City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Noted elsewhere: September 2007

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Here’s a little portmanteau posting, compiling a few items of interest from elsewhere. I try to keep this site free of this kind of post these days, using the ‘noted elsewhere’ column instead (to the top-right if you’re looking at the site; or in the daily links in the feed). But these items deserve a little more context, visual or otherwise. They’re all worth a look.

Mayne and Blum in San Francisco
First up, an excellent conversation between Thom Mayne of architecture firm Morphosis and the writer Andrew Blum. It’s centred on the former’s new Federal Building building in San Francisco, but wanders freely and interestingly. It’s a good discussion, augmented by photos of the building and surrounds. I was particularly taken with the fact that its the first (major) naturally-ventilated building on the west coast since the introduction of air-conditioning, and Mayne’s intentions for a form of post-occupancy evaluation (POE); he didn’t call it that as such, but referred to a series of studies over the forthcoming years, to track the use of the building. Conducting POEs has become a CoS mantra, so it’s great to see it explicitly referred to in a discussion about building. It’s also an excellent piece on introducing radical architecture into San Francisco, a latterly-conservative city in this respect.

San Francisco Federal Building from AIA San Francisco on Vimeo.

Neutral at the Architecture Foundation
Architectural visualisations a-go-go at the Architecture Foundation’s Yard Gallery in London, with an exhibition on filmmakers Neutral, which opened last week and runs until 13 October 2007. Neutral have been communicating architecture through digital animation for a few years now, producing work for Zaha Hadid and Herzog+De Meuron along the way. The exhibition also features two never-seen-before installations. I can’t be there to see it, so I’d be interested in any responses from visitors.





Energyville, by The Economist and Chevron 
The Economist Intelligence Unit have partnered with energy giant Chevron to produce a small but good online game: Energyville. It’s a fairly direct rip-off of SimCity, but for broadly educational purpose – discovering how difficult it might be to power up a city, scrolling forwards to 2030. It would be easy to be cynical about this kind of partnership, but the simulation has actually been done with some care and attention. Though the available parameters, and their impact, would benefit from a little more explanation, you do genuinely learn something about the varying energy sources available to a particular kind of city (a standard SimCity model, and therefore essentially a medium-sized US city). It’s interesting how the organising level is urban too, not national – I don’t think that’s just SimCity defining a kind of ‘default setting’ for these kind of simulations; rather a sense that the city is the most interesting and effective scale to work at.


Z-A at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York

The Storefront in Manhattan is one of my favourite places, and was even before they hosted Postopolis. So it’s nice to be able to point at their 25th anniversary events, called ‘Z-A’ and which run for 26 days, from 2 days ago, in a specially built pavilion in the adjacent Petrosino Park, by Korean architect Minsuk Cho. If you’re in NYC, it’s a must-see. (I expect people in NYC get told something is "a must-see" every day, but this one really is.) There’s a full line-up at the Storefront site – it looks an incredibly varied programme, with many fascinating contributions. I’d be intrigued to hear from Stefano Boeri and Gianluigi Ricuperati on the new Arbitare magazine, for instance. The day after sees Tomas Saraceno’s research on "inhabitable lighter-than-air airborne structures as a solution to the world’s exploding population". That gives a flavour of things, I think. Oh, and Vito Acconci on Oct. 10th.

Joseph Grima just sent me these pictures (below) of the opening night.

I also note they’re starting "Storefront Books, a curated micro-bookshop." That’s excellent. I’ve very taken with Published Art bookshop, here in Sydney, and really appreciate their editing – only stocking the latest of the best magazines, and the best new books. It ensures that you can evaluate them properly, and see their covers. (Contrary to that silly old saying, you almost always can tell a book by its cover.)




The Monthly
One of my favourite Australian magazines is The Monthly. It’s a serious yet witty, multi-faceted, passionate publication, covering a broad spectrum of current affairs and culture. It makes space for lengthy articles, is well-designed (by John Warwicker, no less) and genuinely values words and thinking. There are few examples of this kind of magazine, so it’s a real treasure. Their website, however, has generally been a lacklustre effort. Thankfully though, they just redesigned. There are still several flaws, from a web design perspective, but it’s much better. In particular, you can browse back issues and read a fair few articles. You can point at all of them, such as this superb article on the Mary Valley controversy in Queensland, or an interview with Robert Hughes, or Peter Conrad’s pasting of Clive James. And you might start reading with a piece that has actually changed policies on the Tasmanian logging industry, or Gideon Haigh on the British influence on Australia, or this article by Robert Manne on the converse – the American influence in Howard’s version of Australia.


