Shared posts

19 Apr 22:15

design-is-fine: G.W. Gene, cover illustration for The Invisible...



design-is-fine:

G.W. Gene, cover illustration for The Invisible Host by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manning, 1930. The Mystery league, New York. Via SwannGalleries

21 Apr 16:50

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21 Apr 17:12

japaneseaesthetics: Votive mask of the god of stoves...



japaneseaesthetics:

Votive mask of the god of stoves (Kamadomen), Japan, Tohoku region, wood, 60 x 39 x 19 cm, Edo period, 18th to early 19th century, Japan

15 May 15:11

radfordsechrist: as-warm-as-choco: Some animated running...



















radfordsechrist:

as-warm-as-choco:

Some animated running by Yoh Yoshinari (吉成曜)

Great tutorial by the director of Little Witch Academia, and key animator in: Gurren Lagann, FLCL, KILL la KILL, Evangelion, Panty & Stocking (X)

Amazing!!!

15 May 23:21

Cul de Sac

by noreply@blogger.com (Martin Klasch)
30 Mar 21:52

Models & Prototypes

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: "Dome-shaped Architectural Staircase Model," courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt].

If you liked those two staircase posts from earlier today, a reader has pointed out that the Cooper Hewitt has a whole slew of "Models & Prototypes" on display that seem worth checking out.

More specifically, it's "a gallery devoted to exhibiting three-dimensional representations of ideas that demonstrate the design process; test concepts and resolve problems; enhance presentations; and display complex technical skills."

Take a look at the "Dome-shaped Architectural Staircase Model" from the mid-19th-century, for example, seen above, or this gorgeous "staircase model from France".

[Image: A "staircase model from France," courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt].

Freestanding and divorced from their ultimate architectural context, they become more like vertebrae or genetic helices spiraling in midair.

[Image: "Staircase Model, France," courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt].

See more over at the Cooper Hewitt.

(Thanks to John O'Shea for the tip!)
24 Apr 08:59

Orchid Man

by Brecht
Orchid Man
73x90cm


10 May 20:43

Formation flight Sunday. Lightning IIs



Formation flight Sunday. Lightning IIs

06 Apr 18:12

Gyroscopolis

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: From "Destination Docklands" by Emma Colthurst; via Lobby].

This is such a clever architectural model: a project by Emma Colthurst from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London is presented as a narrative gyroscope, an urban universe of wheels within wheels, of shifting ground planes and emerging landscapes amidst a carousel of new horizons.

[Image: From "Destination Docklands" by Emma Colthurst].

Called "Destination Docklands," it is intended as a kind of horological device, telling the story of the site through time.

This includes the "submerged industrial landscape" that re-arises with a turning of the gears to the towering cranes of as-yet unrealized construction projects set to transform the Docklands for generations.

[Image: From "Destination Docklands" by Emma Colthurst].

As Colthurst herself explains over at Lobby:
"Destination Docklands" seeks to reconnect the remnant memory of the submerged industrial landscape. A Gimbal—a mechanism, typically consisting of rings pivoted at right angles, for keeping an instrument such as a compass or chronometer horizontal in a moving vessel or aircraft—holds the Dock’s spatiality in fragmented balance. Previously a device used for ship navigation, the Gimbal realigns glimpses of the area’s connected history, and its axes pivot perpendicularly, bringing their own relationship and meaning to the Dock. The Gimbal becomes a capsule for the connected "players" of this industrial world.
"As the rings turn," she adds, "the spatial relationships between the industrial worlds are juxtaposed against each other. As these tangible connections teeter on the edge of the Dock’s hemisphere, their world is refocused in moments of realisation, before falling away."

[Image: From "Destination Docklands" by Emma Colthurst].

The result is a gyroscopic scenography of different contexts rolling into view, momentarily aligning, and then sinking once again into the urban murk of potential rearrangements yet to come.

