Friday, August 21, 2015

Super Salient Seeing

Architects and artists of the world have always used reference for their sketches.
Top: drawing of London Skyline by Stephen Wiltshire

Above  photo and resulting 13 foot drawing completed after 5 days. The detail and scope
are pretty terrific, right? Thing is, artist Stephen Wiltshire observed the London skyline
after a brief helicopter ride and composed the drawing entirely from memory.

Stephen at work
Stephen is literally one in one hundred of savants diagnosed in the world. The art he creates helps him to mediate a confusing world.
"Art can save us time — and save our lives —
through opportune and visceral reminders
of balance and goodness that we should never presume

we know enough about already".
Alain de Botton and John Armstrong 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Avian Architecture

Bowerbirds are the only creatures other than mankind known to recognize pattern and construct an optical illusion.  The male bower bird constructs a bower or staging platform to attract and win a mate.

Most species create a pavilion, aligned north-south so that is well lit from the east. Some are maypole like constructions with/without roofs.  Other species create two walls of carefully placed vertical sticks forming a passage to strut (picture Right Said Fred).

The site is a structure to display carefully selected offerings curated and arranged individually and uniquely between species and individual birds. The stages, exact and precise, are beyond function. The decorations are not a random sample of available accoutrements. The offerings include leaves, bark, fruit, seeds, flowers, beetle and butterfly wings, often color-coordinated or grouped as a thoughtful collection.  The designer may also choose to paint or stain the displays using a sponge created from bark or plant fiber, and using crushed berries or charcoal.

Decorations are refreshed daily to enhance the arrangement or replace an item that has lost its vibrancy. The male birds are committed to their own aesthetic and placements are very specific. Any attempt by others to upstage the layout will be corrected in keeping with the designer’s vision.  
The offerings include leaves bark fruit seeds flowers beetle and butterfly wings, (and dinosaurs) often color-coordinated or grouped as a thoughtful collection. 
The bower bird’s architectural exhibition hits almost all 10 tenets
of good design.Decorations are not a random sample of available
different populations and individuals select on the basis of different rules

Industrial designer Dieter Rams’ 10 tenets of good design:

  • It’s Innovative
  • Makes a Product Useful
  • It’s Aesthetic
  • Makes A Product Understandable
  • Is Unobtrusive
  • Is Honest
  • Is Long-lasting
  • Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail
  • Is Environmentally Friendly
  • Is as Little Design as Possible

Borromini's Palazzo Spada / Bower Bird Strada
The key to mating success for the bowerbird lies in the quality of the optical illusion, or forced perspective, created by the way objects are placed in the court area of the bower. They do so by arranging the objects covering the floor of the court in a particular way, so that they increase in size as the distance from the bower increases. This positive size-distance gradient creates a forced perspective which results in false perceptions of the geometry of the bower, which is visible only to the female when she is standing in the avenue. From her point of view, all of the objects in the court appear to be the same size. Consequently, she may perceive the court as being smaller than it actually is, and the male to be bigger.

"While some features produced by evolution seem to be useful and adaptive, others appear to clearly exhibit an evolution of incomparable beauty, a world of life forms far more spectacular than function alone can easily explain."*