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Sutherland Lyall energetically explores the byways of architectural cyberspace.

What is it about Edward Cullinan Architects?

Ted Cullinan is a British architectural institution: Royal Academician, founder of the first (of very few) architectural co-operatives, sometimes quirky innovator and not half bad architect, his office web site is at www.edwardcullinanarchitects.com. According to senior director, Robin Nicholson, as we clashed trolleys in the local wine warehouse the other week, it's demonstrably getting them inquiries/work. I'd say that is because it is a model of brevity and clarity. The home page has colour coded links to its four main sections: Office Profile, Projects, News and Events, and how to contact the office. Meantime on the left there's an animation, of a building in section, being built and altered over and over again. The sections maintain the basic design: practice name across the top, a nice big open sans serif face on a white background and then below the pages are grey with a thin border across the top in the colour relevant to the section - the same colour being used for crossheadings. Text on the grey bac kground is in readable white sans serif type (possibly, because last month's Fontexplorer font identifier was no use, Tahoma which is on all Windows machines) - and, happily for potential clients of a certain age, it's adjustable with the browser's View/Text Size command. The text itself is brief, no-nonsense stuff although it could do with a lot fewer capitals and commas. Happily most of the architectural commentary is by other people and hidden away in the Projects section whence you have to download it all packed into one big pdf file the site supplies a link to a free download of Acrobat Reader in the unlikely event of you not having it. High graphic art this ain't but the slightly woodsy colours, the absence of marketing cant and the simple workaday purposefulness of the site must set up in the minds of potential clients the idea that the practice is friendly, straightforward and will get the job done. Slap on the wrist, though, for the absence of a credit for the designer.

Still amazing, probably

Stung, doubtless by Browser's gloom about the lack of an Archigram site, one of the surviving heroes, Dennis Crompton, points me to www.archigram.net. It was there a month ago (a tad neglected) following the boy's rapturous reception at the RIBA but I'm not sure whether it will still he live when you read this. Whatever, try it.

Finally admitted

A footnote to my review of the Aga Khan's ArchNet site at http://archnet.org. The day after we went to press I had a courteous reply to my plaintive email about being locked into a password loop and I was allowed in. Then I tried it later and was in the loop again. By a stroke of luck, I wondered about turning on cookies in my browser. That did the trick. Naughty, naughty. Maybe one per cent of the site's Browser visits require you to activate your cookies facility. And you should be told. European Community laws will soon insist on it. Cookies are thought to be useful by some retail and commercial sites because they trace your movement around the site. Their use is apparently declining in the US - partly because people have a well developed sense of privacy and partly, because most marketing people don't really know how to interpret the data they provide. But the Archnet site? Well, I can report that several (non-Muslim) people I know who have used this site say that if you want information it's quite good b ut that its design qualities are less than exciting. Quite so. The two most discussed topics in the chatroom were about the effects of music on designers and whether you had to be a Muslim to design a mosque. Happily most correspondents said no. You may also want to take a look at the site of the Islamic Arts and Architecture Organization at www.islamicart.com which is a mainly text site and seems a bit friendlier.

Keep at it

You have to be cautious about sites which haven't been recently updated - and www.clr.utoronto.ca which is the site of the Canadian Centre for Landscape Research has January 2002 as its last update but you persist. In the home page search box I tried wetlands, quincunx, Martha Schwartz and Stourhead, a better spread some might say than the keywords one uses to test architecture sites. Still, little joy with these except for wetlands. The first of the six responses to this was a Martha Schwartz design for Cumberland Park. Ho hum. This is a site which is undergoing a comprehensive renovation, but seems to have lots of potential so don't give up on us U of Toronto.

Fun with the Technoids

This month's pleasure is to be found at www.villette-numerique.com. It's based at that great Parisian institution, the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie at Pare de La Villette. It is actually a site to do with the biennial Villette Numerique festival of arts, science, music, movies, interactive stuff and that sort of thing which in September was attended by a modest 35 000 'technoid people'. Uncharacteristically for French sites, this has an alternative English text version. I guess it breaks lots of the rules of commercial/information website design but, since the event is long over, that hardly matters, especially when the charming whimsy of its games and delicate interactive animation will keep you occupied through the immediate post-Christmas longueurs.

Sutherland Lyall is at sutherland.lyall@btinternet.com
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Author:Lyall, Sutherland
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Words:942
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