random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

a list of links on digital reading

digital sources

google books

project gutenberg

open library

the internet archive texts

commentary and critique

Janneke Adema, “Scanners, collectors and Aggregators. On the ‘underground movement’ of (pirated) theory text sharing” Open Reflections (20 September 2009)

Esposito, Joseph. “The Terrible Price of Free: On E-reading Jane Austen via Google’s E-Books” The Scholarly Kitchen (14 March 2011)

Esposito, Joseph. “The processed book” First Monday [Online], Volume 8 Number 3 (3 March 2003) 

Guldi, Jo. Link to several posts on Google Books and the Digital Humanities.

Negroponte, Nicolas “The Book is Dead, Long Live the Narrative” (31 August 2010)

Nunberg, Geoffrey, “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars,” The Chronicle, (31 August 2009) [paywalled]

O’Malley, Mike “The Marginalia ‘Crisis’” The Aporetic (21 February 2011)

Varnelis, Kazys “Against Print” (14 February 2011)

[this post will be updated periodically as i find—or you link me to—more sources. i’ve avoided linking to digital text sources that might be infringing copyright law because they move for a reason]

Helft, Miguel “Judge Rejects Google’s Deal to Digitize Books” New York Times (22 March 2011)

Darnton, Robert “A Digital Library Better Than Google’s” New York Times (23 March 2011)

Neary, Lynn “The Future of Libraries in the E-Book Age” NPR (4 April 2011)

ingermewburn “Don’t type ‘format c’” The Thesis Whisperer (7 April 2011) [practical advice on digital reading and writing software options]

leer esta de moda [latest gadget to hit the market—castillian accent always a plus]

what’s next for digital publishing? computer arts uk

february 2012 modern era’s “destruction of the library of alexandria” breaking culture

the academic’s writer’s strike the thesis whisperer

locked in the ivory tower: why JSTOR imprisons academic research the atlantic


Filed under: ., lists, reading,

chronicle of deaths foretold

1831, victor hugo announces that print will kill architecture. labrouste responds by designing a killer library.

1936, walter benjamin announces mechanical reproducibility will kill aura—or the notion of the original, in any case. at the same time, he makes a lot of his readers nostalgic for a lost aura they have just become aware of.

1964, marshall mcluhan announces that medium doesn’t kill but does take over the message. the message, overshadowed, despairs.

1979, the buggles announce that video has killed the radio star. on mtv. in my mind and in my car, we can’t rewind we’ve gone too far.

1980s. peter eisenman announces the end of the classical, the end of the beginning and the end of the end (1984). thousands of architects skip simulacra for perspecta. rem (not that one) thinks it’s the end of the world and we know it (and they feel fine). francis fukuyama announces the end of history (1989). marx and hegel turn over in their graves.

2010, architectural education is killed by the internet video. also, big kills rem but plots with oma and colin rowe comes back from the dead to tell us peter eisenman is still alive.

ps. image: one pencil’s paltry revenge

pps. also 2010, nicolas negroponte announces the book is dead, long live the narrative.

Filed under: ., benjamin, big, death, eisenman, evil, lists,

feminist links


kept seeing feminist posts this past week and decided to put them all together.

the end of sexism by joanne mcneil

man up, newsweek, and put the silly “men in decline” meme in context by rachel sklar

you can put your top back on now: rediscovering the women of fluxus at moma by seth colter walls [via ja]

the moma exhibit related to their new publication, modern women: women artists at the museum of modern art

here a critique of counter space:design and the modern kitchen, which just opened sept 15: gastro-vision back in the kitchen by nicole caruth

…and even:

the beautiful girls by tom and lorenzo

[previously by me]

image: a classic from the guerrilla girls

Filed under: ., feminism, lists,

a list of cemeteries

while i’ve implied before that architects are particularly bad at designing their own graves, the design project of housing the dead has long been an opportunity for introspection and reflection, from highlighting the significance of an individual, to meditating on the urban qualities of the city of the death. perhaps because the dead are less vocal users, and their visitors tend to filter out, ultimately the architecture of cemeteries has allowed freedom and personal introspection to a few architects. so why is this typology largely absent form school projects? rather than designing yet another digital library/multimedia museum, why not design a cemetery? i have seen studios on designing your own tomb, but the cemetery is perhaps too un-pc: it is, rationally speaking, a waste of space, in an era where landscape is a precious commodity (at least in most places). however, as the architects below prove, cemeteries can take on many different roles, from providing much needed green space to reflecting on the nature of architecture itself. and as boullee, woods, and hejduk prove, you don’t even need to build them (of course now we have virtual cemeteries, but let’s try to stay on topic). ultimately cemeteries show more about the designer than about the dead they house, and that is perhaps part of their allure—they can be (and often are) narcissistic exercises. but they are also an opportunity for design emptied out, for design as poetry. after all, what is more poetic than death?

so in no particular order, and including everything from the single unit/tomb to the density of urban housing (i have omitted monuments to the dead, which constitute a different category):

newton cenotaph, etienne-louis boullee

cemetery for chaux, claude-nicolas ledoux

cimitero san cataldo, aldo rossi

tomba brion, carlo scarpa

cementerio de la igualada, enric miralles

einstein tomb, lebbeus woods

cemetery for the ashes of thought, john hejduk

necropolis / cemetery for the deaths of architecture, john hejduk

ps. i’m sure i’m missing some, let me know! i’m aware i’ve stayed with big names and omitted famous cemeteries such as pere lachaise.

pps. krematorium treptow, alex schultes and charlotte frank

Filed under: ., death, lists,

selected sentences on 19th c. “science” and “art”

