Beautiful homes made from cargo containers
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Cargo Container Homes

Recycling shipping containers to make desirable homes. One container can make an appealing guest house or office, while several can be used as building blocks to create larger, more spacious housing.
More container homes, after the jump…

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Slip slidin’ away: Derelict house transformed into an unusual work of public art
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Alex Chinneck

Artist Alex Chinneck has transformed a derelict house in Margate, England, to make it appear as if the frontage is slowly sliding down into the street.

The mid-19th-century town house was bought under compulsory purchase by Thanet District Council, who allowed artist Chinneck to create a public artwork.

Ten different companies donated materials to create the sloping facade at Godwin Road, Margate, which Chinneck has called “From the knees of my nose to the belly of my toes.”

London-based Chinneck said the idea was “self-initiated”:

“Initially I wanted to do it in London and I wrote to various people to try to get it off the ground. I was offered a huge number of properties, including a multi-storey car park, but I then decided I wanted to do it in Margate because I was excited by the arrival of the Turner Contemporary art gallery.

“I was aware of this idea that people have a choice whether or not they go through the doors of an art gallery, and often they don’t because they feel intimidated, so I think public art is important.

“I wanted to create something that captured humour, illusion and would be accessible to people from all types of different backgrounds. The response has been very positive.”

The building will be on display for a year, before it will be brought back into residential use. See more of artist Alex Chinneck’s work here.

H/T Rebecca Thompson!

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Eccentric millionaire professor builds ‘country villa’ on top of 26-story apartment block
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At first glance the compound is reminiscent of ThunderbirdsTracy Island or, the hideaway for a James Bond villain. The villa is situated 26-floors up, atop an apartment block in Beijing’s Haidian district, and was built by a man, known to his neighbors as “Professor Zhang.”

Professor Zhang originally purchased the penthouse apartment, before deciding to extend his property upwards onto the roof. His roof-top country villa includes rockeries, sculptures, trees and gardens, and has taken six-years to build. Its development has caused structural damage, water leakage to the building and considerable inconvenience to its tenants… gives a whole new meaning to the trickle down effect…
The Beijing Morning News contacted Prof. Zhang, who claimed he was unconcerned what his neighbors thought.

“Since I dare to live here, I am not worried about complaints.”

When questioned about the noise, the eccentric home-owner replied:

“Famous people come to my place and sing. How can you stop them?”

In China, the rich can do as they please, and Professor Zhang is rich enough that he can openly flout any planning regulations. The other residents have asked the building’s management, local urban management officials and even the police to enforce planning regulation against Professor Zhang, but all have refused.

Via The Independent

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Ken Russell’s early documentary: ‘A House in Bayswater’

Between 1959 and 1969, Ken Russell flourished as a brilliant director of television documentaries for the BBC, where he single-handedly advanced the documentary genre by creating a hybrid of the drama-documentary. Firstly with his splendid film on Elgar in 1962, developing the form with Oliver Reed in The Debussy Film in 1965, then making the classic drama on Delius, Song of Summer in 1968, before finally and most controversially making his masterpiece Dance of the Seven Veils A Comic Strip in Seven Episodes on the life of Richard Strauss 1864-1949, which infamously depicted the German composer of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” as a Nazi, and lead to questions being raised in the British Parliament, before it was eventually banned.

Russell’s brilliant style of film-making was a long way from how things worked when he first arrived at the BBC. Then ‘biography’, as Joseph Lanza explained in Phallic Frenzy: Ken Russell and His Films, was:

...more like strict documentary. There was no place for metaphors or speculative drama. The network’s purists felt such tactics were synonymous with the kinds of exaggeration [the Futurist artist] Henri Gaudier championed and that Russell longed to create. So Russell kept a humble exterior while secretly plotting to subvert the BBC’s codes of propriety.

