At my meeting in San Antonio, I just saw a nice article by Brian Jacobsmeyer on APS’ Physics Central with an interesting take on art mixing with physics. (A subject you know is close to my heart, given The (graphic novel) Project) (The article was the subject of part of the meeting, ao I was paying attention!) It is actually about fluid dynamics and Rayleigh-Taylor mixing, if you want to be specific, and you’ll recognize it in other images in astronomy, and elsewhere. There’s an interesting film associated with it too, which is linked in the article. Here’s an extract to get you started (link at the end):
Archive for the 'architecture' Category
I’m supposed to be writing a talk, but it’s too early to start on it. I’ve been woken up early (5:00am) and kept awake by ideas swirling around in my head, and a mockingbird’s singing – it is nesting in a tree near the house, and I think I may be doomed to listen to it every night until the Fall…
Tuesday of last week saw me hiding and working on The Project. This time, it involved a bit of stalking. Last year I wrote a story which mostly takes place in a family home, between a brother and sister. I had a very particular shape for the house in my mind. They move from room to room, and spend a bit of time on a patio at the front. This time, I decided to build the entire house and populate it with all that I needed so that I can use it as reference to design the backgrounds for the story. Some weeks before I’d started looking a bit more closely at some houses I’d seen in the area as models. It is almost like the house which existed in my head was out there somewhere in the city, and I just had to find it. Somehow it was intended to be a typical smaller Los Angeles single family home, and if I looked for it, there it would be. I saw a number of houses on my walks that looked suitable enough, and was going to choose one of them and make modifications… and then one day I found it.
I’d been walking past it every day for several weeks, and had not really been in the right mode of thought when doing so, and so had not looked at it in the right way. Also, I’d been distracted by a rather larger and grander (too grand) house almost across the street from it. As soon as I thought about what I’d designed last year, and so rejected the house across the street, I realized that this one was the house I’d been looking for all along. So I took a couple of hurried surreptitious reference photos (while walking past pretending to be fiddling with my phone), and went home and laid out some of the dimensions I’d guessed for it.
I worked up some made up floor plans (based on my story’s needs and my memory of the interior of houses like this that I remember, and then I decided to build it Continue reading ‘Making it Real’
I’ve been working when I can on the layouts of the first several pages of one of the stories I wrote in the Summer for The Project, and today I finally decided to do some inking on page one, sitting in the lovely sunshine we’ve been having. I am way behind, but struggle on. Lots of different things I’ve been experimenting with Continue reading ‘Inks in Sun’
New acquisitions. I’ve been a fan of the work of Marcel Breuer for many years now, going back to my first postdoc in the early 90s, at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. There, I lived (over three years) in some lovely 1957 apartments designed by him, with furniture of his design in them too. (It’s a bit different now, I understand.) The Wassily (or, Model B3) chair is one of my favourites of his, and two days ago, when I got an email from a friend I’d not heard from in a while that she was getting rid of a leather-finished pair of them, I went to see them as soon as I could (especially when I heard of their colour, which I’d decided would match my floors rather well). I came back from the visit with (after some negotiations and handing over of payment) the pair and set them up.
Yes, they are just as wonderful as I recall (and this set is particularly well made – very good reproductions), beautiful, very comfortable, and a good fit for my living room… Continue reading ‘Nostalgia Furniture’
Oh, I finished the painting of the page that, perhaps annoyingly, I’m showing you only a corner of. Now you’ve seen three stages of development in the production process, from pencils to inks to painting. See the other two pages (here and here) for comparison.
I digitally paint for this work, using a variety of techniques. This is a big silent single-panel splash page early on in the story, and I’m using it to root the reader in reality, the location, and the principal character, and so I’ve broken out the special effects a touch. Yes, I am a traditionalist, as I’ve explained before, with most of the final look of my work not being so different from what could be done in the pre-digital era, but I am not pig-headedly so, and from time to time I use (lightly, Continue reading ‘Paints’
Ok, I have inked the pencils I constructed earlier, showing parts of two real buildings that form the background to the opening pages of one of my stories.
