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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: architecture, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 168
26. Understanding Olympic design

By Jilly Traganou


After attending the “Because” event at the Wolff Olins office on July 4th, I was once again reminded of the big disconnect that lies between designers and their public. Wolff Olins is the firm that designed the London 2012 brand, a multifaceted design campaign that included much more than the London 2012 logo. Readers may remember the numerous complaints that the logo generated. As my research revealed, this was caused partly due to International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s restrictions and the corporate unwillingness to allow for the full application of what might be seen as a “no logo” campaign.

Wolff Olins proposed an open-source framework that would integrate the public by providing a design language that could be shaped into new forms and messages. The designers’ intention was to “hand over some tools that would allow people to make everything they wanted.” Design would be “off the podium, onto the streets.” But neither the public nor the broader designers’ community were ready to accept that the Wolff Olins team showed no compliance to the usual set of corporate instruction and that what they were trying to achieve lied beyond the creation of beautiful forms.

London 2012 event. Photo by Gary Etchell. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.flickr.com/photos/gary8345/557769058/

The designers’ goal was to evoke an effect similar to that of the Mexico 1968 design: a visual language designed by Lance Wyman that was not only appropriated by the counter-Olympic movement, but also marked future visual languages developed by local designers in Mexico. In a way, Wolff Olins’ design succeeded in its adaptability, even though its multiple viral deconstructed versions that appeared on the streets and online were meant to primarily express conspiracy and protest, or even a disdain for the very visual language that the designers provided (and which these “dissidents” are now using).

But why would designers today strive for openness and participation? And why should IOC, London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), or the general public be indifferent or even hostile to these intentions? After all, are there any designs that would meet the aspirations of all stakeholders: Olympic organizers, designers, and their multiple publics? The Olympics, as indeed most public events, are complex platforms that bring to the surface deep social conflicts and generate heated debates about the notion of public good. The new temporary or permanent configurations that are designed for the Olympics express these tensions and often become the targets of opposing voices.

Everyone today recognizes that the modern Olympics only partly concern sports. Few, though, are aware of the multiplicity of the design engagements that are mobilized for their realization. Being characterized as something between urban festivals and quasi-religious events, the Olympics have a strong ceremonial character that design generates. Hundreds of designers are mobilized to create a series of objects (logos, posters, uniforms, mascots, souvenirs) that are indispensable for the Olympic ensemble. This may seem to some a contemporary distortion to the original 19th century idea of the modern Olympics’ founder, Pierre De Coubertin, but Coubertin was keenly aware of the importance of design for the identity of the Games. He designed what has been credited as the most recognizable logo in the word, the Olympic rings, and spent considerable energy in prescribing the ceremonial characteristics of the event, with writings on subjects that ranged from attention to lighting and decoration, to specifications on the architecture of the venues.

Photograph in newspaper (unspecified) of Richard Beck working on the design for the Olympic poster. This proto-version differs from the final design, particularly in its typography. Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 92/1256–1/4. Used with permission.

The design for the Olympics has been an overlooked subject in the fields of design history and Olympic studies alike. Olympic design’s role as an instrument of modernity becomes obvious, for instance, in the way British athletes’ uniforms were designed for the early Opening Ceremonies, expressing but also helping to shape the identity of modern Britain. The Melbourne 1956 poster designer, Richard Beck, abandoned the neoclassical body of the male athlete that characterized earlier Olympic posters for a non-figurative composition along the tenets of modern design.

As it has become only too obvious with the current case of London, in late modernity the Olympics are also an opportunity for new infrastructure projects and major real estate enterprise, which leave a debatable legacy to the host-city. Planners, architects, and urbanists play a major role in this process, as well as those who sponsor, lease, or invest in the projects in the longue durée of the post-Olympic era. The design for the Mexico 1968 Olympics had significant ideological implications for the social segregation that marked the future of Mexico City. The architecture of the Athens 2004 Olympics is emblematic of ‘instant monumentality’ and a lack of legacy planning that has characterized many modern Olympics.

At the same time, the high visibility, budget, and scale of the Olympics have provided designers with opportunities to realize ambitions that are not possible through ordinary projects, and to envision ideas that are often too advanced for their times. Katsumi Masaru for instance insisted in compiling a design manual for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games (a set of prescriptions that would secure the unified application of the graphics, and thus a cohesive Olympic image), even though he knew too well that it could hardly be applied in the Tokyo Olympics per se. Indeed it was completed just before the start of the Games leaving nevertheless an important legacy for all forthcoming Olympics for which a design manual became a staple. Should we similarly expect that the “no logo” idea of the London 2012, with its openness and lack of corporate compliance, is signaling a new paradigm shift?

