The Ancient Astronomy of Stonehenge Decoded

The summer solstice draws nigh, and many of us will spend it bemoaning the fact that we have yet again failed to make it to Stonehenge to view the sun rising over its massive Heel Stone.

Don’t beat yourself up too badly.

According to Vox’s Senior Editorial Producer Joss Fong, above, it’s likely that the winter solstice was actually a far bigger deal to the Neolithic builders who engineered the site.

While much of it is now in ruins, archeologists, historians, astronomers, and other experts have been able to reconstruct what the ancient monument would have looked like in its heyday. The placement of the massive stones in carefully arranged concentric circles suggest that its feats of astronomy were no accident.




As Fong points out, the builders would not have known that the earth travels around the sun, nor that it tilts on its vertical axis, thus effecting where the sun’s rays will strike throughout the year.

They would, however, have had good cause to monitor any natural phenomena as it related to their agricultural practices.

The summer solstice would have come at the height of their growing season, but if this year’s sunrise celebrants spin 180 degrees, they will be facing in the same direction as those ancient builders would have when they arrived to celebrate the winter solstice with a sunset feast.

These days, the winter solstice attracts a sizable number of tourists, along with neo-druids, neo-pagans, and Wiccans.

Bundle up and join them, take a virtual tour, or at the very least, try your hand at assembling the nifty Aedes-Ars Stonehenge Model Kit Fong glues together like a pro.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight opens June 12 at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Modernist Birdhouses Inspired by Bauhaus, Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you. - Frank Lloyd Wright

Is there a design geek lurking among your fine feathered friends?

Some chickadee or finch who values clean lines over the fripperies of the gilded cage?

Or perhaps you’re a bird lover who’s loathe to junk up your mid-century modernist view by hanging a folksy miniature saltbox from a branch outside the kitchen window....

California-based cabinetmaker Douglas Barnhard’s Bauhaus birdhouses offer a minimalist solution.

No word on the interiors, but the exteriors are gorgeous, with additional inspiration coming from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Eichler.

Barnhard, who studied architecture briefly, repurposes walnut, bamboo, teak, and mahogany in his designs, which extend to dog beds, breadboxes, and planters.

His birdhouses feature living walls and green roofs planted with succulents.

Some have tiny longboards propped on their decks, a reflection of the time Barnhard spent in Kauai.

Surfin’ Bird!

Is it wishful thinking to believe it’s only a matter of time ’til tiny wetsuits and empty Fosters and Pacificos start festooning the rails?

Browse Barnhard’s birdhouses here and follow him on Instagram to get a peek at custom orders, many for customers residing in the sorts of homes he recreates for the birds.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Explore Meticulous 3D Models of Endangered Historical Sites in Google’s “Open Heritage” Project

One brisk thumping by a natural disaster, totalitarian regime, or terrorist group is more than enough to reduce an awe-inspiring heritage site to rubble.

With that sad fact in mind, Google Arts & Culture has paired with CyArk, a non profit whose mission is using the latest technologies to digitally document and preserve the world's significant cultural heritage in an easily shareable format.




The resulting project, Open Heritage, is a massive browsable collection of 3D heritage data, already the largest of its kind, and certain to increase as its creators race against the clock.

As of this writing, visitors can explore 3D models of 27 heritage sites from 18 countries.

Even those of us who’ve had the good fortune to visit these sites in person have much to gain from the drone’s eye view of the Caracol observatory that’s part of Mexico’s ancient Mayan metropolis Chichén Itzá or Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.

Each model is accompanied by an expedition overview that details the site’s history and significance, as well as its location on a map. Time lapse photos help give a sense of the site’s human traffic during the time it was being documented, as well as the nature of the work CyArk does on location. Significant details are highlighted, and their symbolism discussed.

CyArk will share project data with viewers who request it, using a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Equally important is the role these comprehensive 3D scans can play in current and future restoration efforts, by identifying areas of damage and documenting existing color and texture with down-to-the-millimeter precision.

Begin your virtual explorations of such Open Heritage sites as Greece’s Ancient Corinth, Lebanon’s Temple of Echoun, and Ayutthaya, Thailand’s Wat Si Sanphet, here.

