Tactical Urbanism

Seemingly oblivious to the city around her, the young woman takes the mobile phone from her ear and presses a button. Suddenly, floating in the ether directly in front of her a message appears: “New Dress code: FUNKY.” With a smirk and a wave of her hand, she’s suddenly surrounded by three new translucent windows, enveloping her in the heads-up-display of the Fifth Avenue fighter pilot. A growing smile is evidence that some urban attack pattern has been implemented and with a final wave of the hand, the virtual displays fall away – replaced with the advertising message: “Life moves fast. Don’t miss a thing.”

The Living Light Illuminates Air Quality in South Korea


[image via The Living. Click to expand.]

“In the future, buildings will talk to one another.” So say The Living. Founded by David Benjamin and Soo-in Yang, New York based The Living have a practice that could perhaps best be described as techno-utopian open-sourced design. Seriously. That’s the best way to describe it. Their recent project in Seoul proves that, yes, it is possible to create forward-thinking architecture that is more useful and much more elegant than the multi-formal Prada Transformer in the same city. Living Light is a public pavilion that merges architecture with media and the graphic representation of data. In this case, the specific data relates to air quality in the South Korean Capital. Continue reading “The Living Light Illuminates Air Quality in South Korea”

Life Without Media

Posts might be a little slow here on Life Without Buildings but there’s good reason – there’s a helluva lot going on! There seems to be an approaching sea change in news media. Newspapers closing or laying-off staff, new news websites are starting-up, and a general sense of panic is spreading among the nebbish wordsmiths dedicated to finishing the daily crossword in their local paper. It’s a strange and exciting time to be in publishing of any sort and I feel lucky to be a small part of this media evolution. So for your browsing pleasure, a few new publications:

  • Dwell recently relaunched their website and it looks great. The clean interface and large pictures make it easy to find the content you want or just browse through their gorgeous collection of residential architecture. It’s exactly what it should be. I’ve recently started contributing to their new blog as well. Check it out!

  • This week also saw the launch of The SF Appeal, San Francisco’s newest online newspaper. Hoping to bring together the best of newspaper and blogs, The Appeal’s timely launch coincides with a lot of talk about the potential death of The City’s main newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle. I’ll be doing some architecture / urbanism / cultural miscellanea writing for the Appeal, so if you’re in the Bay Area or if you just love San Francisco, please check the site daily for new content! We’ve got some great writers with strong voices.

  • In the spirit of the Death of Newspapers, comes another site: The San Francisco Post Chronicle. “The Post-Chronicle is a wiki that’s building a model for the daily news organization of the future.” It’s also my new favorite web distraction. New media is quickly catching up to architecture on my subconscious list of things to think about. And the Post Chron is where I’m documenting those thoughts. If you have even a remote interest in the future of news media, please check it out! Just a quick browse through the site yields insight into crowd-sourcing photography, the evolution of editorial cartoons, and speculation on the future of content distribution.

  • Everyone’s favorite manifesto rag, Pamphlet Architecture is now seeking submissions for issue 30, Investigations in Infrastructure. “At a time of new government leadership committed to investing in the United States’ infrastructure, architects, engineers, and artists should propose new directions for transportation, energy, and agriculture at a continental scale. In this spirit, no visionary dimension is too large, no inventive proposal too ambitious to consider.” The deadline is 1 July.

  • The Utopian is a web magazine dedicated to politics, art, and culture. Through articles, photography, and video, The Utopian presents original and challenging ideas things Their Third issue, “Making History,” includes pieces on Hermann Kahn & Cold War nuclear systems analysis, jazz, and the place of religion in the public sphere.

  • Art in America also relaunched their website this month with another fantastic new design featuring video profiles and exclusive online content.

Bootlegging Volume


“The bootleg is a DIY format for assembling and disseminating work within a circle of hardcore fans…unlike a pirated copy or fake which tries to assume the identity of an authorized product and is motivated by a desire for profit, a bootleg announces itself as an improvised, illegitimate work and is largely motivated by a desire to share.”

Volume editor Jeffrey Inaba

Urban China Bootlegged by C-Lab for Volume is a “bootlegged” edition (obvs) of Volume #19, The Crisis Issue. The limited-edition project is produced for the New Museum exhibition Urban China: Informal Cities and was assembled in collaboration with Urban China. Articles include new translations of essays by Chinese writers and ruminations on topics such as Infrastructure in crisis, forced migration, and the conflation of heritage & humanitarianism. To set the mood, some quotes, bootlegged from issue #19’s essay “Space in Crisis” by Mark Wigley:

  • “Images of devastated buildings are the most eloquent and disturbing witnesses of disaster.”
  • “The role of emergency procedures is to maintain the limits of a particular space.”
  • “A crisis is the moment that the threat is not just inside the space but is actually an extreme challenge to the space itself, from the scale of an individual psyche or body in crisis to that of a family, an institution, a city, a region, a nation, or a planet. If an emergency is a threat within a system, a crisis is a threat to the whole system.”
  • “Crises always appear as the failure of a spatial system, a failure of architecture.”

The issue also includes some amazing photos depicting foreclosed homes taken by Todd Hido accompanying a particularly timely essay by Geoff Manaugh that paints today’s suburbs in an apocalyptic light recalling the final stanza of T.S. Eliot’s Hollow Men:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.