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Sutherland Lyall dispenses Yuletide cheer from his bulging cybersack.

Virtually open

There's not a lot of point in suggesting sites which are difficult to understand but there is this very tricky site at which is possibly and perversely interesting. It is run by the Musee d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean in Luxembourg whose 90 million [euro] building has been designed by I. M. Pei and is due to open in 2005. You probably have to add museedartmoderne after the above .lu to get to a scruffy menu box. Scroll down to 'English' and then up to 'Collection' or possibly down to 'Online artworks' which sometimes produces a virtual gallery down which you can glide passing what are possibly representations of the post 1980 works the museum has already collected on its annual 700K [euro] acquisitions budget. The only way out of this is to hit the little X at the top right and up comes the menu again, this time compressed to a single line. The chances are that the background colour will change as well. Or not. It's not clear whether this is all terrible web site design or an enigmatic art form in its own right because there are some nice passages such as the 'Magazine' section in which giant yellow text on red or green or blue background slowly rises up the screen ... You sort of have to believe it might all be art.

Ace site: Boom! Boom!

Regulars will know of this column's admiration for the uncritical omnivorousness of the Dutch site a-matter at, but I can't believe I haven't told you about the Milan e-magazine Designboom. Visit it now before you forget at Its design is a model of simplicity: six columns--with headings such as competitions, education, interviews, history--with the topics simply listed down each column. In a couple of years there will probably be far too much information for such a simple system but right now it is better-mousetrap effective. The topics are catholic, there's an interview with Amanda Levete, a recent Shigeru Ban talk, examples of transformer chairs, a history of folding chairs, pieces about Memphis, Isamu Noguchi, Diller & Scofidio's Blur building and vast quantities more. It's all in English, you can subscribe to a free monthly newsletter and it is simply a must for any architect who cares for architecture.


Throwing a neat curve

New York art to architecture practice, Asymptote, a word which one dimly remembers from construction maths--something to do with tangents and points of contraflexure or such. The site is at and was designed by people in the practice. Normally this is an irresistible proceeding for architects. Normally it is something they should never do. But Asymptote is a multi-arts practice and has the expert personnel. Its site with its deep blue background is reasonably fast at loading images although there are the usual subterfuges with a growing animated graphic at the beginning and that really irritating little LOADING in 5 point sans serif which all US architectural sites favour. The opening animated graphic is a meandering roadway which, after describing a few bends and curves, stops and emits skinny flagpoles flying the section headings. Irritatingly you click on the flagpole not the text to get an image--and after wondering what to do next you realize that the sections are repeated in a neat box to one side. Click on one of these and you are into the section. Its style is that images and texts are contained in boxes whose size is about right for providing a reasonable clue to the reality. You can re-do the path of the opening graphic which is functionally pointless but great for establishing a kind of rapport between surfer and site. You can download quite a lot of the images--ditto. But although you should be able to (and soon UK law will oblige you to) you can't alter the size of type to suit your vision, nor can you re-size the tiny controls. Not to be visited after a long lunch.

History on the move

I'm not sure exactly how architects would use movie clips but since an enabling grant from the British lottery fund you can now download film clips from the British Pathe film archive from between the years 1896 and 1970. The site is at and you have to register--and unless you live in the UK and are happy to have a big 'British Pathe preview only' across the low resolution movie, you have to pay. Among the many architectural clips are Stevenage new town, the Tiger Balm Gardens, a 1964 travelogue about Romania, tours of Prague, London, Brighton, Benares and an unidentified French building. So it's a pretty catholic collection. The index is a bit wobbly since entering RIBA produces a 1959 Pilkington movie of Geoffrey Jellicoe and Edward Mills taking a cautious squiz at a model of Motopia, a glass city which had all the roads at roof-top level--a proto-Milton Keynes with a grid and roundabouts at the intersections but all up in the air. On reflection, it was a better result than anything about the real RIBA.


Laugh a minute for apres Xmas dinner

An architect I once knew threw it all over in order to become an inventor. It was an original thing to do but had a sort of sanction in Vitruvius's assertion (bk I ch III) that two of the three departments of architecture are the making of time pieces and the construction of machinery--and possibly it was influenced by that old Engineer and Bricoleur stuff in Levi Strauss which people here got a tad confused about in the late '60s. Whatever, the idea of the architect as inventor has a nice resonance. So let's look at this in a bit more detail, notably on the site of the law office of US patent attorney Edward P. Dutkiewicz in the section titled Wacky Patent of the Month. Last month's nominee was Dorothy U. Egan with her combined sun visor and wig. Dutkiewicz has been making these monthly reports since September 1995 when he presented the salient details of US Patent 586 025 issued in 1897 to a Canadian, one Robert Martin Gardiner. It was for a combined grocer's package, grater, slicer and mouse and fly trap. Look it up yourself at but you might also take a look at Ted van Cleave's similar site at Either or both should keep the hideous nephews quiet during those awkward hours following the annual over-intake of turkey, cheap champagne and plum duff.

And a happy Xmas shopping to you too.

Sutherland Lyall is at
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Title Annotation:Browser
Author:Lyall, Sutherland
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Previous Article:Ar+d @ RIBA.
Next Article:Diary.

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