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Archive for January, 2011

I have been a regular viewer of TED Talks for about two or three years now. I can’t really remember how it all began but I suspect I followed a video link either from Facebook or some news page. I got hooked right away and since then I have seen hundreds of short speeches from varying topics. I usually watch them from my phone on my way to the office or back home.

TED is a conference in held in California each winter and in Oxford each summer which last for about a week each. Among the guest speakers in there are some paying attendees in the audience as well. Conference has a theme or themes around which the speeches revolve around. The idea is for speakers to give a speech on a topic of their interest which should last about 16 minutes. And o boy, what you can fit into 16 minutes! I have learnt, or should I say become of aware of hundreds of different projects, products or ideas that are making this world a better place to live in. There are architects, heart surgeons, lawyers, statisticians, musicians, physicists, engineers, entrepreneur, people of various backgrounds sharing  ideas of making a difference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, but it covers quite many different things beyond these three words. Conferences allow people to mingle and ideas to collide and TED is not exception. But there are differences to “regular” conferences, as you will soon notice.

Unlike most conferences where talks can take 30, 60 or 90 minutes and usually go to the speakers bread and butter topic, maybe something they are making a dissertation or a book about, they can easily be quite boring. And I don’t mean the message as such, it’s just that those people are usually experts in their field, but not at making speeches that have an impact to a wider audience. Usually it is enough to give hard data to colleagues or co-researchers who can appreciate all the subtleties of one’s latest scientific findings. In TED, the speakers speak of things that pour out of their heart and not necessarily what’s on their work desk. And they are coached in their speech in order to make it as appealing as possible in the time frame that has been given. And usually this means less statistics or numbers and more feeling. You literally lean forward when an architect speaks about renovating houses to become greener or a designer who explains how to design a handheld device for emergency care nurses while making sure that the humane connection between the nurse and patient is considered as well.

I kid you not when I say that looking at these talks is like going to the movies. But they are not like movies but more like a mix of the intensivity of Actors Studio and information of any documentary squeezed into 16 minute long, often emotional infomercial.

Here are some of my favourite speeches to be digested at your own discretion. First of them is about a project in India where the slum kids are given internet accessed computer and they start to learn by themselves. Second one is encouraging modern kids to get active with their surroundings and to explore. Third and last one explores the variety of things that one pig helps to produce. Prepare to be amazed. And be advised, you might get addicted!

 

 

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A hidden view

Have you ever stumbled upon a view where there is just something different, something thought out? It feels like taking a peak to someone’s living room, or maybe a secret being unraveled to you who are just at the right spot and sometimes just at the right time. Well, I have seen this happen a couple of times in architecture, and it totally blows me away.

Montreal Olympic Stadion (picture from Flickr Théo La Photo)

Sometimes you know that what you are seeing is no accident. The thought that follows is the one that puzzles me the most: what kind of architect has time, vision and opportunity to play with the surroundings so that the building he or she builds, connects to it in one more way. Of course the form and materials of the building are sometimes predefined as well as the site and the volume as well. Doing this can be accidental or planned, subtle or “in your face!”, but it impresses me either way.

Finlandia Hall (Picture by Helsingin Sanomat)

Finlandia Hall (picture from siennasmommy.blogspot.com)

I have been told that Alvar Aalto has done this kind of flukes in several locations but I have not been able to track them down. But is this a fluke, a visual trick, or an ego trip or a show of elitism by an architect who chuckles by himself in his secret viewing point. I don’t know, I just think it’s great!

I am hungry for these different views. It can be something that everybody knows, or something really exclusive. I’d like to know if you know something like these pictures. Please share them with me.

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Screentone

Karlito - La Rue Cause (screenshot from http://www.get-bacc.com)

One thing that has always interested me is screentone. I remember 15 years back when I was a teen and I made a couple of t-shirt prints. I bought this special paper for my printer and printed and ironed two pictures. I went to pains to get a screenshot from Karlito’s music video “la rue cause” and another picture was manga girl with a gun which I ironed on the side of the shirt. I couldn’t find the original pictures which I used but here are some reference pictures so that you get the idea.

Manga girl in screentone (picture from liz-kicks-butt.deviantart.com)

Anyways, where I was getting at was screentone.  Screentone is basically one way to make pictures with color. Screentone is an area that is filled out with  many dots that make that area appear to be fully covered. Actually, when you look close enough to maybe a newspaper picture, you can differentiate these dots and see how the picture is made up by the printing machine.This technique saves coloras it leaves areas blank.  It is also used in manga and other cartoons as a shadowing technique.

The thing that fascinates me maybe the most is that it’s original purpose being ingenious in itself (=saving loads of color when printing pictures) it has been adopted by artists as a way to make a visual impact. It has also found it’s way to pop art.

Bloc Party t-shirt (picture from http://www.merchco-online.com)

But the coolest thing I found was on a Bloc Party gig about 2 years ago. The gig was out of this world and after that I wandered of to the merchandise booth to somehow encapsulate that moment of beautiful music. And there it was. A shirt with Bloc Party’s Intimacy album cover redone in screentone! I just had to have it. The dots are that big that if you haven’t seen the original album cover the screentone stays obscure and you don’t see what is really going on. You have to stare the shirt from 10 metres so that the dots start making sense. It has been fun to see my colleagues reaction after they have ignored the shirt for the whole day and then I ask them to step back and take a closer look.

 

This I think is something that in different forms has taken my interest; the effort one has to make in order to see something beautiful or clever. Sometimes it means that you have to climb up a hill, take an elevator to the top of Eiffel Tower or find a spot where everything lines up. I want to find people who have marked the spot and to see the beautiful and sometimes hidden view. And with this blog, I hope to share those views with you.

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