In the end I did the curves freehand instead of fiddling with French curves*. Now for these objects, the inking (done freehand with ink drawing pens – I sometimes use brushes or brush pens too) is actually pretty much just networks of black lines since they are background details and, moreover, very simple skyscrapers. There are some others in this page that are more Continue reading ‘Black Lines’
Another shot of one of the Yácatas at Tzintzuntzan. (See the previous post for background information.)
Bizarrely, my Summer is all of a sudden threatening to transform from one of withdrawal into hiding to work on my Project to a much more travelled mode than I intended. The Morelia trip was intended to be my only exception (I agreed to it back in the Fall of last year and have said no to nearly everything else that came up), but in the last week or two (and the last few days in particular) several things have come up (involving travel) that I can’t easily turn away from. One of them would take me to Aspen (even though I decided not to go and Continue reading ‘Yácatas while Brooding’
(Top prize for the best name on last month’s trip.) This is the name of an existing town as well as the nearby archeological site, the subject of this post. On the Sunday I referred to in a previous post, several of the School went off on a bus to do some sightseeing West of Morelia. This is one of the places to which we went. I learned a bit about the pre-Columbian mesoamerican civilization, the P’urhépecha (or Purépecha), whose capital was Tzintzuntzan (place of the hummingbirds). The structures in my photos (click for larger view) are called Yácatas, which are on a plateau overlooking the lake Pátzcuaro. Continue reading ‘Tzintzuntzan’
Morelia is a beautiful city. One of the things that strikes you is the high concentration of architectural features that are either churches or related to churches (convents, chapels, etc) in the core of the city. The queen of these is the cathedral, which was across the street from my hotel (and gave it its name). Here it is during the day. The photograph was taken quite early in the morning to take advantage of the pleasant light (click for larger view):
It has fountains and gardens on both sides of it, and so acts as an all important Continue reading ‘Morelia Cathedral’
As I’ve mentioned before, I listen online to Radio 4, one of the BBC radio stations I love for its variety, breadth and depth of programming. Between it and NPR affiliate KPCC, my day is usually rather full of (spoken-word) radio of a wide variety. I’ve noticed that Radio 4 has been doing a programme called “A History of the World in 100 Objects”. The Director of the British Museum does a 15 minute programme on each of 100 objects and talks about aspects of its historical significance. (If you think you don’t like history (maybe bad experiences in school or something like that) this might be a great way back into the subject for you. Not liking a subject is usually, I find, an issue with how it was presented to you and not with the subject itself.) It’s a lovely way of quickly plugging into aspects of world culture in interesting ways, and rather reminds me of the short series that we had here at USC in the College Commons called The Cultural Life of Objects, organized by my colleagues Anne Porter and Ann Marie Yasin. (See also the Collections event, and my post about it.)
The BBC series is about half way now, and it has been quite wonderful. I strongly recommend it to you. Here’s the marvellous thing: The entire series can be podcast Continue reading ‘A Treasure Trove!’
“There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven [...] “
Not that I’m calling Boris Johnson, the [
occasional village idiot] Mayor of London, a lady or anything. It just was the best bit of the song I could use for the story. This structure does not exist yet, but it seems that will. What is it? Another Big Thing for people to go up to look over London. Yay. Silly, in many ways, but I will admit that I like it as a piece of mathematical poetry squiggled in the sky. It is by Anish Kapoor. Story here from the BBC, and here from AOL news. Video of announcement from Guardian here.
Now, while looking at the picture above, I noticed something interesting. Is it just me, or is the sky wrong? I don’t mean that it is blue and over London and therefore a Continue reading ‘Stairway to Heaven?’
The Walkabout returns me to London for a short while before I head North. While wandering around Covent Garden, I spotted this lovely bit of geometry suspended between two buildings in an alleyway. It is a bridge, but with a twist.
Upon getting home and starting a post to share it with you, I see that it is called the Bridge of Aspiration, and it connects the Royal Opera House with the Royal Ballet School. More here, where you can see that the interior is quite stunning.
Gran elefante erguido, by Miquel Barceló. (Click for larger views.)
