Back to the future on Mexico’s abandoned rail tracks

This is such an awesome concept. As explained by Allison Meier in Hyperallergic:

When much of a railway intended to connect Mexico City to the Atlantic Ocean was abandoned in 1995, communities were stranded and tracks were left to decay. From 2010 to 2012, Mexican artists and brothers Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene set out to ride those nearly 9,000 kilometers of rails in a retro-future exploratory vehicle called the SEFT-1.

SEFT-1 Abandoned Railways Exploration Probe – Modern Ruins 1:220, presented by the Arts Catalyst at Furtherfield Gallery, opens in London this Friday, with artifacts from the project along with the SEFT-1 itself. The silver vehicle looks not unlike a rail-ready version of Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car, a small invader on the long-empty tracks in which Puig and Domene lived and slept while venturing into the unknown.

Their journey also took them to abandoned passenger railways in Ecuador, collecting interviews with locals along the way (the whole trek is documented online). Christening themselves “Los Ferronautas,” they modeled the SEFT-1 after a mid-20th-century vision of a spaceship and positioned themselves as explorers of this isolated world.

You can never have too many fireworks in Manhattan

From New York Times:

It was a few days before the Fourth of July, and the man known to his friends as Scruff was ticking off his final to-do list. A grocery run for steak and shrimp. A haircut. And more fireworks.

History has shown, Scruff observed, that you can never have too many fireworks.

All over the country, people will gather for pyrotechnic displays this weekend, none larger than the Macy’s Fourth of July show taking place this year over the East River, by the Brooklyn Bridge. But even as millions of people watch that show on television, another Independence Day tradition will be honored on the other tip of Manhattan.

For at least a quarter-century, residents of Inwood, in northern Manhattan, have gathered around Dyckman Street for an unsanctioned fireworks competition, pitting various neighborhood blocks against one another, and all of them against the police.

“The lunatics run things now—they write the first headlines”

I really enjoyed this brief article by John Herrman on why comments are a lost cause for publishers:

The online publishing narrative of the last few years, crudely, is this: Social networks are increasingly where people find things to read; people use social networks most often on their phones. It follows, then, that an increasing number—on some sites, a majority—of readers are coming to articlesthrough comments, which command them to click on or tap all manner of internet objects, including but not limited to acts of journalism. Reading news on Facebook is like reading the old internet upside down and inside out; it’s sort of like an infinite scrolling front page composed exclusively of reader comments, which are responsible for leading you, backwards, to the articles they reference. The lunatics run things now—they write the first headlines. They also happen to be your friends.

This means that publishers are not really in a position to solve the problem of comments—it’s the commenters deciding, day in and day out and with no sense of duty or preciousness, what is to be done with news. (It is to be ignored, mostly.) The comments this project refers to, the ones it’s trying to save, are comments in an older sense; words tacked onto the side or bottom of stories written by professionals for very popular websites, written for everybody and nobody at once.

The goal posts of Brazil

A goal post is seen in Tavares Bastos slum in Rio de Janeiro May 18, 2014. (REUTERS/Pilar Olivares)

From CityLab:

With the sport so deeply engrained into its culture, goal posts of all shapes, materials, and sizes can be found from its beaches to its favelas. Recently, Reuters photographers captured the many kinds of official and unofficial goal posts to be found around the country.

A goal post is seen in Rio de Janeiro May 23, 2014. (REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

A series of goal posts are seen in Brasilia April 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino)

A goal post is seen in Rio de Janeiro May 23, 2014. (REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes)

Vultures perch on a goal post in the Mare slum complex of Rio de Janeiro March 30, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)

Broken English: A Type House Divided

You must read this brilliant piece by Jason Fagone in New York Magazine on the fallout from the end of Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones’ partnership at the type foundry that brought the world Gotham, Mercury, and Archer:

They had some very good years. The best thing that happened to them was undoubtedly Gotham; most type foundries rely on one or two blockbuster sellers to generate the majority of revenue, and Gotham soon became that for H&FJ. They were making a lot of money. But another way to measure their success was in the rising social status of type designers as a class. More and more, design magazines and websites and even art museums were recognizing digital type as a true and important art form, seeking out its leading practitioners—people like Spiekermann in Germany, Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans in Berkeley, and Neville Brody in London—and exalting them as icons. And Hoefler and Frere-Jones probably enjoyed more of this sort of treatment than most. There was something about the union, the partnership, not just one font master but two, like a pop band (later, during the split, design geeks would say it was like the Beatles breaking up), an irresistible concentration of design wisdom and firepower, the two men regularly giving interviews and talks together, racking up prestigious awards. In 2011, the Museum of Modern Art acquired 23 digital typefaces for its permanent collection, including four of H&FJ’s fonts—Gotham, Retina, Mercury, a serif-text font, and HTF Didot. “Type is a design universe unto itself,” a MoMA curator wrote, “an essential dimension in the history of modern art and design.” Hoefler and Frere-Jones were also interviewed and featured prominently in the 2007 documentary Helvetica, about the ubiquitous Swiss-designed font; a lovely exploration of how type can rewire our collective visual consciousness, Helvetica bubbled up from the type-design world into the wider nerd universe and became a surprise festival hit.

By 2011, though, the distinctive personalities of Hoefler and Frere-Jones were generating a slow friction. Jay Moore, an account manager with software-industry experience who worked at H&FJ between 2011 and 2012, describes Hoefler as “pretty intense” and prone to fits of pique. But as much as Hoefler embraced conflict, Frere-Jones avoided it. Moore adds, “Tobias has the capacity to let things go a bit longer, and I think Jonathan has the capacity to harden like steel.” They didn’t spend as many long nights in the office as they used to, in part because both men now had families; Frere-Jones and his wife, Christine, a lawyer from Australia, were caring for a newborn baby, and Hoefler and Borsella would vacation together in France. Borsella was becoming his confidante, taking on a larger role in the company, planning business strategy with Hoefler.

Read the whole piece here.

The nostalgic pull of TV networks’ forgotten indents

This article by Allan Ripp in the Atlantic struck a chord because I found myself watching the Granada and Thames TV indents on YouTube the other day too. Nostalgia is a funny old thing.

NBC actually launched the bird not to promote its programs but as a marketing gimmick by corporate parent RCA to get consumers to purchase its color TVs. Just as I envied friends whose fathers drove cars with power windows and FM radios, I resented the fact that as late as 1965 I was still sentenced to watchingWalt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in wonderless black-and-white. Back then, you could buy a tinted plastic sheet that affixed to your B&W screen and gave a pretense of color—I remember seeing one at an Italian restaurant our family frequented and couldn’t understand why Ricky and Lucy kept changing complexions. When my parents finally purchased a 24-inch RCA color set with stumpy legs, I barely left their bedroom, often sprawled on the floor much closer to the cathode screen than the recommended six-foot safety zone that reportedly protected your brain from rot.

And not only was there glorious color—there was something called “hue,” which created myriad possibilities for enhanced viewing. I was forever fiddling with the extra dial to get the infield grass the right shade of green during the baseball game, or to capture the deep blue of Mr. Spock’s shirt, though sometimes it was fun just to see what Walter Cronkite looked like with a purple face (does anyone ever touch the hue setting anymore?). Eventually we upgraded to a large Zenith console (with curved, French provincial legs), announcing to all that we’d finally arrived to a wonderful world of our own.

Read the rest of this wonderful piece here. Below is a compilation of UK TV indents from over the years, including Channel 4, Anglia, ATV, Border, Carlton, Central, Grampian, LWT, Thames, Southern, TVS, HTV, Yorkshire, Tyne Tees, HTV West, Granada, Scottish TV, and Ulster.


When the Hollywood sign said Hollywoodland

From Southland:

Looking at photos of the Hollywood Sign in its early years is a little like seeing the Statue of Liberty with a third arm, or the Golden Gate Bridge with a second deck. The sign has become such an effective icon of Los Angeles that we assume its present configuration must conform to its Platonic ideal.

