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Review of a new book by Julie Christensen.

With the new century come two new building types: the dead superstore and the dead mall. The dead mall is a victim of economic chill. But dead out-of-town superstores are something else. They’re like old skins shucked off by saurian retailers as they gobble up sites and pursue unending growth.

Julia Christensen’s book Big Box Reuse examines the lifecycle of these creatures, the far-reaching transformations they bring about in towns and cities, and the waste structures they leave behind. Her research is valuable and timely – the unexpected bonus is that the story is fascinating and lucidly written. When a big box superstore moves into a city, or (as is more common) appears on its periphery, it gives that city a new economic centre of gravity. The sales tax that it raises means that local authorities bend to its will. The thousands of car journeys that it generates can attract other businesses to set up next door. And the fabric of the city warps around it: freeway exits are built, turning lanes implemented.

And then it disappears.

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Review of the book THE JAPAN GUIDE

“The architecture of the 1980’s in Japan can be characterized by an important shift of emphasis from the previously dominant industrial technology, or ‘hardware,’ toward a highly sophisticated industrial technology, or ‘software.’ As a result, recent designs, while not abandoning the tectonic culture and engineering bravura of earlier modernism, manifest an increased fascination with the ephemeral and phenomenal or, in short, the sensual in architecture.”

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‘Soon after three o’clock on the afternoon of April 22nd 1973, a 35-year-old architect named Robert Maitland was driving down the high-speed exit lane of the Westway interchange in central London. Six hundred yards from the junction with the newly built spur of the M4 motorway, when the Jaguar had already passed the 70 m.p.h. speed limit, a blow-out collapsed the front nearside tyre.’

J.G. Ballard, Concrete Island.

The book is part of Ballard’s “Urban Disaster Trilogy”, which also includes the book Crash (made into a movie by David Cronenberg), and High-Rise.

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