Sometimes a 7m tall upside down bronze elephant is exactly what one needs to see Continue reading ‘New Views’
My Walkabout finds me in Madrid for a little while, and I find myself reporting joyfully on rain, once again. Not because it has been raining an unusual amount here, but because of a production I went to the other night. It was primarily a dance event, celebrating and dramatizing the work of poet Frederico Garcia Lorca during his time in New York in the 1920s. The choreography was by (I’ve forgotten… will find ticket and update shortly) [update: Blanca Li. Title: ¨Poeta en Nueva York¨] with flamenco as the primary form, mixed with several other dance traditions. There was a lot of good and enjoyable work to see, but I’ll admit to being blown away by the theatre’s (and associated production staff’s) ability to suddenly create a rainstorm on the stage, and sustain it for a prolonged period while one of the dances (using the water, as you can see) used it to great and stunning effect. I had to sneak a (no flash and no disturbing of neighbours of course) photo for you. Click for larger view.
A bit like the first time you saw Jurassic Park back when it was first released and utterly groundbreaking visually, I (and maybe you?) spent time thinking, “this is amazing!”, “how did they pull off this illusion?”, before concluding that maybe the Continue reading ‘Waterfall’
This is exciting! Today I decided to explore the new extension of the Gold line for a little while. There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing a prominent public works project of such obvious value to the community finish the construction phase and begin regular service. I was away in Europe at the opening of it in mid-November and so today was my personal little inauguration ceremony. It runs South and then East from downtown’s Union Station to Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles. Yes, you can take it all the way from Pasadena to East LA without changing trains (and similarly in the other direction) and so there’s an incentive to explore. (I’m hoping this will motivate some of the people I know in Pasadena who rarely leave it to actually get out and explore Los Angeles for real…)
I wandered the streets a little bit at one or two of the stops and of course I also sat on the trains looking out of the window and at the people around me. As with many Continue reading ‘Gone East, Looking West’
I do love the Wiltern. It is one of my favourite classic Art Deco buildings in Los Angeles or even beyond. (Click image for larger view.) I catch glimpses of it from time to time when I am on my way from here to there, but it has been a while since I stopped and looked properly.
Yesterday I was on my way back from one place and on my way to another and I changed buses right in front of it, so lingered and admired for a while.
You can find more about the Wiltern here, among other places.
I loved this set of interlocking shapes that presented itself upon glancing inside this Continue reading ‘Collapsible Geometry’
Given all the gardening I’ve been doing over the last week or so (there’s some seed-sowing action going on to the right – more later), it may be fitting to go and sit and participate in the event coming up today. It is another of the College Commons events I’ve been mentioning here.
It’ll be a round table discussion and workshop to kick off a series, and here’s the summary:
“The Spiritual Life of Plants” series, arranged by Natania Meeker and Antónia Szabari of French and comparative literature, aims to reunite urgent contemporary conversations around ecology and the built environment with an early modern past — a past in which plants existed both at the limits of being and at the frontier of new forms of knowledge. What might these animated plants have to tell us about the ways in which humans experience, regulate, and are transformed by the non-human beings that surround them? How can we carry these conversations forward into the present and the future?
Today’s round table: Continue reading ‘The Spiritual Life of Plants’
Last night, for one reason or another, I decided on the spur of the moment to head to the beach, in order to wander there with the darkness clinging to me while I faced the bracing wind and cleared my head of many things. Although not quite like walking, for example, the Northumbrian coastline, even this part of the Pacific can be wonderfully restless, rugged, and alive when there are strong storms in the air, as is the case right now in the area.
On my walk, heading Northwest, I saw the Santa Monica Pier in the distance, with its new (as of last Summer) Ferris Wheel sporting some 160000 LEDs (I read this – did not count them) and putting on a light show. It is interesting to look at for a number of reasons. They’ve programmed in a lot of patterns that it cycles through, some of which are nice, but the most interesting thing to me (and not depicted in my Continue reading ‘Light Thoughts’
I almost forgot to mention that tonight marks the launch of the series of events called the College Commons here at USC. Here’s a news story about the programme. This academic year, I’ve been working on the committee working on shaping the ideas that have come up from the faculty (I had promised to tell you more about this), and we’ve announced the short Spring programme, which you can see here.