Jilly Traganou is Associate Professor in Spatial Design Studies at the School of Art and Design History and Theory, at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. She has published widely in academic journals, has authored The Tokaido Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (Routledge, 2003) and co-edited Travel, Space, Architecture (Ashgate, 2009). She is currently working on a new book Designing the Olympics: (post-) National Identity in the Age of Globalization. Traganou has recently edited a special issue titled “Design Histories of the Olympic Games” for the Journal of Design History, where she also serves as Reviews Editor.

The new issue of the Journal of Design History titled “Design Histories of the Olympic Games” introduces the Olympics as a multifaceted design operation that generates diverse, often conflicting, agendas. Who creates the rhetorical framework of the Olympics, and how is this expressed or reshaped by design? What kind of ambitions do designers realize through their engagement with the Olympics? What overall purposes do the Olympics and their designs serve? ‘The Design Histories of the Olympic Games’ brings together writings by a new generation of scholars that cross the boundaries between traditional disciplines and domains of knowledge. Some of the articles look at the role of Olympic design (fashion design and graphic design) in representing national identity. Other articles look at the interconnected area of architecture, urbanism and infrastructure and the permanent legacy that these leave to the host city. You can view more on the Journal of Design History’s Design Histories of the Olympic Games Pinterest board too.

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Read more blog posts about the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

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27. João Filgueiras Lima: Edifício Morro Vermelho

edifício morro vermelho

For fans of brutalist architecture, feast your eyes on this beautiful slice of Brasilian modernism conceived by architect João Filgueiras Lima. The Edifício Morro Vermelho complex, aka “Red Hill” housing. features a series of swiveling bright orange fiberglass panels that are not only pleasing to the eyes but also act as a functional shading device.

edifício morro vermelho

Photos via Seier + Seier

Also worth viewing:
Kurokawa Nakagin Capsule Hotel
The architecture of Gomorrah
Space age soviet architcture

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28. Architectural Cast Collections

In the 19th century, several museums assembled collections of full-size plaster casts of architectural details, such as doorways and choir stalls. The philosophy was that "a replica of a masterpiece was superior to a mediocre original." 


I made these pencil studies in the 1985 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. At left is an ornate Celtic wood-carved ornament. On the right is a 15th century Spanish cloister doorway.

In an age when travel to Europe was a rarity for average Americans, cast collections gave everyone a chance to see masterpieces of architecture. They also provided architecture students with fine examples to study, especially when the original detail is high up or otherwise inaccessible.


According to the Carnegie Museum, which has a fine collection, "In the 19th century, the demand for plaster casts skyrocketed. As centerpieces of the great international fairs, casts nourished nationalistic pride, while independent cast galleries served the Victorian fervor for education by providing instruction to both the amateur and the art student. Also, the dominance of historical styles in premodern architecture required that the architecture student study the outstanding buildings of the past; in this pursuit, plaster casts played an essential role."

Unfortunately, twentieth century trends conspired against architectural cast collections. Making casts from fragile originals is no longer possible. The study of ornament fell out of favor in architecture schools. Museums came to prefer originals over reproductions. And casts take up a lot of space in museums.

In 1949, the Art Institute of Chicago intentionally destroyed their cast collection, and many other museums and universities followed suit. In 2005, the Metropolitan Museum dispersed its architectural cast collection. Two of the lucky recipients were the architecture school of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and the Institute of Classical Architecture in New York.

If you live near London, Edinburgh, Pittsburgh, South Bend, or New York, visit their collections with a sketchbook, and make sure you let the museums know that you appreciate them keeping their collection on view.
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More info and links:
I just finished writing an article on plein-air studies of architecture for ImagineFX magazine, so that will be out in a couple of months.
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Victoria and Albert architecture collection/ History of the Cast Courts
Carnegie Hall of Architecture
University of Notre Dame Cast Collection
View the UND collection online via gigapan technology
Institute of Classical Architecture and Art in NYC
Edinburgh Cast Collection
George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts
Previous GJ post on figural plaster casts

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29. Illustration Academy: Project #1 (Part 2)


This is the second image I created at the Illustration Academy for the first project (for more details scroll down ever-so-slightly and check out yesterday's post). I probably created 50 different thumbnails for this because I wanted to ditch linear perspective and yet still give the viewer the sense they were above the guy on the stairs. Alas, it was a no go. Turns out you still gotta' use a couple vanishing points sometimes (but god bless Brunelleschi for figuring it all out)

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30. The Leek and Astrolabe, Now in 3D

You need those red/cyan glasses to view this in awesome 3D. My eternal gratitude to The Wagman for performing the conversion.
Pen and ink with watercolour and 3D conversion. Click to enlarge.