But when those white, sans-serif block letters first rose from the face of Mount Lee in 1923, they were simply a real-estate advertisement, not a cultural symbol, and there were four more of them: L-A-N-D. The thirteen letters—illuminated at night by 4,000 incandescent bulbs—promoted the Hollywoodland subdivision to the rest of the booming city of Los Angeles. And as Leo Braudy writes in his authoritative history of the sign, they were meant to be seen from an automobile; the sign’s principal designers, publicist John D. Roche and Los Angeles Timespublisher Harry Chandler, scaled the letters—50 feet tall by 30 feet wide—to be read from Wilshire Boulevard.

Peter Steinhauer’s photos of Hong Kong high-rises in cocoons of bamboo

Another brilliant photo series featured in Wired:

If you wander through the streets of Hong Kong, you’ll notice something odd about some of the buildings.

It’s hard to miss. These buildings, which soar dozens of stories into the sky, are sheathed in a bright, primary-colored nylon mesh material. It looks like a large-scale art project, but it actually has a purely practical application: Shielding construction sites and their debris from Hong Kong’s densely-packed streets.

American photographer Peter Steinhauer, has worked as an artist in Asia since the early ‘90s (he currently lives in San Francisco). In his Cocoon series, he documents the surprising beauty of Hong Kong’s in-progress construction.

Steinhauer recalls the first time he ever saw a wrapped building back in the ’90s. “I saw a giant, 40-story package in the middle of this dense city,” he says. “It was just oddly beautiful to me; it captured my imagination immediately.”

Samantha VanDeman’s photos of abandoned hotels

From Wired:

Samantha VanDeman‘s No Vacancy series might look like ruin porn, a genre of photography heavily criticized for how it fetishizes destruction and poverty. But instead of making kitschy art from what’s left, she tries to bring life to abandoned spaces.

She has long found her way into abandoned motels to photograph what remains. Her photography concentrates on the objects she finds inside; she hopes seeing them helps viewers understand that real people experiencing real things occupied those long-forgotten rooms.

“I know this sounds silly, but in some ways I feel like I’m rescuing the objects or spaces,” she says.

The project started in 2009 when VanDeman drove by the boarded up Purple Hotel near her home in Chicago and decided on a whim to explore it. The hotel, built in 1960, was Hyatt’s first in the Midwest and its Chicago flagship for many years. It closed in 2007 and was in complete disrepair when VanDeman found her way in.

Afghan Star

Another day, another awesome documentary. This one is from 2009. From the producers:

After 30 years of war and Taliban rule, pop Idol has come to Afghanistan. Millions are watching the TV series ‘Afghan Star’ and voting for their favorite singers by mobile phone. For many this is their first encounter with democracy. This timely film follows the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk all to become the nation’s favorite singer. But will they attain the freedom they hope for in this vulnerable and traditional nation?

Last Train Home

I watched Last Train Home last night. It’s a beautifully made documentary by Lixin Fan. Here’s the overview from the makers of the film:

Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos, as all at once, a tidal wave of humanity attempts to return home by train. It is the Chinese New Year. The wave is made up of millions of migrant factory workers. The homes they seek are the rural villages and families they left behind to seek work in the booming coastal cities. It is an epic spectacle that tells us much about China, a country discarding traditional ways as it hurtles towards modernity and global economic dominance.

Last Train Home, an emotionally engaging and visually beautiful debut film from Chinese-Canadian director Lixin Fan, draws us into the fractured lives of a single migrant family caught up in this desperate annual migration. Sixteen years ago, the Zhangs abandoned their young children to find work in the city, consoled by the hope that their wages would lift their children into a better life. But in a bitter irony, the Zhangs’ hopes for the future are undone by their very absence. Qin, the child they left behind, has grown into adolescence crippled by a sense of abandonment. In an act of teenage rebellion, she drops out of school. She too will become a migrant worker. The decision is a heartbreaking blow for the parents. In classic cinema verité style, Last Train Home follows the Zhangs’ attempts to change their daughter’s course and repair their ruptured family. Intimate and candid, the film paints a human portrait of the dramatic changes sweeping China. We identify with the Zhangs as they navigate through the stark and difficult choices of a society caught between old ways and new realities. Can they get ahead and still undo some of the damage that has been done to their family?

Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong

I’m looking forward to watching this:

Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever. The film opens in theaters across the country on May 9th.

Cookies don’t scale and other startup lessons

I enjoyed this glimpse behind the scenes of running a startup, with all the absurdity that can entail, something I’m all too familiar with:

There was a problem with the cookies.

When Jordan Metzner and Juan Dulanto launched Washio, it had already distinguished itself from other laundry and dry-cleaning services. There was no storefront, no rotating rack, no little pieces of paper to keep track of. Customers ordered their clothing picked up via the website or a mobile app, and it was returned to them not in a tangle of WE ❤ OUR CUSTOMERS hangers but in sleek black bags marked with the Washio logo, an understated silhouette of a shirt collar. The company called the drivers who completed these deliveries, usually in 24 hours’ time, “ninjas.” Still, the founders wanted to make sure their business stood out from the competition—that Washio established itself as the washing and dry-cleaning service by and for the ­convenience-loving, whimsy-embracing millennials of the New Tech Boom. “So we came up with the cookies,” says Metzner.

Inspired by Silicon Valley guru Paul Graham’s seminal essay to “do things that don’t scale,” they sourced cookies from bakeries in their three markets—snickerdoodles in San Francisco, frosted red velvet in L.A., classic chocolate chip in Washington, D.C.—which the ninja delivered, wrapped, along with the freshly laundered clothing. The gesture added another logistical wrinkle to an already complicated business, but it was worth it. “In the beginning, people loved it,” says Metzner. “Our social media went crazy, like, ‘Oh my God, Washio is the best!’ ”

That was in the beginning.

Read the rest here, it’s a great tale.

Saltwater taps and other stories

I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Goldstein’s Wiretap podcast which is… kind of hard to describe. But you should definitely check it out if you like the sound of what the Toronto Star describes it as “[pitting] the absurd against the plausible. The sense is of a world not completely unlike our own that runs parallel… conversation, storytelling and introspection, culled from equal parts real-world experience and the warp of Goldstein’s imagination.”

Here’s an extract of a transcript from a recent episode called Forgotten History. You can listen to that episode (at the time of writing) right here.

During a recent visit to New York City, I did something I’ve always meant to do. I got on the 6 train and, at the last stop, after everyone got off, I stayed on board. As the train re-entered the subway tunnel to restart its route, I saw in the darkness a piece of forgotten history: the now defunct City Hall subway stop.

Built in 1904 to look like a miniature Grand Central, this ghost station was once the most beautiful stop in New York. It had brass fixtures, vaulted arches and skylights. But in 1945, deemed too expensive to renovate for modern trains, those skylights were boarded up.

The City Hall stop got me thinking about how glimpses of the past — signposts marking what once was, tombstones, monuments — are rare. What once was disappears without a trace making it easy to forget that it ever was. And so we forget that we’ve even forgotten.

I asked my father, who grew up in Brooklyn and would have been 11 when the station closed down, if he had any memories of it. He didn’t.

“We hardly left Coney Island,” he said.

My father grew up there in the 1940s. He’s told me stories about premature infant incubators lined up on the boardwalk that people visited for entertainment, and clowns who chased women around with air pumps to blow up their skirts.

But perhaps his most outrageous memory of all that — Google as I might, I’ve never been able to confirm it — is this: In the beachside apartment where his family lived, my father says that beside the bathtub’s hot and cold water taps was a third tap. And from this third tap flowed sea water. Directly from the ocean.

I’ve never seen such a tap represented in books, films or TV shows. It’s as though the culture as a whole has forgotten.

