The Eye of the Fish

April 2, 2010

Eye round-up the sheep

Aah well, sounds like no one quite fell for it yesterday – the prospect must have been just too outrageous. Although: weirder things have happened. Like what, I hear you ask? Well, like the National government passing legislation in one day to abolish a democratically elected environment board. I mean, isn’t that just the littlest bit anti-democratic? Just the teensiest bit like what fascists dictators do, such as Fiji’s Bainimarama, or umm, like Germany’s Nazi party in their distant past? I know, I know, I mentioned Nazi – but really, what is the point of having a democracy if the Government abolishes democracy and passes laws under urgency in a single day, without any come back? What the hell is New Zild coming to? Luckily for Key, we’re all too obese and placid here in this lovely little country to bother protesting about our gross invasion of personal rights, or our mining of Conservation lands, or the selling off of anything that moves (coming soon, mark my words).


Anyway: back to the broadcast. April Fools anyone? I didn’t see much out there at all. The Dominion seemed very well behaved. Even the advertisers seemed to have refrained. Although, yesterday, the following headline got me going: Anish Kapoor to design iconic landmark for the Olympic Park 01. apr. 2010
Surely this was a giant piss-take I thought?

The blurb about this follows:

“The Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Lakshmi Mittal, Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, unveiled the artist and design chosen to create a spectacular new visitor attraction in the Olympic Park.

Award winning London-based artist Anish Kapoor has been given the commission of a lifetime to design the spectacular new public attraction in the Olympic Park. The stunning artwork, to be entitled “The ArcelorMittal Orbit”, will ensure the Park remains an unrivalled visitor destination following the 2012 Games, providing the key Olympic legacy Mayor of London Boris Johnson envisaged for the East End.

The breathtaking sculpture – thought to be the tallest in the UK – will consist of a continuous looping lattice of tubular steel. Standing at a gigantic 115m, it will be 22m taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York and offer unparalleled views of the entire 250 acres of the Olympic Park and London’s skyline from a special viewing platform. Visitors will be able to take a trip up the statuesque structure in a huge lift and will have the option of walking down the spiralling staircase.”

Hmmm. It’s a bit bigger than usual to be an April Fool, and doesn’t appear anywhere yet on the official London Olympic website under news – is it for real, or just a giant hoax? Opinions, or facts please!

In other news, I’ve only just noticed that there is, at last, a decent blog about Auckland architecture up and running, called Eye on Auckland. Unlike Share Architecture, which publishes regularly, but garners no comments or opinions, the Eye on Auckland is, like the fearless commenteurs, flaneurs, poseurs, scriveners and raconteurs at the Eye of the Fish, happy to give opinions. Witness the following:

“2010 is shaping up to be a busy year for Auckland. We believe that there will be a flurry of construction and infrastructure projects across greater Auckland beginning in the last quarter of 2009, continuing through 2010 and all the way through to mid 2011. We will be so bold as to predict that 2011 onwards we will see Auckland’s skyline change beyond recognition. Inside information suggests that Auckland is going to be a completely different city come 2016 and we welcome that with open arms.”

Well that would be great if it is true (posted July 31 2009), although I have my doubts. I thought that Auckland was in property doldrums, as we are here in Wellington. Whoever the Eye on Auckland is (no relation to the Eye of the Fish as far as we know), they’re not afraid to hold back on comment about their Auckland City Council: “nobody seems to even remember that the World’s 3rd largest sporting event will be hosted by Auckland, most are not even interested unless the All Black’s are guaranteed to win and the dullest, repressed city council on Earth has made sure that we are kept in the dark.” That’s from their opening blogpost in April 2009. They’re right about that one! And, welcome aboard Eye on Auckland.

Around the country then, there are a few other commenters on design. Dunedin has an active blog on their Stadium and there is of course a raging debate going on in Christchurch, where all they can talk about is whether the Music School should be built in the Arts Centre car park. It’s turning into a nasty, spiteful bitch-fest between Beaven and Warren, both at each others septuagarian throats. We might even post some more on that later. But for now: Oestre. Pagan festival, Religious festival, Commercial opportunity. Whatever: Happy Easter.

2 - 04 - 10

>Just the teensiest bit like what fascists dictators do, such as Fiji’s Bainimarama, or umm, like Germany’s Nazi party in their distant past?

Or that famous fascist dictator Helen Clark, who sacked Rodney District Council and replaced it with a commissioner? Or that other fascist dictator, coincidentally also named Helen Clark, who sacked the elected Hawkes Bay DHB and replaced it with a commissioner?

2 - 04 - 10

Oh, and I think the tower is an incredible looking thing. I hope it isn’t a hoax, altho I’m left wondering by the giant paved open area that it is sitting in. Is there really an open area that size in London which isn’t a grassed-over public park?

