The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

April 4, 2017
by Dan
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The Last London

The London Review of Books has a brilliant, sprawling, melancholy essay by author and psychogeographer Iain Sinclair titled ‘The Last London’. It’s difficult to know what to quote from the essay as it touches on so many interesting, diverse things, but this … Continue reading

January 12, 2017
by Dan
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Brutalist Dreams

At the New York Review of Books, American architecture critic Martin Filler casts a critical eye over a slew of new books on Brutalist architecture:  In addition to its echoes of art brut—Jean Dubuffet’s name for outsider art—New Brutalism was … Continue reading

October 26, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Darran Anderson on Imaginary Cities and Books as Maps

Author Darran Anderson discusses his book Imaginary Cities with Rhys Tranter: [M]y intention was to write something that isn’t self-contained; a book that somehow spills out of its pages and into the world… I wanted to send people out looking for … Continue reading

September 2, 2016
by Dan
1 Comment

Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words

Ed Ruscha: Buildings and Words is a short documentary, commissioned by MOCA in Los Angeles, exploring two of the recurring themes in the artist’s work. It was written and directed by Felipe Lima, and is narrated by Owen Wilson: Apparently Ruscha calls his font ‘Boy Scout … Continue reading

June 2, 2016
by Dan
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A Window onto a Window

In this profile of Peter Mendelsund in the June issue of Rhapsody Magazine, there is a lovely bit about the designer’s architect-artist father: In the living room of Knopf associate art director Peter Mendelsund’s Upper Manhattan apartment, inspiration is everywhere: a battered, sea-green … Continue reading

June 2, 2016
by Dan
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Working for the Building

In a long and fascinating interview with the Ballardian, Ben Wheatley talks about J.G. Ballard and his adaptation of High-Rise: Initially, I really enjoyed the cult appeal of [Ballard’s] work, or more specifically the counter-cultural aspect. His books, particularly Crash and … Continue reading

May 20, 2016
by Dan
2 Comments

A Dirge for a New World

Andrew F. Sullivan, author of ultra-violent urban noir WASTE, reviews Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of High-Rise by J.G. Ballard for TIFF.Net: Wheatley and Ballard point to a pattern—a dissolution of social order that cannot be prevented by technology or progress. Even … Continue reading

December 15, 2015
by Dan
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Ever Wanted Something More?

Although the early reviews have not been especially kind to the Ben Wheatley film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise, the trailer looks amazing.  The Anthony Royal Architecture website is also a nice touch. I can’t wait.

August 13, 2015
by Dan
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The Real-World Architecture of Monument Valley

Architecture critic Alexandra Lange, author of Writing About Architecture, talks to the creators of Monument Valley — an award-winning video game in which players must navigate the Princess Ida through a maze of impossible buildings and architectural puzzles — for Curbed: Much of Monument Valley … Continue reading

December 4, 2014
by Dan
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The Complete Little Nemo

If you were wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, Taschen recently published Winsor McCay: The Complete Little Nemo 1905–1927, which collects together all 549 of Winsor McCay’s extraordinary Little Nemo strips. First published in The New York Herald in 1905, McCay’s innovative, … Continue reading

November 24, 2014
by Dan
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Major Styles in Troll Bridge Architecture

Tom Gauld.

June 27, 2014
by Dan
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German Post-War Modern

Focusing on European architecture, art and design in the second-half of the twentieth-century, German Post-War Modern is currently one of my favourite Tumblrs.

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