“Maybe you dreamt it,” I say when he brings it up.

“I did not!” he cries.

Although my father has a fine memory, like any son worth his salt, I doubted him. So to get to the bottom of it all, I enlisted the help of my friend Starlee who hosts a radio show where she solves small-scale mysteries. Together, she and I phoned my father.

“If the apartment was across the street from the ocean,” Starlee asked, “why would you need a saltwater tap.”

“What if you’re a shut-in?” my father responded. “This way you’d still have access to the ocean through your tap!”

And so it goes on.

A tribute to Over The Wall

I enjoyed this tribute to the brilliant band Over The Wall by my good friend Nick Lawford, co-founder of Hello Thor Records:

The train journey to Edinburgh is not a bad one.  Actually, it’s a pretty good one – especially Newcastle and upwards.  The rugged Northumberland coastline seems to have the perfect mixture of beauty and bleakness, of peacefulness and severity.  Particularly on a spring morning, with a hangover, soundtracked by the euphoric pop music of Glaswegian duo Over The Wall.  That’s where I found myself a couple of weekends ago – on my way from Nottingham to Edinburgh, on a pilgrimage, of sorts.

A good friend once described the relationship between Hello Thor and Over The Wall as “so intense it’s almost pathological”.  I’m not sure I’d go that far but we do love them, it’s true.  They make music which lifts spirits, pop songs which mean a lot.  And they perform them with heart, with honesty and with humour.  At Over The Wall shows I’m either grinning from ear to ear, dabbing the tears away or punching the air.

The first time we heard them was on Myspace, which is a thing that people did in the past.  Then we went to see them at the Bodega, loved it, and got chatting to them after the show.  We were pleased to find that Gav and Ben are as funny and charming and real in person as they are on stage and record.  We tried to woo them by giving them each Hello Thor badges.  Unfortunately, though, we only had one badge, which is a potentially divisive gesture to make to a two piece band.

Happily we made things better by posting another badge to Glasgow and we went on to put Over The Wall on at Hello Thor gigs on four occasions in Nottingham – each a totally joyous occasion.  Even the one when the venue roof started leaking on Ben’s keyboards and the soundman was worried that someone might die.  They also generously contributed a track to a special compilation that we put together once and along the way we became friends too.

Earlier this year Over The Wall announced that they’d be splitting up, calling it a day with two final shows in May.  There was no way I was ever going to miss this, which is why I was now in Edinburgh, drinking an Irn Bru at the top of Arthur’s Seat.

The show itself – at the brilliant Limbo night at the ridiculously grand Voodoo Rooms – was as thrilling and as emotional as I could have ever hoped.  Over the Wall at the top of their game.  They played songs off each of their singles and EPs and plenty off their album.  The reaction was as it should have been – totally celebratory from beginning to end.  An hour of melancholic, magical, totally mega pop music, topped off – predictably, but comfortingly – with Thurso.  From Gav’s hilarious “Eric Clapton Unplugged”-style intro to the euphoria of Ben’s trumpet solo (and the sound of a room full of people jumping up and down and singing along), this song, as it always does, summed it all up perfectly.  “See how far we came”, indeed.

If you are anywhere near Glasgow this Saturday then I urge you to go along to their final show.  And if you do, punch the air for me.

Thank you, Over The Wall. 

Tokyo Reverse

As described in Wired:

Recently, Ludovic Zuilli, a 28-year old photographer, spent over nine hours walking backwards through the streets of Tokyo. You get the pleasure of watching his journey in reverse.

Tokyo Reverse, the product of that simple editing trick, is a dreamlike journey through a world in which everything and everyone moves backwards. In the footage, captured by friend Simon Bouisson, crowds bustle hurriedly in reverse; people arrive at the top of an escalator with their backs turned; and a selfie is saved, reviewed, captured, and posed for–in that order.


