to make fairy cakes, when I heard the tagline "Gordon Ramsay thinks it's time Britain's prisoners paid their way." I had to switch it off.  For a man arrested for 'gross indecency' in a male public toilet you'd think he'd want to distance himself from this issue of public humiliation as a form of punishment, unless this is a long overdue part of his community service.


HMPark Life would host different categories of prisoners. Do they mirror the already existing categories?

The categories of prison exist already.  But only in a few instances do prisons of differing categories occur on the same site and they never share facilities.  For example, Belmarsh Prison (Category A) is the UK's highest security Prison where those charged (or not quite charged) of terrorism are held. But next door is a male juvenile detention centre.  

HMPark Life layers these categories from D - Open conditions occurring on its surface to A - High security housed in the bottom of the canyon.  

Lina Bo Bardi, Sesc Pompeia (image manystuff)

Finally, i had a look into the publication that accompanied the exhibition at RCA. One of the chapter is "precedency study" and it features works by Herzog & de Meuron, Lina Bo Bardi's Sesc Pompeia, the prisons of Piranesi. Could you explain briefly how you draw inspiration from them?

References are important in trying to develop a language that informs the project whilst at the same time being sympathetic to the way I like to draw and depict. CaixaForum Madrid by Herzog & de Meuron was mainly a formal reference. The perforations and it's 'cragginess' being conducive in a way to design the caged exercise spaces of the inmates, with differing perforation densities in accordance to the level of punishment/ prison category. In Lina Bo Bardi's amazing Sesc Pompeia in Sao Paulo I was looking at the system of exposed circulation and the ruthlessly efficient series of walkways that jut between its two monolithic towers.  The most immediately obvious precedence I drew from was Piranesi's Carceri d'invenzione (imaginary prisons) etchings.  HMPark Life's 4  'Cantos' used the same techniques of awkward angled view points and constricting the image inside the frame as well as a disorientating sense of scale.  In Piranesi's etchings it is quite hard to judge how big this world is until he places a crumpled figure somewhere in the foreground.

Thanks Alexis!

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#A.I.L - artists in laboratories, episode 8

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-07-09 04:42:05

Question of the month: How often has that ugly toaster appeared on my homepage?

This is already the 8th episode of the art and science show i've been recording for ResonanceFM.

This week i'm talking to speculative designer Thomas Thwaites. We will discuss that toaster of course but we also look at some of his other projects. In particular, Unlikely Objects: Products of a Counterfactual History of Science, a work that explore what our scientific knowledge would have been like had the Darwinian revolution never happened.


The radio show is broadcast today Monday 9nd July at 16.30 (GMT.) There will be a repeat on Thursday at 22.30. You can catch it online if you don't live in London. And of course we have podcasts (i just need to find a good place for them on the blog.)

I hope you like it!

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Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992

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Published on : 2012-07-06 12:15:47

Flyhead Helmet, from the Environment Transformer project. 1968. Zamp Kelp, Ortner, Pinter, Haus-Rucker-Co. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Archigram, Superstudio, Ant Farm, Haus-Rucker-Co. It's hard not to get excited by the radical architects whose work started to appear in the late 1960s.

For some obscure reason i haven't been able to locate the wikipedia entry about Haus-Rucker-Co. but if you're curious about their work, there is a lot to (re)discover at the retrospective of the Viennese group currently hosted by WORK Gallery, near Kings Cross: inflatables capsules for two, parasitic structures, breathing devices, utopian ideas, helmets and pneumatic prostheses. It's critique of architecture and architecture as critique at its best.

It's almost shocking to see how, 40 years after their inception, Haus-Rucker-Co.'s ideas might still be relevant to anyone interested in art & technology, public interventions, immersive environments and (critical) design.

The exhibition, titled Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992, shows archival drawings and collages, photographs, models and original ephemera spanning Haus-Rucker-Co.'s 25-year collaboration. The show marks the 20-year anniversary of Haus-Rucker-Co.'s dissolution. Haus-Rucker-Co. was founded in 1967 by Laurids Ortner, Günther Zamp Kelp and Klaus Pinter, later joined by Manfred Ortner. Already working together as Ortner & Ortner on major building commissions from the mid-1980s, Manfred and Laurids Ortner went on to develop an extensive portfolio of built projects, propelling the preoccupations of Haus-Rucker-Co. into a new realm.

