A Presidential memoir and library without precedent

I’ve been reading about two things that seem to happen to each US President once they’ve left office. They write a memoir, and get a library. Here’s something to set the mood.

In ‘A Promised Land,’ Barack Obama thinks — and thinks some more — over his first termThe New York Times
Nearly every president since Theodore Roosevelt has written a memoir that covers his years in office; this one contains some inevitable moments of reputation-burnishing and legacy-shaping, though the narrative hews so closely to Obama’s own discursive habits of thought that any victories he depicts feel both hard-won and tenuous. An adverb he likes to use is “still” — placed at the beginning of a sentence, to qualify and counter whatever he said just before. Another favorite is “maybe,” as he reflects on alternatives to what happened, offering frank confessions of his own uncertainties and doubts. At a time of grandiose mythologizing, he marshals his considerable storytelling skills to demythologize himself.

Can you imagine Trump being so reflective? Me neither.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama review – memoir of a presidentThe Guardian
To read Barack Obama’s autobiography in the last, snarling days of Donald Trump is to stare into an abyss between two opposite ends of humanity, and wonder once again at how the same country came to choose two such disparate men.

Who knows what he’d write about. Certainly not the truth.

A Trump memoir would sell. Will publishers buy it?The New York Times
“I would take a meeting,” said Dana Canedy, the senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s namesake imprint. “But there’s a huge gap between taking a meeting and publishing a book.” … “I’d have to be satisfied that he met Simon & Schuster’s overall standards for publishing a book, which is that book be honest, fair and balanced,” Ms. Canedy said. “We’d want to know that he would be willing to be edited and submit to a rigorous fact-checking process.”

The Office of Presidential Libraries, within the National Archives and Records Administration agency, oversees the 14 libraries established so far, from Hoover’s to Obama’s (possibly), via JFK’s, Nixon’s and all the others in between. These are repositories for preserving and making accessible the papers, records, and other historical materials of the US Presidents. Many aspects of Trump’s presidency are without precedent, so who knows if he’ll get one. Not that there will be much to archive.

Will Trump burn the evidence?The New Yorker
Donald Trump is not much of a note-taker, and he does not like his staff to take notes. He has a habit of tearing up documents at the close of meetings. (Records analysts, armed with Scotch Tape, have tried to put the pieces back together.) No real record exists for five meetings Trump had with Vladimir Putin during the first two years of his Presidency. Members of his staff have routinely used apps that automatically erase text messages, and Trump often deletes his own tweets, notwithstanding a warning from the National Archives and Records Administration that doing so contravenes the Presidential Records Act.

Trump’s library hasn’t been built yet, but as we’re used to wandering around libraries and museums virtually these days, let’s take a stroll round this online version. With its Autocrats Gallery, Alt-Right Auditorium, Felon’s Lounge and Wall of Criminality, there’s something for everyone.

Donald J. Trump Presidential Library
We are still grappling with what it means to have endured Donald J. Trump’s presidency while still repairing the historic carnage of this tumultuous period in American history. This Presidential Library is an attempt to provide the American and International communities a place to reflect on what the rise of White Nationalism has meant to our country and try to eradicate it from our political discourse.

What an accurate presidential library for Donald Trump would look likeFast Company
It’s clearly a parody. But the design also highlights a major question facing the post-Trump era, whenever that may be: How might such a presidential library attempt an accurate historical representation of a president and administration so prone to disinformation and falsehood?

Twitter Gallery
Alt-Right Auditorium
Covid Memorial
Drumpf’s Diner

Update 26/11/2020

The Library now has a Gift Grift Shop.

And it’s fun to see others joining in with the pranks.

President pranked as comedians snap up Trump 2024 domainThe Guardian
“We got the domain DonaldJTrump2024.com,” comics Jason Selvig and Davram Stiefler, AKA The Good Liars, wrote on Twitter. … Selvig and Stiefler offered to give the president the domain name “if you tweet ‘My name is Donald Trump and I lost the 2020 election by A LOT. I am a loser. SAD!’” As of Wednesday lunchtime Trump had not done so, despite having plenty of phone time on a day officially free of public engagements.

