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In the papers today: 09.01.08

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In architecture and the built environment, the hedonism/worthiness debate rages on.

Today, hedonism pulls ahead in the news. Maybe that’s because it’s a rather bleak Wednesday – why not fantasise through bright colours, shiny lights, or reliving past days of disco and post-disco glory?

First up, the Guardian presents the six shortlisted artists under consideration for the next round of the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square. Under inspection are: a performance installation conceived by Antony Gormley who, it turns out, is taking cues from Tino Sehgal, whereby pedestrians sit for an hour at a time, 24 hours a day, on the plinth doing anything they want; a set of meerkat sculptures by Tracey Emin; several sky-reflecting mirrors by Anish Kapoor; a large ship-in-a-bottle by Yinka Shonibare; a burnt out car from Iraq by Jeremy Deller; and a large scaffolding featuring the neon text ‘Faites L’Art, pas La Guerre’ by Bob and Robert Smith – a pseudonym for Patrick Brill – all powered by solar and wind-generated energy. The latter, says the Guardian’s visual arts critic Adrian Searle has ‘the brazen vitality reminiscent of 1960s French nouveau réalisme’. Perhaps worthy and hedonistic aren’t mutually exclusive.

Matching the glitz and pomp of Brill’s sculpture, the Daily Telegraph features ‘the most expensive new-build property ever to be sold in Britain’. The house, in Hampstead, was just sold to Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev for £35 billion. It features a pool tiled in gold and a salon. Think Los Angeles in the 1980s, minus the sun and hopefully the drugs.

Meanwhile Stephen Bayley, also in the Daily Telegraph , presents his take on the development of fashion, architecture, transportation vehicles, and furniture through the 1970s and 80s. Highlights include the proclamation that those decades saw the beginning of the ‘terminal decline of fashion’ and the downfall of air travel after its democratisation following Boeing’s release of its jumbo 747. Images of freestylists, popular TV programme Mork and Mindy, a Walkman (!), and Star Wars celebrate the lightness of that era.

Now we have bigger worries, evidenced by a third article in the Telegraph . Forget your jaunt through the gilded and frenetic past. Refocus on renewable energy and look to the one thing we’ll soon have an abundance of: the ocean. Evaporated seawater can be used to power wind turbines to create electricity. After, the water is desalinated and filtered through a condensing process. It’s a two-for-one, and a reality check bringing us back to that dismal Wednesday…

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