There is a featured part celebrating 1859:
Where do ideas come from, and how far do they travel? One hundred and fifty years ago, the astonishing year of 1859 saw not only the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, but such pioneering works as John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, Karl Marx’s Critique of Political Economy, and Richard Wagner’s first version of Tristan and Isolde. This year also marked amazing advances in travel and communications, the first battles prefiguring the Civil War and the first trapeze act performed in Paris. Can we imagine the world 150 years from now, and imagine the place our ideas will have in it? Scholars from biology, anthropology, physics, literature, history, and gender studies, as well as poets and artists, will explore these questions together this spring.
I hope there’ll be a lot of participation in the events (I’ll say more on this later). Tonight has a free movie, Master and Commander (so there’s a reason to go, right Continue reading ‘Uncommon Conversations’
Of course, being back in the city means getting back into the routine of enjoying all the fantastic things to do here during a hot Summer. There are too many things to choose from, but one of my favourites is the Downtown Art Walk. (Previous post on it here.) It’s the second Thursday of every month. Strangely, it is still not very well known, even though it is one of the best activities I can think of to do to blow off steam at the end of the day. Or for the whole day. The art is all over the place, in that there is good stuff mixed in with a lot of, uh, other stuff, and so it is fun to hunt for it. Two reliable highlights for me, and maybe the most fun of all, are (1) the fact that these galleries are housed in lots of fantastic old and decayed spaces in old buildings in the core of Los Angeles’ centre. In fact, I often find myself looking at and enjoying the spaces more than the art. (2) The people. Representatives of every Los Angeles archetype, and several more besides, can be found wandering the streets of downtown during the Art Walk… and squeezing into the galleries and sampling the free (or cheap) wine, and generally rubbing shoulders with everyone else. How often do you get a wider cross section of Angelenos out of their cars and, horror, walking and, horror of horrors, mingling with others? Worth going just for that. There’s a brief history of it here, written by Bert Green, (hey, I did not know that I’ve been coming to it almost since it started) and the website for the Art Walk is here.
I wandered around some of my favourite galleries and studios, looking at the art, people, buildings, and spaces. Everything changes so much between monthly events and so it is always a pleasant surprise to learn which gallery will interest me most on Continue reading ‘Art Walk’
As I get older and busier, I seem to increasingly value quiet spaces. I always loved them, but now they seem more vital to me than ever. So I seek them out constantly. It’s important to note that it is, as they say, all relative. My whole house is a quiet space in a quiet part of a neighbourhood, which is itself in a relatively quiet part of the city. Nevertheless, I’ve been monitoring my working patterns of late and noticed quite a bit of fragmentation, which bothers me a lot. Sure, a lot of it is self-inflicted (email, blogging, and so forth can always be managed better – that’s another issue to discuss), but some of it has to do with finding good spaces to work, depending upon the type of mood and type of work to hand.
I’ve lots of favourites, and many of them are cafes and bars around the city, some places on campus (my office is not high on that list though), the odd bench in a park here and there, and so forth. But those are mostly for working in my “public space” mode. Sometimes I want to work in a different mode, or sometimes I want to just stay Continue reading ‘A Retreat’
Hey, guess who I saw today! Recall, that I passed a woman on a tricycle a while back? Well, at exactly the same spot, I passed her again today. She’s called Julia, as you may recall from her comment on the blog sometime later, (as I’d met her subsequently and said hello properly). I briefly said “hello and how are you” this time as our bike and trike passed each other, but I apologized for having to rush off, and rushed off. I was trying to catch the next bus in order to get to my classroom by 9:55am. The class’ first midterm was at 10:00am today and I wanted to make sure to be on time. So I dashed off to the stop…
…Only to be accompanied five minutes later by Julia, calmly arriving on her tricycle. She was also catching the same bus, it turned out, and I’d landed in the gap between buses and needed to wait anyway. After checking with me that this was indeed the stop she needed, she chained her splendid red machine to a tree. I contemplated taking a picture of us and the two extraordinary conveyances together to show you. However, while I dithered over this, the bus came. So I’ll cheat and re-use the old picture (right).
