Russian Rok


It's a bluetooth enabled, data transmitting rock - as used by British spies in Moscow. The recently uncovered spy ring had placed this hollowed out rock in a park. Apparently they communicated with it via their PDAs or mobile phones. Its a classic in the bizzare world of espionage design - as so brilliantly fictionalised in the Bond films. The task seems usually to involve hiding strange powers inside innocent objects.

Perhaps only the British would combine espionage with picturesque landscaping.

It reminded me of a book I read about the design of camoflague in WWII - all kinds of things intended to fool the Nazi bombers into missing their targets. Blow up tanks, cardboard aircraft hangers. There was even a fake oil refinery built out of hardboard. Apperently it was designed by Denis Lasdun - hard to believe when looking at the Southbank. There were also some nice additions to the Houses of Parliament: Gothic revival machine gun emplacements.

This Rock device also recalls Archigrams great project - the RokPlug. Below is a piece I wrote about that project a while ago.


David Greenes 'RokPlug'

William Morris' "News from Nowhere" is set in a sci-fi post-revolutionary future London - a London where the Houses of Parliament have become a manure store, where school is a forest that has grown in Kensington Gardens. Morris' future is of a bucolic London, and its part of an English tradition of Futurism that looks a lot like the past. In Continental Modernism the future was constructed through the destruction of history. English modernism was a little more forgiving, practical, cuter, nicer, and a whole lot less exciting. It was reconciliation between disparate tendencies. In Ruskin: man and landscape, William Morris: the medieval with the industrial revolution, Ebeneezer Howard: city and country.

David Greenes RokPlug project, the fake lump of rock that hides a high tech network node and power supply, might just be part of this tradition. Designed to be placed in rural locations to enable communication and activity, the RokPlug can't help but evoke Stone Age megaliths - objects that were also high tech communication devices of their age (though exactly what they were comunicating and to whom is shrouded in pre-history). These pre historic stones are the first human monuments, the very first architecture.

Julian Cope, the ex Teardrop Explodes frontman and now megalith expert describes " The joyous and unconscious act of erecting a standing stone in response to the jubilation of learning to farm may have been the single specifically inharmonious act which has become know biblically as the Fall. For it was at this moment that humans first peeled themselves away from the Mother Earth just long enough to feel a true Separation" .

By isolating the moment architecture is invented, RokPlug takes us all the way back to when it first went wrong. RokPulg rewinds history further back than the pre industrial landscape of "News From Nowhere" to a pre agrarian scene. RokPlug lays that stone back flat on the ground, un-inventing architecture in a bid to regain paradise. This idea is made explicit in a later Greene project. Based on a machine called the "City Crusher" which breaks up concrete back into aggregate. Greene worked out how long the city crusher would take to break up the Empire State Building. This is techo-primativism, a belief that only technology can return us to a bucolic state, and that progress doesnt need to look like the future.

Posted by sam at January 24, 2006 12:39 PM


Interesting indeed! Do you have the name of that book on the design of camoflague that you mentioned early in the post?

Posted by: Ian on September 26, 2007 9:38 PM

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