Leaving Manhattan: the last days of Jean-Michel Basquiat

From Vanity Fair, a brilliant article about the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat:

Certainly he was leaving Manhattan. Almost certainly he was, at the age of twenty-seven, giving up the mercantile and treacherous art world. Perhaps he would be a writer. Perhaps he would take what he called an “honest job,” like running a tequila business in Hawaii. The following Thursday, he was leaving for the Ivory Coast, where he was expected in a Senoufo village five hundred miles inland from the capital, Abidjan. Here he would take a tribal cure for the heroin— and other New York wounds.

Tonight, though, Basquiat was quiet. “He didn’t really want to talk about anything,” Bray says, “and soon he started nodding. And I said, I’m sorry—I just can’t stay around. I wrote kind of a weird note . . . I DON’T WANT TO SIT AROUND HERE AND WATCH YOU DIE . . . And then, YES, YOU DO OWE ME SOMETHING. Because we have an ongoing dialogue . . . why he should stop [drugs], why he should keep on painting . . . he never thinks people understand the paintings.”

That agonizing present tense, when the fact of death hasn’t quite sunk in.

Bray passed the note to Basquiat, but he was too loaded to focus, so Bray read it aloud, and left, fuming. “Somebody who gets that high is dying over and over and over again,” he says now.

Read the rest here

The office cubed

From Wired:

In 1964, the iconic furniture design company Herman Miller unveiled an office plan unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Called Action Office, it was the brainchild of Robert Propst, who was among the first designers to argue that office work was mental work and that mental effort was tied to environmental enhancement of one’s physical capabilities. Rather than a furniture item or a collection of them, Action Office was a proposition for an altogether new kind of space.

Most office designs at the time were about keeping people in place; Action Office was about movement. Advertisements for the system show workers in constant motion; indeed, the human figures in the images often appear blurred, as if the photographer were unable to capture their lightning speed.

The items Nelson had designed for Action Office were beautiful, at once homey and utterly modern, nostalgic and forward thinking. His desk surfaces rested on cantilevered die-cast aluminum legs; for the standing desk, a chrome brace doubled as a footrest. A “communications center” with a telephone was acoustically insulated.

Remembering the work of Hildreth Meière

Meière’s 1943 self portrait

From the Atlantic:

Radio City Music Hall is an Art Deco jewel. Its most notable—but somehow little-mentioned—features are the three metal and enamel roundels around the corner from the entrance on the 50th Street façade.

They were created by Hildreth Meière, a virtually forgotten artist and sculptor whose architectural mosaics, glass windows, and painted murals still adorn prominent churches, office buildings, skyscrapers, and world’s fair pavilions. A new book, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière by Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik with photographs by the artist’s granddaughter, Hildreth Meière Dunn, spotlights some of her astounding decorative works in danger of being orphaned, despite her renown when she was alive.

The spaceship underground

I loved this article from the Atlantic by Alexis C. Madrigal:

On the surface of Toronto, the air is cold. Life survives, but in the winter months, it is just barely in the habitable zone.

So, the humans of the city have burrowed underground. It began in the early part of the last century. Then, as the towers of the downtown core exploded upward, the underground labyrinth expanded, tunnels finding each other, the whole thing turning into a four-million-square foot city within a city.

Some 100,000 people regularly commute through this place, including 2,500 people who work down here. There are 1,200 stores. Access to PATH is worth about $2 per square foot to the office owners in the towers above.

Landscape architect Pierre Bélanger describes the system as a set of nodes—shopping pavilions, food courts—connected by axes. And, also like the Internet, it’s a public-feeling space that is actually privately held. Ken Jones, who has studied the retail establishments of the space, describes PATH as “a retailing subsystem that is directly linked to the corporate city of enterprise” that “serves the residents of the white collar city of privilege.”

The most mundane way to think about PATH is that it is simply an “alternative grade” pedestrian walkway. It’s one of about 50 large systems throughout the world.

But I like to think of it as a spaceship underground. After all, the available square footage is greater than the Constitution-class Starship Enterprise from the original Star Trek.