To err is — costly

Spreadsheet error led to Edinburgh hospital opening delayBBC News
An NHS Lothian-commissioned review found a “human error” in a 2012 spreadsheet with the specifications for air flow in critical care rooms. The mistake was missed in what auditors describe as a “collective failure”. It was only when the hospital had been handed over to NHS Lothian, and £1.4m monthly repayments had started, that independent checks found the critical care rooms were operating with the wrong air flow. Remedial work worth £16m has since been carried out and the new Sick Kids building started hosting outpatient appointments in July.

On the shelf

I’ve a number of posts here about libraries, but I’ve never seen one with such substantial shelving.

The Old Cincinnati Library before being demolished, 1874-1955Rare Historical Photos
Built in 1874 on the site reserved for an opera house, the Old Cincinnati Library was a thing of wonder. With five levels of cast iron shelving, a fabulous foyer, checker board marble floors and an atrium lit by a skylight ceiling, the place was breathtaking. Unfortunately that magnificent maze of books is now lost forever.

Some rather more genteel shelving on display here.

One of the world’s oldest reading rooms at the University of OxfordThe Mind Circle
This collection of images of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, while not of the most impressive library interior, are actually extremely rare, and most likely the best images of the interior available anywhere online. Photography of this library, which dates as far back as 1487 during the Medieval period, is usually completely prohibited as it contains many priceless original books, including manuscripts of the gospels of the Bible from the 3rd century, a Shakespeare First Folio and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (one of 42 left in the world).

Not quite wrapped up yet

You remember I mentioned one of Christo’s final projects was going to involve the Arc de Triomphe? The one he’d been working on since the sixties? It looks like it’s still going ahead.

It’s Christo’s final show. But is it the last we’ll see of him?The New York Times
Christo’s team “are extraordinarily competent, and they know all the nuances of the Arc de Triomphe project, because they’ve been there working on everything,” said Jonathan Fineberg, a professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia who has written extensively on Christo and Jeanne-Claude. “They know exactly what Christo wanted to do, and Christo wanted this project to be built whether he was there or not.”

It would be a fitting trubute. Here, perhaps, is another.

A 3D mural by artist Leon Keer wraps a French housing complex like a giftColossal
Dutch artist Leon Keer is known for his large-scale anamorphic and Trompe-l’œil projects, transforming the sides of buildings and sidewalks into illusory public art. His latest mural, titled “Safe House,” turns the side of a housing complex in Morlaix, France, into a massive, wrapped gift. Despite its flat surface, the gold paper appears to crinkle and bulge under the bright, imperfectly cut tape. “It is not obvious for everybody to have a roof over their head. Your home is precious and gives you the comfort and protection, a gift for the necessary needs in life. In honor of the great Christo and Jeanne-Claude,” the artist writes in a statement.

So, farewell then, Christo

Some time in the 90s, I was convinced, absolutely convinced, that I had come across a secret Christo within the grounds of the University of Leeds. Of course it turned out just to be some wrapped scaffolding for a building renovation project. It did look pretty cool, though, and gave me just an inkling of what looking at the Reichstag (and perhaps still the Arc de Triomphe?) might have been like.

Christo (1935–2020)Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff, known as Christo, passed away of natural causes today, on May 31, 2020, at his home in New York City. He was 84 years old. Statement from Christo’s office: “Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it. Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s artwork brought people together in shared experiences across the globe, and their work lives on in our hearts and memories.

How the visionary artist Christo (RIP) changed the way we see the worldOpen Culture
After removing the wrapping from the Biscayne Bay islands, a project he called “my Water Lilies” in honor of Claude Monet,” Christo remarked that Surrounded Islands lived on, “in the mind of the people.” So too will Christo live on—remembered by millions as an artist who did things no one else would ever have conceived of, much less carried out.

