Life on Mars

A new modernist / minimalist print in the shop.

Related: one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite soundtracks

White Rapids

I was riding the train back home today following a gorgeous longboard ride and couldn’t help but be drawn to this comic over some guy’s shoulder. It’s astounding!

Now, I can’t comment on the story having not actually read it, but the pictures review very highly on the Acrylo cool-o-meter.

It’s called White Rapids and was done up by a Pascal Blanchet five years ago. Also: it’s Canadian. Fortunately for us it’s a comic and not a film. The word comic is used – there is text and visuals on every page together – but there are no real panels, no grid, which makes it read more like a Dr. Suess picture book than anything. I’m entirely fine with that, actually, given that it’s more about the visual history of the town than a dialogue-based plot. It works.

It’s $25 on Amazon and just over 150 pages which makes it a pretty thin book for that price. Shame. If it were, say, $10 I’d be on that like white on rice.

Images via (and a review, it seems)

Ladies and Gents, Justin Mezzell

Simply fantastic work. The above were taken from Justin’s official gallery but personally I like the snippets found in the Dribbble.

I love that vaguely Fallout future retro whimsy with references to the rockets and plasma weapons next to cantilevers and Eames lounges next to art deco style backdrops. It’s so mismatched and comes together brilliantly.

Morning Warmup :: Boardroom

The musty warm conference rooms of the 80’s, filled with that golden glow.

My new semester schedule allows me tuesday and thursday mornings with classes not starting until 10:00, so I’ll be filling those chunks with projects like these. Quick and dirty, just putting out a mass volume of work. And, maybe some tutorials if I can find an audio setup that doesn’t pop and hiss like it does now.

I had the chairs already made from an older project so I cheated slightly there, all in all it was about half an hour of production. It’s rendered using the new Blender Cycles which I’m excited to learn. CUDA GPU render on a GTX 275 in 4:00 minutes. Nodes for dispersion and ghosting (which I’m not sure if I like totally – could maybe be more subtle) and the DoF is now controlled via Cycles itself which is a lot more physically accurate than the node based Z-depth version.

The Houl :: Simon Winstanley Architects

Save for the interior design / furniture, and perhaps a few of the rooms’ usage I declare this house nearly perfect.

Personally, I’d take out the front facing guest bedroom and shorten in the entire plan that amount, pushing the kitchen more over top of the dining / living area. The music room would then be called an office but otherwise left alone. The study / bedroom could be like a small garage, housing motorcycles or perhaps a project car to be worked on. These suggestions are just for me, note, not that I’d impose that on whoever commissioned this house.

I like the walkthrough closet idea, which keeps those sorts of solid walls toward the interior and leaving the external walls to be more fully realized in glass. I’m on the fence with having a solid wall to the north of the living room, but maybe its just my desire for complete (often regarded as overwhelming, see: Farnsworth) open lighting. If you’re in the middle of the countryside, it’s not like the neighbors are awkward. The grassy hill would reflect a lovely warm light from the opposite sun through north-facing ground floor windows that the raised ones wouldn’t receive. But, given the existing structure is external, using three walls of glass like that would require more cantilevering from an interior structure, so, it makes sense to do it this way – especially if the clients weren’t interested at looking at the hill behind them anyway. Also, depending on the glass used, it might interrupt the net-zero standard this house claims. The sunlighting has been well designed otherwise, and the slope of the roof takes into account the summer sun’s angle (blocking it) and allowing the lower winter sun’s angle to penetrate, passively helping to heat the house.

It’s called The Houl and was designed by Simon Winstanley Architects :: Photos / info via Archdaily

Modular Kitchen by Astro Studios

I like consistency and on that they definitely deliver – and in one fell swoop also deliver the understated minimalism I really appreciate. The appliances aren’t brash in any way, but contemporary, crisp and clean.

The text display is really natural and I think this is something we need more of as the old school glowing green microwave / stove LED displays are pretty tacky. I imagine when it’s not displaying information it would just fade away, leaving a perfectly blank, clean bezel.

The modular system is a good idea, because we all know there are never enough electrical outlets in the kitchen to satisfy everything we want to use simultaneously (which, perhaps, is a commentary on lifestyle more than interior electrical design) but I would argue forcing them to form one unmovable wall doesn’t work very well in the typical kitchen: not everyone has such uninterrupted counterspace. Perhaps a compromise would work? A thin patch cable between them that allows bends around corners etc. but allows for them to jump off each other and plug in through one cable. Also – and I’m not sure, they might have allowances for this – the ability to choose which appliance has the outboard plug, so perhaps the middle one in the chain can supply power out to the satellite appliances in both directions.

Although, to be fair, I am highly biased towards anything matte black + wood, so maybe it’s just me.

Astro Studios

Photos via

Modernism Fail

I get this every so often: “Brennan, I think you just repost everything you find that’s clad in wood paneling. That’s hardly critical of you, and I don’t like your bias.” to which I’d reply “Hardly. There’s a lot of absolute rubbish architecture out there, putting perfect colours over terribly geometry is just lipstick on a pig.”