Read more about the project over at the recently launched Lobby.
29 Apr 14:33

9 Squares: A Collaborative GIF Project for Nine Designers Using Four Colors in Three Seconds

by Christopher Jobson

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Top: David Stanfield, Al Boardman, Brent Clouse; Middle: Skip Hursh, Erica Gorochow, John Flores; Bottom: Austin Saylor, Adam Plouff, Bran Dougherty-Johnson

 

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Top: David Stanfield, Allen Laseter, Jimmy Simpson; Middle: Skip Hursh, Al Boardman, Jeff Briant; Bottom: Marcus Chaloner, Erik Blad, Fede Cook

 

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Top: Sara Bennett, Bran Dougherty-Johnson, Brandon Wall; Middle: Zac Dixon, Oliver Sin, David Stanfield; Bottom: Al Boardman, Skip Hursh, Jeroen Krielaars

 

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Top: Skip Hursh, Damien Correll, Cindy Suen; Middle: Justin Cassano, David Stanfield, Joshua Hollars; Bottom: Al Boardman, Jorge R. Canedo Estrada, Estelle Caswell

9 Squares is a collaborative motion graphics project where 9 designers are given a 350-pixel square, four colors, and three seconds to create any kind of animation they like. The results are gathered together to create a single GIF. 9 Squares is organized by Skip Dolphin Hursh, David Stanfield, and Al Boardman and they hope to post a new collaboration every two week or so. (via Quipsologies)

12 May 14:08

A Woolen Ape Explores a Backyard Garden in a New Short from Marc & Emma

by Christopher Jobson

As part of a promotional campaign for Wonderlijk Wild (Miraculously Wild), an effort to encourage home gardening in Belgium, filmmaking duo Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels of Marc & Emma were hired to create this wonderful short about a felted green ape exploring the outdoors. You might remember their work from this other woolen animation featuring two doughy wrestlers for the National Animation Festival last year. (via Vimeo)

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Update: An earlier version of this post referred to the film as “stop-motion” when in fact it’s actually live-action puppeteering.

12 May 15:52

Not Seeing The World

by swissmiss

Not seeing The World

This photo series by fellow Swiss Clarina Bezzola is hitting a cord with me. It’s titled Not seeing the World and depicts an individual who is constantly absorbed in the dialogues with her inner voices and misses the beautiful world around.

09 Apr 22:19

Infrastructure as Processional Space

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: A view of the Global Containers Terminal in Bayonne; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

I just spent the bulk of the day out on a tour of the Global Containers Terminal in Bayonne, New Jersey, courtesy of the New York Infrastructure Observatory.

That's a new branch of the institution previously known as the Bay Area Infrastructure Observatory, who hosted the MacroCity event out in San Francisco last May. They're now leading occasional tours around NYC infrastructure (a link at the bottom of this post lets you join their mailing list).

[Image: A crane so large my iPhone basically couldn't take a picture of it; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

There were a little more than two dozen of us, a mix of grad students, writers, and people whose work in some way connected them to logistics, software, or product development—which, unsurprisingly, meant that everyone had only a few degrees of separation from the otherworldly automation on display there on the peninsula, this open-air theater of mobile cranes and mounted gantries whirring away in the precise loading and unloading of international container ships.

The clothes we were wearing, the cameras we were using to photograph the place, even the pens and paper many of us were using to take notes, all had probably entered the United States through this very terminal, a kind of return of the repressed as we brought those orphaned goods back to their place of disembarkation.

[Images: The bottom half of the same crane; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

Along the way, we got to watch a room full of human controllers load, unload, and stack containers, with the interesting caveat that they—that is, humans—are only required when a crane comes within ten feet of an actual container. Beyond ten feet, automation sorts it out.

When the man I happened to be watching reached the critical point where his container effectively went on auto-pilot, not only did his monitor literally go blank, making it clear that he had seen enough and that the machines had now taken over, but he referred to this strong-armed virtual helper as "Auto Schwarzenegger."

"Auto Schwarzenegger's got it now," he muttered, and the box then disappeared from the screen, making its invisible way to its proper location.