Anyway, we chatted quite a while about things (including the frustration of trying to Continue reading ‘More Encounters On the Road Less Travelled’
Well, I’m sorry if things have been a bit quiet around here for a bit. I’ve been very busy, and also eight hours out of sync with my usual cycle. Couple this to also being disconnected from the web in the second hotel I was staying in because of me being too cheap to pay the extortionate amount that they were asking for a connection (the other place had a free connection in certain public lounges, and luckily the signal leaked into my room enough to get me a good connection a lot of the time) and you get quite a bit of quiet.
I was in Dublin and London again. Dublin mainly on a work mission, London on the way back for non-work. I was having panel deliberations once again on a range of Continue reading ‘Random Travel Matters’
Well it is time for the second one in the series. Recall that it is part of the Provost’s Visions and Voices series, which has been running since August, with a huge program of events of all sorts.
Here are some words about the event:
Continue reading ‘More Uncertainty’
So I must apologize. I went to the preview of the Griffith Observatory so long ago now and did promise to blog about it with more than just one nice picture, but it did not happen. Partly because I had to go back across the Atlantic to do some work, and then got ill over the weekend I was planning to do it, and then...
Anyway, here are some of my thoughts. First note that my two week delay means that this is no longer a scoop, since even the LA Times had a spread on the whole thing on Thursday. A rather nice one as well. I urge you to consult it for a lovely pull-out graphic of the whole site. There is also a special website with picture tours, nifty 360 degree interactive shots of the spaces, and other information. The Griffith opened yesterday.
What they’ve done over the last four or five years is simply shut down the entire building and rethink and redo a great deal of it. How to preserve the lovely 70 year old landmark, while making it even better? Simple question – simple answer: Get $93 million for your project (I find this number, the earth-sun distance in miles, suspicious), and then go underneath the existing building and hollow out about the same amount of space that is has, but underground. Fill it with lots of goodies. And I mean lots and lots. What goodies? We’ll see.
Spotted near King’s College:
Always funny how these things happen. Or maybe it is just how my mind works. During the lunch break, after talks by Gary Gibbons, myself, and Roberto Emparan, it sort of stands to reason that I would run into some scene on the streets of Cambridge that was string-themed in some way. These (click for larger) are two architecture students I met tangling up the model of the city with balls of knitting wool/yarn. I liked this immediately, and chatted to them about it. They said that it is for National Knitting Week (who knew?) and they were going to try to “string (or knit) together all of Cambridge” as part of their celebrations.
“And well, why knot?”, I asked myself*, as I walked on my way.
Back when I was young enough to care to try to list such things, I had a favourite number. Really, really faourite. I lived and breathed that number for a while. Today’s session in the freshman seminar â€œThe Art and Science of Seeing and the Seeing and Science of Artâ€, about which I have blogged here and here, was all about it. Rather than do chapter and verse about it (don’t get me started!), I will instead leave you with the image that I ended with…
… and let you tell me and other readers – if you like – what you think the number is, what it means to you, and perhaps share whatever you like (or hate) about it.
Well, here’s a bit of news. For one reason or another, I have been invited to a preview, later this month, of the soon-to-be-reopened Griffith Observatory, and so will get to see it before it opens to the very general public. (Library photos, by E. C. Krupp, by the way.)
I will try my best to bring you a full report on the splendiforous contents… assuming they have not all been replaced by movie memorabilia, or some other desecration. (I’ll try very hard to not play the role of the obnoxious scientist, and so won’t yell “where the hell is the science!?” at awkward moments – I hope. I’ll try not to ask awkward questions at all. In fact I will just try to say very little in the way of contrarian remarks, since I’m an invited guest and should be polite. Actually, it’s best I don’t say anything at all.)
[Update: The post on the visit is here.]
I’m trying hard not to think about this day, five years ago, in Manhattan. Nor the days immediately following. Those were among the worst experiences of my life, being so close (but very luckily, far away enough) to the events. But the whole thing gets replayed by the media every year, and so it is hard to avoid some aspects of it. Besides the memorials -which are absolutely the right thing to do of course- there are endless discussions of how to combat terrorism, the “War on Terror” (in its current configuration, little to do with the first), and what seems to me to be a growing volume of chatter about the conspiracy theory that the whole world trade center site was demolished by construction engineers working for the government. or other organisation with unscrupulous motives. The latter point, when put to me, is usally along the lines of “you’re a scientist – doesn’t the collapse look suspicious to you?”. My only thought on this matter is “How many 7+ skyscraper complexes have we seen collapse before?”. This is not an argument in itself, but just my way of saying “it’s not that simple”.
