Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BBC4 Programme: 'Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain'

A dystopian vision of Glasgow as envisaged by the Glasgow Corporation's 1945 Bruce Plan was the subject of last night's final instalment of the three-part 'Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain' series. The drastic plans set out by the one-time city engineer Robert Bruce, show a very different Glasgow from the one we know today. Had Bruce's despot plans ever left the draftsman's desk, vast amounts of the city's architecture would have been demolished, to be replaced by replica concrete office blocks, sparsely arranged in vast grassy areas. Judging by this 3D mock-up of how Glasgow may have looked (from creative studio Playdead), the result would have been to make the city resemble an industrial estate  - a case of post-war modernist architecture gone berserk!

Glasgow may be in the habit of demolition, however the city's architecture was spared the full devastating consequences of Bruce's Plan with only a few districts affected. While innovation and optimism are keystones of any large-scale urban planning project, last night's episode perhaps serves to show the potential harm to be caused by allowing on-trend developments in architecture to dictate the character of an entire city.

For more information on the 'Dreaming the Impossible' series, read our previous blog post. This programme is available to watch on the BBC iplayer here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Online resources: Changes to Digimap Interface

With the new term rushing towards us, we're highlighting some small improvements to Digimap's online interface. Users of Digimap, (the comprehensive map and data collections which incorporate Ordance Survey data for academic use) will be pleased to see the following changes being made:

Changes to Searching
Button moved to the top right of the interface 


Changes to Printing
Button moved to the top left of the interface


Changes to Saving and Opening your Maps and Annotations
Easier to use Save and Open interfaces

Click Open to view previously saved maps and annotations. Click Save to store your maps and annotations for later.


Further details on the changes with a full explanation of the new functionality is available here. Surely, welcome amendments to an already highly-sophisticated and valuable resource. As always, access to online resources is available through a search of the Library catalogue

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New ebook: 'After Art' by David Joselit

We thought we'd use today's blog post to crow about a new ebook that's just been added to the catalogue. After Art is written by respected scholar and critic David Joselit who has authored or contributed content to a number of books held in GSA Library. You can view search results using his name here.

Hot off the press and pretty compact at just 116 pages, Joselit's essay describes the transformation of art and architecture in our digital world. Online reviews are positive with praise for Joselit's ability to condense a lot of complex theory about the digital explosion into clear and succinct language, illustrated by the use of diagrams.

The essay pivots on one important declaration: that the 'age of art' is over. According to Joselit, the heyday for individual artists being known over their artworks is confined to history; nowadays the art world is witnessing a seismic shift from 'art' to images and objects. Given the proliferation of images which new technologies enable through appropriation and reformatting, and the acceleration of globalisation brought about by networks, images can be viewed as a form of currency with the issue of 'connectivity' inevitably impacting on the subject of artists' and architects' work. Joselit uses the work of architecture firms OMA, Reiser + Umemoto and the now defunct, Foreign Office as examples to make the point.

Not only are we intrigued by the theory, but the fact the book addresses architecture as well as art makes it well worth a read. You'll need your GSA log-in to view the ebook both on and off campus.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Titan Crane in Clydebank Receives Landmark Status

The Titan Clydebank Crane is trending on Twitter today as it's about to be bestowed the accolade of international historic civil engineering landmark! The fact that the title is also held by the Eiffel Tower in Paris gives some indication to its prestige in the worlds of civil engineering. That makes today a big day for the humble Glasgow crane!

The award conferred by four leading engineering institutions, is recognition of the structure's status as the world's first electrically powered cantilever crane and its contribution to Glasgow's shipbuilding industry. The well-known Queen Mary and QE2 ships were both constructed using the mechanism which in the early twentieth century, was considered the best in cutting-edge technology. Adam Hunter, chief engineer at Glasgow firm Sir William Arrol & Co. is accredited with designing the crane. His intelligent design and engineering prowess quickly caught on in local shipyards and at sites across the globe: the better-known Finneston Crane is a direct descendant!

It's great to see that over one hundred years since its inception, the Titan Clydebank is being given the status it deserves as a symbol of the city's engineering heritage. Perhaps this is due to many cantilever cranes being eliminated from history through their demolition with the decline of industry. The Titan may no longer be operational but as of today, it's legacy is assured. 

