Author Archives: Opinionated Designer

MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA: the first cinema screening

In the spring of 1927 Dziga Vertov* moved to Kyiv to work for VUFKU, the All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Adminstration (Vse-Ukrains’ke Foto Kino Upravlinnia, ВУФКУ – Всеукраїнське фоtокіноуправління) after being sacked by Sovkino, the Russian equivalent, for being over budget on his film ‘One … Continue reading

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MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA: the film locations

1929 poster for the film by the Stenberg brothers “We leave the film studio for life, for that whirlpool of colliding visible phenomena, where everything is real, where people, tramways, motorcycles, and trains meet and part, where each bus follows … Continue reading

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Adriano Olivetti

  Adriano Olivetti in memoriam 11th April 1901 – 27th February 1960   A film about the greatest industrialist of them all: https://youtu.be/Ax_zKlnSxHE        

Posted in Architecture, Art, Computers, Design, Housing, Housing Design, Personal Computers, product design, Typewriters, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Why is Computer Design stuck in the 1950s?

  Compared to my first computer, an Apple Macintosh 128K, the modern device has an awesome amount of computing power. I have just bought a Hewlett Packard ‘All-in-One’  PC with wireless keyboard and mouse, 24″ screen, 8GB of RAM and … Continue reading

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MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA: the movie cameras

1929 poster for the film by the Stenberg brothers Dziga Vertov’s 1929 masterpiece ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ is a staple of film studies courses and has been analysed and written about countless times. What has had no attention, surprisingly, … Continue reading

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Apple Park

Steven Levy of Wired magazine was invited in for a tour of the vast new Apple headquarters building in Cupertino, California, designed by Foster and Partners. Opened in April 2017 the building has cost a reported $5 billion, and the … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Building, Computers, Construction, Design, Olivetti, Personal Computers, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Archispeak #1 – TEA, Tenerife

WHAT ARCHITECTS SAY VERSUS THE REALITY! Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, Santa Cruz de Tenerife 2008 ARCHITECTS: Herzog & De Meuron, project directed by the Canarian architect Virgilio Gutiérrez ARCHITECTS: “…..A new public path diagonally cuts through the building complex connecting the … Continue reading

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Dismal Designs – Nikon D5

In complete contrast to my previous post……. The grotesque looking D5 is the epitome of everything I loathe about the current offering of DSLR cameras. It is the Mr Creosote* of cameras, a misshapen lump with buttons, lids, and switches scattered at … Continue reading

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Delightful Designs – 1946 SIRIO Elettra II camera

As well as being a Leica fan I’m also intrigued by the many ‘Look-a-Leicas’ that mostly appeared in the decade after WW2. The launch of the first Leica in 1925 caused a sensation, changing the way people took photographs. Tens … Continue reading

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Japanese Style

  I took this photograph in Gion, the historic part of the city centre in Kyoto. Not posed at all, they were just walking down the street, totally absorbed in each other. Over the past decade it has become quite common to see … Continue reading

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Whistler’s Haircut

James Abbott McNeil Whistler (1834-1903) was one of the greatest artists of the late nineteenth century, and the finest etcher since Rembrandt. An expatriate American, he had a huge influence on the cultural world of London and Paris, friends with … Continue reading

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Beyond The Dreaming Spires

THE OTHER OXFORD, FAR FROM THE TOURIST TRAIL Mention Oxford to most people and an image of beautiful golden stone buildings with spires and domes comes to mind. The High Street or ‘The High’ is surely one of the most … Continue reading

Posted in Architecture, Blots on the Cityscape, Blots on the Townscape, Building, Housing, Housing Design, Oxford, Ugly Buildings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , ,

Leica 1 Model C – The First System Camera

The renowned optical instrument firm of Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar in Germany produced the first modern camera in 1925, the Leica 1 Model A.  Designed by two brilliant engineers, Oskar Barnack and Max Berek, it revolutionised photography by using 35mm … Continue reading

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Blot on the Historic Townscape

King’s Lane Development, Cambridge, UK (1967)  – Architect: James Cubitt & Partners  There are so many third-rate modern buildings around they just blend into the background, but sometimes you come across one that is so crass, ugly, and ridiculous that … Continue reading

