Monday, 12 December 2011

birds on bikes go festive

the shiny new range from birds on bikes is going down a storm and sees our two-wheeled friends return and this time they're festive!

four fun designs : all lovingly handmade in hackney : available to buy in london's finest bike shops : birds on bikes stall at hackney homemade market 18 december

coo coo

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

oma meets the barbican

my review of the full-of-surprises oma/progress exhibition at the barbican for blueprint magazine can now be [read] online

join the geeks!

lottery-funded british architecture

delighted to have another story grace the cover of blueprint... this feature, which i nurtured from the very beginning, steps into the curiously left-alone world of the heritage lottery fund and how its decisions become our architecture

the piece is accompanied by superbly colourful illustrations of familiar icons - old and new, loved and scorned - by people will always need plates

Thursday, 10 November 2011

matzine in the limelight

our very own matzine is currently sitting among 60 architectural publications being exhibited at the aa, until 14 december, as part of archizines : all shapes + sizes, all lovingly crafted, non-architects embracing architecture and architects looking beyond the peripheries of their profession : there is a year's worth of reading in this one room and ideas that stretch even further

Monday, 7 November 2011

who asked you?

a collaboration between stephen and i for matzine #10 concerning a rather sad neighbour of ours on Dalston Lane [click to enlarge illustration] :

I’m tired.
I have seen three centuries and the years did not escape me, no, they piled on top and squeezed my spine.
Age pushes my weary body downwards, stuck in limbo between upright elevation and a squelchy subterranean world.
I was wide-eyed with excitement when the first train rolled into the Junction, and exuded a showy appearance.
But now my eyes are heavy, my looks embarrassingly dishevelled.
Four generations of George gave me my name as London stretched its arms and rolled out into the East End.
I protectively enveloped the families that followed the fresh lines.
A healthy dose of extra weight made room for business ambitions and new futures.
The energy of their experiences punched through the front door and rushed through my mortar veins.
Bombs have dropped around me and old friends were swept away in tiny particles.
Yet I stood resilient and proud.
I was energetic and stood tall, now my smallness wears me out.
I suffered the rash of government corruption, and played the victim in a helpless jam.
The rough orangey tongue burnt my bones right after I mistook resentment for love.
Secret instructions and greedy dreams caught me off-guard.
My walls once felt like they could survive hurricanes, and they did, now the brick feels inky, seeping into the earth.
To score some political points, my guts were torn out and my strength was debilitated with an ‘accidental’ punch to the kidney.
Stinging senses have exhausted me, as shifting moralities whirl around the grid.
I’m slumping, slowly leaning, and looking for somewhere to rest the weight of my fatigue.
Money has been exchanged between hands on my behalf, but never reached the final transaction.
There’s been talk discussing my future, I’m sick of being centre of attention, the subject line in conversations branching either side of the Atlantic.
I’m tired but my eyes are stitched open by metal bars, bruises shine from playing the rope in a tug of war.
I need to rest my trembling muscles for warping limbs cause me to trip.
The warm smell of bread, piercing floral colours and thudding music used to drum my heartbeat.
But these loyal friends were torn away and locked out by green hoarding.
Now a handful of fragile humans protect me, humiliated by the last remaining few that care.
Demolish, restore, demolish, restore, I’m tired of waiting for a decision that sticks.
Steel skeletons prop me up, or else they are performing a stop motion demolition.
I would like to go to sleep now, if someone only thought to ask me.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

the self-tormentor

here is the full version of mine + stephen's contribution to the unlimited edition : an encounter between two characters who live at either end of whitechapel road, and are not quite as they first appear :

Tonight, there is an encounter between two unlikely characters. Or rather, two characters who do not like each other much. There was a family feud some time ago. Though it was not quite so dramatic, more a slow gathering of absence that quietly stacked up. So high, it formed a barrier between Taka and Poisha. An occasion missed here or there because of a lack of anticipation and then at one point, it just tipped. The history became arbitrary. Enough distance for some abstract resentment to be convincing.

