Tuesday 30 April 2024


Instead of taking each item and developing the issues in more detail, the reference is given along with the portion of text from it that caught the eye; comments have been made to explain why this matter has been chosen to be noted here.


HEADLINE: Sculptor Tony Cragg: 'Art has become surrounded by middle-class, intellectual bulls---'


What can one say, but agree?


Among the first AI tools to be used by architects and designers have been image generation engines such as DALL-E, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion, that transform text prompts into images. This encourages designers to use language-based conceptualization, often helping to test out ideas quickly and lowering the knowledge threshold for designing, for better or for worse. (my bold text)


One has to remember the proverb: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.# We need to be very wary of AI matters. Here, architecture is shaped from words, ‘as if’ one can directly describe possibilities and have them realised ‘automatically’ while still making sense of the whole.

One can draw a parallel with:


where art is used to create music, again, ‘as if’ . . .

HEADLINE: I'm using my synesthesia to create a new genre of AI art. The technology can 'read' my paintings and help me compose music.


What can one say? John Betjeman commented on the artists who wrote music and choreographed dance to some of his poems, that he admired the effort but thought that it added very little to the whole. Do we just enjoy fun and games; playing with AI, ‘as if,’ on the off chance, it might be meaningful? It reminds one of the parent who always gave the children quality paper to draw and paint on in case one scribble might turn out to be ‘a work of art.’


For photographers seeking unique and creative avenues, exploring adapted lenses opens up a world of possibilities. This journey into adapted lenses can lead to surprising and unusual results and expand your creativity.


The text describes what is happening in architecture at present – a search for carefully selected, specially framed images - and reinforces the notion that to be ‘creative,’ one has to be different, unusual and unique, making one a bespoke genius. Photography is setting the scene for the designer who seeks out things that can be seen to be bespoke, from the hands of a genius.


HEADLINE: Completed luxury.


This townhouse project is promoted with the usual real estate hype, but has a tight plan, with no indication of any context, when this is critical. The ‘Family’ space indicates a lounge that allows residents to stare at the bathroom door; while the dining room table sits in a no-man’s-land passageway, squeezing the lounge area into a corner and offering limited chair space around the table.


Two weeks ago it was quietly announced that the Future of Humanity Institute, the renowned multidisciplinary research centre in Oxford, no longer had a future.

Currently it seems that there is a negative correlation in some places between intellectual achievement and fertility. If such selection were to operate over a long period of time, we might evolve into a less brainy but more fertile species, homo philoprogenitus (‘lover of many offspring’).”


Is this the worry with AI?


"Mixbook has been our go-to choice for preserving our family memories for several years now. Their stunning coffee table books have become a cherished way to safeguard and share our family's precious memories for years to come." - Jennifer


Family photographs take on a new understanding as coffee table books. Our digital world is creating a new, make-believe universe that we can begin to believe in, leaving us with less than nothing, all when the family photos once were a true reference of past times, with no intent to become a slick publication.


HEADLINE: Nervous of its own boldness.

There’s a reluctance to let things be fully what they want to be, whether a thumping big building, or an industrial relic, or a pavement cafe. This possibly comes from a de-risking attitude – with many hazards in the realisation of the project, the developers may not have wanted to take too many chances with the architecture.

I’d only wish that in its latest transformation King’s Cross had as much personality as in previous iterations.


An interesting review that is unusually frank. Architecture and urban planning needs much more careful analysis/review like this.


HEADLINE:Neom officials desperately look for investors as completion becomes difficult.

Earlier, The line was planned to cover an area of 170 kilometres and house at least 1.5 million people, but after cutting it down, now it will only be 2.4 kilometres with less than 30,000 residents.


The concept always seemed unbelievable as a dimension and an idea. Even now, with this shorter version, one has to be concerned with mirrored walls in a desert, as well as the quality of life in between.