[Image: Waiting for the invisible hand of Auto Schwarzenegger; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

Awesomely—in fact, almost unbelievably—when we entered the room, with this 90% automated landscape buzzing around us outside on hundreds of acres of mobile cargo in the wintry weather, they were listening to "Space Oddity" by David Bowie.

"Ground control to Major Tom..." the radio sang, as they toggled joysticks and waited for their monitors to light up with another container.

[Image: Out in the acreage; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

The infinitely rearrangeable labyrinth of boxes outside was by no means easy to drive through, and we actually found ourselves temporarily walled in on the way out, just barely slipping between two containers that blocked off that part of the yard.

This was "Damage Land," our guide from the port called it, referring to the place where all damaged containers came to be stored (and eventually sold).

[Image: One of thousands of stacked walls in the infinite labyrinth of the Global Containers Terminal; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

One of the most consistently interesting aspects of the visit was learning what was and was not automated, including where human beings were required to stand during some of the processes.

For example, at one of several loading/unloading stops, the human driver of each truck was required to get out of the vehicle and stand on a pressure-sensitive pad in the ground. If nothing corresponding to the driver's weight was felt by sensors on the pad, the otherwise fully automated machines toiling above would not snap into action.

This idea—that a human being standing on a pressure-sensitive pad could activate a sequence of semi-autonomous machines and processes in the landscape around them—surely has all sorts of weird implications for everything from future art or museum installations to something far darker, including the fully automated prison yards of tomorrow.

[Image: One of several semi-automated gate stations around the terminal; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

This precise control of human circulation was also built into the landscape—or perhaps coded into the landscape—through the use of optical character recognition software (OCR) and radio-frequency ID chips. Tag-reading stations were located at various points throughout the yard, sending drivers either merrily on their exactly scripted way to a particular loading/unloading dock or sometimes actually barring that driver from entry. Indeed, bad behavior was punished, it was explained, by blocking a driver from the facility altogether for a certain amount of time, locking them out in a kind of reverse-quarantine.

Again, the implications here for other types of landscapes were both fascinating and somewhat ominous; but, more interestingly, as the trucks all dutifully lined-up to pass through the so-called "OCR building" on the far edge of the property, I was struck by how much it felt like watching a ceremonial gate at the outer edge of some partially sentient Forbidden City built specifically for machines.

In other words, we often read about the ceremonial use of urban space in an art historical or urban planning context, whether that means Renaissance depictions of religious processions or it means the ritualized passage of courtiers through imperial capitals in the far east. However, the processional cities of tomorrow are being built right now, and they're not for humans—they're both run and populated by algorithmic traffic control systems and self-operating machine constellations, in a thoroughly secular kind of ritual space driven by automated protocols more than by democratic legislation.

These—ports and warehouses, not churches and squares—are the processional spaces of tomorrow.

[Image: Procession of the True Cross (1496) by Gentile Bellini, via Wikimedia].

It's also worth noting that these spaces are trickling into our everyday landscape from the periphery—which is exactly where we are now most likely to find them, simply referred to or even dismissed as mere infrastructure. However, this overly simple word masks the often startlingly unfamiliar forms of spatial and temporal organization on display. This actually seems so much to be the case that infrastructural tourism (such as today's trip to Bayonne) is now emerging as a way for people to demystify and understand this peripheral realm of inhuman sequences and machines.

In any case, as the day progressed we learned a tiny bit about the "Terminal Operating System"—the actual software that keeps the whole place humming—and it was then pointed out, rather astonishingly, that the actual owner of this facility is the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, an almost Thomas Pynchonian level of financial weirdness that added a whole new level of narrative intricacy to the day.

If this piques your interest in the Infrastructure Observatory, consider following them on Twitter: @InfraObserve and @NYInfraObserve. And to join the NY branch's mailing list, try this link, which should also let you read their past newsletters.

[Image: The Container Guide; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

Finally, the Infrastructure Observatory's first publication is also now out, and we got to see the very first copy. The Container Guide by Tim Hwang and Craig Cannon should be available for purchase soon through their website; check back there for details (and read a bit more about the guide over at Edible Geography).

