1984 by George Orwell Review and Book Notes

1984 by George Orwell

1984 is one of the most Influential Books of the 20th Century. A warning to the human race in which a society founded on hatred is created.

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.


1984 was written mostly during 1948 by George Orwell set in a future in which a totalitarian state completely controls the lives of its subjects. The book went on the become a kind of touchstone with which to criticise totalitarian ideas on both right and left.

It’s immense influence is easy to show by reference to the number of terms it coins which have come into common use in the English language;

  • Big Brother
  • Thought Police
  • Room 101
  • Newspeak
  • Doublethink
  • thoughtcrime

Orwell probably is responsible for the the term Cold War so he is a keen observer of post war politics and in many ways predicted the shape of the second half of the 20th century he is an important figure and the book 1984 is a key reason for this.

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The Mousebunker by Gerd and Magdalena Hänska

For a great example of how expressive Brutalist Architecture can be look no further than The Central Animal Labs or Mäusebunker ‘Mouse Bunker’ which was built for the Freie Universität in Berlin as an animal laboratory.

This partly explains why it took so long to complete due to opposition by locals and animal right activists. It was designed between 1967–1970, and built with interruptions in two phases between 1971–1975 and 1978–1980. It allegedly could host up to 45,000 mice, 20,000 rats, and a number of frogs, sheep, chickens, and pigs.

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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino Review and Booknotes


The Book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a classic modernist novel yet has had a widespread popularity that elevates it above most books of its type and has come to have an enduring influence among artists and architects.

It’s a staple for architecture students and architects alike, but why is it so popular and what’s so interesting about it? After all it may not seem on first sight to be particularly relevant to the practice of architecture as although it proports to be about cities it’s actually a magical realist book whose cities are dreamlike creations. A post modern novel with little plot and seemingly a much more poetic dreamlike quality.

But on starting to read and being drawn into the novel I think it becomes apparent why this has become such a touchstone for creative thinking about design and cities and why many architects love it so much, me included.

Before the review I will give some background and have a more detailed look at the structure of the book. This I feel is really important because of the way the book was written. The structure of the book in fact, is an integral part of the beauty of its beauty.

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Links of Note (week 49/20)

Every week I highlight the most interesting items from my media diet.



  • Creative community issues a call to remove Philip Johnson’s name because of his fascist past Archinect Reports on a group trying to remove Philip Johnson’s name from any reference of honor. It should be noted that it wasn’t just that Johnson was a racist, he founded an explicitly racist and fascist party before he went into architecture. There is a great biography of him The Man in the Glass House by Mark Lamster.

Once the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope, the Arecibo facility has been the site of many key astronomical discoveries over the years, including observations of the spinning stars known as pulsars that led to the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics. Before its collapse, astronomers were using the telescope for a number of scientific studies, including radar assessments of near-Earth asteroids, to measure their threat to the planet.


Norman Fosters and Zaha Hadid Architects formerly withdraw from Architects Declare a network of architectural practices committed to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency.

My first reaction was that the practices should have stayed in and fought for environmentally friendly buildings no matter what the client or program.

But I think I was wrong. It really is a climate emergency in which we have about ten years to half our emissions. See a good article here about the problematic nature of aviation for global warming.

The other thing is I don’t think these two offices have taken it seriously. Signing up, but not changing your business model or design approach leaves only an empty and cynical PR strategy. Sad really. The AJ has an interesting overview of Architects Declare predating these offices leaving but they imply that while many offices have taken their commitment seriously some didn’t. Their passive aggressive withdrawal letters only underline this reading.

On what I feel is a related note Architects have a thing for strongmen. In Kazakhstan, the big global practices – from Norman Foster to Zaha Hadid – have piled in to help the dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev, build his trophy city.

Links of Note (week 47/220)

Every week I highlight the most interesting items from my media diet.

Photo by Sushant Jadhav

Arecibo Observatory (°18.35,-66.75) used by scientists to look through space and time, is going to be demolished as two of the main cables suspending the structure have snapped. Luckily we will always have Goldeneye!


Not only is eelgrass naturally fire-, rot- and pest-resistant, it also absorbs CO2, and as it doesn’t require heat to produce, is carbon neutral when harvested and used locally. Eelgrass becomes fully waterproof after about a year and has insulation properties comparable to those of mineral wool, a dense, fibrous material made from molten glass, stone or industrial waste. A roof can last hundreds of years – one of island’s remaining seaweed roofs dates more than 300 years – for comparison, a concrete tile roof typically lasts around 50. –via

According to Mitchell, our intestinal microbiome isn’t keeping up with the rapid pace of globalization. “Things are changing incredibly quickly,” he says, “but our genetics are still pre-industrial.” He associates modern ills such as high rates of allergies, obesity, and inflammatory bowel disease with modern substances that affect the gut, from antibiotics to fast food. “Parts of us are coping, but other parts are suffering,” Mitchell says.
via polymath

Thanks in part to its adoption in the 1840 presidential campaign, what began as a lame joke in a Boston newspaper morphed into one of the most ubiquitous expressions in the English language


  • On Deviate with Rolf Potts and Stephanie Rosenbloom talk about The pleasures of (and strategies for) traveling solo. I know it seems strange to talk about travelling at this time but the conversation is a real pleasure. Part vicarious travel part warm memories resurfaced.


Sooner or Later All Games Become Serious – J.G.Ballard Super-Cannes

Declad Articles

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander: Review and Notes

A fantastic Guidebook to design thinking which if you use it as an aide rather than a Bible will educate and enrich your designs. Would love to see an updated New Edition.


A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel

A Pattern Language came out in 1977 authored by Christopher Alexander with some of his students Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel.

At the time I believe Christopher Alexander was teaching Architecture at Berkley and the first group of books he wrote sprung from his teaching, research and designing there. It is one of a series of Books by Alexander but A Pattern Language is his most widely read work.

Alexanders books principally A Timeless Way of Building, A Pattern Language and The Nature of Order have inspired a following not just in Architecture but in other fields also principally Computer Science where his work is more influential than in Architecture.

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Links of Note (week 45/2020)

Every week I highlight the most interesting items from my media diet.

Photo and Plan of building no.30 in Hashima Island (Image from Japanpropertycentral)

Hashima /Gunkanjima Island in Japan was the most densley populated place on the planet until it was abandoned. Building No.30 on the island was Japans oldest reinforced-concrete apartment building (1916). Now partially collapsed, a good example of how Japan treats many of its old buildings. (via Irène DB)


  • The Swedish Housing Experiment designed to Cure Loneliness Sällbo, is a radical experiment in multigenerational living in Helsingborg, Sweden. The Architecture is very unremarkable it’s the social organisation, the way this group have decided to live which is interesting.
  • Finland is a Capitalist Paradise Behind a NYT paywall but if you have access well worth a read. A Wife from Finland and her husband from the US reflect on living in both countries.


Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations

-George Orwell