Art + Design

Three questions for Geoff Manaugh, author of The BLDGBLOG Book

I have such a hard time not picturing Geoff Manaugh in a pith helmet. Not the military variety, but the ones you typically associate with 19th-century British explorers on safari. I know, it’s very silly (and totally un-PC), but in my mind, Geoff is a modern explorer, a cyber-age synthesis of Ferdinand Magellan/Jules Verne/Neil Armstrong/Le Corbusier.

His new book, The BLDGBLOG Book, is based on a blog by the same name, which he has been writing since 2004. It’s a feast for the imagination, weaving together architecture, science fiction, and pop culture into a fascinating collection of illustrated essays that speculate on the future of our built environment. GOOD magazine posted a great review of the book last week that does far more justice to the work than I can in this short space.

Geoff took a short breather from safari on an abandoned island in Sydney Harbor to share his thoughts with us on The Book vs. The Blog, his fantastic summer voyage, and his next big plans.

You are known for your musings on the future of built environments. I’m curious, with all of the rhetoric around the future/death of print in the digital age, what do you think of the BLDGBLOG book as a tangible object in comparison to the blog?

Having a tangible book in this case is quite interesting, I think, because reading a printed artifact has very different requirements than reading a blog. In other words, with a blog – indeed, with anything written online – you need, at the very least, electricity, internet access, and a computer, but with a book you can just sit out in the park on a Saturday afternoon and do some reading. You can take it deep into a building that has no wifi signals and still read it – and you can take notes, photocopy things, travel with it, and so on. So it’s quite a different experience. After all, it’s very easy for a blog to become inaccessible – even something as simple as staying in a hotel with no internet access means that my blog effectively doesn’t exist. On the other hand, you can lose a book quite easily…

I’ve been following your tweets this summer and you seem to have covered an amazing amount of ground. Can you give us a recap of your travel itinerary and share some highlights?

This summer has been a great mix of work and vacation – we’ve been down in the catacombs of Rome, out on an abandoned industrial island and former prison in the Sydney Harbor (where I’m teaching a two-week design studio), in a museum full of old scientific equipment in Paris, and then the big book launch was back in London in early July. There are a few more side-trips within this larger trip yet to come, mostly to speak at conferences and so on, but my wife and I also have some pure vacation days built into this. To make a long story short, it’s been fantastic so far.

My god, I’m exhausted just thinking about an average day in the life of Geoff Manaugh. But it seems like you’re only just getting started. Got any big plans for the future?

When we get back to the States we’ll be starting off in NYC for another book launch – the North American one – and then we’ll be driving across the country to do some more lectures, visit family and friends, and just see things and hike and have a good time. That brings us back to Los Angeles at the end – and, yeah, I would definitely say that I have big plans, from future books and films to videogame ideas, architectural designs, and hopefully some teaching. We’ll see if any or all of those come true.

You can read Geoff’s musings on his blog here and tap into his wanderlust on Twitter here.

More: 10 Reasons to Read the BLDGBLOG Book

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer, book lover, and the founder of Silent Book Club. She lives in San Francisco. She also was the senior community manager at Chronicle Books from 2009-2014.

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