A new European architecture website, comprising a user-generated set of pictures and notes on modern architecture. Confining it to Europe actually seems a little unnecessary in a way, but it’s rather nicely designed, both in terms of its information architecture and aesthetics, feeling somewhat 2.0 but not drenched in cliché. And it has a point, unlike most 2.0 work. I can’t quite tell if it’s linked formally to the lovely European architecture magazine A10. Interesting either way.


Monocle updates
Some items of particular interest at Monocle might be an interview with Pentagram’s Paula Scher, on re-branding the USA, and the branding business in general. Scher is one of the world’s greatest designers, and is always worth listening to. There’s also a great little slideshow piece on Abkhazia, the breakaway Baltic state, which is fascinating (working alongside a corresponding magazine article). Many people picked up on the slideshow we did around the Fuji Kindergarten by Tezuka architects, but if you didn’t see it I can recommend that too – a progressive philosophy embedded into a fascinating building. See also our short documentary from the Fuji Rock festival in Japan, which Glastonbury and the like could learn a lot from, and our reports from the Tällberg Forum in Sweden. And moving on from the movies, you might also want to follow our Monocle Quality of Life Index, a regularly-updated guide to interesting products and services, big or small, that improve your quality of life, drawn from our correspondents around the world. Oh and this week sees a piece on the Frankfurt Motor Show, featuring some incredible footage of the stagecraft involved in selling a new car. Issue 06 of Monocle magazine might still be on newsstands, focusing on the notion of nations, in particular how nations new and old might reinvent themselves. Issue 07 fans out across the globe from this Thursday 27th September.







Pecha Kucha 07, Sydney
And finally, as they say on ITN, I’ll be appearing at the next Pecha Kucha night here in Sydney. 27th September, 18.30, Mars Lounge, Surry Hills. Free entry! Lord knows what I’ll be saying.
Facebook event | Pecha Kucha Volume 07 [Super Colossal] 



5 responses to “Noted elsewhere: September 2007”

  1. Mark Avatar

    BTW. The Monthly Magazine has just sent an email to all subscribers stating that all articles (past and present) and issues will in future be available online. The magazine would have to one of the only intelligent magazines left in the world let alone Australia due to the prevalence of coffee table/checkout/trash mags.
    This is a magazine about substance not full of irrelevant stock photos to pad it out.


  2. tim buesing Avatar

    On Chevron’s Energyville: they are not alone in using a playful simulation for such a complex matter. Genesis of NZ have launched Electrocity (, more aimed at schools, teachers and students with a longer engagement/play time, study kits …and some cuter graphics.


  3. Mark Avatar

    Dan, You mentioned………. “a piece that has actually changed policies on the Tasmanian logging industry” in The Monthly. Could you educate people about what you have seen? Has it really ‘change’ policy? Mark


  4. Dan Hill Avatar

    Mark, I was re-playing a message that The Monthly had sent to its subscribers, as part of its regular email newsletter, which said this:
    “Richard Flanagan’s May Monthly cover story, “Gunns: Out of Control”, began with a Tasmanian man fern for sale in a London nursery and concluded, 8500 words later, with a call for a major investigation into the activities of Tasmania’s principal logging company and its government.”
    “In the past few weeks, prime-ministerial confidante, Telstra board member and Monthly subscriber Geoffrey Cousins has led a campaign against the fast-tracking of the approval process for Gunns’ $2-billion pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, after reading Flanagan’s essay. Last week – as more than 50,000 copies of “Gunns: Out of Control” were dropped into the letterboxes of the seat of Wentworth – the federal environment minister, Malcolm Turnbull, extended the pulp-mill inquiry and called on Australia’s chief scientist, Jim Peacock, to submit an independent report. The proposed mill is now certain to be a top-level election issue. ”
    Now, of course, your comment may be prompted by the news that the Gunns plant has been given the go-ahead, albeit with stringent environmental terms, and depending on Gunns want to continue to build it given those terms, or whether ANZ finance it. Difficult to say whether it actually did change policy then – as it depends on your view of how stringent those conditions are versus whether it should exist at all. ‘Policy’ encompasses all of that and more, and it seems the article may have had some effect, albeit perhaps not what The Monthly optimistically claimed a couple of months ago.
    The review mentioned by The Monthly, and reported on in the SMH and elsewhere, “has resulted in the imposition of very detailed environmental guidelines that may well become a new benchmark for the industry globally.” [SMH]. More here: Gunns still likely to enjoy higher world pulp prices [SMH]; Mill can be a company maker or company breaker [SMH]; Govt gives green light to pulp mill [ABC]


  5. architect melbourne Avatar

    You are right this is a very intelligent and unique magazine in this world.


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