There’s a fine line that gets walked here when I write about these things, but I will risk seeming elitist when I say: architecture is hardly about the colours. Interior design is worthless if the space itself is worthless. I suspect that’s why the pretentious architecture is white – the emphasis isn’t on the interior palette, but the volume itself.

This is the Casa Lara by architect Mihai M. Tudose for his own family.

I disagree with it.

The first photo at the top seems promising; rectangular prisms, white stucco, warm wood accents, neat lines of hedge. The front gate thing is sort of awkward, but alright, nothing is perfect.

Then the second photo, the bridge. Um, diamond plate? Interesting choice. Why do you have to escape through the window to get onto it? Why don’t the steps line up at neat angles? This whole photo says to me: “We saw this in a Dwell magazine and really liked the idea, so we made our own version of it.”

Third photo: living room. The couch, of course, is opposite how it should be but architecturally speaking, the windows are severely lacking. That whole wall should be glass. The roof should hover, as if not a roof at all but an awning. Theirs is firmly planted, adding an intense claustrophobia to the room(s) which should be the lightest, airiest, and most desirable. The ceiling ledge lighting is patchy.

The shelves are Texas thick and cluttered without care, and it appears they have two coffee tables in front of the already heavy sofa area. I don’t mean to use the word again, but it’s really the adjective that keeps coming to mind: claustrophobic. Everything. Annoyingly full. Stuffed without care or harmony. It’s not even that you have to get rid of it all (well, maybe that second coffee table) but just design it to be cleaner. Minimalism isn’t about living with less than you need, it’s about living in harmony with the stuff that you have.

I’m not sure if it’s just terrible photography (you’ll notice he took his own photos) but everything just seems dark and closed in. There’s no appeal, nothing inviting here. I like the lighting behind the shelves there, but the wall separating the interior cavity from that large wall of frosted glass is twice as thick as it needs to be, and probably useless altogether – given the frosting was acceptably private, I would say it should extend around the corner, lighting the whole area.

Overall, the house feels like they saw things they liked and then copied them, but didn’t bother to learn why they liked them in the beginning. Modernism isn’t just white with wood panels, nor is minimalism concrete with steel and glass. They appear often in the same sentence, but the defining of it; the passion of it is entirely unrelated to the materials. It’s a lifestyle and a philosophy. This house just copies the lipstick, but places it on the wrong animal.

Thanks for trying, and props to you for doing it. It has it’s moments and does have some nice features, but I just feel like the overall execution was less than ideal. Then again, meta-architectural philosophy: Are you happy living in your own house? If yes, than it’s a resounding success. Some armchair critic can’t say if you’ll be happy of not, and what are houses if not places to be as you intend them.

Photos via

Lujan House

I love courtyards. Like a personal oasis within a fortress.


Ceramic iMegaphone

Megaphone from RACOON_STUDIO on Vimeo.

Not all that’s hand crafted and minimal is good design.

I do love the walnut on white combination, though. It’s a gorgeous thing – don’t get me wrong – but I can’t imagine the ratio of object volume to usefulness is working in it’s favor.

iOS 5, and Apple’s UI evolution in general

I’ve been playing with iOS 5 since yesterday and I just wanted to bring to light something fantastic: the new music app UI.

Now, previously I was complaining on Twitter that I wasn’t a fan of the stitched UI that Apple has been adding to more and more apps lately, both on iOS and into Lion itself, because I didn’t think it added anything. It was unnecessary detail, and Information Architects have it right – it is pretty kitsch.

There were some good conversations that came out of that, though, and I wanted to both clarify and slightly revise my position. It’s not that I want everything to be stainless steel, since contextualism can definitely go into play, but I am slightly against useless trinkets clouding up my UI. Can there be details and subtle things? Sure. Awesome. Should they take up any space that could be used for something useful? Not so much.

The new music app is a perfect example. It’s not stainless steel, it brings together the sort of grass-roots vibe Apple’s slowly transforming into with the wood sides. Which, by the way, have got to be based on the old Braun / Dieter Rams Snow White’s Coffin record players:

So it presents itself as Braun’s design does from the late 1950’s – it’s clean and unobtrusive, yet personal; warm. The best part is, it still fits into the iPad hardware itself. The white could be metal (as the SK4 is) and when we’re holding the aluminum-backed tablet, it feels natural to be seeing these things and feeling the machine. It’s harmonious, and that’s the key.

Which becomes the problem with the other apps (calendar, notes, etc.) with their digital faux-leather, they’re trying to be warm and rich but ultimately can’t achieve it because in the end, the iPad / iPhone is made of glass and aluminum. There’s a contradiction of senses there.

In the end, design your UI to be fitting and natural. Be comfortable, sure, not everyone wants razor sharp UI made of brushed steel, but be conscientious of how it flows within the hardware.

All photo credits found linked through.

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