Thursday, 17 September 2009

The BLDGBLOG Book - How to Talk About Architecture


For the last couple of days I am carrying the BLDGBLOG book in my bag. It joined some other books and papers I should read, but instead just keep carrying around believing I might read it. It somehow makes me feel reassured that if there is a chance to read I would read this or that in the bag.
The book is not some sort of normal book, it is the book that came out of a blog and not just one blog, but the blog. It is the book summarizing work previously published on the BLDGBLOG.blogspot.com by Geoff Manaugh.
The book has been announced on BLDGBLOG for quite a while together with images and content. I only just didn’t buy until very recently. To take a few things up front, it is actually smaller than I expected it to be. Don’t know why, maybe because of the “size” (in a number of respects) of the blog I subconsciously expected a massive book. It isn’t and that is good. It wouldn’t fit in my bag with the other stuff and it wouldn’t be a book anymore, but a bible sort of thing. Reading on the back cover of the book though one could think it is some sort of bible. A number of supposedly competent or famous people hype the book together with the author. Not sure what to think about this, it is either a funny joke in the sense of a critical statement or a marketing thing by the publisher. The second would be sad so I go for the first one.
Turning the blog into a book I suppose is a difficult move. Not from a, people can read it for free on the internet why should they buy the book sort of perspective, but because of the differences in the media format. Digital is not physical and the book definitely is physical.
To make the leap between the two media some defining decisions have to be taken in order to allow the new “product” to establish its own character. I have to say I was disappointed when I first held it in my hands at the local store, where it was the only copy. Even though had had deliberately planned to go in and buy it I was thinking about putting it right back on to the shelf and postpone the purchase. But I didn’t, payed and put it in my bag. There have been these moments ever since were I have read little bits and pieces in the book purely out of curiosity and I have, over the days flipping and reading, grown to like the book. If you have similar concerns regarding the book I suggest you start reading with the little notes spread in light font as an additional column towards the gutter of the book. These are short and hilariously funny, condensed information with critical personal thoughts and experiences. At least or me this was the way to get into the flow of the book. As a result I have take the book out of the bag frequently.


Image by urbanTick - The BLDGBLOG book chapter four title spread

To continue on the flow of the book, it is structured in five chapters presumably the main areas of interest. The articles are published with no information regarding time of publication on the blog, tags or any other blog unique information. This is confusing at first because it reads familiar but orientation is completely different. Once used to it is frees from the constant pressure imposed by the blogging environment to link, tie and jump in order not to miss out on the latest. Finally the read of BLDGBLOG is relaxing.
I have to say that I find the chapter titles not immensely catching for my personal interest, but the structure provided helps orientating. I am not convinced that they really summarize the variety of interests and views connections and summaries presented in the writing. However the content is what you’d expect, it is a great read, funny, challenging and definitely gets you thinking. It gets you thinking about the world, architecture, landscape, maybe the sound or the underground world, but most important it get you thinking about your personal world. What are you doing right now, what is happening around you, how do you connect to this and that and what would you do next?
For me this is the real achievement and that is why it is worth turning a blog into a book. The blog for me cannot reach the same level of personal involvement.
I realize I haven’t really said much about the context and the text almost sounds like one of the hypes on the back of the book if not as condensed. Maybe they have a point there.
To give away a few pearls of the content that I really enjoyed I will list a few good moments. First have to go the little notes and posts on the inside of most of the pages, printed in light font. They are a very light red with a very heavy after taste. For example there is the story about the wind and Geoff’s experiments with the car windows to adjust the noise the incoming wind makes. He describes how he finds out by trial and error how to adjust the opening in order to be able to listen to the radio while driving. He goes on to dream about orchestrating the same exercise in a house or even a neighborhood in order to get the wind blowing through the complicated system of doors, windows and fans to make your wind chime in the basement to ring. Have a read on page 128 this is great literature. There are also great short texts where Geoff reports fact in a manner of innocence that gets your face blush red, like “Olympic Climatology” on page 133.
For the larger (printed) pieces the interviews are important elements. I think they are really interesting and together with the images probably are the most directly linked pieces to the chapters of the book.
While reading the book you will familiarize with the construction of most of the texts that are composed in a manner of reporting facts and events in the first few lines but then weaving them further into a comprehensive picture of an imaginative future. This is probably what Geoff means in the introduction when he says: “I‘ve often joked that BLDGBLOG is organized around on thing only: the pleasure principle. ... - because it’s fun, and the juxtaposition might take you somewhere. Most importantly, follow your line of interest.” (Page 11)


Image by urbanTick - The BLDGBLOG book page spread


Manaugh, G., 2009. The BLDGBLOG Book, Chronicle Books.

1 comment:

karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Thanks,
Karim - Creating Power