(Thanks to Spencer Wright for the driving and details, and to the Global Containers Terminal Bayonne for their time and hospitality!)
11 Apr 19:29

Everything is Architecture

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: An "unofficial illustration" of the idea by Huntington Ingalls, via gCaptain].

A Washington state legislator has channeled his inner Hans Hollein, proposing the radical adaptive urban reuse of discarded military equipment: turning old aircraft carriers into a new toll bridge for Seattle.

From gCaptain:
A Washington state lawmaker looking to ease traffic congestion for several Puget Sound-area communities near Seattle has proposed building an eye-catching new toll bridge made from retired Navy aircraft carriers.
It would involve at least two—although possibly many more—aircraft carriers laid "end to end" to cross a local stretch of water known as the Sinclair Inlet.

"This would definitely be a unique way to tackle some of those problems," the representative stated to the AP, "but at the same time it would serve as a floating memorial to veterans and the sacrifice they have given to our country."

[Image: "Aircraft Carrier City in Landscape, project, Exterior perspective," by Hans Hollein (1064); via MoMA].

Just think of the epic possibilities here for pedestrian paths, interstitial business opportunities, weird spaces for physical fitness, peripheral plazas and decks available for private events, and new public park space.

Perhaps even, deep in the labyrinth of the old ships' underbellies, you could open a restaurant, a bookstore, a cinema. A SCUBA academy. An architecture school.

It would be like a return to the inhabited bridges of an earlier age —

[Images: (top) Old London Bridge; (bottom) Old London Bridge painted by Peter Jackson.

—only gunmetal grey and prickly with artillery, like a surreal hybridization of Constant's New Babylon and the U.S. Navy.

[Images: Constant's New Babylon].

Of course, this isn't exactly a real plan—it's more of a casual remark by a state politician. No feasible studies, environmental reviews, or financial plans have yet been put in place, for example (although apparently one is in the works), and I personally doubt that such a thing could ever see the light of day.

But here's to weird architectural visions popping up in unexpected contexts—and to the future civilian reuse of discarded military equipment, even (or especially) in spectacular urban ways such as this.

(Spotted via Todd Lappin. Those images of Old London Bridge and Constant's New Babylon also appeared in an earlier post on BLDGBLOG called We'd all be living in dams).
12 Apr 18:03

Box Kites, Planes, and Super-Ceilings

by Geoff Manaugh
Here are some interesting houses by Greek architect Takis Zenetos, whose work we first looked at way back in 2009.

[Image: House by Takis Zenetos (1961) from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

I will confess to knowing almost nothing about these projects, but I wanted to post the images anyway; they're from a book called Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977), which was originally pointed out to me in the comments of that earlier post.

[Image: House by Takis Zenetos (1961) from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

The designs draw heavily on cantilevers and porches, presumably in response to some difficult hillside sites, but incorporating the planes, glass, and open views typical of domestic Modernism.

[Image: House by Takis Zenetos (1961) from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

As such, these could just as well be found in the hills of Los Angeles or even San Francisco.

This next home is a variation on the same basic vocabulary, from the same year (1961), this time apparently in a vineyard or other semi-rural setting.

[Images: Another home by Takis Zenetos (1961) from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

As you can see in that last sketch (bottom right), his houses are almost like Corbusian airplanes—Modernist box kites the size of houses—trying to lift off from the earth.

Then a sketch from 1962 really abstracts all this to a pure assemblage of planes in space, just rooftops and cantilevers hanging over the landscape.

It's the home as super-ceiling.

[Image: A sketch from 1962 by Takis Zenetos, from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

It basically distills the structure of this next project, another hillside house from 1959.

[Images: House by Takis Zenetos (1959) from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

This one really could be in Los Angeles, for its aggressive cantilever out over the canyon or gorge below.

But now check out this next project, a stunning proposal from 1954 for some kind of amphitheater hewn directly into the landscape, then framed by monolithic blocks of Modernist rock.

[Image: A proposal from 1954 by Takis Zenetos, from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

It's as much a quarry as it is a building, as much a building as it is just an inspired reorganization of the site's geology.

It also seems like a set designer's dream—a craggy, otherworldly gathering place like something from the Greek myths (or a level in a future computer game).

[Image: Alas, I don't have this in higher res; a proposal from 1954 by Takis Zenetos, from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

Finally, purely for its eye candy, here is a project that is either part of a hotel, a restaurant, or a club, from 1956.

[Image: A proposal from 1956 by Takis Zenetos, from Takis Ch. Zenetos (1926-1977)].

For more Zenetos, check out the earlier post here on BLDGBLOG and follow some of the many links in the comment thread. And, of course, if you read Greek and have some insight into what these projects actually are, by all means, let us all know!
15 Apr 15:55

An Evening's Diversion in the Neon Wilderness #2

by Tom Sutpen
16 Apr 19:29

Photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson Captures the Joy of Young Afghan Skateboarders

by Kate Sierzputowski

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All images © Jessica Fulford-Dobson

All images © Jessica Fulford-Dobson

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Australian skateboarder Oliver Percovich created the non-profit Skateistan in 2007, a grassroots project that connects youth and education through skateboarding in Afghanistan. The organization, which has since grown to an award-winning international NGO, caught the attention of London-based photographer Jessica Fulford-Dobson and inspired her to visit the program in Kabul in 2012—especially after learning 45% of the students were female.

In Afghanistan skateboarding has spread to become the number one sport for women, as they are forbidden to ride bicycles. Soon after arriving and entering the girl’s world, Fulford-Dobson was accepted by the young Afghan skateboarders. She photographed the girls with natural light, helping to expose their personalities through simple portraits. Within the images you can see the girls’ natural confidence, images that capture the subjects both posed and candidly skating through the indoor facility.

“I met so many impressive women and girls in Afghanistan: a teacher as tough and determined as any man; young Afghans in their early twenties who were volunteering at an orphanage and were passionate about being seen as strong and willing to fight for themselves, rather than as victims of circumstance; and girls who were being educated to be leaders in their communities and who were already thinking carefully about their own and their country’s future,” said Fulford-Dobson.

Fulford-Dobson won 2nd prize in the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize with Skate Girl, 2014 (one of the photographs taken while on location in Kabul) and her exhibition Jessica Fulford-Dobson: Skate Girls of Kabul opens at Saatchi Gallery in London on April 15 and runs until April 28, 2015. You can donate to Skateistan’s program in Kabul as well as other cities here. (via feature shoot)

21 Apr 15:40

Designer Sylvain Viau Imagines the Hover Cars We Were Promised

by Christopher Jobson

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For his ongoing series Flying Cars, French designer Sylvain Viau digitally edits photographs of cars into sleek, wheel-less hover cars that appear to float just above the ground. Viau not only uses his own photography to create these sci-fi cars, but is fortunate to claim many of the actual cars among his own collection. He originally worked only with 80s Citroën vehicles because of their classic space-age design, but has continued to branch out over the last few months to include cars from Peugeot, Toyota, and Renault. You can see many more here. (via Designboom)

Update: Photographer Renaud Marion created a similar series of works in 2013.

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22 Apr 18:34

Visually Stunning Nature Footage Edit Set to “Hello Tomorrow” by Karen O

by Christopher Jobson

Hey, Happy Earth Day! What better way to celebrate than watching remarkable footage of wildly random creepy crawly things in slow motion set to Hello Tomorrow by Karen O. You definitely need sound for this so turn up the volume for full effect. After a week of asking around I’ve learned only that the clip was edited together by Roen Horn using footage from somewhere I can’t identify.