The work features hundreds of documents and a vast hand-drawn family tree, which covers the entire pavilion and maps Moore's ancestry over some 2,400 generations.

"Thus 65,000 years of history (both recorded and lost) are inscribed on the dark walls as well as on the ceiling, asking viewers to fill in blanks and take in the inherent fragility of this mournful archive," the jury said in its citation.


The idea that 65,000 years of history can be documented by one person is astonishing - impossible; but asking the viewers to fill in the blanks only reinforces the ad hoc, now almost cliché notion of scribbles, or anything unknown and abstract – ‘interesting’ - being meaningful, with everyone asked to bring their own interpretations and values to the work. Art has to have more substantial roots than this DIY excuse that enhances voids. Art is not personal. Ananda Coomaraswamy noted how matters personal only mislead and distort, and encourage ambitious notions of ‘creative genius’ where mystery is allowed to linger in nothingness.


. . . a 50,000-year-old short-faced kangaroo skeleton . . .

The skeleton has 71 per cent of its bones, which makes it the most complete fossil skeleton ever discovered in a Victorian cave.

"The last and first time a comparably complete example of this species of kangaroo was found was in the mid-1970s. It's been nearly 50 years."


A complete skeleton has never ever been seen, but scientists can say with apparent certainty that the 150 bones discovered in this cave represents 71% of the total; not ‘approximately 70%,’ or even ‘72%,’ but ‘71%.’ Who might know? One is reminded how scientists claim to have cracked the human genome when the figure known is not 100%.*




Absolute certainty grows from a vague, perhaps hopeful understanding.


"Whole generations of Australians now will be able to look at this collection and really come to understand what their potential is to be creative, to be artistic, to have fun, explore, imagine and create."


The idea that creativity is being artistic, to have fun, explore, imagine and create reinforces the ‘You too can be an artist’ just by doing different, interesting things, an understanding that is promoted by the notion suggested above, (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-29/venice-biennale-golden-lion-australia-archie-moore-artist/103730100 . . .), where everyone is asked to read whatever they see in the thing being observed as being the value of the artful genius that knows nothing of this.


Most of these ‘news’ items all appeared on the one day, with a couple appearing on the day following. There is a nagging irritation in these pieces that relates to creativity, AI, publishing, and meaning in architecture, and the casual acceptance of our scientific, ‘rational’ world. The general cliché view is that things have to be interesting, different, and fun to be creative; that AI can provide us with instant creativity; and that publications can, and do, illustrate architecture likewise, with carefully framed, quirky pieces and parts that the viewer is asked to piece together and add value to the interpretations to create meaning; and as for science, "We believe."

The response to this subtle referencing is that we need to be wary of science and its hype; that we have to understand creativity and meaning in a different, more coherent, organic, less personal manner; and that we need a rigorous critical eye to sustain our sensibilities – lest we forget them.


A slight misquotation of Alexander Pope's a little learning is a dangerous thing. The earliest use dates from a magazine published in 1774.



If 150 bones is 71%, then there must be 211.267605634 bones in the animal's complete body: "Go figure!"

Tuesday 2 April 2024


The headline was bold, both as message and font:

Some of Melbourne's oldest suburbs are about to grow fast — but are they ready?

- see: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-02/housing-statement-victorian-government-council-home-approval/103627604?utm_source=abc_news_app&utm_medium=content_shared&utm_campaign=abc_news_app&utm_content=other

The text explained the concept and outlined its strategy:

The state government has labelled Broadmeadows as one of 10 areas across Melbourne where it wants to collectively build 60,000 new homes.

. . .

And in the future, it plans to transform another 120 suburbs into "Activity Centres", as part of a broader aim to add 800,000 dwellings across Victoria over the next decade.

. . .

Experts say these areas need more housing, because other council areas — like Wyndham in the west and Casey in the east — have been growing too much.

. . .

To address this, the government hopes to build 70 per cent of new homes in parts of Melbourne where there's already housing and infrastructure. The current rate is about 56 per cent.