Hasty tour of what you can see in the exhibition:

Oase Nr. 7, a personal oasis with a diameter of 8 metres protruded from the façade of the Museum Fridericianums during the 1972 Documenta.


Haus-Rucker-Co, Oase No. 7 (1972), in Kassel. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

The Mind Expander allowed two people to isolate themselves from their environment and enter in spiritual communion with each other (maybe?!?)

Mind Expander, 1967. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner  Baukunst

Mind Expander, 1967. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Mind Expander, 1967. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

"The Mind Expanding Programme aimed to explore the inner world, and to improve the psychological capacity of those who took part in the individual elements, as well as those who witnessed them in some way."

Ballon  für  Zwei, 1967. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Gelbes Herz (Yellow Heart), a "communications space-capsule for two people".

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Gelbes Herz (plan), 1968. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Gelbes Herz, 1968. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Nike was an installation for the Forum Metall Linz exhibition. The photographic replica of the headless Victory of Samothrace was projected upwards from the rood of the University of the Arts. The works sparked a debate about the work itself and the state of contemporary art. After 27 months of controversy, it was discreetly removed under the cover of the night.

Nike, 1977. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

The Inclined Plane was an element of temporary architecture that visually separated Vienna into two halves. The half towards the inner city was bordered by the black surface of the plane, the other half, facing away from the city, by the plane's other, white surface.

Inclined Plane. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

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Turm Neuss, 1985. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Views from the exhibition:

Image WORK gallery

Image WORK gallery

Image WORK gallery

Image WORK gallery

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Image WORK gallery

To coincide with the exhibition, WORK has published a special edition of PAPERWORK that includes photos, essays written by members of Haus-Rucker-Co. as well as an interview with Manfred Ortner.

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Giant Billard. Image courtesy Ortner & Ortner Baukunst

Inner World / Innen Welt: The Projects of Haus-Rucker-Co., 1967-1992 is at WORK gallery until Saturday 1 September 2012.

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Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 - 2012

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-07-05 10:05:57

Tom Friedman Untitled (A Curse), 1992. Photo Linda.jpg
Tom Friedman, Untitled (A Curse), 1992. Photo Linda Nylind

An empty plinth cursed by a professional witch, eavesdropping devices you can't detect no matter how much you look, a Playboy centrefold erased over the course of one week till no trace of the glamour girl is left, evidence of a movie that was shot without film in the camera, a canvas of invisible ink, a diary written using water. Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 - 2012 deals almost exclusively with immateriality and emptiness. Yet, it is one of the most turbulent, humorous and captivating exhibition i've seen this year.

Invisible is historical, yet contemporary. It seems to be acutely conscious of its apparent absurdity and more importantly, it leaves so much up to the visitor's imagination.

Teresa Margolles, Aire/Air, 2003. Photograph: Tony Kyriacou/Rex Features

I remember the first time i 'saw' an invisible artwork. I also remember the impact it left on my mind. In 2008, in entered a room at Strozzina in Florence. It looked empty, apart from a text on the wall that explains that the air-conditioning unit in the room is using the water employed in public mortuaries in Mexico City (where the artist Teresa Margolles works also as a forensic technician) to wash the corpses of as yet unidentified murder victims prior to autopsy. The installation moved me more than many of the photo series i've seen that document crimes committed by drug cartels.

Margolles' installation Air/Aire is part of the Invisible exhibition. I didn't enter the room this time.

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Yves Klein, Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle, 1959 (image)

Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle, by Yves Klein --who in 1958 staged the first exhibition completely devoid of visible content, is one of the most striking pieces in the first exhibition room. In 1959, the French artist started selling ownership of empty space in exchange of shreds of gold leaf. If the buyer wished to go further, the piece could be completed in a ritual in which the buyer would burn the cheque, and Klein would throw half of the gold into the Seine. The performance would be performed in the presence of an art critic, dealer, or art museum director and at least two witnesses.

Believe it or not, Klein sold eight Zones, of which at least 3 involved the complete ritual.

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Maurizio Cattelan, Untitled (Denuncia), 1991. Police report of stolen invisible artwork. © the artist 2012. Image courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

One of the most visible works in the show is an official police report that Maurizio Cattelan did in Forlì to denounce the theft of an invisible art work from his car.