The story behind Christo′s ′Wrapped Reichstag′DW
In 1978, Christo presented a model of a veiled Reichstag at the Zurich Museum für Gestaltung (Museum of Design). Despite the troubled history of the structure built in the late 19th century under Kaiser Wilhelm II, Christo saw it as a symbol of freedom: the Republic was proclaimed there in 1918. Freedom had been a recurring theme in Christo’s art since his escape from communist Bulgaria in 1951.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude Wrap Up the Reichstag – Tate
Walking on Water: Christo’s Floating Piers – DW News
ART/ARCHITECTURE Christo – The School of Life
Christo on the Quai de la Tournelle, Paris, 1962. Photo: Jeanne-Claude

South of the river

In this contribution to The Guardian’s Illustrated City series, writer, printmaker and illustrator Francesca Roe shares with us her views of our home town, or rather, the lower, grubbier half of it.

Faded grandeur: the industrial glories of neglected south Leeds – a cartoon
A walk through south Leeds reveals a district caught between industrial grandeur, post-industrial wasteland and urban blandness. The starting point is Leeds station, where the 1960s edifice and the 1930s art-deco concourse sit directly above the Dark Arches, a series of vaults spanning the River Aire that serve as the station’s foundation. A metal walkway passes through the Dark Arches and over the Aire, where passers-by can stop and watch the churning water receding into darkness. Around 18m bricks were used to construct the arches during the 1860s – the largest such project in the world at that time.

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Through the Dark Arches lies the Leeds-Liverpool canal and the gentrified tip of Holbeck: “Holbeck Urban Village”, a tight knot of former red-brick flax mills and steam engine works. The Round Foundry dates back to 1795 and was once home to steam engine manufacturers; today the complex is home to offices, a brewery and Yorkshire’s official tourist board. The gentrification of this small part of Holbeck has done little to ease poverty in south Leeds as a whole, but it has preserved a part of the district’s history that was previously at risk.

Some wonderful illustrations accompany this melancholic piece, with more on Instagram. Very evocative of the inner-city scrappiness and griminess of the area.

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Here’s a link to some more of her writing on a similar theme, how cities deal with their past.

What should cities do with ‘dark sites’, where tragic or sinister events occurred?
It’s unsurprising that communities want to physically erase the sites of violent crimes. In other cases, though, dark sites hold a deeper historic and social significance that can be commemorated. In these cases, redevelopment offers an alternative to demolition. High Royds Hospital was a psychiatric institution in Leeds which closed in 2003 and turned into housing. I remember walking around the site in the early stages of redevelopment. The grounds felt desolate, and it was easy to imagine the abuses that took place there.

No place like home?

Wonky world

Let’s start in Germany.

A partially submerged train car provides a dramatic entrance to Frankfurt’s Bockenheimer Warte subway station
Subway stations are typically just a means to an end, simple structures that allow a large overflow of commuters to enter and exit at will. It is less common for the design to be a destination in itself, like the popular Bockenheimer Warte subway entrance in Frankfurt, Germany. The station, erected in 1986, was built to look as if an old tram car had crash landed into the sidewalk that surrounds the station.

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Then up to Norway.

The world’s largest undersea restaurant
Located 5m below the sea off the coast of Lindesnes, Norway, Europe’s first underwater restaurant serves fresh seafood with a one-of-a-kind view.

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The world’s largest underwater restaurant in Norway

Then across to Scotland.

Mach 1: Arts & event venue made from a tangle of shipping containers
The shape of the new building takes inspiration from piles of rocks on the Fife coastline, the color of nearby Forth Bridge and the industrial heritage of the area. Once completed, Mach 1 will stand 15 meters (about 49 feet) high and stretch 50 meters (about 164 feet) at its longest point. Inside, visitors will find a coffee bar and double-height exhibition space used to showcase the Edinburgh Park masterplan through drawings, information boards and scale models.

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“Shipping containers are really interesting to me architecturally. They are really honest and are also really familiar to people. They also go all over the world. But this will be different to anything else that has been built of them before, which is what you really want as an artist.”

Going anyway nice?

