1. "This will kill that": from Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    "The invention of printing is the greatest event in history. It is the mother of revolution. It is the mode of expression of humanity which is totally renewed; it is human thought stripping off one form and donning another; it is the complete and definitive change of skin of that symbolical serpent which since the days of Adam has represented intelligence.

    "In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, irresistible, indestructible. It is mingled with the air. In the days of architecture it made a mountain of itself, and took powerful possession of a century and a place. Now it converts itself into a flock of birds, scatters itself to the four winds, and occupies all points of air and space at once.

    "We repeat, who does not perceive that in this form it is far more indelible? It was solid, it has become alive. It passes from duration in time to immortality. One can demolish a mass; bow can one extirpate ubiquity? If a flood comes, the mountains will have long disappeared beneath the waves, while the birds will still be flying about; and if a single ark floats on the surface of the cataclysm, they will alight upon it, will float with it, will be present with it at the ebbing of the waters; and the new world which emerges from this chaos will behold, on its awakening, the thought of the world which has been submerged soaring above it, winged and living.

    "And when one observes that this mode of expression is not only the most conservative, but also the most simple, the most convenient, the most practicable for all; when one reflects that it does not drag after it bulky baggage, and does not set in motion a heavy apparatus; when one compares thought forced, in order to transform itself into an edifice, to put in motion four or five other arts and tons of gold, a whole mountain of stones, a whole forest of timber-work, a whole nation of workmen; when one compares it to the thought which becomes a book, and for which a little paper, a little ink, and a pen suffice,—how can one be surprised that human intelligence should have quitted architecture for printing? Cut the primitive bed of a river abruptly with a canal hollowed out below its level, and the river will desert its bed."


  2. Detropia: film review

    Dir. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

    This gorgeous documentary film engages with the social, economic and spatial decline of Detroit since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. Using only the voices of their interviewees, a few judiciously-placed titles, and sublime HD cinematography, Ewing and Grady present Detroit as a once-magnificent city in ruins, telling us its story in its own words. 

    Though the landscape of the city itself features heavily in the film, it functions mainly as the visual proxy for the real story: that of the city’s residents. We get to peek into the eerie, crumbling interiors of old opera houses, but the most poignant moments in the film were actually those that highlighted the rifts and intersections of race and class. It becomes painfully clear that the city’s decay has been felt most acutely by working-class black residents who, having achieved a middle-class standard of living thanks to the monolithic auto industry, didn’t have the means to flee the crisis when the bottom fell out.

    It’s also a story about impending gentrification. After we witness the conflicts between working-class black residents, the auto industry, and the city, the last act of the film introduces a completely different community of young, white artists. These are the people who are revitalizing Detroit’s downtown, but the filmmakers make it clear that they have little connection to the issues and people shown in the preceding scenes, except that they are the beneficiaries of ultra-low real estate prices.

    The thread that weaves these themes together is the continuing struggle of the Detroit Opera to stay afloat and keep producing quality art in the midst of the decline. As the filmmakers return again and again to scenes of its productions, it becomes a metaphor for the will of ‘old’ Detroit to continue to live — and that its only hope may be in the realm of the fine arts. We’re left puzzling over how to connect this facet of Detroit’s character to people like the former high-school-teacher-turned-blues-bar-owner who finds himself working the fryer in order to make ends meet.

    In all, this was a fascinating, beautiful film that left us with more questions than answers, and we think this is exactly what it should do. Clearly, the issues in Detroit reach far beyond what any film could adequately portray, but it left us curious and wanting to know more. For those not familiar with Detroit, it is definitely worth watching as a jumping-off point for further inquiry and discussion.


  3. notes on the Achtung: Berlin symposium at Yale in February 2013

    I’m just typing up my notes from the Yale School of Architecture Symposium “Achtung: Berlin,” which I attended over Valentine’s Day weekend this year. Here are a few thoughts to pursue further later:

    »Things everyone loves:

    1. Stalinallee. Doesn’t matter if they like it because it’s supposedly Modernist, or traditionalist, or Schinkelesque, or an example of great overall planning or urban integration. All the architects and critics of the Critical Reconstruction era love it for one reason or another.

    2. Aldo Rossi looms behind (above?) everything. He was often mentioned but no one ever talked about why.

    3. Schinkel (duh).

    »Things everyone felt they needed to mention:

    1. Scharoun’s post-WWII plan. Minds were divided on whether it had been a good one, but everyone talked about it.

    2. The IBA. It was very unclear what role the IBA played for these folks — perhaps they were too close to it, many of them being themselves participants.

    3. Schinkel (duh).


    1. Hans Kollhoff and Hans Stimmann thinking of themselves as socially-oriented, and loving voids. Really??

    2. Leon Krier trying to rehabilitate Nazi architecture/planning and getting totally shut down.

    3. The level of disappointment most of the older architects seemed to feel at the new ‘participatory’ mode of architectural design now being pursued by younger architects and planners. I suppose this is not exactly a surprise; they’re watching their stars fade. They no longer hold the distinction of being both architects AND public intellectuals with the power to plan a city.


  4. world-shaker:

    A great read based in cognitive science (but not proclaiming cognitive science as the only answer). Here’s an excerpt (there are nine total principles):

    Principle 1: People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.

    Willingham states that our minds are not especially well-suited for thinking; thinking is slow, effortful and uncertain.  So rather than thinking in most situations, we revert to relying on our memories – following courses of action we have taken previously.  Paradoxically though, people tend to find successful thinking pleasurable – we like to solve problems, provided they are not too tough.

    (via revolutionizeed)

  5. consumption - production - participation …

    I think this works at the college level too! And we need better tools to facilitate it.

    (Source: revolutionizeed)


  6. Some articles we’re discussing in my Vision & Violence class

    … with respect to the Boston tragedy:

    - what people want to see (NPR reader comments)

    - what news organizations should show (NYT article)

    - a radical critique of institutional racism in media coverage of tragedies (blog post by Black Girl Dangerous)


  7. Awesome project highlighting the roles of women artists in early 20th century abstraction. And cool use of digital tools!

  8. Laurie Anderson, “O Superman,” 1981. Still great.

  9. inothernews:


    Rates of travel in 1800. That’s about 6 weeks to Chicago.

    (via How fast could you travel across the U.S. in the 1800s? | MNN - Mother Nature Network)

    Think of this map the next time your flight gets delayed by an hour or two.

    (via revolutionizeed)