It summarises the book’s argument, but adds a little at the end on an alternative future. It argues for a ‘commune-lite’, in essence, not far of what Le Corbusier imagined in Marseilles in 1948, or Ricardo Bofill in Barcelona in ’77. Bofill’s ‘Walden Seven’ is one of my favourite buildings, whatever Robert Hughes said about it. A visionary place that also seems to work for its residents. Now if some friendly developer would like to do the same here…
Incidentally, the piece has a few snippy remarks about Morningside, as does a forthcoming feature by Teddy Jamieson in the Herald. I should say I still live there, and despite its maddening character, have no plans to move. My complaints are those of someone who know – for better or worse – he’s in it for good.
A version of the following review appeared in Sculpture Journal in 2013
Everybody has a view about concrete, but few of these views are exactly the same: there is no material so contradictory and complex in its application and meaning. I myself became fully aware of concrete’s contradictions in Brazil, latterly accompanied by Forty’s edited book on the country’s modernist architecture (Brazil’s Modern Architecture, 2007). I had never seen so much concrete. But equally I have never been confronted with such a disjunction between aspiration and application. Standing outside Oscar Niemeyer’s MAC art museum in Niteroí, it was impossible to square the MAC’s futuristic form (a flying saucer) with the crudeness of its execution (all cracks and, lumps, like a primary school project). That contrast was really quite disturbing, as the official photographs of the MAC depicted a building of otherworldly sleekness whose construction was a mystery to…
With a view to tracing further representations of space in Mexico City my attention has been recently turning to the work of Paco Ignacio Taibo II (or PIT) in his transgressions of story-history, starting with the novel Sombra de la sombra (1986) published in English as The Shadow of the Shadowwith Cinco Puntos Press (1991). The book is both an exploration of social criticism as well as a work of historical crime fiction. The story is set in 1922 in Mexico City blurring the realms of fiction and history and is based around the secret Plan de Mata Redonda, a conspiracy of army colonels, U.S. senators, and oil company magnates, with the aim to separate the oil-rich Gulf Coast of Mexico from the rest of the country and turn it into an American protectorate. Where better to explore the spatial practices of Mexico City deciphered through historical fiction and the symbols of this city’s lived representational spaces?
Paris-based designer Mathilde Nivet takes the context of urbanism and the city as the source for her work. She uses a pop-up technique which combines folding, decoupage and montage to represent three-dimensional architecture at a large scale. The facades make up a paper town at different levels to evoke a sense of memory and metropolitan legacy.
Last week we asked you to submit questions for David van der Leer, the Guggenheim architecture and urban studies curator behind stillspotting nyc. The two-year project calls on architects, artists, and composers to create “stillspots” throughout the five boroughs, and this time around, legendary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has collaborated with architecture firm Snøhetta, the designers of the museum pavilion at the World Trade Center site. The current edition of stillspotting nyc runs September 15–18 and 22-25.
How does a museum step out of its iconic building for experimental, off-site urban studies projects? Isn’t stillness the antithesis of the city? And why include an improv comedy group? Read Van der Leer’s response Continue reading →
Submissions are invited for an edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture that has received initial interest from an international publisher known for their strength in Marxian-themed series and titles.
While all abstracts using a Marxian framework to approach culture in urban contexts are welcome, it is anticipated that submissions will conform to one of two subtypes reflecting the division of the book into Continue reading →
Delivering searing criticism on the psychosis of absolute power, Victor Serge’s fifth novel to be featured in my personal blog, For the Desk Drawer, is a masterly work. The Case of Comrade Tulayev was written in 1942 and is situated in the context of the Great Terror in Soviet Russia orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. In the sequence that constitutes the ‘defeat-in-victory’ trilogy (preceded by Midnight in the Century  and succeeded by The Long Dusk [1943-5]), the novel intersects in several subtle ways with Serge’s other books. The Case of Comrade Tulayev is a chronicle of the Moscow arrests and show trials in the 1930s that pulls in a myriad of characters as well as the overbearing appearance of ‘the Chief’, Stalin himself. It does so by offering at least two intersections to aspects present in Serge’s earlier novels. First, it offers a set of intersecting elements linked to specific characters that appear in the earlier books; second, it offers direct intersections on the theme of space and the state. How the spatial logistics of the state, how the modern state organises space, and how the state engenders social relations in space are thus a quintessential feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev.