Samantha Culp

Modernist Ghana: Sound and Vision

Design Observer takes a look at the relics of tropical modernist architecture in Ghana with the subtly beautiful slideshow “Listening There: Scenes from Ghana“. Authors Mabel O. Wilson, and Peter Tolkin traveled through the country in 2008, documenting the surviving architecture of the post-colonial period (starting in the late 1940s). See the slideshow and read the full article below.

“These mid-century buildings were mostly modernist, designed by architects from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Lebanon, Italy and Ghana; they had been reviewed in contemporary architectural publications, as part of a lively debate on what became known as “Tropical Modernism.” Until recently, their legacy had all but disappeared from the historical canon; and with their absence we’ve failed to understand how critical the African continent was to the discourse of modernism. Our trip was motivated by a desire to see how these buildings had fared in the half century since their construction, and to explore how they functioned in today’s increasingly urban and global contexts…”

(more…)

Ruin Academy in Taipei, Architectural Research Center


“Without his ruins man is just a common ape.”

Ruin Academy is a new “cross-over architectural research center” in the urban center of Taipei, run by Taiwanese JUT Foundation for Arts & Architecture (which used to be called Museum of Tomorrow), in cooperation with Finland-based Casagrande Laboratory.

“Ruin Academy is set to re-think the industrial city …. The research and design tasks move freely in-between architecture, urban design, environmental art and other disciplines of art and science within the general framework of built human environment… The Ruin Academy occupies an abandoned 5-story apartment building in central Taipei. All the interior walls of the building and all the windows are removed in order to grow bamboo and vegetables inside the house. The professors and students are sleeping and working in mahogany made ad-hoc dormitories and have a public sauna in the 5th floor. All the building is penetrated with 6 inch holes in order to let “rain inside”. The Academy is viewed as an example or fragment of the Third Generation City, the organic ruin of the industrial city.”

Their upcoming workshop Urban Acupuncture from Oct 27-Nov 10 will extend their fieldwork into Taipei, “focusing in the research of the spontaneous community gardens and urban farms.”

See more photos, drawings, and their Facebook

(via Ouno blog)

Urban Wildlife in Beijing: The Mysterious Huang Shulang (黄鼠狼)


Several months ago, I saw some kind of furry, long-bodied creature dart under the bushes in an apartment complex in Haidian. A ferret? In Beijing? I even asked the gatekeeper of the complex, who insisted I had seen a cat. I also remembered some friends describing a strange “squirrel-like” animal native to Beijing – could this be it? Just a few nights ago, I spotted another one, ambling along in the street-light between some cars, and a bit of internet research seems to have solved the mystery. According to Danwei, what I saw was likely a huang shulang (黄鼠狼), aka the Yellow Weasel (or more technically the Siberian Weasel, mustela sibirica). They are still apparently quite common in Beijing, especially in the hutongs, and a sighting is considered either good luck or bad luck (depending, I think, on whether you raise chickens). I hope I’m lucky enough to see one again.

More: a video featuring both huang shulang and ferrets.