Saturday, June 26, 2010


Bought this as a sort of birthday present for myself at the beginning of the year. Found it in a second-hand bookshop in Crewekerne - it was a bit pricey for what it is, but I had to have it. What I really like about it is it's a late-90's edition of AR, so what they posited as cutting-edge or even - *eeek* - 'futuristic' back then, isn't.

Of course, that's not the point. Architecture also needs to have those elements and qualities embedded it that us proles call "Timeless"; the people who design these structures need to fool themselves (and us!) that their modern/futuristic designs will somehow remain that way and that if they do 'date' then they won't date as badly as the buildings aorund them - that their work contains (I don't quite have a word for this...) inner essences that will transcend the forces of erosion, entropy and decay and become, erm, "Timeless", "Classic" and other words that we use to describe Something-Old-That-Contains-Vaguely-Transcendental-Qualities-That-We-All-Subsconsciously-Agree-Are-Cool-And-Good.

When we see objects / buildings like that we all just sorta nod and make non-verbal noises - we're edging into post-linguistic territory here: where terms like "shared values" and (ulp!) "nobility" are about the best we can come up with to talk about these sort of things. These are almost-archetypes - buildings and objects and art that we hope will reflect the very best in us as individuals and as a species...and, since they're sort of weird mirrors of ourselves and our civilisation, and are designed to make all sorts of statements about Us both singularly and collectively, then we like to think or believe that these things - like us - won't ever age. Big Modern Public Architecture must stir up all sorts of subconscious conceits in the architect himself - even the most forward-thinking, futuristic building of any age becomes Legacy the moment it leaves the designer's brain and becomes a physical object. Buildings contain all sorts of tangled / fractured narratives; Mortality is just one of them.

Ummm, kinda drifted off somewhere there...think I meant to talk about how even that Late-90's notion of 'sci-fi architecture' has already started to 'date' and look ever-so-slightly retro (even the magazine's lay-out, font-set, house photography style is on the cusp of looking, well...) . That's what I meant to talk about when I said "Of course, that's not the point."

I like all that though. I like that point where drift starts to set in, where A Now Extrapolation drifts into being a Now, which then becomes a Possible Future, which then becomes a failed Future, PoMo Grist, Laughable Retro-Redundancy and eventually a form of Medievalised Exotica - something whose original inbuilt symbolism(s) are lost to the realm of Arcania.

Mostly, tho, I like looking at the pretty pictures.

I like to look at those half-built imaginings, schematics and soft wireframe models and try to visualise the sort of people and things who might've lived there if these were real Blueprints-for-Living. I think those people would still be very much like us; oh sure, their behavioural tics and the minituae of their lives would be different, but their dreams and their needs would still be very close to our ours. The ideal of 'freedom' - of having a place where we can be notionally 'free' to dream or be ourselves in some way - is something that'll never go out of fashion, irregardless of whether it's 1683, 1999 or 5641. That's true "Timelessness".

(Interesting that this ish is called "Sci-Fi" and not "SF".)

There's some amazing pictures and engravings here - designs for Cities or Communities "in the Sky" that date back to the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries - utopian stuctures held aloft by gas-bladders and sails that totally blew me away more than the New Stuff.

Strange to think that some day our own notions of Futurity will look as Ridiculously-Naive-Yet-Inspiringly-Exotic as those.

One of the things that define us best as a species is, I think, our continuing ability to dream in the face of the bullshit physical reality that we've built. The idea of 'Improvement' seems to be hardwired into our heads as much as it drives the bio-evolutionary forces of Nature.


At 3:06 pm, Blogger Fritz Bogott said...

Science Fiction Architecture Checklist:

☐ Science Client
☐ Science Form
☐ Science Materials
☐ Fiction Client
☐ Fiction Form
☐ Fiction Materials


Nicola Tesla's ghost commissioned us to build a floating laboratory for the study of the sprites that are conceived when solar radiation fertilizes the ionosphere. He demanded that we build it in his own ghostly image. Our structural engineer is pushing us to build it out of ectoplasm/plasma amalgam.

☑ Science Client
☑ Science Form
☑ Science Materials
☑ Fiction Client
☑ Fiction Form
☑ Fiction Materials


Now you.

At 4:15 pm, Blogger Fritz Bogott said...

Architects in the 2010 are like scribes in the times when regular people needed a scribe to get a letter written.

The kind of architecture I care about is at the OS and tools level, so that in the future:

A) every city will be anarchic and DIY, à la Kowloon Walled city or Black Rock City, and

B) every city will be more secure, flexible and user-friendly than any city is now.

Once we have this we won't even understand the illiterate/Latin Mass stage we're at now.

Of course, the OS itself will be tyrannical in the same way that English is tyrannical: The OS defines which thoughts are thinkable and which unthinkable.

Therefore, the architects of the future will be 100% dedicated to hacking and/or blowing up the OS that the architects of the present created for them.

Circle-A rchitecture!

At 7:04 pm, Blogger db said...

If Burning Man is the future of architecture, I'll be over here in my suicide booth, thank you very much.

Need to think a bit more on both this and the design fiction post now that I'm offically decamped in Oakland. Update soonish!


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