Category Archives: Comment

Lebbeus Woods’ High Houses

You gotta check out these incredible designs by American architect Lebbeus Woods.  You can see all the images on his blog here.

“The High Houses are proposed as part of the reconstruction of Sarajevo after the siege of the city that lasted from 1992 though late 1995. Their site is the badly damaged ‘old tobacco factory’ in the Marijn dvor section near the city center.”

“The houses rise up high into the airspace once occupied by falling mortar and artillery shells fired by the city’s besiegers in the surrounding mountains. By occupying the airspace, the High Houses reclaim it for the people of the city….Stabilized by steel cables anchored to the site, the houses, poised like catapults, fulfill the paradoxical desire to fly and at the same time be rooted in their place of origin.”

I think the artwork is really incredible, combining retro-futuristic rendering and a literally strident design to create something very science fiction, yet playfully ramshackle, in  a way that brings to mind the clunking creations of Hayao Miyazaki.

There’s a load of other crazy things on his blog, like this:


Currently listening to: DeadbeatRoots and Wire


Being Quiet

Brim-fill the bowl,

it’ll spill over.

Keep sharpening the blade,

you’ll soon blunt it.

Nobody can protect

a house full of gold and jade.

Wealth, status, pride,

are their own ruin.

To do good, work well and lie low

is the way of the blessing.

– From Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, translation by the always amazing Ursula K. Le Guin.  Her version of the text is beautifully simple and brings out the true depth of the original text in a really approachable way. Buy it, it’s even half price!

The new Baroque, built on debt

Thought I’d just share this interesting photo-journalism piece about decline in Dubai. It’s quite astonishing to see how rapidly the boom can turn to (relative) bust. I know sustainability is a buzzword right now, but Dubai is really an amazing illustration of how the machinations of capitalism in its most unrestrained form operate without regard for sustained development. Even regardless of environmental concerns, the lack of planning at the heart of this desert wonderland has brought even some of its most basic and necessary functions (such as sewerage) to its knees.

The image of workers in a labour camp, unpaid for seven months, makes one wonder what the human impact of this huge playground is going to be. What of Dubai’s culture in the years to come? Perhaps like an abandoned theme park populated only by those who didn’t have the option of fleeing and leaving their Chrysler behind. If this continues, the jet fuelled White Flight (so to speak) is of a different nature to that which left downtown Detroit, for example, crippled years ago. Will an ‘authentic’ upswelling of culture expand to fill the gap? After all, Detroit gave us Techno. Will the Burj Dubai, the Palm Jumeirah and the Burj Al Arab be reclaimed in future generations as cultural complexes, filled with artists, musicians, writers and architects inspired by the dying, sand-strewn remains of this once-‘great’ carcass? One can only hope so.

Here’s the piece, with some really great pictures by Lauren Greenfield:

Dubai’s Improbable Tale

Currently listening to: Talk Talk – Spirit of Eden