Learn more about aerial photogrammetry, 3D laser scanning, stereoscopic 360 imagery, and other tools of the digital preservation trade here.

And stay abreast of CyArk’s work by subscribing to their free monthly newsletter here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch Ancient Ruins Get Restored to their Glorious Original State with Animated GIFs: The Temple of Jupiter, Luxor Temple & More

The "seven wonders of the world": all of us have all heard the phrase so many times, but can we name the specific wonders to which it refers? Though the list took its final form in the Renaissance, it originates all the way back with the ancient Greeks who wanted a sense of the most majestic man-made landmarks that lay within their territory. These were eventually narrowed down to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (whether they really existed or not), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Today we offer you an alternative set of ancient wonders, made even more wondrous by a technology wholly unimaginable to ancient Greeks: the animated GIF. You see here four of the set, which in total includes the Parthenon in Greece, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Nohoch Mul Pyramid in Mexico, the Temple of Lago Argentina in Rome, the Temple of Luxor in Egypt, the Temple of Jupiter in Italy, and Hadrian's Wall in England.




The GIFS, which trace the lines of the original structures over the ruins and then fill them in photorealistic detail, are the work of husband-wife team Maja Wrońska and Przemek Sobiecki.

"Despite their ‘ruinous’ condition, these structures have influenced many of history’s great architects, and continue to be an inspiration today," writes Designboom's Rob Reuland. "These sites have been depleted by time and by conquest, parts are reused, others just fall away with neglect. Seeing them restored is a bit like hopping in the Delorean and cranking the flux capacitor, and reversing their slow decay." And as a commenter adds below, "the next thing would be this in combination with AR-glasses while visiting the site" — the ongoing collaboration, in other words, of the wonders of the ancient world and the wonders of the modern one. See all seven of the animated GIFs here.

via Expedia/designboom

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Buckminster Fuller’s Collaboration with The North Face Culminates with a New Geodesic Dome Tent, the Geodome 4

Most anyone who regularly spends time in nature knows the name The North Face. For fifty years now, the company has furnished outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen with not just apparel but much else of the equally rugged gear they might conceivably need to go hiking, camping, or permanently off the grid. Some of their product designs have remained basically the same through the decades, while others have changed dramatically. Even early in the company's life it knew that a better tent, for instance, would get the outdoorsy world beating a path to its door: hence its engagement of no less a design thinker than R. Buckminster Fuller.

Bruce Hamilton, who worked for the company from 1970 to 1989, recently wrote a few posts (part one, part two, part three) telling the story of the North Face/Buckminster Fuller connection. It began in his first year on the job, when the company's owner Hap Klopp asked a friend whose family had connections to Fuller to send the already world-famous architect-systems theorist-inventor a letter. Describing The North Face as "a small company that produces what I believe to be the finest equipment presently available," the friend asked Fuller for ideas on how to improve the "archaic designs" then used to construct tents. "I have thought a great deal in the past about your subject of the compact, lightweight, back-packable environment controlling device," Fuller replied. "I am accepting your challenge."

Hamilton, a fan of Fuller's work, had already been thinking about how to use the principles of the light but sturdy triangle-and-dome-based "tensegrity structures" Fuller so often wrote and (as in the clip above) talked about. One day Hamilton showed Klopp a model of a Fullerian geodesic sphere, and "it was at that moment that he connected me with Bucky and with his drive to bring a new tent to life." The result, the Oval Intention tent, first appeared in The North Face's Fall 1975 catalog, accompanied by a photo of Hamilton relaxing inside one and a typically sweeping quote from Fuller himself: "It is no aesthetic accident that nature encased our brains and regenerative organs in compoundly curvilinear structures. There are no cubical heads, eggs, nuts, or planets."

The North Face kept incorporating Fuller's ideas into their tents, and they hammered out the terms of  direct collaboration on a new model in 1983, a month before Fuller died. Judgments about other tensegrity structures — geodesic dome homes, for example — have varied over the years, but the Oval Intention lives on in the form of the new Geodome 4. "Thanks to the most spatially efficient shape in architecture, it can withstand winds of up to 60 mph as the force is spread evenly across the structure whilst even providing enough height for a six-foot person to stand comfortably inside," writes Archdaily's Ella Thorns. "The extremely efficient design has allowed the tent to weigh not much more than 11kg and comprise of 5 main poles and the equator for fast and easy assembly and storage."