You say potato, I say hotel room: a private Airbnb fashioned from a retired 6-ton promotional spud
What better way to be a couch potato than spending a relaxing weekend at a potato-shaped hotel? The new venue, which is available via Airbnb, is located in Boise, Idaho—a state that even touts its potatoes on vehicle license plates. The larger-than-life potato began its journey seven years ago on the back of a semi truck, as it traveled widely to promote the state’s famous starchy vegetable with the Idaho Potato Commission. Its most recent iteration as overnight accommodations was the project of Kristie Wolfe, who added a retrofitted silo complete with a bathtub and fireplace.

Airbnb host thrown in the clink after guest finds hidden camera inside Wi-Fi router
“I found a motion sensor monitor at the flat’s entrance and two in the two bedrooms, which is odd since the flat had not been renovated for smart-home automation,” she told the Beijing Youth Daily. She stuck stickers on the sensors and turned them toward the wall before embarking on a deeper search, checking the TV and smoke detectors for hidden cameras. It was when she spotted the internet router in the bedroom, facing the bed, that she began to get really suspicious however.

Street Tree Pods: A creative proposal to add more housing to London
Like urban treehouses, each of these “street tree pods” rises from a parking space to nestle within the branches of a tree, providing compact, low-cost living space for people in need of housing. University of Westminster graduate Matthew Chamberlain envisions these organically shaped portable dwellings as a potential way to address the housing crisis in cities like London, where there simply aren’t enough places for the population to live.

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She’s been restored before

The images of Notre Dame yesterday were just horrible. Let’s look at some different ones (with apologies for relying on Google Translate).

1840 – Notre Dame before restoration
The success of Hugo’s novel and the beginning of the Romantic Current will contribute to a renewed interest in French Gothic heritage. In 1843, a vast restoration program will be launched at the initiative of Prosper Mérimée, then Inspector General of Historical Monuments. Architects Viollet le Duc and Lassus will win the competition.

Started in 1845, the titanic construction site will last twenty years. Every effort will be made to restore the cathedral to its former splendor. The arrow and the Red Gate will be restored among others. A hundred or so statues, inspired by other cathedrals, will be made under the careful control of the architects.

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(Via a Benedict Evans newsletter.)

Meanwhile.

Notre Dame fire hoaxes are already spreading on social media
Online conspiracists are baselessly trying to blame the fire on their political opponents.

YouTube’s new fact-check tool flagged Notre Dame fire coverage and attached an article about 9/11
The widget showing information about the Sept. 11 terror attacks appears to have been triggered by a new feature YouTube is testing to provide “topical context” around videos that might contain misinformation.

Images of Hong Kong

I felt that last post about China was a little negative, but perhaps this one about the amazing imagery of Hong Kong might redress the balance.

Fan Ho’s street photography of 50s & 60s Hong Kong
Dubbed the “Cartier-Bresson of the East”, Fan Ho patiently waited for ‘the decisive moment’; very often a collision of the unexpected, framed against a very clever composed background of geometrical construction, patterns and texture. He often created drama and atmosphere with backlit effects or through the combination of smoke and light. His favorite locations were the streets, alleys and markets around dusk or life on the sea.

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Housing there looks a little different now, especially in Kowloon. Here’s Toby Harriman’s take on that (via Laughing Squid).

The Block Tower // Hong Kong Aerial
For years I have seen pictures of these public housing/apartment tower blocks being built and knew that they were something I wanted to see and document for myself. Rather than just creating stills from these, I went with the goal of taking abstract videos and displaying them more like art, showing off their true scale.

The Block Tower, by Toby Harriman

Interestingly, he says that “Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with an overall density of an estimated 6,300 people per square kilometer”, but there are no people to be found anywhere in the images he captures, just the occasional glimpses of laundry drying on balconies. I think the photos feel a little unreal as a result, simply too immense to get your head round.

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Crazy colour schemes, though.

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Whilst the drone footage is impressive, I think I prefer Michael Wolf’s more atmospheric interpretation, Architecture of Density, from a while back. Looks like glitch art.