“Ken was different in every way from what he is now,” Russell’s BBC boss Huw Wheldon reflected in the early 1970s on working with Russell in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. “To start with, he was virtually wordless. He was shy and quiet. Quiet in every way: his clothes, his haircut, his countenance. A little watchful, but silent and completely modest. I couldn’t make head nor tail of him, partly because he wouldn’t help me. He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me.”

Russell’s first short film for the BBC’s Monitor series was Poet’s London - an effective evocation of John Betjeman’s poetry; quickly followed by Guitar Crazy on the rise of guitar music; Portrait of a Goon, a look acclaimed comic and scriptwriter, Spike Milligan; and a profile of dance legend, Marie Rambert and her ballet company. Then in 1960, during a summer break from the series, Russell wrote, directed and produced his first full-length documentary film, A House in Bayswater.

In An Appalling Talent - Ken Russell, film writer and critic, John Baxter described Russell’s film as ‘...ostensibly a protest at the razing of tall old buildings to make way for office blocks…’

‘Beginning as a systematic representation of Bayswater as a hive of creative activity - his chosen terrace houses a painter, a photographer, a ballet dancer and ex-pupil of Pavlova, a retired lady’s maid who pines for the affluent USA of the Twenties, and an odd but lively landlady - the film changes tone as both artists reveal themselves as tedious poseurs, and Russell’s sympathy swings towards the old people, sustained and enriched by the past. The dancer, leading her willing, wispy pupil through a two-woman show hazed in memoriesof better days (“My next solo is one I did on Broadway in 1929 and I am wearing the same costume”) is faded but not absurd, the maid’s images of New York have the insouciant fever of Scott Fitzgerald, and the concierge who sells her junk to the photographer for props, offers bumpers of sherry as rent receipts and cultivates toadstools and deadly nightshade in the garden with a philosophical “They might come in useful” celebrates the indestructible eccentric. The last Cocteauesque image, of the dancer and her little pupil battling in slow motion against a windy torrent of streamers and balloons (to be recalled in the 1812 episode of The Music Lovers) holds the promise of immortality for all those who survive and, above all, keep faith.’

A House in Bayswater is a beautiful piece of documentary-making, which slowly develops towards a memorable finish. What isn’t revealed is that the fact this was this house in Bayswater was Ken Russell’s home during the 1950s.

I have lived most of my life in rooming houses, and shared apartments, and run-down hotels, where there is great comfort in anonymity and company amongst strangers, and understand Russell’s nostalgia for a life that is being slowly removed, as cities are carelessly gentrified. Watching it in the month when New York’s Chelsea Hotel announced its demise, only reinforced how much of our shared environment is now monetized for the benefit of a few. This is apparent in Russell’s film, as the film details the lives and hopes of the tenants, connected by a house that was soon to be lost to demolition and replaced “by a soulless office block.”

Previously on Dangerous Minds

The Book, The Sculptor, His Life & Ken Russell

Ken Russell’s banned film: ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’

Ken Russell on Antonio Gaudi


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Ai Weiwei is still missing

Ai Weiwei is still missing.

A petition calling for Ai Weiwei’s release has been started by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Addressed to the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China (Minister Mr. Cai Wu), the statement reads:  

On April 3, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong, and his papers and computers were seized from his studio compound. 

We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought, the keys to “soft power” and cultural influence. 

Our institutions have some of the largest online museum communities in the world. We have launched this online petition to our collective millions of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.  By using Ai Weiwei’s favored medium of “social sculpture,” we hope to hasten the release of our visionary friend.

This petition can be signed here.

Following worldwide protests for Ai Weiwei at the weekend, another campaign appeared on New York’s streets:


Call Chinese Ambassador to the US Zhang Yesui.

Demand the release of artist Ai Weiwei


If you’re interested in supporting Ai Weiwei, please sign the petition here.
Ai Weiwei - Without Fear or Favour was made by Alan Yentob for the BBC’s Imagine series last year.

Architect, photographer, curator and blogger, Ai Weiwei is China’s most famous and politically outspoken contemporary artist. As Ai Weiwei’s latest work is unveiled in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, Alan Yentob reveals how this most courageous and determined of artists continues to fight for artistic freedom of expression while living under the restrictive shadows of authoritarian rule.