If this already has you excited about your improved prospects for more geometrically and structurally efficient camping on the surface of our Spaceship Earth, do be warned: at the moment The North Face has only made the Geodome 4 available in Japan (see its Japanese page here), and with a price tag equivalent to $1,635 at that. Even so, one hopes that Bucky — as Hamilton and many of the others who knew him called him — looks on with pride from whichever spaceship he now finds himself aboard.

via Arch Daily

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Time Lapse Video Captures Light Illuminating the Stained Glass Windows of Washington National Cathedral

Colin Winterbottom specializes in taking photographs that offer a fresh perspective on America's capital, Washington DC. As his web site tells us, his photos seek to express "not just what a place looks like, but how it feels to be there." A point that also comes across in a video he shot several years ago.

He introduces the video above, entitled "Stained glass time lapse, Washington National Cathedral," with these background words:

I am primarily a black and white architectural still photographer, but while documenting post-earthquake repairs at Washington National Cathedral I was impressed by the drama of the vibrant colors the windows "painted" on stone and scaffold. With just weeks before a related exhibition was to open I began mounting cameras to scaffold to take advantage of rare vantage points. The opening and closing view, for example -- with Rowan LeCompte's remarkable west rose window at eye-level and centered straight ahead within the nave -- cannot be recreated now that scaffold is down.

The photographs in the exhibition "Scaling Washington" (which was at the National Building Museum in 2015) often played off the unexpected harmony between the Cathedral architecture and scaffold, both having engaging rhythmic structural repetitions. Thus the inclusion of wonderfully painted scaffold herein. For the purpose of the exhibition (which had much other content) the video was left silent and had remained so for several years until composer Danyal Dhondy recently offered to write an original score for it. It fits so well and complements the rhythms of the original edit so perfectly. Now the piece has new dimension and life outside the original exhibition.

It's good to know there's still some beauty and tranquility somewhere in Washington. Do enjoy.

via Aeon

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Enroll in Harvard’s Free Online Architecture Course: An Introduction to the History & Theory of Architecture

Enroll in Harvard’s Free Online Architecture Course: An Introduction to the History & Theory of Architecture

So, you want to be an architect. Where to begin? It seems like a very big aspiration. One theorist argues that modernist architecture has been “characterized by a thaumaturgic… ambition which would heal the ‘diseases’ of individuals and society.” As anyone who’s spent much time in a housing project, faceless office park, or strip mall might attest, more recent approaches can also have “the power of hurting.”

If you’re intent on wielding the power of architecture for good, you’ll need many years of study and apprenticeship. But whether you’re just getting your feet wet or have already waded into the field, you’ll likely gain quite a lot of understanding from “The Architectural Imagination,” a free online course from Harvard's Graduate School of Design, in which you will “learn how to ‘read’ architecture as a cultural expression as well as a technical achievement.” The course, which begins on February 28th, is free, but for $99 students can also receive a certificate of completion.




“Architecture is one of the most complexly negotiated and globally recognized cultural practices,” notes the course introduction. Building design “involves all of the technical, aesthetic, political, and economic issues at play within a given society.” In addition to creating single-family dwellings, architects are tasked with designing harmonious spaces through which thousands of people might move on a daily basis.

Successful design requires more than an understanding of the necessary relationships between form and function. “In some ways,” the course trailer video above tells us, “it’s just what exceeds necessity that is architecture. And it’s the opening onto that excess that makes architecture a fundamentally human endeavor.”

Healing society? Grasping the big issues in arts, politics, and engineering? Designing for the “fundamentally human”? These are deep briefs indeed. A more lighthearted approach to the field—the tongue-in-cheek “I Am an Architect” rap above—suggests a couple simpler prerequisites for the aspiring architect: a lifelong passion for making things (with blocks, Legos, Jenga, etc.), and, of course, a pair of black plastic glasses. If you can relate, sign up for Harvard’s “The Architectural Imagination” and find many more edX Architecture courses here.

via Arch Daily

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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