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Michael Wolf photographs the architecture of density
The structural urban fabric of the city of Hong Kong is one of the most astonishingly condensed, populated and vertical in the world, propelling its edifices soaring into the sky to contend with the lack of lateral space. German photographer Michael Wolf — and current resident of the Chinese metropolis — has captured a series of images that acutely acknowledge the landscape’s overwhelming concentration of soaring buildings and skyscrapers. ‘Architecture of Density’ is a collection of large scale works, which focuses on repetition of pattern and form to cause an infinitely complex visual reaction and rediscovers the city scenes by highlighting its forest-like expanse of high rises.

It’s not just the grand scale that interests him, though.

Michael Wolf captures abstract, accidental sculptures in Hong Kong alleyways
For over 20 years Michael Wolf has been photographing Hong Kong. During that time he has captured the towering pastel facades of its high rise architecture in a vein similar to Thomas Struth or Andreas Gursky, but perhaps more interestingly he has delved into the hidden maze of the city’s back alleys. What he found and has faithfully documented, are the innumerable abstract urban still lifes seen throughout. All the city’s flotsam and jetsam, from clusters of gloves and clothes hangers, to networks of pipes and a full colour spectrum of plastic bags, are photographed in strange, but entirely happenstance arrangements.

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And check this out for an unusual point of view.

Chan Dick’s aerial photos of a Hong Kong fire station taken from a toilet window
“One day I was busy in my workshop when I heard a noise coming from the bathroom. Curious, I opened the window and looked down and saw firefighters playing volleyball,” explains Chan. “For the next month, I dedicated myself to observation and bit by bit discovered the routine of this small unusual space.”

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Fancy going up in the world?

The Chrysler Building, the iconic art deco skyscraper in New York, is up for sale.

For sale: New York City’s second most famous skyscraper
The 77-story stainless steel-clad skyscraper, briefly the world’s tallest building after it was finished in 1930, is 90% owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, a sovereign wealth fund, with developer Tishman Speyer owning the remainder. […]

The 1.26m sq ft building underwent a $100m renovation after Tishman acquired the property in 1997. Tishman later reduced its holding. The sovereign wealth fund paid $800m when it bought its stake in 2008.

$800,000,000 in 2008? Who knows what they’re asking for now. It’s an amazing building, though.

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Chrysler Building put up for sale
When the building was completed in 1930, it was the tallest building in the world, a title it held for about a year until the Empire State Building opened less than a mile away in midtown Manhattan. Today it is only the sixth tallest building in the city, and will drop down another notch later this year when a new office tower opens on the city’s west side. But it is still one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. It is famous for its triangle-shaped, vaulted windows worked into the stylized crown, along with its distinctive eagle gargoyles near the top.

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Chrysler building, the art deco masterpiece
A look at the famous building currently on sale.

The Guardian have also gathered together some wonderful images showing the development of New York from the turn of the century onwards.

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Rising high: the evolving skyline of New York City
Manhattan’s skyline is the most famous in the world. Its horizon has been interrupted by verticals from the first 10-storey office buildings in the late 1800s, and will only continue to rise higher.

Beautiful libraries, inside and out

Libraries are remarkable buildings.

Experience the beauty of libraries around the world through this instagram series
Over the past two years, Savoie has traveled from his home city of Montréal, to Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest, Rome, Riga, Paris, Moscow, and several other cities photographing the stunning architecture of libraries. Encountering language barriers and even intense security, Savoie’s dedication to taking the perfect photo has resulted in a stunning collection of images.

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The world’s most beautiful libraries
In a new Taschen book, the Italian photographer Massimo Listri travels around the world to some of the oldest libraries, revealing a treasure trove of unique and imaginative architecture.

But, of course, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Every library has a story to tell
But whatever form a library takes, someone had to have chosen the books in it, which reveal the secrets of heart and mind—their cares, their greeds, their enthusiasms, their obsessions.

‘Spectacular’ ancient public library discovered in Germany
It is not clear how many scrolls the library would have held, but it would have been “quite huge – maybe 20,000”, said Schmitz. The building would have been slightly smaller than the famed library at Ephesus, which was built in 117 AD. He described the discovery as “really incredible – a spectacular find”.

