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Lens on Life: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

May 3, 2010

Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Heart in Voh, New Caledonia, France.

If you don’t know him by name, you likely know him by image. Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a French photographer who has been interested in the Earth and Nature from an early age. In 1994 Arthus-Bertrand started a thorough study on the state of the Earth sponsored by UNESCO. As part of the study, he made a picture inventory of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, taken from helicopters and hot-air balloons. The book from this project, Earth from Above (‘la Terre vue du ciel’) sold over 3 million copies and was translated into 24 languages. Read more…


Werner and Waldo: Herzog Searches for Man and Meaning

May 3, 2010

A man unstuck from place and time, he travels the world on foot.His only lifeline to his friends and family: a litany of dreary postcards sent from arbitrary locations, the world over. His postcards do nothing to convey the humanity, the madness of Waldo’s adventures.

For that, we must go find him.

Waldo has never been so interesting or profound as he is through the eyes (and accent) of German film maker Werner Herzog.

Does this man even want to be found? Or, in searching for Waldo, did we really find ourselves?

If Herzog narrated the travels and travails of my life perhaps they’d sound as profound and interesting.

Ashes, Ashes, We All Stay Down: The Lay of the Land because of Iceland.

May 1, 2010

A friend recently introduced me to the above video (via which I find somewhat mesmerizing.  The clip shows how the northern European airspace returned to normal use after being closed due to volcanic ash from Iceland two weeks ago. The movie was created by ITO World, based on the data retrieved from Flight Radar 24.

It makes you wonder how may flights are criss-crossing above our heads right now— which, if you live in North America, you can see here.

That’s pretty fly.

Way Down to Fotomo: Baby Why Don’t We Go?

April 26, 2010

Fotomo 1 Shop

Fotomo models

On a recent visit to Droog‘s Soho location in New York led me to discover the quirky Japanese book pictured on the left.

Architectural models as I know them glorify the iconic buildings in our landscape: Brunelleschi’s dome in Florence, Paris’ Arc de Triomphe or the even the Chicago skyline. While beautiful, once cut and constructed, these buildings sit in an idealized vacuum, devoid of any sense of place.  Enter Fotomo 1 Shop: the architectural model book that brings the neighborhood with it— graffiti, garbage, grit and all.  Fotomo 1 Shop provides photo-prints of real world scenes that can be cut and assembled into 3D cardboard models. Fotomo (a word standing for “Photograph” and “Model”) aims at capturing the different angles and slice of real life in urban Japan.

Kimio Itozaki

Created by Kimio Itozaki, the less-than-quirky looking guy on the right, the scenes are wonderfully chaotic and real. Garbage trucks, corner stores, arcade machines and plenty of cats; nothing is too mundane for Kimio’s camera.  The very exoticism of these every-day Japanese scenes draws our attention to the visual language of our own environments.  And though (minus the ‘3D’ on the cover) you likely won’t be able to understand a word, the book will leave you with a strong sense of place.

Scissors and incisive visual critique not included.


Crafting Design: A Hands-On Approach to the Future

April 24, 2010

Hella Jongerius' collaboration with Ikea-Unicef. photo: Dezeen

Craft has long been the quaint cousin of Design. While ‘Design’ might evoke sleek lines and minimal chic, Craft conjures crocheted tissue boxes and Christmas bazaars. Design is a profession; Craft is a hobby. In recent years, the lines between Design and Craft have blurred, as big-name designers have incorporated elements of traditional craft within their work. This fusing of Design and Craft can be seen to reflect a number of contemporary trends: a new interest in collectivity, sustainability, storytelling, multiculturalism and the trace of the hand. Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort speaks of an emerging collective desire to return to old values, traditions and crafts. Communal interaction, creative collaboration and families of choice are replacing the Age of the Individual. Craft, with its roots in community, history and tradition, has been thrust into collective consciousness: “The world is now a market, governed by mega-mergers and mega-brands. Suddenly, almost naturally, men and women are looking again at handmade, man-mastered, artisan arts, as a refuge from mega-monotony” Edelkoort says. Does this cultural moment present us with a new opportunity to re-examine Craft and the role it might play? Can various craft traditions from around the world enlighten us not only to our pasts, but also to our futures? For Edelkoort, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’: “In terms of economy, employment strategies, and social development, [I] believe that quality arts and crafts will have a very important revival.” Read more…

Diamonds in the Rough: Kalahari Bushmen Bejeweled

April 21, 2010

Bejeweled Kalahari Bushman. photo: Boo George

Geneticists believe that the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in Africa are perhaps the oldest group still walking the earth.

Largely isolated from the outside world until the last century, the Bushmen have, for countless generations, made beautiful jewelry to adorn themselves and their loved ones. Their intricate designs incorporate wild seeds, sticks, bone, tortoiseshell, and most importantly, beads painstakingly hand-made from shards of ostrich eggshell. Despite their wealth of beautiful adornment, the Kalahari Bushmen are amongst the poorest and most disenfranchised of their southern African homeland.
Read more…

Go Dutch: Using Your Smartphone to See Yesterday and Tomorrow, Today.

April 18, 2010

The Dutch have designed it again (and put it to oddly incongruous club music).

Building on the recent success of Layar augmented reality browser, (a free mobile browser that displays digital information over the real world image that a user views through his or her mobile phone) the Netherlands Architecture Institute has introduced SARA, the world’s first mobile architecture application featuring augmented reality with 3D models.

Download the app (available at the Apple App store and Android Market) and simply hold up your smartphone to see photos, videos, 3D models, scale models and other details about current buildings as well as those from the past and those planned for the future. SARA also allows you to add your own information about any building, or map your own architectural tours. Though SARA currently only covers Rotterdam, the whole country is expected to be covered within five years.

Though I am currently jealous of the Dutch, I am excited to see all of the ways in which augmented reality browsers will become key components of tourism in the future.  Give it a few years and perhaps tours of foreign monuments will be given by people whose accent you can understand.

Now that really is augmented reality.