Most Beautiful Items: August 17 - 23, 2013

Illustration for article titled Most Beautiful Items: August 17 - 23, 2013

You're in the homestretch. The weekend, my friends, is at hand. But before you disembark, check out some of our favorite finds from the worlds of art, architecture, and design over the past week. It's plenty to tide you over before you hit happy hour.

This Artist Paints With Pigments Made From Toxic Sludge

Nature in all its unspoiled glory has played muse to many artists through the years, but the ever-increasing ways we’ve sullied the earth have, themselves, offered new inspiration for eco-conscious creative types.John Sabraw, an artist and professor at Ohio University, was checking out some abandoned coal mines in…


The Amazing Art of Perfect Portrait Photography

A well-shot portrait is an amazing thing: it can reveal hidden depths of personality and convey layers upon layers of emotional complexity. This video tries to get to the bottom of what makes the perfect portrait photograph.

These Toys Have Hilarious Real Life Problems

Toys are supposed to serve as an escape for real life, worries and limitations don't exist when you're just playing around. But artist Santlovimagined a harsher reality for toys, one where they live lives just as boring as ours. In these prints, Santlov puts your typical toys and action figures in mundane situations…


An Ephemeral Tour of Europe's Abandoned Industrial Ruins

We Americans tend to conceptualize "old" in very recent terms—which explains our collective fascination with ruin porn. If the decay of European cities receives less attention, it's just because it's much more ubiquitous. French photographer and self-described "urban explorer"Thomas Jorion has made a career out of…


This Glowing Train Is Bringing Art, Music, and Yurts to Middle America

The best music and art festival of 2013 isn’t happening in a park or on a boat. It’s taking place on a moving train. Profiled in Wired’s forthcoming Design Issue, artist Doug Aitken is packing a slew of artists and bands onto a train, crossing from New York to San Francisco over the course of ten days in September.…


Seoul's Government Installed a Giant Ear to Collect Citizen Complaints


There's something unsatisfying about making a traditional complaint. As you're filling out the form, you can almost see the government bureaucrat crumpling it up and throwing it away a few days later. Wouldn't it be great if you could just yell at the pencil pushers directly? In Seoul, you can.

Watch Copenhagen's Inflatable Community Center Blow Up Around Town

In the swinging 1970s, inflatable architecture—along with geodesic domes and conversation pits—was all the rage. But over the past few years we've seen a resurgence in pneumatically powered structures, which are actually surprisingly functional as temporary event spaces. The latest? Aeropolis, a big, reflective…


Metropolis: The Real-Life Town That Superman Couldn't Save


Until the 1970s, the tiny southern Illinois town of Metropolis had two claims to fame: The long-demolished fort George Washington had founded nearby, and the Uranium Hexafluoride Processing Facility, which employed hundreds of its citizens. But in June 1972, the Illinois House of Representatives and DC Comics gave…

Watch a House Go From Flatbed to Fully Built in Less Than a Day

If you're familiar with architect Richard Rogers, it's likely through buildings like the Pompidou Center and the London Shard, where the guts of the structure—from elevators to plumbing—are put on display. But did you know Rogers is also pioneering a new generation of flatpack prefab housing?


Ancient Romans Built Monuments Centuries Before Archaeologists Believed

We already knew Rome wasn't built in a day. But it turns out it took a lot longer to build than anyone imagined. According to The New York Times, last summer an archeological dig about 11 miles from central Rome revealed that the Romans were erecting monuments far earlier than we previously thought.


How a Crumbling 1960s Stadium Was Resurrected to Host the World Cup


When the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Brazil next year, matches will take place inside of Mineirão Stadium, a 50-year-old venue that was in ruins only a decade ago. But thanks to some careful renovations at the hands of BCMF Arquitetos, it's new again—and ready for a little soccer action.

Incredible Before-and-After Photos Match Up Old and New NYC

New York documentarian Paul Sahner's blogNYC Grid is a lovely project, and amongst the coolest recurring features on the site is Before & After, which compares archival images of New York monuments with photos of the same spot today. Above, we see the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge as it was in 1915, compared with…


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