July 1, 2006
A periodic review of Web sites and blogs.
Don’t let the site’s humble name fool you: this urban navigator is glaringly hip. Its sleek layout and graphics, ambient electronic music, and featured boutiques and restaurants in cities like Los Angeles, Portland, and Chicago betray its name. And while you might not describe Cincinnati or St. Louis as bastions of style, once you peruse their neighborhoods via Unscene.com’s interactive maps you’re likely to change your mind. With seven cities and 17 searchable service-related categories, the site is a savvy—although not entirely comprehensive—alternative to mainstream city guides.
Who knew Canada was a hotbed for Web parley by graphics groupies? Logging on to GigPosters.com out of Calgary and Drawn! from Toronto is like turning a stone on masters of unsung crafts. The former has more than 57,000 promo posters—something like one for every aspiring garage band out there—for perusal and feedback. They run from xeroxed to silk-screened, with spirited commentary like “type sux but color’s off the hook” and “op art 4eva.” Drawn! is a mecca for illustration and cartooning talent. There are about five great posts every day and an archive going back a year, which makes you wonder about all the brilliant sketchbooks that never hit the scanner bed.
This is a one-stop site for crafts definitely not made by your grandmother. Blogger Garth Johnson presents a roundup of artistic oddities: crocheted woolen models of “hyperbolic space,” a cross-stitch reproduction of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling (which took more than ten years to create!), paper toy making, chewing-gum art, knitted digestive tracts (pattern included), and monumental toothpick sculptures. The cornucopia includes items available for sale, public art, and art exhibitions. Johnson even throws in some posts about his own ceramic work.
What if the advertising we’re inundated with on a daily basis contained messages of social relevance and importance rather than insipid attempts to peddle unnecessary merchandise? Instead of hawking goods, Houtlust is hustling ideas. It is a compilation of some of the best nonprofit advertising and social campaigns in the world—from the most shocking to the most effectively simple. See Bombay’s latest efforts to promote public transportation, Iran’s cutting-edge graphic designs, posters that double as blankets for the homeless, and France’s controversial AIDS campaign. Meaningful advertising does indeed exist—just not on Must-See TV.
Pruned’s heady mix includes historic maps, photography, cellular studies, and the regular feature “Prunings,” an extensive listing of landscape architecture links. The site excels in its field by unearthing oft forgotten items, like the movies it resurrects in its “MILF: Landscape Architecture Film Series,” as well as Fabio Feminò’s collection of retro-futuristic visions and Harold N. Fisk’s 1944 survey, “Geological Investigation of the Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River.”
Informal networks are all the rage in certain antiestablishment architectural circles; loosely affiliated groups and individuals are seen as antidotes to out-of-control commercialism and nationalism. Later this summer you can join one such network, Europe Lost and Found, and witness its evolving “Lost Highway Expedition” in the Western Balkans (imagine The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test in various Slavic languages and degrees of broken English). Whether or not these networks have real impact is an open question, but being guided through former Yugoslavia by expatriate Serbian architects and members of the local counterculture sounds like a riot.