Taka and Poisha are not geographically distant. They live on the same street in fact – at either end of Whitechapel Road. The exact point where each lives defines exactly who they are. Taka is right in the thick of it. He cocoons himself within the comfort of a tight knit community so that he might be everyone’s friend. The tip of Brick Lane, leading to a strip of professional welcomes. Whereas Poisha is out on a limb, consciously so, for just enough space to be allowed the opportunity to be introspective. Giving little away with tunnel vision towards the family. Whitechapel where it starts to change its mind.

Taka and Poisha use the street as a tool to remain a world apart. But a larger force binds them together, tugging at the invisible wires that pull the traffic through. While Taka gazes upwards to minarets among the silk weavers, Poisha curls up beneath the cross. A call for Taka to join like-minded others at the meeting place. One curious offspring of Poisha occasionally peers over to this exotic character, immersed in the centre of activity.

The disparate pair is tied by more than this road, for they are relatives. This would be difficult to spot of course, their personalities are laughably in opposition. Years spent in pursuit of splaying paths, burying the shared blood and naive experiences beyond view. Lives were once piled atop one and other, now they tilt at either end of a see-saw.

Taka and Poisha happen to be money exchange shops. Seemingly banal office types - desks, chairs, filing cabinets, wall calendars - yet filled with tales of adventures, and part of a topography that stretches to the other side of the world. Trade is embedded in the tarmac here, which unfolds and wraps itself around the tea leaves of north-eastern Bangladesh. The exchange of money runs along a streak of blue paint between skyscrapers, which gushes blue-brown through the streets of Dhaka. Travelling on two wheels from the City of Mosques to The City mosque, and back again.

A blur of moving blue lights interrupts the quiet pause just after the small hours, just before early workers. All awake at a tower composed of blue rectangles in the middle of the road, where either end is brought together. Taka is ill, a devastating tear in the routine of normality. The reason is not a lifetime of self-indulgence or reckless attitude to health. Instead, it is something that was there all along, squeezing ever-tightly.

Taka needs a piece of strength from another body to survive. It must be someone with an ingrained bond; Poisha knows it must be him. He does not feel the family connection anymore, he has carved himself a sense of belonging where he is happy; he still knows it must be him. Through bleary eyes, he sees with great clarity a character that lives on the same street. And for this reason alone, the interests of Taka are not foreign to Poisha’s own concern.

Monday, 10 October 2011

matzine #10 : hot in mumbai

our beloved matzine reaches double figures,
but things just don't stack up...

[feast] your eyes

the theme is brick + it's been edited by ryan mcloughlin in mumbai

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

poundshop like no other

our 'bikes have feelings too' range sat very proudly among crafty treats at the poundshop last weekend...

you can still get hold of the lovingly made cards [online] along with plenty other goodies until 2 october!

book under belt

[dezeen book of ideas] launched into london design festival this week and has found itself quite the centre of attention

bikes have feelings too

Bicycles are loyal companions and don’t complain much,

they get us home in the rain, we leave them outside while we’re in the pub.

Then as soon as something goes wrong, that isn’t even their fault,

we take our anger out on them and they get forgotten about.

It’s about time we showed our wheely friends a bit of love...

And what better than with these dotingly tailored cards?

Monday, 5 September 2011

birds on bikes

a sneaky beak preview of these rather delightful cards made just for bikes, available for purchase at the [poundshop] in but 11 days!

BIRDS on BIKES is a crafty collective brought together by a mutual fondness for bicycles.... oh and our feathered friends, funnily enough

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

a book is born

[dezeen book of ideas] : coming soon....

a project that i wrote for and sub-edited, emerging into the real world via clunky machinery as we speak

unlimited edition

stephen and I contributed to this lovely publication : the unlimited edition
it was curated by we made that as part of [highstreet2012] and explores the hidden delights and idiosyncrasies of this historically and culturally jampacked street.

our contribution comprises a short story and illustration based on observations of two businesses on whitechapel high street.

pick up a copy at all good outlets along the high street
. maybe get inspiration for the next issue.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

transplant - risk - gravity - sculpture

get [tucked] into my critical thoughts of the hepworth wakefield, which began with the four words : transplant, risk, gravity, sculpture

can also be [found] on the blueprint website, talk about being spoilt for choice...