. . .

To do this, we divided Melbourne's councils into growth areas, where there's lots of land that could be suitable for development, and established areas, where there's existing houses and infrastructure.

While there were statistics and maps and statements about numbers and intent, the surprise was that no one knew exactly how this idea was going to be achieved:

While we don't know exactly how the 60,000 houses will be added to the 10 established areas across Melbourne, we do know some of the ways the state government will work with councils to mitigate these risks and incentivise growth.

This is the planning problem that makes such a mess of our cities; there is no plan other than some motherhood statement of intent that is left open for negotiation as developers arrive with their own ambitious interpretations to fill in the great gaps left by the plan, just to suit themselves. Little wonder that our cities are such a shambles. If we are to have a plan for a city, it needs to be much more than an idea, a map, and a set of numbers jumbled into a pseudo-scientific analysis of the situation illustrated by graphs.

The very first challenge is to know exactly how the idea is to be implemented, and exactly what the outcomes are to be. Leaving these unknown while ‘the plan’ is formalised, simply means that there is no plan, because a plan defines a known outcome. All we have is a hopeful vision: 'Indicative Only - Subject To Change.' To detail this strategy as a numerical and geographic game leaves all the critical matters for life and its living floating in an amorphous haze, ignored.

We must know everything we can about possibilities and their impacts before we decide on locations and percentages. Planning without this only gives us more of what we currently have: a shambles that tests the mental health of all, apart from, it seems, the planners who apparently only see the world as graphs, percentages, numbers, and schematic maps – dumb statistics.

We need much better than this; we need to understand place, space, adjacency, privacy, history, functions, symbolism, contexts, and much more before we start formalising any plan. Planners have to engage in these matters because structuring frameworks without knowing any of their impacts on life and its living is very dangerous: it is the blind leading the greedy in a game involving power and money, when we need to manage space and meaning subtly – to care for the intimacy of feeling in the engagement with place and its accommodation, shared with others in order to achieve a personal contentment. Spruiking statistics has nothing to do with this experience that should be shaped in plans if we really want to build homes in a city context, communities, instead of clumps of houses squeezed together willy-nilly to achieve the number required.

Monday 1 April 2024


The cry is that we must ‘save the environment.’ There are numerous responses to this plea that all give the impression that issues are being responded to while things go on in much the same, or even in a worse manner, as if it might be a grand display of blind belligerence, or of happy hype - or both.

Take for instance plastics: the world is being seriously littered with plastics that are breaking down and entering the most diverse minute, intimate places in life – see, e.g.: https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/25/uk/microplastics-archeological-remains-study-scli-intl-scn-gbr/index.html; so the ‘war’ is one against single-use plastics – straws, cutlery, and plastic bags. Plastic straws are religiously, with much fanfare and self-congratulation, being replaced with paper straws; plastic cutlery is ousted in favour of wooden knives, forks, and spoons; plastic bags are being supplanted by paper bags.# Meanwhile we continue to use plastics in increasing quantities in nearly every aspect of life, with cunning excuses that use, e.g. thickness - thicker plastic bags; and necessity - health, cost, function; as excuses to keep doing whatever we want; and there is no concern about these apologetic inconsistencies. The pile of waste at the recycling station, last seen to be a stunning ten metres high, (and just as wide, five times longer), is always filled with tonnes of plastic. There is really no concerted or committed effort to do anything about eliminating plastics from our world, or managing them sensibly; we just keep using plastics as we go to great public effort to scratch the surface of a solution by demanding the use of different straws, cutlery, and bags to give a self-congratulatory, ‘feel-good’ outcome – not that the wooden spoons or straws feel good on the tongue!