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Update: Well that was quick. Almost all of these appear to be various BBC and National Geographic clips including BBC’s Life, World’s Weirdest, and BBC Weird Nature. (thnx, Tyler & Patricia)

24 Apr 19:32

The Inverted Architecture and Gravity-Defying Worlds of Cinta Vidal

by Christopher Jobson

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In her latest series of paintings, Barcelona-based artist and illustrator Cinta Vidal Agulló defies gravity and architectural conventions to create encapsulated scenes of intersecting perspectives. Painted with acrylic on wood panels, Vidal refers to the paintings as “un-gravity constructions” and says that each piece examines how a person’s internal perspective of life may not match up with the reality around them. The intersecting planes on many of her paintings are somewhat reminiscent of drawings by M.C. Escher, where every angle and available surface is inhabited by colorful characters going about their daily lives. She shares in a new interview with Hi-Fructose:

With these un-gravity constructions, I want to show that we live in one world, but we live in it in very different ways – playing with everyday objects and spaces, placed in impossible ways to express that many times, the inner dimension of each one of us does not match the mental structures of those around us. The architectural spaces and day-to-day objects are part of a metaphor of how difficult it is to fit everything that shapes our daily space: our relationships, work, ambitions, and dreams.

Vidal just opened a new exhibition of work at Miscelanea BCN in Barcelona and you can read an in-depth conversation with the artist on Hi-Fructose.

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26 Nov 18:05

First of the last Space Shuttle launches - The Big Picture - Boston.com

by pocra
18 Nov 02:41

People Blocks 2

by andy

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People Blocks 2 is a limited edition artist sculpture series.
Designed by Andy Rementer and produced by Case Studyo.

Available at casestudyo.com

Watch the teaser animation

16 Nov 04:55

rocketslime: nubbsgalore: photos by lassi rautiainen, susan...


lassi rautiainen


lassi rautiainen


staffan widstrand


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susan brookes


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rocketslime:

nubbsgalore:

photos by lassi rautiainen, susan brookes and staffan widstrand of a rare friendship that developed between a female grey wolf and a male brown bear in northern finland.

notes lassi, “no one can know exactly why or how the young wolf and bear became friends, but i think that perhaps they were both alone when they were young and a bit unsure of how to survive alone. it seems to me that they feel safe being together.”

the photographers also note that the two share every meal together, bringing each other their kills (as seen in the third and fifth photos).

earbackwards armlessbear
13 Nov 17:41

same same but different, hi-mi-zu: Yamikin Ushijima-kun

by joenagle
13 Nov 17:42

MAGNETIC

by comkee
13 Nov 17:42

OTAKU GANGSTA

by researchinstitute
14 Oct 20:43

Some Herb

by noreply@blogger.com (Jaypeg)
UandLC-01

Upper & Lowercase magazine
Art director: Herb Lubalin

This website is a brilliant resource where you can download entire issues.

http://blog.fonts.com/category/u&lc/

It's a great magazine. Even the simple text pages are elegant.

Upper & Lowercase
Upper & Lowercase
Upper & Lowercase
12 Nov 00:16

Photo



12 Nov 13:04

If one could know whether among that glittering host there were here and there other spirit-inhabited grains of rock and metal, whether man’s blundering search for wisdom and for love was a sole and insignificant tremor, or part of a universal movement!

by but does it float
Photos of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko by the Rosetta spacecraft Title: Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker Also: The Singing Comet Folkert
12 Nov 18:13

Amongst the Machines: A Visit to the Tesla Factory

by Geoff Manaugh
[Image: Outside the Tesla factory; Instagram by BLDGBLOG].

The coolest thing about a tour of the Tesla factory out in Fremont, California, is the huge metal-stamping machine—a behemoth piece of equipment that applies more than five thousand tons of pressure in order to mold metal parts in an instant. In fact, it was not even the company's largest stamping machine, which was offline the afternoon I went through.

You hear this thing long before you see it: a thundering and resonant split-second blast that sounds more like a minor-key chord being sledgehammered out into the cavernous factory. Then the machine cycle repeats itself: parts are removed, dragged, and rattled into place, followed by the preliminary crash of a new metal sheet being lowered into the bay. Then bam, that weird sound again, equal parts dark ambient soundscape and sci-fi howl.