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Dismal Designs – The Hearing Aid

WHY ARE HEARING AIDS SO BADLY DESIGNED AND OVER-PRICED? An elderly relation of mine has some Starkey 3 Series hearing aids which cost an extraordinary £2,500 ($3,600)! Apart from the outrageous price, of which more later, this is one of the most … Continue reading

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A Factory Filled with Light – Olivetti at Pozzuoli

“…Facing the most remarkable bay in the world, the architect has designed this factory to respect its beautiful surroundings and to make this beauty a source of comfort in the working day. We wanted nature to be part of the life of the factory rather than being excluded by a … Continue reading

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Great Designers Remembered – Pier Giorgio Perotto and the first PC

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of the launch of the world’s first commercially produced personal computer, the Olivetti Programma 101, during the Business Equipment Exhibition at the New York World’s Fair in October 1965. No, it wasn’t IBM, Hewlett-Packard, or … Continue reading

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Miniature Masterpiece – Leica FIKUS Variable Lens Hood

A series of posts celebrating the early Leica camera accessory, ingenious and often beautiful small masterpieces of functional design. Ernst Leitz produced the first ‘system’ camera in 1930 (the Leica 1 Model C), and by 1933 the accessory catalogue ran to over 100 pages. These … Continue reading

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Disappointing Designs – Apple Watch

Being an Apple fan since my first Macintosh I wasn’t expecting to be disappointed by the Apple Watch. I tried out the Sport version recently which seemed well made and there are some great features and apps, but crucially it just … Continue reading

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Memorable Images – Henry Taunt

Henry Taunt (1842-1922) was one of the most influential, innovative, and prolific Victorian photographers, all but forgotten today except by River Thames enthusiasts. Based in Oxford, he produced the first* photographically illustrated guide book to the river in 1872 which he entitled: … Continue reading

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Duane Hanson at the Serpentine

The 1805 Magazine building (an armoury and gunpowder store) in London’s Kensington Gardens was sensitively converted by Zaha Hadid and Liam O’Connor Architects in 2013 into the new Sackler extension of the Serpentine Gallery, with a swooping tent-like addition in fabric and glass … Continue reading

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Blots on the Cityscape – The Ruin of London?

There has been an astonishing lack of serious debate about the future planning of London except in one or two of the architecture journals and the Guardian. Over 400 very tall buildings are planned for the city, particularly along the south … Continue reading

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Disappointing Designs – Alfa Romeo Giulia

If you’re an Alfa Romeo enthusiast you need to be very resilient to keep faith with the brand! From the boxy looking 1960s Giulias (the accident prone grey police cars in the Italian Job) to the Capybara look-alike Mito, they just … Continue reading

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Golden Silver – The Beauty of Nickel Plate

Around the early 1930s shiny metal things began to look colder and brighter when chromium plating replaced the soft golden tones of nickel plate. You can clearly see the difference looking at these otherwise identical Leica Elmar lenses (if you … Continue reading

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Delightful Designs – Arteluce Bean Bag Light

Arteluce Model 600p light – Gino Sarfatti 1966 Designed in that ‘Golden Age’ of Italian design* nearly 50 years ago, it still looks startlingly modern today**. A brilliantly simple concept, taking advantage of the leather and metal-working skills of Northern Italy, the … Continue reading

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Housing Design Crisis

In an effort to improve on the woeful standard of housing design in the UK the last government launched the Building for Life 12 scheme in 2014. It is ‘designed to help local communities become more involved in design conversations and in shaping development … Continue reading

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Blot on the Landscape – Close-board Fencing

Is there any nastier or lazier way to mark a boundary than the ubiquitous close-board fence? The cheapest method of enclosing outside space (and looks it) which is why it is thoughtlessly used everywhere. It often blocks ancient routes for wildlife … Continue reading

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Delightful Designs – Alessi Birdsong Tea Strainer

Alessi ‘Tea Matters’ Melodic Tea Strainer – Alan Chan 2010 No other manufacturer would, or could, make such a quirky and delightful product. Ostensibly for straining tea but imagined as a cage containing the strainer in the shape of a bird, all … Continue reading

