Saturday, 17 December 2011

Architecture - The MIMA Pre-fabricated House

If you have to have a pre-fab, and you think they stand for shoddy design and workmanship, think again.

This pre-fabricated house from Portuguese architects MIMA looks great, and it's modular interior with removable walls and exterior windows means few units will feel the same.  I love it, more details here.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Stephen Taylor Paintings

I came across these paintings by Stephen Taylor on the Guardian website:

Ultra-realist paintings usually appeal to me because the talent required to compose a scene and execute it in paint is only to be admired.  The artist specialised in painting one particular tree in it's different guises over a series of years, and I think the results are wonderful, particularly the final image displayed here entitled 'Swallows at 11am'.

More on Stephen Taylor and his work can be found here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Architecture - The Suitcase House

I'm loving the simple structure and interior design of this 'Suitcase House', part of a commune in north east China.  It is completely at home in it's immediate environment, which looks stunning by the way.

The quirky, lift up cupboards, seating areas and bathrooms are fun but entirely functional (at least in a culture that traditionally has less furniture and clutter than the West).

Not sure about the website, but it seems you can book to stay here.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Architecture - The Cloud

I'm not a fan of cities, or the monumental skyscrapers built in their centres.  To me they're a necessary evil, and often they're built to look pretty in isolation to the detriment of their immediate environment.  However, every now and then a project comes along which makes me look at them in a new light.  This is one such project: The Cloud, in Seoul:

Luxury apartments with significant public space at the levels where the two towers are linked, these buildings remind me how good architecture can be, when it's done well.  Find out more here.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Book of the week - A Month In The Country, J.L.Carr

This has to be one of my all time favourites, and I must have read it four or five times over the years.

Very simply written, in a spartan prose style, the storyline is about that most haunting of themes, unfulfilled love.  It's a slim novel, and one I'll definitely return to.

You can buy it here.  

Oh, and it was made into a rather lovely film too.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Glass Tea Pot

I've had enough of tea bags, at least for my mid-evening cuppa.  So I'm going to spoil myself and get one of these from Jing for Christmas:

And of course, to accompany it some lovely loose tea.  How could anyone turn down the offer of a cup of Earl Grey when it looks as good as these tea leaves, also from Jing, do?

Monday, 5 December 2011

Poetry corner - Camomile Tea, Katherine Mansfield

Outside the sky is light with stars;
There's a hollow roaring from the sea.
And, alas! for the little almond flowers,
The wind is shaking the almond tree.

How little I thought, a year ago,
In the horrible cottage upon the Lee
That he and I should be sitting so
And sipping a cup of camomile tea.

Light as feathers the witches fly,
The horn of the moon is plain to see;
By a firefly under a jonquil flower
A goblin toasts a bumble-bee.

We might be fifty, we might be five,
So snug, so compact, so wise are we!
Under the kitchen-table leg
My knee is pressing against his knee.

Our shutters are shut, the fire is low,
The tap is dripping peacefully;
The saucepan shadows on the wall
Are black and round and plain to see.

I found this wonderful poem here.  I really like the world it conjures up, and the way in manages to turn the mundane into some mysterious, something meaningful.  

Architecture - Living Architecture

This is where I want to spend my holidays:

The Balancing Barn

Or maybe the Dune House

Or my favourite, the Shingle House.

What a fantastic concept from Living Architecture - high class design and materials, with buildings at one with their setting.  The result stylish, practical contemporary living, at a price most of us can afford for a few days at least.  And in the case of the Shingle House, just the place to write that novel I'm sure is inside me somewhere...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Poetry corner - A Marriage, R.S. Thomas

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
love's moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
'Come', said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance.  And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Architecture - The Brick House

Modern architecture often disappoints or infuriates , with cost efficiencies driving physical production, poor use of shoddy materials and lazy design commonplace.   And yet it can all be so different.

I came across this building online recently.  

I confess I'd never heard of Philip Johnson, but his "Brick House" I find inspiring and, for a building with only three windows, all on one side of the house, astounding.  The vaulting is reminiscent of medieval construction.

Built as a guest annex for another of his creations, the "Glass House", the structure just delights me.  I'd certainly like to visit, if not live there.  It illustrates what happens when architects think 'outside the box'.  

Friday, 2 December 2011

50 Words for Snow

Ah, the start of December.  Autumn has passed and the days are short.

At this time of the year I often find myself in a slightly self-indulgent, melancholic mood and my music choices seem to either reflect this or at the other extreme - cheerful, breezy and foot-tapping.  My current listening is very much the former:

A beautiful, haunting album.  People tend to love or hate Kate Bush's music and I can see it's an acquired taste, but I absolutely love it.  

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Book of the week - The Magic Of Reality

I'm a big fan of Richard Dawkins.  Although I can't quite bring myself to agree with his views on religion, I'm 99% persuaded.  I just can't get rid of that 1% of me that loves the routine and tradition of the Christian tradition.  Perhaps it's a legacy of my upbringing and culture more than actual belief?

Anyway, my book of the week is The Magic of Reality.  A superb, accessible, simple yet not simplistic introduction to the fundamentals of science.  Each chapter deals with the myths around one of the 'big questions', then goes on to answer the question using known science.  Fantastic.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

My favourite things - Esther Horchner Tea Cups

A few months back I bought a set of four Esther Horchner tea cups and they're still making me smile now.

Made of beautifully white porcelain, and with matching tea spoons, they manage to make my mid-evening cups of Earl Grey even more enjoyable.

They're still available here: Esther Horchner Tea Cups