Strangely, though, there is an air of melancholy to the sound—a kind of unexpected pathos—as if the machine had accidentally been tuned to some minor and wistful harmonic. The instantaneous hydraulic detonation of what sounds like an organ chord thus rings out, augmented by the foot-shuddering bass of the stamp itself, which sends small earthquakes rolling through the floor. (In fact, this reminded me that the factory is more or less directly above the Hayward Fault and I began to wonder what seismic effects such a colossal machine might actually be having.)

The machine only got louder and louder as we wound our way through a complicated back-turning maze of welding walls and robot arms. Finally visible, it seemed to be made entirely of gates: a giant red portal through which shaped metal could pass.

[Image: The red gates of metal-stamping machine; photo courtesy of Tesla].

As we stopped to watch, the slow rhythm of its sounds matched up with processional movements now visible deep inside the cathedral-sized device, and the overall process began to make more sense.

Two men in full ear protection stood there, silhouetted against the mouth of the machine, presumably hypnotized by its otherworldly, repetitive soundtrack—or maybe that was just me, perhaps overly willing to hear, in the looped noise of this exotic machine, music that wasn't really there.

In any case, I was on the tour as part of a workshop run last week at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design, with students from Nicholas de Monchaux's course at Berkeley and a small group visiting from Smout Allen's & Kyle Buchanan's Unit 11 over at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.

[Image: Photo courtesy of Tesla].

The idea behind the tour was not only to see robots at work but to experience the spatial logic of a factory, its interior the size of 80 football fields broken down into sequential functions and clusters, with color-coded circulation diagrams painted directly onto the concrete floor.

At least those were the paths meant for humans. For self-driving robots, long curving whirls of magnetic tape had been applied to the floor, forming cursive, counter-directional arabesques that only made sense when you considered the aggressive turning radii of those bulky machines.

It was the robot-readable world firsthand, or an indoor landscape architecture for machines.

There is a strict no-photo policy in place, unfortunately, and you are obliged to sign a non-disclosure agreement prior to entering the facility, so the only interior photos I have to show are from Wikipedia and Tesla's own press page.

[Image: Photo by Steve Jurvetson, via Wikipedia].

The actual tour is very much in the vein of a corporate sales pitch, and it is delivered with true American gusto (and at very high volume), but it's worth taking. Technically, by entering the factory you step into a foreign free-trade zone, which, for anyone else reading Keller Easterling's new book, is an interesting thing to do in person, like entering a corporate eruv.

Once inside, you see things like aluminum rapid-injection molds, laser-cutting stations, and emergency "light curtains" dividing humans from the machines they steward. You see "laser-calibration trees," or knobby poles branching with small geometric ornaments; they are used by laser-scanners for re-booting themselves after measuring the frames of new cars.

At the very end of the process, you see massive, Japanese-made robots lifting entire finished Teslas overhead as if they're feathers. Each machine has been named by Elon Musk after X-Men characters: there is Thunderbird and Cyclops, Storm and Colossus, Xavier, Changeling, Ice Man, Wolverine, and Angel.

[Image: Photo courtesy of Tesla].

And, perhaps best of all, you might be lucky enough to see engineers training new robots for eventual roles in the assembly process.

Our tram slowed down for just a few seconds so we could watch a woman, less than two-thirds the size of the mechanical arm lurching back and forth in front of her, patiently coding new movements into the gyroscopes and actuators inside the machine.

Uncertain of what we were seeing, we tried to make sense of the drunken movements on display, which looked more like a snake hypnotized by its master, swaying side to side like a cobra being woken up from a dream.

At one point, our tour guide gestured out at literally dozens—perhaps hundreds—of new robots still under plastic wrap, all awaiting training and installation. The factory is expanding dramatically as Tesla gears up for the release of their new SUV.

We have "an army of robots under plastic," the guide said enthusiastically, and he laughed. If there's ever a robot uprising, he joked, this is probably not the best place to be.

[Image: Photo courtesy of Tesla].

It seems that our group's educational affiliation made getting a tour much easier, but you can try your own luck using Tesla's Contact page.