Sweet dreams of modernist holidays

I watched the original film The Italian Job (the Michael Caine classic) a few months back and once again loved the ending of the bus hanging over the cliff. So when I saw this picture of a holiday home, apparently inspired in part by the film, I immediately wanted to book it for our family holiday next year.

The Balancing Barn, currently being built near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, is one of three holiday homes currently under construction by Living Architecture. I love their idea of making it possible for ordinary people to be able to experience what it is like to live, eat and sleep in a space designed by a world-class architect. Whilst there are examples of great modern buildings in Britain, they tend to be in places that you and I only pass through (eg. airports, museums, offices), and the few truly great modern houses that exist in the UK are almost all in private hands.

Living Architecture recently won a Conde Nast Traveller Innovation and Design award, rightly in my view sitting alongside the iPad and other brilliant examples of innovation in the last year. Architecture and holiday homes have not been happy bedfellows in my experience in the UK, and it’s great to see real innovation in architecture being celebrated, but in a way which gives people access to enjoy it. And of course, I get to play Michael Caine on the coach.

Getting a Fix off the Internet

internet attention span deficitWhat is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

WH Davies’ opening lines of his poem Leisure came to me at the end of another hectic week in which I flitted from e-mail to tweet to blog, hooked on communication but managing to spend ever less time actually reading.

Only ten years ago I would read a novel a fortnight. Now I fill most of my reading hours with the sort of material I can consume in seconds: Twitter, Facebook, news alerts, blogs, e-mail and lots and lots of searches.

I am not alone. Nicholas Carr asked in the Atlantic this time last year “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”  In it he speculates that our constant Internet scrolling is remodeling our brains to make it nearly impossible for us to sustain attention.

Emily Yoffe followed up in Slate, drawing on more than 50 years of psychology experiments to conclude that the internet feeds the “seeking” part of our brains, flooding them with dopamine, but never accessing the opioids to deliver pleasure to the brain.

Our brains are designed to be more easily stimulated than satisfied. “The brain seems to be more stingy with mechanisms for pleasure than for desire,” according to University of Michigan research.

“The dopamine system does not have satiety built into it,” Michigan researcher Kent Berridge explains. “And under certain conditions it can lead us to irrational wants we’d be better off without.”

So one Google search leads to another, although the information is not vital. It becomes easier to write an e-mail than a long paper. And we keep hitting “enter” to get our next fix.

If you’re still reading this article, then we’re not altogether lost. But do mankind a favour. Consider walking away from the blog and go and read a good book for a change.