What I really wanted to write about was something about the events, or their aftermath, that had at least of glimmer of something positive about it, and maybe a science connection. I think I found it. You may know that there’s already been a huge amount of work on the reconstruction of the site, starting with a lot of jostling among superpowered architects for the main tower complex and memorial site. (I recall the lovely exhibits of the architects’ proposals near the site. It was open to the public, and there were models and animations showing all the ideas. The public’s opinion was sought – although I’m not sure it was actually listened to in the end. But it was a great exercise. Personally, I think that they should have chosen the design of [
Lex Luthor] Norman Foster, for its mathematical beauty and (apparent) structural integrity, but I understand that there were other issues. In any event, with the new tweaks to the overall scheme, I think that the new plan is rather good now, and there’s a lovely Norman Foster design (tower 2), a Richard Rogers (tower 3) design, and a Fumihiko Maki (tower 4), all featuring prominently. Uh.. the Lex Luthor reference is to Foster’s outfit at the time of his presentation… all in black with 60s supervillain black turtleneck, and shaven head.)
The work has gone well beyond choosing architechts and the like. Actual construction has happened. The new “7 World Trade Center” has already been completed, and I noticed that among the new tenants will be the New York Academy of Sciences. I’m very happy about this, and I don’t quite know why. Among the contributing factors are, I expect, the fact that I used to spend my summers in New York back then making good use of some of the wonderful academic institutions that there are in the city. This includes the excellent libraries at Columbia University, especially the lovely Butler library, but also includes some truly majestic spaces such as the Rose reading room at the New York Public Library. I wrote some of my book there.
I just love the fact that there are so many great institutions of that kind in New York, and so it almost brings tears to my eyes to read that among the first tenants in this newly reborn part of the city will be the New York Academy of Sciences. (They signed the first lease, but they will move in second.) They will have quite a lovely setting, I Continue reading ‘Seven’
I’ve been waiting for three years… another six weeks or so to go… It’s going to be great !
On the 14th of July of this year, Bastille Day – the important French holiday – we inhabitants of the mathematics “monastery” at which I was staying in Luminy in the South of France (see a CV post about this here) were forced to wander out into the outside world. There was no food and no lectures, you see. So off to Marseille! The plan was to go up to have a look around the city and stay for the fireworks in the evening if we were not too exhausted. I was accompanied by Ilarion Melnikov (a postdoc at Chicago) and Claudine Chen (a postdoc at Penn State) initially, and the plan was to wander up to the city, and meet up with David Kutasov (professor at Chicago) to wander around the port.
I found Marseille a big surprise in one major respect, which in retrospect I should have anticipated. (1) It is huge. Larger than Paris geographically, and among France’s cities it is second only to Paris in population. I did not get that impression from walking around it. (2) Given fact (1), there are no great museums or galleries that you might expect for a city this size!
It’s quite remarkable in a way. I imagine it is because France’s organization may be even more highly centralized than I’d realised. Perhaps even more so than England was not so long ago, back in the day when if you wanted to see that type of thing you had to go up to the “big city”, London. Perhaps that’s the same here and now, given the Marseille observation (confirmed by locals, I hasten to add), but I should not generalize.
The absence of big museums showing art from around the world, etc, is not a shortcoming in an of itself. That is not what I am saying. It was just interesting, as one has got more used to a much more decentralized model of how things are distributed in a country. What is just great about Marseille and the region is simply that it does not matter. The attitude seems to be: Just come, wander around the port, look at the work of the local artists here and there, swim in the nearby excellent beaches, and go find a good restaurant and sample the Bouillabaisse with a good beer or glass of wine. What more do you need from life? Well, when the temperature is high and the sky is blue, it is hard to disagree. Just do as the local do.
But there are, as with any city, hidden treasures. Continue reading ‘Unite d’Habitation’