Scenic City

Palmeira Square camouflaged base station

Camouflaged mobile phone base station components, ref: 23313, Palmeira Square, Hove. Source: Google Street View.

The proliferation of mobile phone base station equipment in cities and in the open landscape has given rise to a new form of scenic art dedicated to reducing visual impact by disguise.

Planning guidance on the siting and design of equipment has led operators to employ stage painting and set building techniques to blend apparatus into the landscape.

Industrial scenic art company Scene Unseen offers a bespoke camouflage service and can reproduce a variety of materials including brick, coursed and random stone, slate and ceramic roof tiles, new and aged concrete, pebbledash, render mineralised roofing felt, decorative plaster and lead.

Scene Unseen - Painted antennas & mounts before installation. Clapham, London

Mobile Phone Base Station Finder

Planning Policy Guidance 8: Telecommunications 2006

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Simulated Sky

I recently visited James Turrell‘s Celestial Vault in Den Haag, the experience of which was close to that of flying or falling through space whilst at the same time being suspended upside down in a bell jar.

It got me thinking about the ways in which space or the sky has been simulated through architecture and projected images and in particular brought to mind a sky simulator near my home in Shoreham by Sea, designed for training anti-aircraft gunners in WWII. Housing an early example of surround sound and 180 degree projection, the Gunnery Dome Trainer was a structure designed by Henry Stephen in 1941 to develop the use of film in military training.

“Gunners undergoing training were given imitation guns supplied with a small projector which shone a spot of light at the exact point where the operators were firing.   This gave the instructor some idea of the estimation of trainees’ accuracy. As the gunners pulled the trigger, a soundtrack played the noise of a firing shot — with a duration of approximately five seconds — being the time it took to empty the cartridge of ammunition.” THE SECOND WORLD WAR YEARS IN FINDON — 1941/1942,  Valerie Martin, Originally published in the Findon News, May 2001.

“… inside the dome either side of the entrance door there were two small offices, one contained the light beam source, and the other for the equipment which projected the silhouette of an aircraft onto the dome.” SHOREHAM IN WWII, Gerry White, 2009

There is a short British Pathé news clip of the system in use in an inflatable version of the building in Portsmouth.

Below a Gunnery Dome Trainer undergoing restoration at the former RAF base at Langham, Norfolk

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Map Room – Ponderosa

One in a series of video installations I am working on that show the animated drawing of landscape maps featured in popular works of fiction.

This was shown in the exhibition, Chipka at Netwerk, Aalst Belgium earlier this year. It shows the developing landscape of the American west as I imagine it, a kind of prequel to the map illustrated in the title sequence of Bonanza (1959-1973) drawn by Robert Temple Ayres. The animation lasts for 10 minutes and is shown in a continuous loop projected onto a large map table.

The drawing begins with a blank page – Rivers, and hills begin to form – Trees take root and the land becomes forested – Pioneers drawn by the promise of riches, pan for gold and mine for silver – Outposts and trade routes are established – Areas of the forest are cleared as towns and trade grow – Cattle roam across enclosed ranches – Political and legal authority is imposed – Banks are built – The economy booms with the development of transport networks and new technology – Factories are built drawing in a new labour force – Towns and trading posts join to form cities –  The map burns – The cycle repeats

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Giving such reality to a tale

Dear Sirs,

I enclose for your inspection a Sketch of the supposed scene in which the ‘Return of the Native’ is laid – copied from the one I used in writing the story – & my suggestion is that we place an engraving of it as frontispiece to the first volume. Unity of place is so seldom preserved in novels that a map of the scene of action is as a rule impracticable; but since the present story affords an opportunity of doing so I am of opinion that it would be a desirable novelty, likely to increase a reader’s interest. I may add that a critic once remarked to me that nothing could give such reality to a tale as a map of this sort: & I myself have often felt the same thing.

The expense of the engraving would not, I imagine, be very great. In the drawing for the book it would be desirable to shade the hills more fully than I have done in the sketch.

Hoping that you will be disposed to give the suggestion a trial, I am, Dear Sirs

Yours faithfully

Thomas Hardy

p440-441, Appendix B, Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy, Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-14-043518-2

Andrew Ray on Egdon Heath and The Return of the Native in his ‘art and landscape’ blog Some Landscapes.

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That last landscape

My new blog and a couple of starting points –

The blog title comes from a line in W. H. Auden’s The Age of Anxiety.

“…Does it exist, That last landscape, Of gloom and glaciers and great storms…”

The header image is a photo of the Vauban models in the basement of the Palais de Beaux Arts in Lille.

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