Author Ruth Slavid looks at the design ingenuity of an Antarctic research station, plus a film that imagines a post-apocalyptic residential tower, and a podcast created by and for graphic designers.
Book by Ruth Slavid
Park Books (softcover, 96 pages)
This stunning book introduces Antarctica as “the coldest, most remote, and most difficult place in the world to live and work,” then goes on to describe the Halley VI Research Station as being located in the worst part of it. Yet this facility, inaugurated in 2013 by British firm Hugh Broughton Architects, makes the featureless Brunt Ice Shelf look like an ideal locale for a cozy winter retreat, with penthouse-worthy curtain walls and glassed-in spiral staircases.
As Ice Station takes us through the design, construction and installation of these amazing feats of engineering, it depicts daily life inside the parade of tardigrade-like structures, which contend with 1.2 metres of snow accumulation each year (the shelf has swallowed up the station’s predecessors, eventually crushing them as they became buried deep in the ice). But despite such challenges, this is the best place on the planet for many areas of scientific research. Ice Station explores the incredible architecture that makes work in this terrain not just possible, but downright appealing. By Erin Donnelly
Feature film directed by Ben Wheatley
Recorded Picture Company (119 minutes)
It’s possible that when J. G. Ballard sat down to write the novel on which this retro-futurist drama is based, his intention was to exploit every architect’s worst anxieties. In this British film adaptation, Jeremy Irons’ utopia-minded architect has built the skyscraper as his mixed-use masterpiece, a 1970s-style brutalist finger pointing to heaven. The topmost floors are reserved for the elite, while the proles must make do with far more cramped quarters below, rendering literal the division between upper and lower classes.
Initially, all is well, aside from the usual annoyances of high-density living, from awkward elevator rides to prying neighbours. But as with the 1950s social housing experiments that unravelled during Ballard’s time, things soon go vertiginously wrong: the garbage chutes back up like those of Pruitt-Igoe, and social order breaks down, as in the hallways of Cabrini-Green Homes. With the problems of an entire city packed into 40 micro-cosmic floors, the inevitable plays out like a post-apocalyptic fever dream. By David Dick-Agnew
On the Grid
Podcast hosted by Dan Auer, Andy Mangold and Matt McInerney
This series is about graphic design, by graphic designers, for graphic designers. With more than 150 episodes to date, it has covered a wide range of topics, some specific to the industry (episode 123: should designers show their work online?), and others as broader cultural conversations (episode 142: the ethics of French illustrator Jean Jullien’s Eiffel Tower/peace sign emblem’s virality after the 2015 Paris attacks).
As a graphic designer, I took in some episodes with skepticism, but I found myself drawn in by the dialogue. The hosts hail from different parts of the U.S., and it’s refreshing to hear their often-heated takes on subjects like the ones discussed at our studio (although it could be even more interesting if a woman’s voice were added to the mix; the current hosts are all men). These are the conversations you might overhear in the next booth at your local brunch spot: not too heavy, yet just nerdy enough for designers who enjoy a bit of shop talk now and then. By Henry Tyminski