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31. Langweil's model of Prague



(Video link) Antonín Langweil began as a painter of miniature portraits. Then, starting in 1826, he began his big project: a detailed model of the city of Prague. 

He measured each building and then drew the elevations on stiff paper. 

Then the paper could be folded and attached together. This is a good way to make reference maquettes, too.

Langweil's Prague is scaled at 1:480, and includes not only an accurate portrait of each building, but also tiny details such as signs and sundials.

The model is a valuable document for historians of the city because it shows how things looked before 20th century modernization efforts.
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32. Inspired by Granada

Granada really captured my imagination, and I’m not the first. The city’s ancient Moorish palace, the Alhambra, was brought to worldwide attention by American author Washington Irving, who stayed there briefly in 1829. Yes, that’s Washington Irving of Sleepy Hollow fame. Read more about the Alhambra’s history, starting in the 9th century, here.

After his visit to Granada, Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra, which sparked interest in the beautiful, crumbling building complex. Fifty years later (it wasn’t the age of the internet, after all), the movement to restore the Alhambra had begun.

Nice to hear about an American writer doing something good abroad!

It’s easy to see why he was so inspired. I found myself wanting to move into the Alhambra. While the castles in northern Europe are impressive in their own right, the Moorish palace made me want to hang out on a chaise lounge, write a novel, and throw a party when the sun went down.

A good spot for a window seat, no?

This was one of my favorite views of the Alhambra (there in the distance). This tower in the foreground, we discovered, is an 11th century minaret, the only remains of a mosque that was destroyed after Isabella and Ferdinand’s army conquered Granada. As in many places, a church was built right where the mosque stood.

It seems to be fairly common that one minaret was left when a mosque was destroyed (for instance, you see it also at Seville’s cathedral). If anyone knows more about the story behind that, I’d be interested to know.

As one of the last holdouts of the Moors, the whole city of Granada has a very strong Moorish influence. The ancient Muslim Albayzin quarter is particularly fascinating, with its maze-like cobbled paths and tangle of ancient white-stone buildings. And as I mentioned before, the food was great!

I threw some more Spain pictures up on my flickr gallery, so hop over there if you like. I went gaga over the tilework at the Alhambra and at the palace in Seville, the Alcazar. Sooo gorgeous! And I kept thinking: quilts, quilts, quilts!  So many ideas, so little time.

Travel Tip: if you’re interested in seeing the Alhambra, make sure you book tickets well in advance via the Alhambra website. We did book ahead but we still ha

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33. In April, Come He Will

"In April come he will
In May he sings all day
In June he changes his tune
In July he makes ready to fly
In August go he must"

That's my summer sorted, then.
Pen and ink with watercolour. 15cm x 36cm. Click to enlarge.

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34. The Enchanted Kettle

I partook of The Enchanted Kettle and before I knew it I had delivered a fresh Moon to the Hawaiians. Unfortunately the islands were abandoned: the inhabitants had been severely traumatised by reading Tales Told to Polish Children. Several queer and lowly creatures carried my brushes away.
Watercolour, gouache and biro. A4 size. Click to enlarge.

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35. The Day the Kinema Came

The day the kinema arrived in my remote village.
Ink, gouache, watercolour on sugar paper. A4 size. Click to enlarge.

2 Comments on The Day the Kinema Came, last added: 6/14/2012
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36. The Burial Vault

Last Sunday, while my wife sang sacred harp music with Bard College students in the meeting hall, I sat outside nearby painting the burial vault. 


As the shadows flickered across the stones, I could hear the music and words of a song called "Greenwich" drifting out from the chapel.
Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I,
To mourn, and murmur, and repine,
To see the wicked placed on high,
In pride and robes of honor shine! 
But O their end, their dreadful end.
Thy sanctuary taught me so;
On slipp'ry rocks I see them stand,
And fiery billows roll below.

—Words by Isaac Watts, 1719

Bard's sacred harp (Shapenote singing) club is led by Benjamin Bath and is open to all.
Bartlett Burial Vault.
Sacred Harp music on Wikipedia
See and hear a group singing Greenwich 183 on YouTube

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37. R.I.P.

I decided to design my own tombstone.
Pencil and pen. 16cm x 16cm. Click to enlarge.

