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Link About It: This Week's Picks

Frank Gehry tells off contemporary architecture, Google maps the desert on camelback and Marcel the Shell returns in our weekly look at the web

by CH Editors in Link About It on 25 October 2014

Google, History, Internet, LAB, Link About It, Pop Culture

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1. Google Desert View

While a robot-operated car is Google's vehicle of choice for mapping streets, a 10-year-old camel named Raffia is doing the job of mapping the Liwa Desert in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Equipped with Google's Trekker camera, the guide-lead camel takes to the sand at 6am to capture the best light upon the barren landscape.

2. The Single-Brick Lego Pinhole Camera

While Lego cameras are not new, the one graphic design student Ryan Howerter made for himself sets the bar quite high. The entire pinhole camera was crafted from a single standard size 2x2 Lego brick—and it works. Howerter hollowed out the brick, added a brass shim and cut out a pinhole. A little bit of photo paper sits inside and the rest is mini-photo history.

3. Prizm Environment Adapting Speaker

If you ever casually laptop-DJ'd a dinner party or backyard get together, you know how hard it can be to read a crowd and play just the right music. Now a French startup is designing a streaming device called Prizm to save you from the awkwardness of playing 2 Chainz when your friends are feeling Coltrane. Prizm will mix and match music based on its users' profiles, and adapt to its environment by measuring sound levels in the room.

4. Autistic Boy Bonds with Siri

While many iPhone users have looked to Siri for answers, one autistic boy has forged a friendship with the helpful robotic assistant. Gus, who is communications-impaired, found a sympathetic ear in Siri, who could chat endlessly with the boy about his interests. The relationship has also been therapeutic—the boy's mother writes that Gus has had an easier time holding conversations with people in the real world.

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5. Google's New Inbox App

This is not your standard Gmail application. Google's new, and as of now limited release Inbox app presents information in an entirely different way, aimed at tackling the overwhelming influx many email users face daily. You can bundle, highlight and hone everything housed within. It's all still experimental but it reflects a solid effort at thinking outside of the traditional (in)box.

6. Architecture is Pure Shit

When the world's greatest (or worst, depending on who you ask) living architect speaks, everyone pays close attention. Especially when he says that 98% of architecture today is pure shit and gives the audience the middle finger. That's exactly what Frank Gehry did at a recent awards ceremony in Spain. The 85 year old then made clear that true architects care only about their work and their next project, while critics and criticism are basically a waste of time.

7. Kickstarter for Joan Didion Documentary

Joan Didion is not just the voice of a generation, but considered one of the most influential American writers alive. Despite wide recognition for her giant repertoire, Didion's nephew, documentarian John Dunn, notes that no one has ever tried to tackle her story. Now Dunn is directing a documentary about his Aunt Joan, and seeking out funding through Kickstarter. It's obviously a story people want to hear and campaign support has already gone well above the initial goal of $80,000, with no sign of slowing down.

8. NYC Airport Overhaul

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced plans to greatly improve NYC's two airports, both LaGuardia and JFK. While specifics have yet to be announced—like when construction will begin and who will fund it—a design competition will begin by the end of November, giving participants 60 days to develop their plans.

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9. Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made

Aiming to cash in even further on the craze surrounding the third and final film in the The Hobbit Trilogy, New Zealand Air released a hilariously over the top safety film to be shown on all flights. Moving from actual airport to full on fantasy land, the four and half minute video instructs viewers on proper emergency landing procedures and how to buckle their seat belts, all the while flying on a massive CGI eagle.

10. Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?

Those who visited the Green Tea Gallery booth during Frieze London last weekend were offered complimentary vegetable soup—which turned out to be a live performance piece. Artists Ei and Tomoo Arakawa, with the help of their mother, made soup using ingredients sourced from Fukushima, Japan (where the nuclear disaster occurred, after the 2011 tsunami and earthquake damaged the plant). Though the shiitake mushroom and daikon radishes were certified safe by the Japanese Farmers Association (no radioactivity detected), it was clear that there was a psychological barrier many audience members had when confronted with the soup; even Arakawa's mother was anxious about serving soup to younger guests—these mixed feelings of ambiguity and trust are what the United Brothers wanted to explore in this installation, called "Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?"