On Outer Space

Let me protest first against the expression ‘world war.’ I am sure that no heavenly body, however near, will involve itself in the affair in which we are embroiled. Everything leads me to believe that deep peace still reigns in interstellar space. (Paul Scheerbart, quoted by Benjamin 386)[1]

When I say “of human knowledge” I do not use the phrase with the intention of insulting the inhabitants of other celestial bodies, whom I have not had the pleasure of knowing, but only for the reason that animals also have knowledge, though it is in no way sovereign.  (Engels)[2]

On Toads ,Serpents & Bees

Serpents, however, always have complete command of their feelings. (Ruskin)[3]

But there is easy beauty, like the peacock’s, and difficult beauty, like the snake’s; and Natural History is a discipline in esthetic emotion. (Geddes)[4]

To the question: Why do toads have no tails?—up to now it has only been able to answer: because they have lost them. (Engels)[5]

It is the duty of every biologist to expose the seamy side of the beehive to which we are so often referred. (Geddes)[6]

On the End of the 19th Century

Now the nineteenth century is empty. It lies there like a large, dead, cold seashell. I pick it up and hold it up to my ear. What do I hear? (Benjamin)[7]

We shall therefore no longer say: This child is developing finely, but: It is composing itself magnificently. (Engels)[8]

[some people give going away gifts, i make lists of quotes. this is recycled from my end-of-semester list for ad’s 19th c. seminar last fall—kudos to him for the crazy reading list]

[1] Benjamin, Walter. Selected writings. Cambridge Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 386.  

[2] Friedrich Engels, Part I – Philosophy: Morality and Law: Eternal Truths, Herr Eugen Dűhring’s Revolution in Science (Anti- Dűhring) (New York: International Publishers, 1939), p. 100.  

[3] John Ruskin, The Eagle’s Nest: Ten Lectures on the Relation of Science to Art (New York: John Wiley and Son, 1873), p. 93. 

[4] Patrick Geddes, Chapter XII, “Biology in its Wider Aspects,” Life: Outlines of General Biology, Vol. II(New York: Harper and Brothers, 1931), p. 1195.  

[5] Friedrich Engels, “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man,” in Dialectics of Nature (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1934), p. 69. 

[6] Patrick Geddes, p. 1251.

[7] Benjamin, Walter, Marcus Paul Bullock, and Michael William Jennings. Walter Benjamin – Selected Writings, 1938-1940: S. Harvard University Press, 2003, p. 692 

 [8] Engels, “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man,” p. 88.

Filed under: ., benjamin, lists,

post no bills

pps. to previous post: on writing, some advice from wb. we might as well be as pedantic now with our writing instruments as he was with his pen and paper [hardware—choice of laptop, mouse, and software—specific fonts, programs]. but we now share online.

Benjamin, Walter. “One Way Street,” in Reflections  : essays, aphorisms, autobiographical writings. 1st ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978, pp. 80-81.   

The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses

I. Anyone intending to embark on a major work should be lenient with himself and, having completed a stint, deny himself nothing that will not prejudice the next.

II. Talk about what you have written, by all means, but do not read from it while the work is in progress. Every gratification procured in this way will slacken your tempo. If this regime is followed, the growing desire to communicate will become in the end a motor for completion.

III. In your working conditions avoid everyday mediocrity. Semi-relaxation, to a background of insipid sounds, is degrading. On the other hand, accompaniment by an etude or a cacophony of voices can become as significant for work as the perceptible silence of the night. If the latter sharpens the inner ear, the former acts as a touchstone for a diction ample enough to bury even the most wayward sounds.

IV. Avoid haphazard writing materials. A pedantic adherence to certain papers, pens, inks is beneficial. No luxury, but an abundance of these utensils is indispensable. 

V. Let no thought pass incognito, and keep your notebook as strictly as the authorities keep their register of aliens.

VI. Keep your pen aloof from inspiration, which it will then attract with magnetic power. The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself. Speech conquers thought, but writing commands it.

VII. Never stop writing because you have run out of ideas. Literary honour requires that one break off only at an appointed moment (a mealtime, a meeting) or at the end of the work.

VIII. Fill the lacunae of inspiration by tidily copying out what is already written. Intuition will awaken in the process.

IX. Nulla dies sine linea — but there may well be weeks.

X. Consider no work perfect over which you have not once sat from evening to broad daylight.

XI. Do not write the conclusion of a work in your familiar study. You would not find the necessary courage there.

XII. Stages of composition: idea—style—writing. The value of the fair copy is that in producing it you confine attention to calligraphy. The idea kills inspiration, style fetters the idea, writing pays off style.

XIII. The work is the death mask of its conception.

Filed under: ., benjamin, lists, writing,

variations on benjamin

continuing with the benjaminian theme [and with apologies to my fb friends who’ve seen part of this already]:

etica de la liberacion en la edad de la globalizacion y la exclusion [a book by enrique dussel, 1998]

a voyage on the north sea: art in the age of the post-medium condition [a book by rosalind krauss, 2000]

the work of architecture in the age of commodification [an essay by kenneth frampton, 2005]

multitude: war and democracy in the age of empire [a book by michael hardt and antonio negri, 2005], via rku

the bureaucracy of beauty: design in the age of its global reproducibility [a book by arindam dutta, 2007]

the invisible city: design in the age of intelligent maps [an article by kazys varnelis and leah meisterlin, 2008]

entering a risky territory: space in the age of digital navigation [an article by bruno latour, valerie november, and eduardo camacho, 2009]

directions: design in the age of technological change [a graphic design conference at princeton, 2010]

access restricted: intellectual property in the age of digital reproduction [a panel from the lower manhattan cultural council, 2010], via nv

…there are tons of other examples, i just chose the ones with best known names for the added thrill.

Filed under: ., benjamin, lists,

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