Given the state of the space program, The HMCS PATH is about as close to a spaceship as you’re likely to board in your lifetime. We are talking about a completely climate-stabilized, surveilled, artificially lit human-maintained system.

There are design guidelines that keep things consistent down there. For example, the city of Toronto does not like high lighting-contrast, presumably because it’s disorienting. They, in fact, have an artificial light to darkness ratio that they suggest following: “Avoid glare and/or shadowed areas, and maintain a uniformity ratio that does not exceed 4:1 (i.e. the ratio of average maintained level of illumination to the minimum level of illumination).”

For safety’s sake, they tell architects to avoid blind corners around which one could get jumped. If there are areas that seem dangerous, they ask that for convex mirrors to be installed, not to mention security cameras for low pedestrian flow areas.

Staff Riding, a short film by Marco Casino

From Marco Casino’s Vimeo page:

Staff riding, the local slang for train surfing, is a widespread phenomenon in SA. Katlehong is one of the largest townships in South Africa and has played a key role in the history of the struggle against apartheid. 

The almost total majority of surfers are kids under 25. Amputations and death are really common. The Prasa Metrorail, the SA train company, is one of the foundations of their society. This connection between train and citizens remained very strong over time. The spectacular and risky act of train surfing becomes the framework to tell the Katlehong’s young people social fabric.This place has been the epicenter of the anti-apartheid’s guerrillas, and on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the facts that we all know , the situation of segregation has remained more or less unchanged in daily life.

In a context where violence , rampant poverty , abuse of alcohol/drugs and infant birth/AIDS are the masters , the train surfing is configured as the search for a social redemption that will never come for the characters of this story .

Michelin House is still standing proud

Michelin House

I’d somehow completely forgotten about this building, so it was a real pleasure to stumble upon it again in Chelsea the other day. Here’s a potted history from Wikipedia:

On 20 January 1911, Michelin House was officially opened. The building offered everything the motorist of the time required. Fitting bays at the front of the building allowed motorist to have their tyres speedily changed by Michelin fitters from the stock of over 30,000 stored in the basement. Tyres were brought up on a lift and rolled to the front of the building along the purposely sloped floor. To the left of the front recipient, a ‘Touring Office’ provided maps and writing implements for the keen motorist to plan his or her journey.

Within a year of opening, work started on an extension to the building to provide additional office space and included a second floor. The extension was built along the Lucan Place side of the building. A further extension was built in 1922, ten years after the first. Located where a garage had stood, it reached three floors.

In 1927, Michelin built a factory in Stoke-on-Trent using the firm of Peter Lind & Company of London. The factory started producing the first British made Michelin tyres and in 1930, the company moved their head office to Stoke-on-Trent. Michelin continued to use the basement and the ground floor of the building, but over two-thirds were left empty. Between 1933 and 1940, the upper storeys were let as a furniture warehouse, a workshop and offices for the Air Ministry.

In 1940, because of the risk of bombing, Michelin removed the three stained glass windows. They were carefully packed into wooden crates and sent to the Stoke-on-Trent factory for safe keeping. After the war, Michelin returned its headquarters to London. The reduced staff meant only the front original part of the building was occupied, while the rest of the building was leased. In 1950, a long term lease was signed by a new tenant which consisted of the space created in the 1912 and 1922 extensions. In 1952, an extension was added for the tenant. A steel frame construction, it extended part of the second floor and added a third floor along the Lucan Place side of the building.

In 1960, Michelin and their tenant began a modernisation programme for the interior of the building. The programme went along with the general taste of the time. Although the work concentrated on the interior of the building, the possibility of update the exterior of the building with a cement rendered facade was one option considered. The modernisation involved splitting up the open plan office and the heavy use of wood panelling.

On 15 April 1969 the original front section of the Michelin Building was given a Grade II listing. Despite this, outline planning permission was granted to demolish all but the listed part and build a ten storey office block. Michelin instead decided to spend the money on a new factory in North America.

I’m thankful for that, because it’s restored and still there. I think it might be my favourite building in London.

Michelin House