BLDG a Better Architecture Blog

Geoff Manaugh's BLDG BLOG draws daring connections between architecture, science fiction, and pop culture-and draws an audience. If you've...

Geoff Manaugh's BLDG BLOG draws daring connections between architecture, science fiction, and pop culture-and draws an audience.

If you've never visited BLDG BLOG, you should-and this month, the blog has been transformed into a book aimed at both newbies and fans. The premise takes some explaining-the blog is a quixotic, oddball experiment. Geoff Manaugh started it in 2004, when he was working as a non-profit grant writer in Philadelphia. He was devouring science magazines and pop futurism, reading New Scientist and Wired. He had just opted out of a Ph.D. program in architectural history at the University of Chicago. "Architecture writing is hamstrung by academic protocols," says Manaugh. "The same part of me that didn't want to stick around for a Ph.D. is the same part that was inspired to create the blog."BLDG BLOG posts usually start with architectural history or news, and then take detours through pop culture and full-on sci-fi, as Manaugh noodles on unlikely parallels and indulges in dazzling flights of imagination. (The modus operandi of Jorge Luis Borges comes to mind.) For example, in one recent post, Manaugh turns a bit of history about New York's telephone companies into a full-on pitch for a plausible sequel to the Ghostbuster's franchise. Manaugh makes it all sound obvious, if not inevitable. "If I see a link that's shown up on six other blogs, I'm not going to just describe it," he says. "But I'll connect that to an architectural proposal or a story I read as a kid." It's not really fiction, per se, and it's certainly not architectural history-but it's often more enjoyable than both.

The book's a bit more ambitious than the blog-to-book adaptations you're used to seeing-it actually consists of blog posts that have been revised, updated, and sometimes rewritten, to create entire chapters dedicated to a single theme, such as "The Underground" or "Landscape Futures." "I was trying to create an entire narrative," says Manaugh. "I didn't want to produce this A.D.D. thing that would confirm this idea that bloggers can't put a chapter together." Indeed, part of the fun is the sheer improbability of the continuity-the chapter on "Redesigning the Sky," for example, involves a competition to design the most spectacular weather patterns-a spectacle which in Manaugh's universe comes to overshadow the Super Bowl-and also explores the possibility of using severe weather as a weapon.Fans who've offered praise for the book include the filmmaker Erroll Morris and the art critic Lawrence Weschler-like Manaugh, two connoisseurs of strange parallels. To Manaugh, that's still a surprise. "When I started the blog, I felt like I was doing soething that no one would be interested in," he says. "It seemed like exactly what people didn't like, to judge from the market. I'm still not used to having readers."But Manaugh's been in demand: Until recently, he was a senior editor at Dwell; he's now a contributing editor to Wired U.K. He's currently writing another book, which he describes as a more straight-ahead journalistic effort but whose premise he's still keeping a secret. And when we spoke, he was in Australia, leading an architecture class exploring what could be done with Cockatoo Island, in Sydney Harbor, which has at various times been a prison and a girl's school. "You know, the movie Wolverine was actually filmed here. They're going to preserve it," chuckles Manaugh. "So in 25 years you're going to see sets from X-Men film. It's kind of a surreal way to preserve it." One can only imagine.
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less

Climate change means our future is uncertain, but in the meantime, it's telling us a lot about our past. The Earth's glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, but as the ice dwindles, ancient artifacts are being uncovered. The Secrets of the Ice project has been surveying the glaciers on Norway's highest mountains in Oppland since 2011. They have found a slew of treasures, frozen in time and ice, making glacier archeologists, as Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, put it when talking to CNN, the "unlikely beneficiaries of global warming."

Instead of digging, glacier archeologists survey the areas of melting ice, seeing which artifacts have been revealed by the thaw. "It's a very different world from regular archaeological sites," Pilø told National Geographic. "It's really rewarding work.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less