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Browser: Sutherland Lyall perspicaciously trawls the architectural cyberwaves. (View).

Ah, research in its time

Australian architects have the built environment division of the CSIRO and Britain its BRE, the Building Research Establishment. Once an independent government body, BRE is now owned by the Foundation for the Built Environment, a not for profit company limited by guarantee which involves 500 firms and bodies to do with construction and building. BRE has been the primary source of serious building research for 80 years in the UK and although it has gone a bit commercial (and has an associated pay-for testing organization, BRE Certification) it is still the best in Britain. It's at www.bre.co.uk. CSIRO is Australia's once, and perhaps still, wonderful Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and it's at www.csiro.au. It was wonderful because it used to research really arcane stuff and publish it blithely. Its site has plainly been designed by a scientist with nationalistic yellow and green headline strips. And it's pretty clunky and unhelpful: you are advised to click on Current Research whe n you want to know more about Our Capabilities, there's just one customer story which is about 82 per cent customer satisfaction -- really up-to-date December 2000. Recent Achievements are represented by five little reports to do with transport and Barry Little BA, MBA is the entire contents of the People page. Er that's enough please. Mind you, I tried a search for 'effect of daylight on unpainted timber' a topic on which I know BRE has done work -- and drew a blank. So too CSIRO.

Whingeing but not Poms

Lingering in the far antipodes there is the site In The Mind of The Architect (www.abc.net.au/ architecture/default.htm) which is not just an exposition of the creeping Teutonic capitalization of non-proper nouns but seems to be a web version of an Australian Broadcasting Commission programme called In The Mind of The Architect. I can't make out whether this was a programme about a bunch of people letting off self-important steam around the peripheries of the idea of architecture or not. It's largely text, with a few perfectly relevant pix and some rather amateur animation fronting inarticulate professions of both faith in the sacred art and deep distrust (even before it was finished) of that amazing close-uppable timber slat beach house by Sean Godsell (AR December 2000). You get the early impression that OzArchs feel really beleaguered: I always thought it was the Poms who were the whingers and took themselves far too seriously. Odd then that there are so many terrific buildings to be seen, almost incidenta lly, on this site otherwise maxed out on words, From the mug shots it's clear that the really en-vogue hair style for antipodean architects is a number one razor cut. You still see them in trendy London eateries. But not as often as before.

A Holmes in every house

There's that British architect-artist society over whose exhibitions the London architectural press has an annual snigger. The mild ridicule is the outcome of a sweet little illusion among many architects that if they really put their minds to it they would inevitably emerge as not half competent artists. You, I and the press know better. Happily there are some exceptions and one of the stupendously obvious ones is the gentle SuperRealist, Andrew Holmes, who doubles as visiting prof at Berlin and legendary unit tutor at leading UK school, the Bartlett. Holmes paints those extraordinary trucks which snort across the great highways of the US: bright shiny paint, gleaming chrome, intricately perforated radiators and hard reflections. And he does it all with Derwent coloured pencils and the odd bit of airbrush for the flat skies. Obsessive-compulsive, you might say. Even perverse. But the final images are of incredible power. Take a look for yourself at www.realisticpictures.co.uk. Holmes is also a brilliant phot ographer and a bunch of his photos are for sale along with prints, drawings and several videos. But download for your own use free.

Plug In, Walk that City

With the announcement that seminal British group, Archigram, is to get this year's British Royal Gold Medal there has been a small torrent of harrumphs and snorts of indignation from retired colonel architects resident in Tun-bridge Wells plus of course the architectural Creationists. There has been an exhibition touring the world for some years, most recently in Rotterdam, but although there's quite a lot (3000 plus entries) on the web it's mostly fairly bitsy. There is a Rice University site, www.owlnet.rice.edu/%7 Emdbader/arch346/archigram/archigram4.html which is a bit patched together and partly lifted from Peter Cook's 1974 book. But in its rough old way, this site is quite good. It has some links to excellent recent articles but not, I think, Eleanora Louis and Tony Stooss's introduction to the travelling exhibition catalogue (at www.ati.ufg.ac.at/%7 Eworkcult/e3l5ar.htm). There are also some Archigram images at www.arcspace.com/architects/archigram/ -- and there's a very useful review of the Rotterda m show at www.archined.nl/endex.html at the excellent Dutch architecture site Archined about which we have earlier delivered enthusiastic encomiums. Under construction is another Archigram site at www.archigram.net and there's an extremely sad Japanese architectural firm which has appropriated the name. Mind you nobody looking at its architecture would mistake it for the real thing.

Last resort

I'm sure this has tremendous prospects in the office of the future. It's the [pounds sterling]3000 Cye, a floor crawling two wheeled robot which you can link up with a trailer to form a four wheel coffee or mail wagon -- providing you like coffee and post delivered at ankle level. You can link up with a vacuum cleaner to robotically cleanse the office or use it as a spy camera platform from which to observe intruders. Pranksters will equip it with spikes and drive it into the lower shins of office rivals. For all that it actually looks quite innocent, if a little wacky and all the details are at www.personalrobots.com. Mind you, for another five grand you could buy a Segway (www.segway.com) which has a similar two wheel configuration but, unlike the Cye, has big proper rubber wheels and is kept upright by gyroscope magic and will take you and your attache case down the long office corridor and off home along the pavement at a respectable 14 mph. Should you want that.

The high price of digital words

One interesting oddity on the UIA site may represent a trend. It is probably based on information providers realizing that it's much, much easier to illegally replicate multiple copies of a slab of electronic text than a ditto of printed text -- or images for that matter. UIA has a price of 55 euros post paid for its printed list of world-wide architecture schools. The price of a Word file of the same on diskette (shows how long it is) or as an email attachment is, yes really, 230 euros. Join the rush at http://www.uzaarchitectes.org/texte/summary/p2b1.html. Don't forget the biro.

Some of these urls [web addresses] are long and complicated. With your browser activated, go to www.arplus.com, click on the title and look in Directory and then the alphabetical list in General Architecture Sites. Click on the relevant url underlined in blue and you will be transported to the site.
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Title Annotation:Web sites
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 1, 2002
Words:1246
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