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Saturday, 9 July 2011

cover star

v&a gets edgy

Behind the Scenes at the Museum

click on image to read the Dundonian-shaped segment of a Blueprint feature on the V&A, which reported on the scale and ambition of the institution and its architecture

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

matzine #9 : hot off the photocopier

matzine #9 has arrived and offers you reading pleasure [here]

edited by stephen mackie with a little help from a typewriter + a photocopier

16 original takes along the theme of the ubiquitous act of COPY/PASTE

urban experiments, poetry + storytelling, scans, curation, theoretical ponderings, architectural generosity... a veritable eye-feast and another cracker for matzine

Friday, 24 June 2011

right side of london

CREATE festival kicks off today!

the next month in east london is going to be jampacked with arty stroke hip stuff

click on image to read the archi-biassed preview i wrote for blueprint

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

the withdrawing room

the contemporary withdrawing [room] by We Made That :

a room within a room at Croome Court in rural Worcestershire offers new perspectives of the historic house, but also suggests a path forward for National Trust

zines ahoy!

matzine joins the big guns at archizines

Monday, 16 May 2011

walk this way

piecing together the [story] behind the anomaly :

Stephen Wragg has been documenting the walking men adorning and instructing our [sub]urban landscapes. The project reveals a refreshing dose of creativity lurking in the obsessively standardised imagery of our streets

see the domestic exotic issue of matzine for a [conversation] with the artist

planning spontaneity

a book [review] : the Spontaneous City by Urhahn Urban Design

architect-shaped urban planning seems to run through Dutch blood, or perhaps their canals - cue a pedigree of superCities, which start to look a bit heavy in this popping up world.
Urhahn dissect the processes behind thinking small ... a landscape of teeny tiny interventions sure sounds exciting...

assembling hackney wick

First there was a cinema nestled into an inner city petrol forecourt, now Assemble continues the momentum of the good idea, and empathy for London's unloved sites, with Folly for a Flyover.

Check out the youngest [branch] to grow on the archi-urbanist family tree

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

matzine#08 : hot off the press!

the DOMESTIC EXOTIC issue awaits your eyes [here]

our biggest yet, it's bursting at the seams with ideas, an archive of anthropology, archeology, architecture, art, bakery, photography, psychogeography + storytelling

print your own copy, print lots of copies, spread the word......

Monday, 28 March 2011

food for domestic|exotic thought

it's 5days until the submission deadline for matzine#8
here are three foods for your thinking :

Slinkachu [above] : look up, look down, zoom in, recycle, make up a story

[the word psychogeography comes from DeQuincey's wanderings, slightly druggy, no pattern, mapping out the city in a dream-like state. Then with Walter Benjamin and the Situationists the term becomes more extreme, a matter of taking very conceptual decisions about the walking you would do and how you would access the city like that] Iain Sinclair 1999

3. many small parts make an unexpectedly massive whole : think small

please email your handiwork to by end of play on Friday 1 April
the issue will be in an a5 format, as before, but I encourage creativity within those limits

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

unveiling the domestic exotic

matzine#8 : call for submissions

Domestic Exotic entails an uncovering of the unfamiliar in the familiar, which causes a sudden shift of comfort in our surroundings [positive or negative] : consider the ground as tightly packed substrata of forgotten stories or hollow, filled with colliding conversations between inhabitants, past + present : there’s a river below the road waiting to be found – perhaps the winding path, not the straight line, will take you there : i urge you to actively seek out these hidden truths… let’s make #8 an unpredictable archive!

click for the [deets]

the image above begins to suggest at the layers lurking underground – the act of descending into the cellar of the 16th century Sutton House signifies the clay source of the brick structure so unusual at that time, and thus reveals the presence of the hackney brook, buried many years ago

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

family tree

in order to explore the representation of time – the theme of matzine#7 – i immersed myself in the deeds of my childhood home : recently celebrating its 100th birthday, though with a story dating back even longer, i thought an appropriate gift to the house would to be to compile its family tree : its red brick + mortar less vulnerable than human flesh, it has the ability to experience events spanning generations : although not much different in appearance from the neighbours either side, this family tree reveals a unique language of my loyal friend

Monday, 28 February 2011

the hourglass issue

matzine#7 has arrived and it's about time too

click for your [copy]

Monday, 14 February 2011

dystopic criticisms

a review : Noir Urbanisms edited by Gyan Prakash

In a comprehensive introduction, Gyan Prakash punches through the walls that have, until now, restricted the debate on urban dystopia and whether it is merely a construct of Western literature and cinema. Noir Urbanisms comprises ten neatly independent essays which, collectively, allow interdisciplinary interaction. Each chapter explores dark representations of the city that have become important pieces of urban criticism, using examples from real cities.