Visit RCAHMS' website for more details or search SCRAN through the GSA Library catalogue for a strong selection of historic images.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Tonight: 'Unbuilt Britain' Series Begins

Tonight sees the beginning of a new architecture series on BBC Four looking at some of the ambitious designs never to the leave the drawing board. 'Dreaming the Impossible: Unbuilt Britain' will look at some of the grandest and mapcap ideas ever proposed to leave us contemplating city landscapes which might have been.

The series is presented by architecture historian Dr Olivia Horsfall Turner, expert in seventeenth century, British architecture. In tonight's programme, entitled 'Glass Houses', she uses her knowledge base to explore architect Sir Joseph Paxton's controversial design in 1855 to build a ten-mile glass transport loop around the centre of London. The ostentatious, and highly-expensive design was abandoned despite a sanctioning bill reaching Parliament, due to the outbreak of cholera in the mid-nineteenth century. Intriguingly however, the plan was resurrected 100 years later by architect Geoffrey Jellicoe as an answer to solving London's congestion problems. Inspired by Paxton, Jellicoe's design for a transport green belt favoured the use of glass, even going as far as to suggest a 'glass city' which would radicalise the transport system beyond all recognition...

The Unbuilt Britain series is comprised of three programmes all looking at the influence of technology on urban planning and design. If this gets you thinking, why not also check out broadcaster Jonathan Glancey's brilliant radio series on BBC Radio 4 of the same title.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Cairt: Newsletter of the Scottish Maps Forum

The National Library of Scotland have just published the latest issue of Cairt, the newsletter of the Scottish Maps Forum available to read here. The bulletin, issued twice per year, is a useful resource for information on new websites and online resources, and gives the lowdown on research projects using historical maps.

This most recent issue charts the creative residences of Shetland-based textile artist Diane Garrick and writer and broadcaster Tom Pow. The two were set the task of using the Library's extensive Bartholomew Archive to engage groups of visitors who may not have otherwise used the collection, to experience it for themselves.

During her Residency, Diane produced a number of textile works which were inspired by the archive and the Library's general collection of maps. This made us pause to consider how resources as quantitative in nature as maps can be reconstructed in a creative process which imbues place with personal meaning. With the rise of digital mapping through resources we've blogged about in the past such as Pastmap and Cartogrammar, this is an interesting perspective, reified by considering the painstaking efforts which cartographers in earlier centuries endured to bring us beautifully illustrated maps. Textile mapping is one example of the creative potential contained in map collections, and possibly other, data-intensive resources regularly consulted by architects and engineers.

'Cairt' is the Gaelic and seventeenth-century Scots word for map. Back-runs of previous issues can be found here as pdf files. It's possible to be added to be added to the mailing list to receive the 'Cairt' newsletter and information about events by emailing  maps@nls.uk.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Exhibition: Building Scotland 1945-1985

A photographic exhibition exploring Scotland's recent past through its twentieth century architecture is free to view throughout August at Glasgow City Heritage Trust. There are some unlikely additions to the roster which have been selected for the important points they make about Scotland's history between 1945 and 1985. Typographical House, Glasgow's derelict 1950s office-block at Clyde Street is one of the more surprising entries which is highlighted for its rarity as a small-scale office building, and its social history links, once serving as home to the Graphical, Paper and Media Union. Other structures such as Sillitto House in Edinburgh and the M8 Bailleston Interchange pull off the same feat; the commonplace propelling us to renewed appreciation of the local built environment and to reflect on what the architecture says about the people who inhabit it.

Docomomo Scotland, active campaigners for the conservation of Scotland's twentieth century architecture produced the exhibition for Glasgow City Heritage Trust. Docomomo Scotland is the local branch of Docomomo International, the committee for the documentation and conservation of buildings designed in the Modern Movement. Their organisation's website is well worth a gander for links to news items about the event and to related websites including this self-made Google map of 60 key Scottish monuments. From the website, you can also access this year's annual edition of MoMo World Scotland, an excellent, newsy introduction to modernist architecture in Scotland.

Building Scotland: 1945-1985 runs until September 2nd at the Heritage Trust's offices in Bell Street - directions here. Some of the examples of the structures on display can be browsed via the BBC's news website here.