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Rodrigo Barros, 'Ideological Cartography of America' in On Site review 31: mapping | photography, Spring 2014


This essay begins with a quote from Vicente Huidobro's Altazor:
'The four cardinal points are three: South and North.'

Rodrigo Barros is an architect, musician and activist from Valparaíso, Chile. He is as interested in a critical and emancipatory practice and thinking of architecture as in freejazz-punk-dub and the poetry of everyday life. You can read his essay HERE.

previous essays of the week:

Thomas-Bernard Kenniff, 'Ethics and Publics' in  On Site review 30: ethics+publics, Fall 2013.

Joshua Craze, 'Under the Soil, the People' in On Site review 29: geology, Spring 2013.

Hector Abarca. 'Revisiting PREVI: housing as a basic right, from Lima to Vancouver' in On Site review30:ethics and publics  Fall 2013

Jeffrey Olinger.  'Interstitial.  The International Criminal Court, The Hague'  in On Site review30:ethics and publics  Fall 2013

Jessica Craig.  'Terrain Vague' in On Site review30:ethics and publics, Fall 2013

Clint Langevin, Amy Norris, Chester Rennie.  'The Sisyphus Project', in On Site review 29: geology, Spring 2013.

dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at:
dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at:
dedicated to literary translation and bringing together in one place the best in contemporary writing. - See more at:

Paper Monument is a print journal of contemporary art published by n+1 and designed by Project Project

Wasteland Twinning Network hijacks the concept of ‘City Twinning’ and applies it to urban Wastelands in order to generate a network for parallel research and action.

deepest modernism: discussions from Peru


criticat: revue semestrielle de critique d’architecture

French publishing house: great catalogues that look east and south, not just west.

[brkt] 2 Goes Soft, edited by Neeraj Bhatia and Lola Sheppard. 'Soft refers to responsive, indeterminate, flexible and immaterial systems that operate through feedback, organization and resilience. These complex systems transform through time to acknowledge shifting and indeterminate situations — characteristics that are evident both in the dynamics of contemporary society and the natural environment'.

Darwin Grenwich sails the oceans of the world on Blue Monday, a CS36 traditional sloop, while maintaining his IT support business by email and on VOIP (403-283-1340). He is especially good on Macs.



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« concrete occupation | Main | Adrian Forty: the metaphysics of concrete (21 Feb 2012) »

on being brutal

Long & MacMillan Architects. Calgary Centennial Planetarium, 1966. Here, shown in 2009, during the construction of a new LRT line that sliced through the site. Stephen Barnecut photograph.

This past few weeks investigation into concrete started when I was asked why Calgary is over-represented by brutalist architecture.  This came as a surprise, as it hadn't occurred to me that it was, and I wondered why this very particular term was all of a sudden in common parlance.  As Adrian Forty mentioned, concrete can arouse great antipathy, and brutalism seems a fitting epithet.  

We do have a lot of semi-civic buildings done in the early 1960s for education boards, the library, the YMCA, a police station, a remand centre (torn down last year) which sit like dark suspicious toads at the east side of downtown.  Late 1950s / early 60s Calgary commercial towers, lovely office buildings of enamelled spandrel panels and opening clear glass windows, had none of the brooding qualities of the institutional architecture built at the same time. 

What were they brooding over?  Probably the threat of civil unrest that so dominated the United States at the time.  The concrete Calgary Board of Education Building is a version of the concrete Boston City Hall, which itself was a version of Le Corbusier's concrete La Tourette, a monastery for retreat and isolation, not qualities useful for either a city hall or an education administration building.  The line of influence from Paul Rudolph et al to Calgary came with the first oil boom.

Did we have civil unrest?  no.  Were we under threat from the USSR?  only geographically, as at the time everyone thought a US/USSR war would be fought over northern Canada.  Was the oil industry worried?  clearly not.  It built vulnerable, glassy, curtain wall towers, and still does.  

Our best building from the era was Long & MacMillan's Centennial Planetarium: a great eruption of roughly-poured concrete that looked as if the geologic substrata had cracked open the grassy prairie. It was topped with a moon-like dome that did all the stars and space stuff.  When space was no longer magical, it became the Telus Science Centre, which has since moved elsewhere.  The building might now become a city art gallery.  Somehow its architecture has become completely marooned, both formally, physically and conceptually.

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