The secret libraries of history
“The new technique is amazing in that it shows us fragments – medieval text – that we could otherwise never see because they are hidden behind a layer of parchment or paper,” wrote Kwakkel in a blog post about his Hidden Library project. While the technology needs to be improved, it hints at a process that could reveal a secret library within a library. “We might be able to access a hidden medieval ‘library’ if we were able to gain access to the thousands of manuscript fragments hidden in bindings.”

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Watch Umberto Eco walk through his immense private library: it goes on, and on, and on!
We can only imagine how many such citadels of knowledge Eco visited in his travels all over the world, but we don’t have to imagine the one he built himself, since we can see it in the video above. Though not infinite like the library of all possible books imagined by Borges, Eco’s private home library looks, from certain angles, nearly as big. The camera follows Eco as he passes shelf after packed shelf, some lining the walls and others standing free, eventually finding his way to one volume in particular — despite the fact that he apparently shelved very few of his books with their spines facing outward.

That last line about his books not facing outwards? Reminded me of this post from a couple of months back.

Sonic art in Taiwan

What can one do with a 10 metre high brutalist concrete speaker on a Taiwanese island that was used to blare out propaganda across the sea to China? Use it as the venue for “Sonic Territories”, of course.

Beishan Broadcast Wall: Taiwan’s eerie sonic weapon
It is the Beishan Broadcast Wall on one of Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands, just 2km (1.2 miles) away from China’s Xiamen city. Built in 1967, the broadcast wall used to be a strategic military stronghold that played a key role in sonic warfare across the straits, blasting out anti-communist propaganda. Nearly three decades after the tower stopped functioning, a group of artists based in Berlin and Taiwan are turning the forgotten historical site into an experimental art stage that investigates the idea of ‘territories’ beyond the conventional definition.

Such a strange place. It’s difficult to imagine what life must have been like to live there during that time.

The interaction with the local people during the performance, however, can only faintly bridge the gap between young Taiwanese and history. “To me Kinmen is an insane place. We visit the islands as if they were a history museum or a cabinet of curiosity. People there still live in another era, and young Taiwanese cannot imagine how they felt living under the terror of dictatorship,” Chang says.

ArtAsiaPacific: Sonic Territories Performance Recap
Berlin-based French artist Augustin Maurs’ segment reflected on the opposition between sound and silence in relation to trauma. His sound piece, played via the wall of speakers, comprised incantations of statements about that duality—sound and silence—including a translated, Mandarin version of a gut-wrenching speech made in opposition to gun violence by 16-year-old Emma Gonzalez in the wake of Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting earlier this year. In explaining his work, Maurs told ArtAsiaPacific: “It is about silence and the act of choosing when to speak, even when one does not necessarily wish to do so.”

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Aural exhibition inspired by Kinmen’s Beishan Broadcast Wall bound for Berlin
Yang said instead of focusing on the pain caused by war, the exhibition emphasizes blessings, peace and the need to cloak the former battlefield with a sense of spiritual calm. It is also an attempt to heighten international awareness of Kinmen’s complicated history and the development of democracy in Taiwan, she added. […]

According to Yang, recordings of Kinmen residents detailing life on the island, as well as the sounds of the waves, wind and other signature aspects of the local soundscape, will take center stage at the Berlin leg of the exhibition. These are to be complemented by an atmospheric video capturing the visual contrast between Beishan and the nearby shoreline.

You can see that shoreline with Google Maps, as well as get a sense of the distances these broadcasts were originally travelling, across to China.

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Bei Shan Precipices

Or take a trip there to see for yourself.

Beishan Broadcasting Wall: Classic Kinmen Travel
Situated on the cliff on Beishan, the Broadcasting Wall was built to protect speakers in the broadcasting station, and has a square shape formed with 48 speakers. From the exterior, it looks like a hive, and the sound can travel as far as 25 kilometers… And is the only tourist site all over the country where visitors can announce and spread propaganda mimicking a psychological warfare.

Before they were famous

Some uncommon views of very well-known structures.