As one reviewer noted:

If you found yourself thinking that you were watching Mission: Impossible rather than Imagine, you could have been forgiven. Alan Yentob had clearly been banned from meeting Ai Weiwei in China, and so one of their interviews was conducted over a webcam, with Yentob sitting in the dark, like some spymaster of the arts.

This was even before Ai had been put under house arrest to prevent him from attending a party he arranged to celebrate the demolition of his studio in Shanghai (a studio which the Chinese Government had asked him to put up in the first place…). All of which prompts the question: what does that say about the place of the artist in China?


Previously on DM

Artist and Activist Ai Weiwei arrested and missing in China

Artist Ai Weiwei under house arrest


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Michael Hansmeyer’s incredible cardboard sculptures created by algorithms

Michael Hansmeyer is an architect and programmer who explores the use of algorithms and computation to generate architectural form, and he has created these incredible cardboard sculptures using algorithms. As he explains on his website:

In recent years, algorithms in architecture have been able to transcend their role as frameworks of formalization and abstraction. This has been made possible in a large part by the integration of scripting languages into CAD programs. Algorithms’ output can now be directly visualized, and through digital fabrication methods this output can be built.

This opens up a new role for algorithms as a design tool. As such, they provide the benefits of depth and breadth. On the one hand, their computational power can address processes with a scale and complexity that precludes a manual approach. On the other hand, algorithms can generate endless permutations of a scheme. A slight tweaking of either the input or the process leads to an instant adaptation of output. When combined with an evaluative function, they can be used to recursively optimize output on both a functional and aesthetic level.

As the New Scientist magazine reports, to make these sculptures:

...Hansmeyer started with a computer model of a simple Greek column and ran it through a subdivision algorithm which repeatedly splits the surface, creating more detail with each iteration.

The result is a 3D model with between 8 and 16 million faces, but 3D printers can only handle half a million, so Hansmeyer needed an alternative solution to transform his creations from virtual to physical reality. He sliced the column into 2700 pieces and used a laser cutter to create each slice from 1mm-thick cardboard, then reconstructed the column by layering the slices together with a solid wooden core. The whole process only cost $1500 and took about 15 hours, with three laser cutters working in parallel.

To see more of Hansmeyer’s work, check here.
With thanks to Iris Lincoln

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The changing face of London during the Swinging Sixties

These two short films from Rank’s classic Look at Life, hint at two of J G Ballard’s preoccupations - high rises and cars.

“Rising to High Office”, made in 1963, examines the development of high rise corporate life; while “Goodbye Piccadilly” looks at the planned redevelopment of the famous London landmark at the start of the sixties that intended to create a “double-decker” Piccadilly Circus, with a new pedestrian concourse above the ground-level traffic. The plans were lasted for most of the decade, but were killed off in 1972 when it was discovered the plans would not help the required increase in traffic flow.

Amazing quality and in fabulous color, they capture a little seen aspect of the changing face of London during its most famous decade.

Previously on DM

London in the sixties: 2 groovy films on fashion and cafe culture

High Rise London in the swinging sixties, after the jump…

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Faded Grandeur: Michael Prince’s photographs of the once famous George Hotel

Michael Prince‘s photographs of the last days of the George Hotel, capture the faded elegance of this once famous location, now sadly replaced by anonymous shops. The pictures were taken in the spring of 1998, just months before the Hotel stopped accepting bookings and closed its swivel-doors for the last time. Michael is a Glasgow-based director and photographer, who has now collected these historic photographs together in a book called Goodnight George.

Situated at the top of the city’s Buchanan Street, the George Hotel kept its doors open for 162 years of business, offering accommodation to actors, performers, the rich and not so famous. Stan Laurel stayed here when he performed at the city’s Britannia Panopticon Theatre, just before he left for America, as did Cary Grant (then just Archie Leach) and later Joan Crawford. The hotel was known as the “nearest”, for it was handily situated between the main points of entry into the city, and ideally placed for all of Glasgow’s theaters. At one time it had over a 100 staff, including twenty-two chefs in its kitchens.