2 - 04 - 10

The awkward thing for your analogies, dp, is that the Rodney District council was replaced under long-standing provisions of the Local Government Act after 6 of its 13 members resigned. It was reinstated by a regular electoral process within 12 months. The Hawkes Bay DHB was fired following an enquiry by the Director General of Health into conflict of interest allegations and will be reinstated as scheduled at this year’s local body elections.

Not much of a coup really…

2 - 04 - 10

dp – the giant paved open area, is – or was – a part of East London / Stratford, that was apparently well overdue for a revamp. I agree though that the sheer physical size of the unremitting grey expanse in that photo seems to imply that all London’s carefully wrought urban design principles have gone out the door. I’m sure in no time at all they’ll fill it up with dead pigeons, crisp packets, and a large branch of Argos.

There’s a lot to be said, in some ways, for a benevolent dictator. You don’t have to go to all that bother of listening to politicians, vetting their credit card bills, and even the time-wasting opportunity of voting. Witness the fact that although NZ and the US are both so wonderfully democratic, most of us can’t be arsed to actually vote, and hence we have some of the lowest voter turnouts in the world.

But there is, in my tiny fish-like mind, something totally wrong with a government that insists on passing legislation through in a single day, literally ramming it through overnight, without the benefit of Select Committees – and of course we abolished our Upper House in 1951? so we are, paradoxically, under the Key government, currently one of the most undemocratic democracies in the world.

Still, if nobody gives a damn, and nobody protests about it, then it may as well become standard practice. I mean, really, what point is there in a parliament at all? If this practice of passing legislation in one day is such a good idea, then why don’t we just do that all the time? Empty out the Beehive and turn it into an Aviary instead.

I’m sure there was some logical, sane, and wholly democratic reason for National’s action, although I have no idea what that may be, aside from intensive lobbying on behalf of businesses, who were not happy with the decisions that the democratically elected Environment Canterbury were making. Like, ooh, perhaps not letting farmers draw off 150% of the water available ? Who needs water more anyway – farmers so we can export more butter, or the public, who will only flush it down the drain anyway?

2 - 04 - 10

starkive… ECan was also fired after an inquiry, so I’m not sure why you think there is any difference between that body and HB DHB. IIRC the conflict of interest revolved around a friend of Minister of Health Annette King who she appointed to the DHB board, who had business dealings with King’s husband, and who had tenders changed to favour himself and King’s husband. The person who should have been sacked was Annette King, rather than the elected DHB board members. There wasn’t much they could do to stop King and her cronies rorting the system.

But the principles are clear. Local bodies aren’t sovereign… but the NZ Government is. Local bodies act on the basis of authority delegated to them by central government. When they’re unable to deliver on their responsibilities, central government has the right to step in and take action. Apart from Rodney DC and HB DHB, this happens on a fairly regular basis when elected school boards are unable to perform the duties that they are required to perform under legislation. In the case of ECan, they have been trying to write a water plan (as they are required to do, by law) for 18 years and haven’t succeeded. That’s an epic fail and the question is why they have been allowed to continue for so long without action being taken. Would the government sit on its hands for 18 years while an elected school board failed to hire teachers or open the school and hold classes? Would a DHB be allowed to stop operating on sick people for 18 years while they tried to write a budget?

Oh, and passing legislation under urgency is fairly standard practice already. The last Labour government passed 149 bills with their 3rd reading under urgency. That about one every three weeks.

4 - 04 - 10

While there weren’t that many AFs this year in NZ, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have forgotten its solemn duties to mess with your mind at least once a year. You may like to check out the info from Google on their latest search engine / page ranking system:

and also a Google translation service into / from Australian, for use in car navigation services:

There’s also a possible Ad campaign for the UK Labour party, that Phil Goff seems to have got an advance copy of:

and a highly likely story on the latest in broadband technology roll-out:

4 - 04 - 10

Yes, that Nazi word. I’ve pondered and thought about my willingness to use the words ‘facist’, and to give the nazi salute to National Paryt politicans and ministers (as I did once to Murray McCully, in a Whangarei supermarket, as he walked past me in the vegetable section – he noticed and stared at me a couple of times, but I suspect the point was completely lost on him).

Anyway, you may care to read Claire Browning’s excellent examination of the ECan issue on the PUNDIT blog, and in particular the commentary below, including extensive commentary from a former water consents officer at ECan.

Upshot, water’s a resource, and a valuable one at that on the dry plains of Canty. Elements fell into place such that yes, of course the water plan was never completed because it would restrict the resource; you had councillors with direct interests in water allocation making decisions about allocations and progress of the water plan, and compliant staff. No wonder cow cockies were in the hay at ECan. The upcoming elections were shaping up to dump the cow cockies from the warm councillors chairs, so the Nats were prevailed upon to cancel the elections in order to preserve excessive and outrageous access to water, by sticking in compliant ‘commissioners’. Being Nats, closet cow cockies, they did just that.