Robert Barry, Inert Gas Series, 1969

Robert Barry has some of the deepest and enduringly relevant works in the show. In 1968 already, he was highlighting the presence of Electromagnetic Energy Field that fills the space around us with an impalpable but nevertheless real strength. A year later, Barry released a litre of krypton into the atmosphere of Beverly Hills. Over the following days, he released xenon in the mountains, argon on the beach and helium in the Mojave Desert (Inert Gas Series, 1969).

Photos are the only traces of these ephemeral gestures.

Tom Friedman, 1,000 Hours of Staring, 1992-97

The title of the work above is pretty self-explanatory, Friedman spent a total of 1,000 hours gazing at a white piece of paper.

Jeppe Hein, invisible Labyrinth (2005). Photo Linda Nylind.jpg
Jeppe Hein, Invisible Labyrinth, 2005. Photo Linda Nylind

The work that closes the show is the extraordinary Invisible Labyrinth, a maze that visitors have to master by wearing helmets that trigger slight electrical pulses whenever they bump an invisible wall. The paths of the labyrinths change each day of the week.

Jeppe Hein, Invisible Labyrinth, 2005. Photo Linda Nylind.jpg
Jeppe Hein, Invisible Labyrinth, 2005. Photo Linda Nylind

And then of course there are the works that you not only didn't see but didn't even realize were there. Bethan Huws has hired professional actors who pretend to be visitors, they act like everyone else around you and their only purpose is probably to make you look at other visitors with an inquisitive eye.

Bruno Jakob, Breath, floating in color as well as black and white (Venice), 2011 Photo: Linda Nylind

Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 - 2012 remains open until 5 August 2012 at the Hayward Gallery in London.

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The One Way Ticket to deep space

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-07-03 06:16:14


It's hard to believe that the first tourist flight into space might already be planned for next year. But Joseph Popper is probably not very impressed by the prospect because he came up with an idea so bold i doubt even Richard Branson would think twice before funding it. The designer believes that there aren't many unknown territories for men to explore, really. One of the very few thrilling adventures left to mankind would be to send one person on a voyage into deep space from where they will not return.


And that's exactly what The One-Way Ticket proposes to do.

He obviously didn't test the idea himself but designed film-making props, contraptions and sets that follow the dogma 'zero gravity, zero budget'. The final short film comprises a collection of episodes transmitted from the spacecraft.

I need to repeat the idea: Send. One. Person. In. Space. Without. The. Prospect. Of. Ever. Coming. Back. And so i asked all the silly questions for you. Because that's what i'm here for.

Hi Joseph! Your project proposes to send one person on a voyage into deep space from where they will not return. Who would want to go on such journey?

I believe a person willing to go would not be so hard to find. The project emerged from an observation that we are running out of unknown frontiers to explore in the expedition sense - certainly on our own planet and it's near surroundings. Mount Everest, Antarctica and even the Moon have all transformed in our imagination from mythical bastions of discovery into touted destinations for extreme tourism. I am interested in this predicament, particularly surrounding ideas of space travel.

I propose a one-way journey as one of "the last adventures". This is how skydiver Felix Baumgartner described his attempt to break the record for the highest, fastest jump from the edge of Earth's atmosphere - so maybe he would want to go?

Is there a panic button? An emergency exit for the lonely traveler? Or is there really no way they can ever get back to earth? Is his or her wellbeing onboard ever monitored or catered for?

In my mind there is no panic button, no emergency exit, no return. The wellbeing for the astronaut is certainly catered for in order for them to complete the mission. In the project I focused more on different aspects of the astronaut's experience inside the space capsule, rather than the external workings of the mission architecture.


Do you have an idea of how far away in space the spaceship would be able to go? Or would it just rotate around the Earth?

The spacecraft passes Mars on what is essentially a fly-by mission, before continuing in the direction of Jupiter - eventually reaching around 90 million miles away from the Earth. The total duration is 2 years before oxygen, nutritional and other supplies are scheduled to run out. The aim is for the astronaut to be the first to reach Lower Mars Orbit, and then to travel on as far as they possibly can - this is premise for the adventure.

What about communication with the Earth? Is there any?