Things change, and by the late nineteen-seventies the George fell in to disuse, and its owner, Peter Fox, a former ballroom champion, let its rooms out to the homeless and unemployed. By the nineteen-nineties, the building’s faded grandeur proved an attraction to film-makers and promo directors. It was amongst these rooms that key scenes for Trainspotting (the scenes in the circular hotel room doubled for London, where the drug deal takes place) and The Big Man (Liam Neeson getting his rocks off) were filmed.

I lived here, on-and-off, from 1996, moving room-to-room, often as the hotel’s only tenant (apart from Mr Fox), until the George closed its doors in 1998. It was a great place to live, with 4 floors, six unused bars, a large kitchen, smoking rooms, a cocktail lounge, and a dance parlor, where a few club nights were had. After it closed, the interior was demolished and replaced with retail units, like Virgin Records. Where once I laid my head is now pop, and my feet, country and western, which is a shame, as the George should have been Glasgow’s answer to the Chelsea Hotel.

More of Michael’s work can be viewed here, and his book Goodnight George is available here.
More of Michael Prince’s photographs, after the jump…

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Holiday Next Door to Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage

Glasgow architects NORD have built a stunning new holiday home, Shingle House, on Dungeness beach, just a stone’s throw away from Derek Jarman’s famous Prospect Cottage.  The Shingle House was built under Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture scheme, which offers “a chance to rent houses for a holiday designed by some of the most talented architects at work today, and set in some of the most stunning locations in Britain.”

Living Architecture is a social enterprise dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of world-class modern architecture. We have asked a series of great architects to design houses for us around Britain and are making these available to rent for holidays all year round.

We started the organisation from a desire to shift perceptions of modern architecture. We wanted to allow people to experience what it is like to live, eat and sleep in a space designed by an outstanding architectural practice. While there are examples of great modern buildings in Britain, they tend to be in places that one passes through (eg. airports, museums, offices) and the few modern houses that exist are almost all in private hands and cannot be visited.

We see ourselves first and foremost as an educational body, dedicated to enhancing the appreciation of architecture. But we also hope that you will have an exceptional holiday with us.

Other holidays homes have been built in Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk, and are all currently available to rent.

NORD’s beautiful Shingle House is near the famed cottage of legendary film-maker Derek Jarman, with its beautiful garden among the shingle and salt air of the Dungeness coast. He described this retreat from London life in a collected volume of his diaries, Modern Nature:

Prospect Cottage, its timbers black with pitch, stands on the shingle at Dungeness. Built eighty years ago at the sea’s edge - one stormy night many years ago waves roared up to the front door threatening to swallow it… Now the sea has retreated leaving bands of shingle. You can see these clearly from the air; they fan out from the lighthouse at the tip of the Ness like contours on a map.

Prospect faces the rising sun across a road sparkling silver with sea mist. One small clump of dark green broom breaks through the flat ochre shingle. Beyond, at the sea’s edge, are silhouetted a jumble of huts and fishing boats, and a brick kutch, long abandoned, which has sunk like a pillbox at a crazy angle; in it, many years ago, the fishermen’s nets were boiled in amber preserve.

For more information about NORD or renting Shingle House visit Living Architecture.
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Derek Jarman: A Film by Steve Carr

More photos of Nord’s cottage plus bonus clip, after the jump…

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The Best Architecture of the Decade
12:08 pm


Hadron Collider


Mammoth reports on the best architecture of the decade. Some excellent stuff in here, from the Large Hardon Hadron Collider to the iPhone. Dig it!

The end of a decade inspires a lot of list compiling; in that spirit, mammoth offers an alternative list of the best architecture of the decade, concocted without any claim to authority and surely missing some fascinating architecture.   But we hope that at least it?

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