Hospitals use tonnes of single-use plastics; daily life uses more and more single-use plastics in the kitchen, with an increasing quantity of plastics being used in toys, gadgets, furniture, and motor vehicles, and more: plastics are everywhere, but we act as though we are doing something useful about the problem by concentrating on words that refer to straws, cutlery, and bags as we ignore reality in the same way as we ignore batteries that get discarded without a care or thought, into the general waste – that huge pile of refuse ready to be ‘transferred.’

Likewise we vigorously promote electric vehicles as though these will ‘change the world’ too; save the world: but does anyone do the sums to look closely at the real impacts of producing these vehicles instead of only analysing consumption with comparative assumptions that give the good results desired? With one factory turning out an EV every two minutes – thirty an hour – then every hour, one hundred and twenty wheels are needed; thirty sets of panel parts; thirty batteries; thirty sets of glazing; etc., etc., every hour for every day, for just one factory. What is the impact of this neurotic manufacturing that produces assembled pieces and parts that make serious demands on the patterns of habitation? Our whole world is designed for the movement and storage of cars; these spaces shape our public places and deform our homes with their demands. One also has to ask why so much effort goes into producing vehicles with alarming acceleration, e.g. 0 – 100 in three seconds, as though this might be critically meaningful, and even useful. It says something about our intentions when it is important that one EV can win a drag race while towing tonnes and still out-perform all others. Interest in things environmental carry with them a degree of sensible reasonableness in their accommodation of necessity rather than any embellishment of excess for display. There is a latent efficiency in the effectiveness of caring attitudes.

We have Mr. Musk boasting about his EVs and their power, smart technology – driverless, (why?), and environmental qualities while he is blasting rockets off at the rate of one or two a week, to deliver thousands of satellites to fill our skies. What is the carbon impact of this activity – both its manufacturing and blasting off ?*

We are keen to use our promotional skills to spin opinions while we continue to do whatever we want, making sure that there is no inconvenience to us in our daily lives as we act to ‘save our planet’ with a pompous, self-righteous indignation and AI.

‘Saving our planet’ will mean that we have to put an effort into it, and be prepared to truly alter things drastically as needed; to change ourselves and our ‘convenient’ lives. Dare we do away with all plastics? Dare we do the carbon calculations on total outputs rather than promote the values of selective visions? Dare we act? - or might it be just too hard on ourselves and our comfortable lives?

The same problem of convenience and spin exists in our ideas about cities. While we might spruik the right words, e.g. Foster's statement on cities made at his institute in Madrid:

"the ideal city we would advocate is dense, compact, walkable, and user-friendly. The opposite of the sprawling car-borne city, it’s likely to have neighborhoods that are mixed in use and permit the spontaneity and unpredictability of city life” (see: https://voussoirs.blogspot.com/2024/03/fostering-cities.html), we just keep on building ‘Foster’ airports and ‘Foster’ high-rise structures willy-nilly, as though we were doing something sensible with our words that might forgive our actions, all with a grand, distracting ‘WOW!’ that entertains our interests to help us forget what we were cheering about or advocating previously.

There is a great chasm between ideas and outcomes that needs to be resolved. If we are truly wanting to do something about our environment and our cities, then we need to act coherently, with integrity and commitment; [with] a more exalted criticism - see Gertrude Jekyll’s ON GARDENING in the sidebar - to ensure that the acts are achieving what we want rather than relying only on words for nice, hopeful feelings, and a maintenance of the indulgent, easy life. True commitment means a real efforts to achieve real outcomes – [making it] a point of honour to be always striving for the best (ibid.). We have to change expectations and desires if we really want to change our planet and our cities. Words might be buzzy stimulants, but we are also using them as sedatives, to keep ourselves happy with the status quo that we know will change our planet irrevocably for the worst: but who cares; at least I am not inconvenienced?

It is muddled thinking like this that we need to call out if we truly want desirable change. We are only fooling ourselves with these fanciful visions that become excuses to keep on doing whatever we want – building more and more aeroplanes, cars, rockets, airports, without realising the necessary infrastructure and impacts that these actions demand of us and impose on our environments.