The issue of communication with Earth has certainly been an important part of my research. The further we travel away from Earth we are subject to longer and longer delays in our communication with it: when you reach Mars it takes about 27 minutes for any sort of transmission from your spacecraft to reach home. It is therefore impossible to hold a normal conversation between two distant planets, and this factor contributes to psychological issues that include isolation, loneliness and also boredom.

But is it technically possible? How would the rocket or spaceship be powered for such a long period of time? And does the spaceship ever return to earth or does it become space junk?

In designing the mission scenario I have tried to abide by existing space mission principles and hardware. Archived mission plans that were never realised have also been important starting points for deciding on the trajectory of the spacecraft and time frame of the voyage. So yes, I will say it is technically possible to send someone beyond Mars with the technology we have today.

The path is based on a route that requires the lowest energy consumption - employing a series of Hohmann transfers. This is where the spacecraft would use a short, powerful engine burn to escape Lower Earth Orbit before using the momentum to coast towards Mars for 258 days. The same principle would then apply for escaping Mars orbit to continue on its path... to eventually become space junk.

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Film set

The text accompanying the work in the exhibition says "the exhibited works are a response to research into a range of human factors particular to the mission that also underline its extraordinary nature." Could you tell us what these human factors are? Are they physical? Emotional? and what the lone trip has to do with them?

The human factors range across many different issues - from the physical to the psychological and philosophical. Many of these directly relate to existing concerns and research around actual long duration space missions, and also to living in more hostile environments like Antarctica or on the International Space Station. However, when you simply take "coming back" out of the equation many of the questions are thrown wide open again.

If you don't come back to Earth: you will be forever weightless, you will never need to stand up again, the sun never sets or rises, you will never eat fresh food again (apart from whatever you can grow), you will lose sight of Earth for the last time, you never leave the confines of your capsule.

These hint at some of the various questions I explored in my research, leading to some very interesting debates and conversations with different experts. We can find many examples in space mission analogues that simulate certain aspects of a one-way voyage. However what struck me most is that, as we are talking about something completely unprecedented, we can only ever really speculate on what such a voyage would be like until someone actually goes.

Thanks Joseph!

All images courtesy Joseph Popper.

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#A.I.L - artists in laboratories, episode 7

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-07-01 15:27:55

7th episode of the art and science show i've been recording for ResonanceFM.

Just like last week, i went to Battersea to interview some of the new graduates of the Design Interactions department at RCA.


Nimbus MkIII - a 'pareidolic robot' that identifies forms and faces in clouds

In order of appearance: Joseph Popper proposes to send one person on a journey into deep space from where they will never return, Neil Usher designed a robot that finds human faces in the clouds, Shing Tat Chung looks at what would happen if traders and estate agents gave free reign to superstition and Tobias Revell talks about the timeline that charts the history of power up to the early 22nd century and how that 24/7 banking ship fits into the picture.

The radio show is broadcast tomorrow Monday 2nd July at 16.30 (GMT.) There will be a repeat on Thursday at 22.30. You can catch it online if you don't live in London. And of course we have podcasts (i just need to find a good place for them on the blog.)

I hope you like it!

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Strange Hungers

Feed : we make money not art
Published on : 2012-06-29 15:36:42

Sadie Hennessy, Elephant in the Room, Collage, 2011

Strange Hungers was a pulp fiction book from 1963 set on the island of Haiti where the notorious Ah Sing and Mei Lai conduct pagan love rites! It is also the title of an exhibition that made me laugh out loud when i visited it a few days ago.

Sadie Hennessy - Strange Hungers delves into the mysterious workings of desire, and the insistent lusts and yearnings of the sexual appetite.

Hennessy's prints, collages using vintage housewives magazines, sculptures that adorn mundane object with sexual innuendos are relentlessly campy and witty.

This is the shortest review i've written in a long time. But i don't feel like adding any gravitas to the images below.

Milf Magazine, 2011


London 2012 Souvenirs (100% Linen Tea Towels)

Porn-Star Eyes (iv)

Mother Love, 2011 (detail)

Mother Love, 2011

Happily Ever After, 2012 (detail)

Place Mat, 2012



Sadie Hennessy - Strange Hungers is at the WW Gallery until 14 July 2012.

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