Famous landmarks, before they were finished
It isn’t always possible to find an unusual perspective on famous landmarks, but photos taken during their construction can often provide one. In black-and-white or grainy color, they’re filled with promise but not yet substance—scaffolding around a skyscraper skeleton, pieces of a sculpture in a workshop, the foot of a tower reaching into nothing.

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Pictures of the picture houses

Nice to see photos of one of our local cinemas* in the Guardian recently.

The Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds
The Hyde Park Picture House, the world’s only surviving gas-lit cinema, opened in 1914. The owners of the Grade II-listed building have now been granted planning permission for redevelopment, to improve accessibility, restore the gas lights and ornate plasterwork and incorporate a second screen in the basement.

They’ve now been given planning permission for their renovation, but the grant they got to fund it was awarded almost two years ago. Patience is a virtue, I guess.

Gas-lit Leeds cinema among sites to receive heritage lottery cash
In its earliest years Hyde Park showed morale-boosting patriotic films including An Englishman’s Home, and newsreel of the war in which 6,000 local men had enlisted. The gas lights were turned down but kept on during the screenings, to combat reports of disgraceful carryings on in the back rows of darker cinemas.

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Not all of these places are so lucky. Here are some of the saddest photos I’ve seen in a long time.

9 haunting abandoned cinemas & picture houses of England
In our modern world of multiplexes, it can be easy to forget the grand cinemas of yore. Not so long ago, ornate picture houses stretched over every corner of England. Each one offered something more than a simple screen. It offered a unique viewing experience, a perfect way to while away a rainy afternoon by settling into another world. Today, many of those old picture houses stand in ruins, their projectors shut off for the final time.

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And it’s sad to see the one I grew up with is suffering the same fate.

* What others call a movie theater, we would call a cinema. A picture house sounds very grand (as is appropriate for Hyde Park), but when I was young, we’d refer to these places as the pictures. A singular noun, as in: “Is there owt good on at the pictures, or shall we go round to John’s and play on his Atari?”

Picturesque views of Soviet spas

You wouldn’t think that crumbling Soviet sanatoriums would be that photogenic, but these are wonderfully evocative and romantic images from photographer Reginald van de Velde. They hide evidence of terrible, ongoing conflict and suffering, however, as the area deals with competing claims on the territory of Abkhazia, following the breakup of the USSR.

A photographer’s journey through the former spas of Soviet Georgia
“There’s only one way to travel into Abkhazia via Georgia, and that’s via the famous Enguri Bridge. No vehicles are allowed to cross, so you need to walk the bridge by foot or make use of one of the horse carriages,” van de Velde recalls. “The Georgian police held us at the border for three hours for no apparent reason. Once you cross the other side, you bump into a Russian border operated by the military, doing a proper check-up as well.”

Van de Velde didn’t know what to expect once he finally got into Abkhazia. “You enter a country no one ever visits, no one ever sees. You enter this fascinating entity secluded from the outside world. It’s unspoiled, its unknown, it’s subtropical, it’s war-torn, but it’s also incredibly beautiful and pristine,” he recalls. Evidence of violent conflict is still impossible to escape. “All the roads remain severely damaged and potholed, many homes are abandoned, and when you inspect them up close you see the impacts of bullets and shelling.”

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There are more photos on the Atlas Obscura post, as well as on Reginald van de Velde‘s website.

Brutalist beaches

The Modernist sandcastles of Coney Island
With over 170,000 views on Flickr, Calvin Seibert’s creations are admired by the world. But what drives one man to spend 10 hours painstakingly building a brutalist sandcastle, only for it to be swept away by the sea or destroyed by drunks? We spoke to him about how a hobby that began at art school turned into a lifelong passion. …

I like making things and tend to work with whatever is at hand. Building sandcastles at a beach to me is a very natural thing to be doing. As a child, I saw photographs of the French ski resort of Flaine. I was very taken by the brutalist buildings, designed by Marcel Breuer. Since then I have always gone out of my way to see brutalist architecture and when I build sandcastles I have them in mind.

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