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38. New Book Cover: Tuesdays at the Castle


I just found out that a book I did the cover for is now available at your favorite bookstore!
Written by Jessica Day George, it got a great review blurb from Kirkus:

“This enjoyable romp turns mischief into political action and a stone palace into a cunning character. These kids are clever, as is George’s lively adventure. May pique castle envy.” —Kirkus Reviews

This is a splendid YA fantasy and I had a great time coming up with all kinds of cover concepts.
And what the heck, since you're here at my blog what better place to show some behind-the-scenes stuff:







In hindsight it would have been awesome if I had waited until Tuesday to post this -- ah well, enjoy!

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39. Gone but not forgotten

I heard today that my old friend, The Frog, died. I did loads of sketches of him over the years; he would rant for hours and I would draw, occasionally interjecting bon mots. Only a few drawings were a good likeness; however when viewed together you get some idea of the guy.
Thanks to Edoardo de Falchi for the Photoshopping in right hand photo.

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40. BUILDING STORIES by ISABEL HILL


Buildings are like books with stories that last

They tell us our present and also our past!

The outside of a building says quite a lot.

About setting, about character, and even about plot.



Beloved Children’s Author Gives Advice to Parents of Budding Architects

National Building Museum Online sat down with Isabel to discuss her work and her advice for the parents of budding architects.

National Building Museum Online (NBM Online): As an urban planner and architectural historian, what motivated you to create books for young children?

Isabel Hill: Quite honestly, I was inspired to write my first children's book, Urban Animals, by my own daughter, Anna. When Anna was younger we used to take walks in Brooklyn where we live and I would always point out architectural details. One day, as we were wandering around our own neighborhood, I stopped to point out an interesting floral detail on a building and Anna interrupted me saying, "Mama, there is a dog on that building!" So my wonderfully-observant 5-year old daughter gave me the idea to create books for young children about architecture.

NBM Online: What was the inspiration behind your latest book, Building Stories?

Isabel Hill: For many years I worked as an urban planner in an old industrial neighborhood in New York. I walked by a building with spectacular, yellow, terra-cotta pencils on the outside and just had to find out why they were there. I researched the building and discovered that it was the Eberhard Faber Pencil Factory, famous for making those yellow, Number Two pencils that were used for generations all across America. Fast forward to two years ago: as I began to brainstorm about a second children’s book on architecture, the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Building came to mind and inspired the book.

NBM Online: In Building Stories you look at the details of a building as being the characters, plot, and setting of a story. Have you always thought of buildings in this way?

Isabel Hill: No, this was a new concept for me but I think it works extremely well. Buildings do have stories and, when you think about it, what goes on inside can be mysterious as well as educational. Sometimes a building can have many plots and characters depending on what goes on inside and who is involved with the building.

NBM Online: What advice do you have for the young readers who enjoy your books?

Isabel Hill: I am so excited about these books and want them to be the catalyst for walking around one’s own neighborhood and observing all the interesting architecture that surrounds us. My advice would be to go out, walk the streets, take the books as your guides, but find your own architectural treasures. Photograph them, draw them, write about them, and share what you find with other children and adults.

NBM Online: What advice do you have for parents of budding architects?

Isabel Hill: I think it’s great for parents to read the books out loud, to help their children tackle some of the harder words, and to ask their children what they see in the books that relates to what they see in their own neighborhoods.

NBM Online: As an architectural photographer, what is your favorite city to photograph?

Isabel Hill: I must admit I love the city I now call home—New York—because it is so vast and has so many different kinds of buildings, architectural styles, and fantastic details. But Washington, D.C. is the place I used to call home, and I have a huge affection for the beautiful choreography of scale, m

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41. When the place outlives the preaching

The Crystal Cathedral of “Hour of Power” fame is the subject of my latest New York Times Magazine mini-column. Not so long ago the most lavish symbol of U.S. Protestantism, the building sold in bankruptcy last month to a Catholic diocese.

Although the congregation has agreed under the terms of the deal to vacate the premises after three years, pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of founder Robert H. Schuller, assures her flock, “lest you think that it’s too late for a miracle, I want to reassure you and remind you that it is not too late. There is still time for God to step in and rescue Crystal Cathedral Ministries.”

Bonus reading: Joseph Clarke’s “Infrastructure for Souls,” on the “parallel histories of the American megachurch [including the Crystal Cathedral] and the corporate-organizational complex.”

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42. Seeds of an idea

Playing around with designs for an ex libris for J.Carraway.
Pen and ink with watercolour 25cm x 12cm. Click to enlarge.