We might talk of a ‘dense, compact, walkable, and user-friendly’ city, but what does one have to do to achieve this outcome? What does one have to do to attend to the ‘plastics’ problem of the world? What does one have to do to resolve the carbon issue? We can identify the issues and spruik the right blurb, but the actual outcomes are the core measurement of our success. Are we just getting too clever for ourselves as we start believing in our own hype?

As I walk around the house, I notice the plastic everywhere: plastic toilet seat; shower shelves; knife handles; containers; zip bags; outdoor furniture; light fittings; computer; printer; speakers; keyboard; portable hard discs; chargers; cables; electrical boards and switches; electric tools; vacuum cleaner; bucket; broom; dust pan; radio; clock; stapler; ballpoint pens; ruler; scissor handles; food packaging; milk bottles; soda bottles; the refrigerator interior; the car bumpers; the car seats; ceiling fans; louvre glazing; cupboard door handles; security cameras; cameras; folding table; roller shutter; bottle tops; . . . the list seems endless, reaching into every aspect of life that we consider essential. How do we change things to overcome this ‘convenience’ that says that “You’ll have to pay more if you want something else”?

The very same question can be asked about our cities: how can we make ‘dense, compact, walkable, and user-friendly’ places out of our sprawling habitations serviced by private vehicles and aeroplanes? The silent response is, “You’ll have much more inconvenience if you do away with cars.”

Intentions and words might sound idyllic, poetically wonderful, but we need to create the real experience rather than being happy with the dreams! - to be always watching, noting, and doing, and putting oneself meanwhile into the closest acquaintance and sympathy with the [outcomes] (ibid.).



We have had a recent occasion to use a cafe in a health facility. We ordered two cappuccinos and an apple pie to share. The cafe appeared to be environmentally aware, with paper cups and plates, and wooden cutlery. Left on the table after we had finished were: two paper cups; two plastic lids; two wooden spoons; one paper plate; one wooden knife; two wooden forks; three paper serviettes; one paper bag – all of which was immediately discarded. It seemed like an outrageous waste of material.

If traditional china cups or mugs had been used, along with stainless steel cutlery, only three paper serviettes would have been discarded, with the other items being collected and washed for reuse.

One has to wonder about the cliché, alternative ideas that give the impression of sensitivity to environmental matters when they are really only there to save time and labour, with no thought at all for matters environmental. We can find ourselves getting distracted by appearances when matters are really otherwise. It is a lesson we must learn from and apply to all alternative solutions like EVs and wind power, because we can so easily be tricked into believing that these are all beneficial because we want them to be, assume them to be, while the big picture, perhaps, tells us a different story.

It brings to mind our two weeks in forced quarantine in 2020 – see: https://voussoirs.blogspot.com/2021/01/quarantine-cuisine-photographic-diary.html. While the government was telling everyone that it cared about plastics and their single usage, each meal delivered to us came with still water in a plastic bottle, as if tap water might be poisoned; and a full set of plastic cutlery, along with plastic food containers, paper serviettes, and paper bags. At the end of two weeks, we had 84 sets of cutlery, 252 items, and 84 plastic water bottles – all the other paper and plastic waste was collected and removed: and we were just one couple out of the hundreds who had to experience this government-required incarceration.

As for hospitals: if one ever has to have contact with any health facility, one soon discovers how single-use plastics are an essential in this industry that seems to be making no attempt to introduce any other measures. Once items like scissors and needles and the like were cleaned, sterilised, and reused; now everything is hygienically sealed in plastic packs filled with all the disposables, as required for a particular task, along with disposable plastic aprons, masks, glasses, gloves, etc. to be used as single-use protective gear. Larger items of equipment that are shared come with disposable plastic shrouds. Ironically, plastic lies at the heart of health.

What are we to do?


The Space X Falcon 9 launch produces 300 tons of CO2.