Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘cities’

07 JULY, 2011

Built to Last: The Illustrated Secrets of Mankind’s Greatest Structures

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What gargoyles and mosques have to do with King Edward I and the secrets of Ancient Rome.

Castles. Cathedrals. Mosques. Those are some of humanity’s greatest feats of architecture, design and civic engineering, but how exactly were they built and what makes them stand the test of time? That’s excatly what Caldecott Medal-winning artist and prolific how-things-work author David Macaulay explores in Built to Last — a fascinating illustrated volume of insight into the how and why of mankind’s greatest structures. It combines three of Macauley’s most beloved construction books — Cathedral (1981), Castle (1982), and Mosque (2003) — into a single tome full of never-before-seen full-color drawings and new material.

A reference model for the ribs of the vaulting on the roof truss

Laying out the drawing of the roof trusses

A quick reference model for the roof trusses

An early sketch of the flying buttresses and one gargoyle

Sketch for the kitchen scene while making dinner fit for a king

Macaulay modeling for the drawing of King Edward I. Note the headband and royal Tin Tin watch

Whether the three building types in this book were built to last or simply to impress, they were certainly constructed with determination and care. And without the lessons they offer, our past would be more remote and therefore less useful as we stumble into an uncertain future.” ~ David Macaulay

Combining rigorous research, poetic illustration and the captivating human stories behind these architectural marvels, Built to Last is equal parts illuminating and inspirational, brimming with a kind of visceral curiosity that makes Macaulay’s timeless drawings spring to life.

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08 JUNE, 2011

The Perfect City: What Does “Community” Mean to You?

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What borrowing sugar has to do with robust public life.

Last year, the wonderful Fifty People One Question offered a poetic glimpse of the soul of four communities, and last month the city of Grand Rapids demonstrated the goosebumps-inducing power of community. I’m relentlessly fascinated by cities and what it is that transforms them from shared urban space into thriving, lively communities full of shared humanity, vision and aspiration, so I was happy to take part in a think-tank event by nonprofit CEOs for Cities last fall, which assembled some of the country’s brightest minds in urban planning, design, policy, information technology and other facets of culture to dissect the elements of “robust public life” and how to best foster them in building successful, happy communities that attract and retain talent.

That’s exactly what this beautifully filmed short video explores, by asking people one simple but profound question: “What does ‘community’ mean to you?”

I’d love to be able to walk out and know everybody in my community.”

Something that kind of has a little bit of everything and access to everything, but still is quiet, so it’s not so quite so hustle-and-bustle.”

I like to pass other people who are walking their dogs early in the morning or late at night.”

A few universal needs seem to emerge: Walkability, a combination of private space and readily available entertainment, face-to-face interaction with neighbors and, more than anything, a sense of belonging.

What’s your ideal community?

via The Atlantic

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23 MAY, 2011

Cement Eclipses: Tiny Street Art Sculptures by Isaac Cordal

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What tiny people have to do with the sleepwalking hypnotism of urban routine.

I love the work of London-based street artist Isaac Cordal, whose makes big social commentary by way of street art sculptures with tiny human figurines. Since 2006, Cordal has been placing minuscule cement pieces on streets, sidewalks, walls and other corners of the city across Europe, exploring “the voluntary isolation of human beings” from nature. Cement Eclipses is a beautiful new 256-page anthology of images from the project, many never-before-seen, offering a thoughtful look at his tiny-big gifts to the public and inviting an exploration of their meaning in a sociocultural context.

Cement eclipses is a research project of urban space that runs between the fields of sculpture and photography. The sculpture is used as a starting point and photography as a witness to the execution of installations for later viewing or exhibition.” ~ Isaac Cordal

My favorite has to be this piece titled Sleepwalker, which adds to the come-hither allure of the tiny scale the ephemeral mystery of playing on shadow:

Vulnerable and expressive, the vignettes in Cement Eclipses are as much a conversation about solitude as they are an invitation to examine our role as citizens and fellow human beings in a shared urban reality.

via Colossal

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