RubĂ©n Gallo’s essay on Tlatelolco marks the lifespan of a doomed 1960s housing complex in Mexico City. Educated in Paris, architect Mario Pani envisioned Corbusian modernism for one million sq m of new housing. The architect even designed a ‘modernist pyramid’ (a traditional symbol of human sacrifice) to loom over Aztec remains found on site. The adjacent Plaza of the Three Cultures became the scene of tragedy in 1968, when the army massacred 300 students. Further catastrophe came when the powerful 1985 earthquake caused high-rise blocks to collapse. Of Mexico’s 9000 casualties that day, thousands came from Tlatelolco. Subsequent investigations revealed a web of corruption in the construction process. Utopic visions of a Mexican identity disintegrated into a real life dystopia with ruinous pieces of architecture standing monument to megalomaniac design and corruption.

Dystopic visions are perhaps most familiar from the cinema, in such films as Blade Runner and Sin City, but this book looks towards the ‘larger apparatus of perception in the modern city’: pieces of architecture and printed press, among others. The rise of the printed press is inseparable from the rise of technology and capitalism, and its influence has forged a dependence on the image in modern society. In his essay, Topographies of Distress, David R. Ambaras concentrates on 1930s Tokyo to explore the urban representation that arose with modern journalism. Ambaras refers to the media coverage of a spate of infant deaths in the deprived area of Iwanosaka, which became the setting for the dystopic image of slum life – a reflection of the anxieties of Japan’s bourgeois class who understood poverty only through images. The increase in literacy and commuting by train fuelled the rise of newspapers and the thirst for sensationalism.

The dystopic image often acts as a warning of the dark future that awaits if we continue living the way we do. Mike Davis’ seminal Planet of Slums (2006) argues precisely this. It also exists as a representation of the existing city through a screen of anxiety. Based on perception, this infers that there are many different images of the same city existing in parallel rather than one simple view, as before; echoing the belief of French philosopher Michel Foucault, that we are living in an ‘epoch of simultaneity’. Urban dystopia has entered modern thought at a time when globalisation signals the loss of both local culture and moral frameworks.

The belief that dystopia is the opposite of utopia is challenged by the utopic visions of 20th century regimes. In discussing the emergence of cinematic criticism of the fast transition to an urban lifestyle in China, Li Zhang poses the question: Post-socialist Urban Dystopia? Independent Chinese filmmakers such as the Sixth Generation focus on the ‘insignificant’ people caught up in the forced relocation of communities into cities. ‘The visible hand of the state has been replaced by the invisible hand of the market’ says Zhang, allowing crime and violence to prosper. Setting the tone for a dystopic narrative, the ‘other Chinese city’ plays the role of protagonist in films that depict the bleakness of everyday lives. These films have catalysed democratic discussion among their audiences.

The territory for new discussion lies in the interstitial regions of the chapters; hence this is not necessarily a book to be read in order. Prakash permits a nod to the more common themes – Fritz Lang’s Metropolis earns itself an essay, for example. However, the more captivating essays are the less conventional. A potent argument emerges that the history of urban dystopia is entangled with images projected by those most anxious about the future. Ironically, these perceptions usually belong to the part of society that is comfortable and in control – and not the real-life inhabitants of the dystopic city. It is a shame that this book is presumed to target a specific academic audience; Noir Urbanisms deserves to be widely read and debated. In describing why inequalities or disasters have occurred, this becomes a lesson for the architects and urban designers master-planning cities of the future.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

proactive architeture # 1

the first in a series of articles seeking out the young+energetic go-getters in architecture, placing their self-initiated projects within a critical context of proactive architecture

#1 : meta architecture : click [here] to feast your eyes on the article as featuring on blueprint

[watch this space for # 2]