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43. toread: Book-ish Territory: A Manual of Alternative Library Tactics

Every so often it’s really useful for me to remember that while I’m here in the rural US helping people use email and scan photographs, there are some people not far away who are really finding the cool edges of the profession. I like to know what these people are up to, even as the paths we may take towards information liberation may be different. This text: Book-ish Territory: A Manual of Alternative Library Tactics by architect NIkki O’Loughlin is an exciting and interesting way of conceptualizing the idea of libraries as a public space not just for the public but by the public. I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon. Also there is a librarian petting a gila monster. One section is all about “station libraries” small libraries in private homes or businesses that existed and functioned as extensions of the public library system in Syracuse. Did you know that before 1950 many trains included a library car, with books? So much more, plus a bibliography. Go. Read. [via, via]

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44. Robert Moses and the Second Avenue Subway

By Joan Marans Dim


The world was allegedly created in six days (God rested on the seventh day), so why is it taking New York City so long — some 90 years, or possibly longer — to create the Second Avenue Subway?

According to the MTA, proposals to build a north-south subway line along Second Avenue date back to 1929. But it wasn’t until March 2007 — 78 years later — that the first construction contract for Phase One of the Second Avenue Subway was awarded. Tentative plans aim at a 2016 completion, although several dates have proliferated.

Perhaps it takes a God-like figure in this metropolis to get monumental tasks done. As it happens, New York City had such a being, Robert Moses, often referred to as the “Master Builder.”

Source: New York Public Library.

Moses, who died in 1981 at the age of 91, was a driven and brilliant civil servant. In a 44-year reign from 1924 to 1968, he was likely the city’s most influential figure during the 20th Century. Never elected to public office, he served as chairman of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, city park commissioner, and city construction coordinator. He also held other numerous state appointments. Moses’ power and influence was unprecedented, and during his tenure he accomplished seemingly impossible tasks.

In 1929, Moses wasn’t keen on the mass transit and therefore probably not on the Second Avenue Subway as well. The Second Avenue Subway’s slow progress is clarified by reporter William Bredderman, who interviewed Moses biographer and author Robert Caro for the online magazine Realcity. (Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and The Fall of New York — qualifies him as the uber expert on Moses.) Writes Bredderman:

“According to Caro, the city attempted to build the Second Avenue line first in 1942 and again in 1954. Both times Moses prevented funds from being allocated to the project, preferring to instead spend the money building expressways through densely-populated neighborhoods. If you’ve ever been on (or near) the Cross-Bronx Expressway, the BQE or The Major Deegan, you can thank Moses.”

Moses routinely built bridges, tunnels, and roadways that transformed the city, without an iota’s consideration for what might be lost. The result was huge gashes in densely populated working-class neighborhoods to make way for roadways and expressways. Neighborhoods were destroyed, forever. Who can drive these expressways without seeing the havoc wrought? Old timers who had once lived in these now devastated neighborhoods still curse Moses.

An early example of Moses’ disdain for mass transit is also evident in his first major public project, Jones Beach, which begun in the 1920s and opened in 1929. Almost immediately after the opening, motorists jammed the city’s parkways in a beeline to get to what is still considered one of the world’s most beautiful parks. However, accommodation for public transportation to Jones Beach was not a part of Moses’ plan.

Moses, of course had his critics, including: Caro, activist Jane Jacobs, and historian and architectural critic 0 Comments on Robert Moses and the Second Avenue Subway as of 1/1/1900

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45. The Mill of Meaninglessness

How my ancestors made their fortune.
Pen and ink with digital colour 11.5cm x 11.5cm. Click to enlarge.

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46. Bury the Moon

Some thoughts put down on paper today:

  • The identical twins, one was beautiful, the other considered ugly
  • An incredibly sophisticated object
  • Cut a painting in half to double its value
  • Nonsense objects for wealthy idiots
  • A dog specially trained to sniff out art
  • Shit....a new asset class
  • The perfectionist crosses himself out
  • The Earth destroyed by a planet sized Ferrero-Rocher
  • The Church of Coltrane
  • A tax inspector set to the plough
  • Why should the moon care about howling dogs?
Pen and wash with digital colour. A4 size. Click to enlarge

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47. Long ago and Carraway

Just finished this woodcut for an ex libris for an American client.
Woodcut 30cm x 20cm. Click to enlarge.

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48. Travel Sketch: Las Vegas


Went on a trip to Vegas recently. Very interesting place. Odd too. They've created something unique there.

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49. Review: Earth-Friendly Buildings, Bridges and More: The Eco-Journal of Corry Lapont by Etta Kaner

Venture into the world of marvels of engineering with "green" building advocate, Corry Lapont. Click here to read my full review.

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50. Steeplechase

TOP: It's time to replace some of those old worn out religious brand identities with new religious symbols. Here are two of my ideas to get the ball rolling.
BOTTOM: While we're at it, let's think outside the box and make full use of recent technological advances in the design church steeples.
Pen and ink with wash 14cm x 9cm. Click to enlarge.

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