September 09, 2009
Click on photos to link or enlarge.
May 13, 2009
A City in a Day
More procedurally generated cities. When will it end?
• earlier: City Engine
May 04, 2008
This Babylonian pillar, which now rests in the Louvre, is unbelievably huge. It's just one of many pillars that once held up an ancient temple in ancient Babylon.
August 21, 2006
Click to Enlarge
If a house somehow reflects the spirits of those who dwell within, then I'm sure the people living here are complex and endlessly interesting (and maybe a little weathered around the edges)! I recently saw this place while wandering around the big island of Hawaii; we practically screeched to a stop while I hopped out and began to (unashamedly) try to find a decent photo. This was the best photo I manage to come up with.
This map roughly shows the location of the mystery house. If one is on HWY 19, coming from Hilo and about to enter Waimea, the house is on the left.
At some point, I'll have to put all my Hawaii vernacular photos up. There's a lot of them!
July 26, 2006
I'm back. I've escaped my imprisonment (and believe me, it was a harrowing experience for all of us). But until I get around to explaining all that (probably in my next post) I'll entertain you with these amazing photos. Where is it? What is it? I don't really know except that it's somewhere deep under the ground in Russia, it looks very old and battered and I'm very sure we're all dying to explore it!
In the meantime, here's some more photos (click to enlarge)...
Thanks Road Runner!
April 10, 2006
Pattern Languages in the Cyberverse
A pearl of a book in my library is A Pattern Language. Every student of design but especially every set designer, game designer and architect should ingest the contents of this invaluable bible of architectual patterns.
It's difficult to summarize A Pattern Language. The patterns themselves can best be described as those qualities of human or evolutionary design that function together in the style of a network, whether one is observing the most minute flourish or standing back and observing from afar... either way the patterns are still present, working seemlessly together in a sort of language (or vernacular). In nature, that which is not fit enough to function correctly within the parameters of the patterns dies. But humans can tend to keep oppresive architectural and design trends alive – billboards, fast food restaurants, above ground parking garages – despite their various malignancies. So in order to live harmoniously within the context of a city, building or structure, humans can artificially create (or evolve) their own pattern languages based on careful [intuitive] observation of what has and has not worked in structures throughout time and around the world. They then can apply this language to future city-planning, building or structural designs.
Or they can haphazardly throw things together, without any planning.
Though anyone can come up with their own pattern language, A Pattern Language presents the authors' version of a language, laying forth many well researched patterns as varied and practical as "Four Story Limit", "Lace of Country Streets", "Promenade" and "Windows Overlooking Life", each of which is described in detail and well-illustrated by sketches or photographs.
If I have any complaints about the book, it's that the patterns seem to be built on inspirations from quaint old world towns and villages; the tastes of the authors are decidedly old world. Perhaps this is forgivable; the authors' research has led them to seek out those patterns which have proven (to them) to be the most time tested. But it's really not too much of a problem: many of these age old principles can easily be applied to even modern and post modern design.
There are probably other faults with the book; which is why it all has to be taken with a grain of salt and run through one's personal grid, with the end result of forming one's own pattern language. In fact the authors openly encourage this.
I'm not a city planner; I can only guess how architects or city planners might utilize information like this, but I've found it all very useful and I'm certain that game designers who routinely create large environments would stand to profit greatly by reading or at least referencing A Pattern Language.
Second Life is a great example, and I don't mind picking on it because it's so poorly designed. In fact, it's a designless environment. The Second Life world physically evolves as the combination of inhabitants desire it to evolve; the players are the authors of the content. Which sounds wonderful... in a way it is a unique experiment. But it could be much more than this; it has the potential of attracting a much broader audience: all ages and in all walks of life. It will never do that until it has a overarching "point of view" given to it by the Second Life staff. It is seriously in need of a pattern language.
For example, as a newcomer to Second Life, one is lost against the endless flat megapolis, cramped with flashing buildings and more flashing buildings. There's barely space to move: one must fly to get away. Perhaps that's because there are no paths or greenways in the city (do I dare call it a city?). Trees are instantly mowed down to make way for more flashing buildings. Not once did I ever encounter a city park or city forest, though I always enjoyed resting on random spots of unsold land (which would quickly be bought – the trees soon mowed down). Nowhere is there a Second Life sponsored monument or memorial. Not even a sponsored Town Hall or city square. There are not housing hills or house clusters or seperate shopping promanades and markets. Instead, everything is thrown together in one endless chaotic clutter.
Second Life is not even a visual circus: it is an endless trash heap of a city. It will never achieve true cyberverse status because it can't really compete with the real universe for our attention. In the Second Life environment, even the most unfit structures survive... in fact they seem to thrive. Discarded structures survive (my own land and it's pile of half-built experiments sits there... no one cares). It is a world with hardly any ground rules, no limits, no divisions; it is not an evolutionary design, it is cancerous growth.
(click to enlarge)
Second Life is just one example of a cyberverse that could greatly increase its audience by an increased understanding of the classic patterns that make life itself livable. These are the same patterns to which we are naturally attracted in cities such as San Francisco, Kyoto or Calcata. They are also very often present in classic, visually immersive works of fiction, such as Disneyland, Star Wars or fill-in-the-blank.*
A Pattern Language is obviously just one reference tool out of many. But an invaluable one. I recommend it. If you're a designer, you won't be sorry.
Reader comment: gfburke says,
Pattern language is excellent stuff and indirectly spawned the object-oriented programming discipline of design patterns. Are you familiar with Christopher Alexander's other works, such as A Timeless Way Of Building and especially the recently published four volume masterwork The Nature of Order?
Update: Thanks gfburke! I just received my copy of The Nature of Order and am shocked (and thrilled) to see that Christopher Alexander's philosophy is based around nature and life (I hadn't clearly understood this until now). I can't wait to dig in.
* Walt Disney or the visual designers of A New Hope never read A Pattern Language (the first edition was released in 1977), but many of the book's principles are intuitively sound. Many designers have intuitively used many of these same patterns long before this book ever existed (they're often that intrinsic), not only utilizing the language but also intentionally misusing it for dramatic effect.
Note: There is a Pattern Language website, but it cost money and doesn't have a clear interface – it's jumbled – which is ironic given the nature of their book. A Pattern Language cost around $40 at Amazon.
March 15, 2006
Wargames and Peace
Here at Tinselman, I have never been afraid to dwell with the dead but I have never posted a cemetery quite as remarkable as this highly sacred City of the Dead: a sprawling necropolis, over 3000 square acres in size and holding an estimated 5 million bodies. It is believed by many to be the largest cemetery in the world.
Shia Muslims call it Wadi al-Salam or The Valley of Peace because if they have the good fortune to be buried within its vast boundaries, within sight of the Imam Ali Mosque, they will more likely gain entry to paradise. For awhile plots were largely unavailable. Why? Political intrique... it's in Iraq. And for a time, during 2004, the Valley of Peace was, ironically, a war zone. As Colors magazine said in 2004:
The cemetery is now riddled with mines and unexploded cluster bombs from both sides, and it will be a long time before the gravediggers can go back in without fear of being blown up. The ground is littered with dry old bones from upturned and bombed-out tombs.
Believe it or not, someone has made a video game of the battle... the Wadi al-Salam Reality War videogame!* That's right... now you too can romp through the Valley of Peace, splattering virtual insurgent blood on the sacred Shia Islamic tombs... (please someone wake me up... this has to be a bad dream).
* Actually, the Wadi al-Salam video game is Mission 25 of the free online war games from Kuma: "Playable recreations of real war released only weeks after they occur."
(click to enlarge)
From the above satellite image, which does not encompass the entire cememtery, one can begin to an idea of the vast size of Wadi al-Salam. Explore the satellite image in greater detail by loading this marker into Google Earth (marker link is repaired).
June 27, 2005
This is the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, India, otherwise known as the pink city. It's not a real palace at all, just a thin set-like facade of a palace, built (with 953 windows) so that the curious ladies of the royal household could easily see what was going on in the world down below.
The rest of the royal city of Jaipur is equally as enchanting:
June 03, 2005
Salt Mine Devotion
This is an underground salt-mine church in Romania. It's one of four salt mine churches that I accidentely ran into while searching for photos of the very fascinating Wieliczka salt-mine church (I had no idea this salt-mine thing was so big).
And to think, we haven't even begun our search for cave-churches that aren't in salt-mines!