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September 08 2013

October 11 2012

Four short links: 11 October 2012

  1. ABalytics — dead simple A/B testing with Google Analytics. (via Dan Mazzini)
  2. Fastest Rubik Cube Solver is Made of Lego — it takes less than six seconds to solve the cube. Watch the video, it’s … wow. Also cool is watching it fail. (via Hacker News)
  3. Fairfax Watches BitTorrent (TorrentFreak) — At a government broadband conference in Sydney, Fairfax’s head of video Ricky Sutton admitted that in a country with one of the highest percentage of BitTorrent users worldwide, his company determines what shows to buy based on the popularity of pirated videos online.
  4. Web Performance Tools (Steve Souders) — compilation of popular web performance tools. Reminds me of nmap’s list of top security tools.
Sponsored post

July 25 2012

Lego birds: the tropical collection - in pictures

Following on from his series of British birds made out of Lego, Thomas Poulsom has designed a collection of tropical birds

May 18 2012

Birds made from Lego - in pictures

Lego enthusiast, avian admirer and professional tree surgeon Thomas Poulsom has taken inspiration from birds to create this brilliant series of Lego models

February 24 2012

Constructive criticism: the week in architecture

A closer look at a cutting-edge cafe in Japan may leave you spluttering into your coffee, Lego aims for the high notes and eggs from outer space land for Fabergé's Big Egg Hunt

Here we go: another enviably cutting edge and yet beautifully crafted and folksy-looking cafe in Japan. The type of thing that seems to happen once in a blue moon over here, but every Tuesday over there. But amid the swirling sea of 2,000 sticks flowing through this one, you might have missed the sign by the door: it's a Starbucks.

The special treatment is justified by the fact that it's on the approach to a famous 1,000-year-old Shinto shrine in Fukuoka Prefecture, but it shows how ubiquitous global brands can occasionally go hand-in-hand with distinctive design. One of the ways Starbucks has been seeking to recaffeinate its flagging empire is through conspicuously environmentally friendly design. Like this one in Tukwila, Washington, made out of recycled shipping containers – though the eco credentials are undercut by the fact that it's a drive-thru.

This Japanese one was the work of the gifted Kengo Kuma, who is also designing the new Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee. Like many of Kuma's works, such as this restaurant, and his Chidori furniture range, the Starbucks and V&A designs amass small, regular building units into something remarkably sculptural – a traditional Japanese technique, apparently.

Talking of small regular building units, this week also sees the release of Lego's latest architecture kit: the Sydney Opera House. It has to be said, though, Jorn Utzon's sail-like concrete shells are not the easiest thing to replicate in Lego. The result looks more like a dead Transformer than Australia's national icon. It actually shows the limitations of the world's best-loved toy. Lego has doubtless inspired generations of future architects – last year, MVRDV's Winy Maas built 767 Lego skyscrapers for an exhibition – but it's a stubbornly orthogonal system. That's fine for the Frank Lloyd Wright houses and skyscrapers, which make up most of the Lego Architecture series, but when it comes to curves and blobs and irregular forms, it can't handle it. Play-Doh are missing a trick here.

Another form of cheap, cheerful design-collecting comes to Londoners this week in the form of Fabergé's Big Egg Hunt, in which 200-odd outsize eggs have been secreted around the capital for the public to find – but not keep; they're being auctioned off for charity later. They're not actual Fabergé eggs either, so don't get any ideas. Instead they've been decorated by artists of every stripe, from the Chapman Brothers to Vivienne Westwood, MIA to Maggie Smith.

As you'd expect, it's the architects who are really thinking out of the carton. Zaha Hadid's looks like a silver sci-fi space capsule; Wilkinson Eyre's looks like the alien spaceship it came from; and fourfoursixsix's looks like a scale model of an ovoid Death Star. More down to earth, Rogers Stirk Harbour's Chicken Or Egg draws a poultry analogy to the form-function dilemma, and Nicholas Grimshaw fashions his egg out of discarded construction waste. Smashing.

Finally, an unexpectedly playful new photo book from John Pawson: A Visual Inventory. Hitherto considered the high priest of minimalism, Pawson turns out to be a bit of a maximalist when it comes to photography. Since first acquiring a digital camera, he's accumulated over a quarter of a million image files, he reckons. Every architect in his office must take a camera on site visits, and he gets annoyed with them if there are shots out of focus or missing. He even gave one of his clients a camera and told them to send him a picture of their new house every day.

The book is less proscriptive: a series of William Eggleston-like snapshots of the everyday world, laid out in pairs, with little annotations from Pawson explaining what he saw in them. Thus, a snap of an old water tank is unremarkable until you read how it reminds Pawson of Richard Serra's sculptures; or some Swedish farm-buildings become a mini-essay in the framing of views; or a small doorway in Ethiopia contrasts Herculean effort with lax security. It's full of little architectural details most people would never notice: paving stones, walls, windows, but there are also landscapes, semi-abstract shots of the play of light and images from Pawson's travels. You really start to see the world through his eyes – as a place of continual surprise, delight and inspiration. That's not just a lesson architects could benefit from. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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