11. Don DeLillo on Taylor Swift

This week, Taylor Swift had a song off her new album 1989 hit #1 on the Canadian iTunes charts. Though this sounds like typical Swift news, the catch was that "Track 3" was eight seconds of static—due to an iTunes Store glitch in the country, leaving adoring fans (who dropped $1.29 to download it) confused. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, The Atlantic tapped none other than the author of "White Noise," Don DeLillo, to review the white noise track in this short satirical piece.

12. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is Back

After a two-year hiatus, adored YouTube character Marcel the Shell (who indeed sports a rocking pair of kicks) made a triumphant return in his third video installment this week, coinciding with a new book release as well. The new stop motion short film features the introverted Marcel (voiced by comedian Jenny Slate) locked out of the house, discussing his particular woes living the shell life, but ends on an upbeat note. His favorite saying is "Life's a party, rock your body."

Link About It is our filtered look at the web, shared daily on Twitter and published weekly every Saturday morning.

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Ann Demeulemeester's Beautiful Fashion Book

A first ever chronicle of the Dutch designer's storied career

by Paolo Ferrarini in Culture on 24 October 2014

Amsterdam, Ann Demeulemeester, Antwerp, Art Books, Fashion, Fashion Design, Style

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The music industry has the White Album. And now fashion has an iconic black book, thanks to a beautiful new volume from Rizzoli chronicling the visual history of Ann Demeulemeester's contributions to the world of fashion. The Flemish designer has been a reference point for years, known for her sleek and essential touches—whether that's her black and white dresses or her devotion to form and construction. After graduating from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1981, she became an influential part of the Antwerp Six, a group of creative minds (including Dries van Noten and Walter van Beirendonck) who have deeply influenced global fashion for more than a decade. Demeulemeester founded her label in 1985 but after almost 20 years of successful, recently stepped down.

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The new tome tells her story and represents the perfect incarnation of her style. It looks and feels almost sacred, with pages so thin the images can be seen on both sides of each sheet; it's a truly delicate beauty. For this reason, every single page is printed only on one side, creating a uniquely singular reading experience. The size and weight of the book gently contrasts with the fragility and smoothness of the paper, while the almost total white of the inside is in opposition with the blackness of the sides and the linen cover. Text is kept to the essentials, limited to an introduction by Parry Smith (Demeulemeester's longtime muse) and a short final dedication by the designer herself. The book was designed by Victor Robyn, a Belgian graphic designer who has been in charge of realizing Demeulemeester's graphics for years—from show invitations to printed fabrics. The art direction is curated by Victor Robyn, Demeulemeester herself and Patrick Robin, her life and business partner.

The Anne Demeulemeester book is available for purchase now from Amazon for $65

Images by Paolo Ferrarini

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WOO Toys from Vrtíška Žák

Decorative toy concept embodies natural elements and draws on simplicity, thoughtfulness and whimsy

by Adam Stech in Design on 24 October 2014

Czech, Decor, Design, Designblok, Independent Designers, Interior Design, Toys

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Created by Czech design and architecture outfit Vrtíška Žák, WOO toys are a boy's dream come true. "We wanted to design something just for ourselves without any client. So we decided to design these three toys," describes Vladimír Žák. He and his partner Roman Vrtíška have run their design and architecture studio for more than 8 years, working mainly on commercial interior projects. "This is something which we really enjoy. We returned to childhood and designed miniatures of what we like. Of course, every boy loves all the vehicles and their designs," adds Vrtíška.

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The result of their project—presented for first time at Designblok 2014 in Prague earlier this month—is a collection comprised of an airplane, a sailboat and a bulldozer. The toys, all an exercise of good form, simplify the main characteristics of the three forms. The designers teamed up with independent carpenters to manufacture their designs using solid wood, a luxurious finish and a natural curved surface veneer for all three models. The surface veneer—used for the sails, airplane wings and bulldozer belts—creates an elegant material contrast to the lacquered body of each toy.

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The vehicles symbolize three natural elements of water, air and earth. The toys are conceived as decorative sculptures for older boys in the manner of Charles and Ray Eames' House Bird produced for Vitra rather than real play items for children.

WOO toys prices and orders are available upon request.

Images courtesy of Vrtíška Žák

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