4 - 04 - 10

chris – “closet” ? ????

and yes, regarding McCully, he’s none too clever – perhaps he just thought you were pointing out the specials on the top shelf….

6 - 04 - 10

Christopher>but I suspect the point was completely lost on him

You are Andrew Williams and I claim my $5!

7 - 04 - 10

Well the council was removed in urgency with no ability for public consultation or select committee process. Rodney was totally different with half the councillors resigning and wanting to be replaced after an extensive review. The Ministerial ordered review of ECAN was a set up job and a private affair without public consultation. Not a good way to run inclusive government.

12 - 04 - 10

Just a brief break back onto the original part of this post – the giant red tower – and some links:
Jonathan Glancey
The Guardian, Thursday 1 April 2010
“I know this is April Fool’s Day, yet the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the striking asymmetric red tower you see here, is indeed the Joker in the Olympian pack. I mean that favourably. With the exception of Zaha Hadid’s watered-down aquatics centre, the architecture and landscaping of the 2012 Olympics promises little to get excited about.
Now, like an unexpected Joker popping up in a politely arranged hand of cards, Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond’s 115m Orbit raises the Olympic design stakes provocatively skywards. What an extraordinary thing this is: a strange and enticing marriage of sorts between the Eiffel Tower and Tatlin’s Tower (an unbuilt Soviet Russian monument designed in 1920 that would have dwarfed Eiffel’s), with the Tower of Babel as best man. The AM Orbit promises to be a genuine eyecatcher, the focus of TV camera crews at Stratford during the 2012 Games.
For Kapoor and Balmond, this fusion between striking art and daring engineering, is meant to represent the energy of the Games themselves. And, just as the way humans run is a triumph of dynamic motion over inherent instability, so the tower rises in a continuous unfolding and overlapping of “unstable”, non-linear or eccentric orbits. But, don’t worry; the steel tower will be quite stable.
Its design is that of a giant lattice tripod sporting a counterweight collar around its neck designed to offset the weight of its head, a two-storey dining and viewing gallery. Or, as Balmond explains: “Imagine the tower as a pattern cut out from a giant steel cone; you get stability and a filigree quality at one and the same time.” Kapoor and Balmond have described the tower as an enormous “steel knot”, the unravelling of a sensationally long strand of steel, or as the biggest ever “treble clef.”
Whatever you make of its shape, it will certainly be fun to sprint up and down its 500 winding stairs, or ride up it serenely in a steel lattice lift. Kapoor and Balmond enjoy an established track record working on giant and defiantly different public artworks. This decidedly different tower, Olympian in ambition, should continue to delight us long after the Olympics have been forgotten.”
Will the Orbit become London’s Eiffel?
How does Anish Kapoor’s ‘Mr Messy’ design for an Olympic tower compare to Gustave Eiffel’s Paris icon?
John Graham-Cumming, Friday 2 April 2010 14.00 BST
At the unveiling of Anish Kapoor’s design for the Orbit tower it was compared to the Colossus of Rhodes and the Tower of Babel. But the history of those follies isn’t auspicious. The Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed by an earthquake after standing for only a few decades, and the Tower of Babel was, the book of Genesis tells us, constructed to glorify those that constructed it.

I can’t help wondering to what extent the ArcelorMittal Orbit is being built for the glory of Boris Johnson, Kapoor and Lakshmi Mittal. And as details emerge of its Olympic corporate entertainment role, it looks less and less like a work of art. But setting the motivation of the creators aside, the worst comparison of all is with the Eiffel Tower.

…Writing in the Times, the architecture critic Tom Dyckhoff described the tower as a “giant Mr Messy”. But initial reactions should be tempered by allowing time to pass; perhaps I’ll get over thinking it looks like a giant blood clot. Whether you love it or hate it, the last word should go to Johnson, who said of the Orbit: “It would have boggled Gustave Eiffel”. There’s no arguing with that.

some UK comments:
Steve: Are we not pissing away enough money on this ludicrous circus without having to add tawdry bells and whistles?
Will someone please tell Boris the country is bloody well bankrupt. I’d rather keep a few teachers in work, OK?

Drjohnzoldberg: even if built it’ll last 50 years tops before it topples over. there does seem to be a bit of the emperor’s new clothes about this…let’s face it, it’s not public monumental art, it’s a fucking hideous bunch of girders stuck together.
i’m with stevehill, we’re fucking skint and the last thing we need is a billionaire’s vanity project. better schools and services, or just using the money to maintain the current levels…but this monstrosity is ridiculous.