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Miniature Masterpieces – Leica RASAL and ROSOL Frame Finders

A series of posts celebrating the early Leica camera accessory, ingenious and often beautiful small masterpieces of functional design. Ernst Leitz produced the first ‘system’ camera in 1930 (the Leica 1 Model C), and by 1933 the accessory catalogue ran to over 100 pages. These … Continue reading

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Hiroshige at the Ashmolean

The Ashmolean Museum, in Oxford, has a small part of its Hiroshige collection on display at the moment (closes 15th February 2015): http://www.ashmolean.org/exhibitions/details/?exh=105 The woodblock prints in the exhibition are part of his ‘Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō Road’ series, first published … Continue reading

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Blot on the Townscape #2 – The Blade, Reading

This is the tallest building in Reading (Berkshire, UK) and so the ridiculous silver cardboard pointy bit on the top can unfortunately be seen for miles around. Quote from the building’s website: “Sharp thinking……The curving form of the spire gives … Continue reading

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Miniature Masterpieces – Leica APDOO, WINKO, WINTU and AUFSU

A series of posts celebrating the early Leica camera accessory, ingenious and often beautiful small masterpieces of functional design. Ernst Leitz produced the first ‘system’ camera in 1930 (the Leica 1 Model C), and by 1933 the accessory catalogue ran to over 100 pages. These … Continue reading

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Dismal Designs – Premier Inn

Catching an early flight from Gatwick recently I stayed the night before in the Premier Inn next to Gatwick North Terminal. The nearby car park cost was part of the deal, and it was great to walk next door to the … Continue reading

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Blot on the Historic Landscape – The Port Meadow Scandal

CASTLE MILL GRADUATE STUDENT ACCOMMODATION, OXFORD Port Meadow is an ancient area of water meadow by the Thames on the edge of Oxford. Around 300 acres (120 hectares) in area it is still used for grazing cattle and horses, as it … Continue reading

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Peter Overs – Emu Dreaming

I recently bought a painting by Peter Overs, an aboriginal artist from the Kamilaroi people, currently living in Alice Springs, in the centre of Australia. Painted with acrylic on canvas, it is quite small, (300mm square) but I was really impressed by its … Continue reading

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Dismal Designs – new Mini

I had a 1959 Austin Seven Mini as a partner to my 1926 one (below). The proportions of the grille and headlights were just right, giving it a cheeky, friendly appearance suiting such a revolutionary small car, and making it … Continue reading

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Miniature Masterpieces – Leica VISOR, VIDOM and VIOOH viewfinders

I’m completely besotted with early Leica cameras, as you can tell from the header image (1952 Leica 1f red dial with SBOOI 5cm viewfinder and FOKOS rangefinder). There is a watch-like precision, a combination of delicacy and solidity, about them … Continue reading

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Alessi Makes Serious Coffee

Alessi Neapolitan Coffee Maker – La Tavola di Babele Another one of Alessi’s beautiful masterpieces of design and construction. It only makes a few small cups of delicious coffee and there are a lot of things to clean afterwards, but … Continue reading

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Blot on the Townscape #1 – Oxford

Looking at this horror in the centre of the city you might think it was an electricity sub-station with those gates,  or even University squash courts. But no, it is a block of flats in an area of Victorian terraces … Continue reading

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Great Designers Remembered – George C Blickensderfer and the First Portable Typewriter

Recalling brilliant designers and their creations from the past. George Canfield Blickensderfer (1850-1917) and the Blickensderfer No. 5        A memorable name for such a prolific inventor!  Born in Pennsylvania, USA, he moved to Stamford, Connecticut after his marriage. While working … Continue reading

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Constructivism in Tenerife!

I came across this interesting building in the architectural wasteland of South Tenerife. An old apartment block overlooking the beach in Los Cristianos, it has an early Soviet Union Constructivist flavour about it. Rather a clever concrete structure, there is … Continue reading

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Dismal Designs – Fiat Fiorino

Over the past few years Fiat has produced a string of boring or hideous van designs in equal measure. The Doblo was bad enough, but look at the truly grotesque front end of the new Fiorino. It looks like Popeye’s … Continue reading

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