Here are couple inspiring pictures from our last tutorial. Students are now focusing on developing larger models. They will soon choose between submitting an installation for Buro Happold’s new HQ or the Burning Man festival.
DS10 started the year researching sci-fi novels, movies, magazines and technological discoveries from the past two centuries. Here are the timelines showing the historical and political events,as well as the technological discoveries that greatly influenced Science Fiction from the 1800s until today.
The beginning of the 20th century, and more specifically, the interwar, witnessed many changes, especially technology wise, which, along with the economical climate of the time and the emerging social ideas, favored new political regimes and carved the way for visionaries to imagine new cities and new worlds.
The spirit of the machine age was becoming dominant, industry was beginning to shape the economy and advancements in the car industry (new engines and new tires were being developed at that time) started changing the way people lived.
At the same time the radio was taking shape, with the first broadcasting station being established in the US in 1920 and quickly spreading. In 1928 the radio beacon was invented, and by 1930 the radio was mainstream, providing people with cheap entertainment (the US were going to the Great Depression, radio was cheap and fun) and political powers with a great tool for propaganda. The TV was also invented in this period, with the electrical TV being discovered in 1927.
Politically, dictatorship was beginning to take shape.
Mussolini came to power in 1922, promoting a cult for personality and laying down the principles of the doctrine of fascism. Propaganda was one of his main tools, and the radio was a very good medium for doing this. He presented his ideas of idealism by imposing ideas of collective and hierarchy.
Shortly after, Germany was become Nazi Germany, with Hitler rising to power. Again, this was a regime were the power was centralized in the hands of the dictator, who, through propaganda, burning of books and controlling the radio, was controlling public opinion and the arts society. Needles to say, Hitler`s ideal society was one based on race, and homogeneity.
Russia was also seeing changes. Stalin rose to power and set the goal for a communist society. He promoted authoritarianism, a centralized state and collectivization. He saw the opportunity of the machine age and carved an industry based economy, reshaping the way Russian society was organized, both at a social level, and at a physical one, by promoting urbanization (villages were turned into cities).
Within this context, visionaries began responding.
We is a Russian dystopian novel first published in 1924 in New York.
Set in the future, the novel depicts an urbanized setting constructed entirely by glass, which allows the secret political police to supervise the public with ease. Life is organized in such a way as to promote maximum production in a system were the power is centralized in the hands of one person, The Benefactor. Principles of egalitarianism are promoted, the people not having names but numbers, and all wearing identical clothing. The only form of entertainment for the society is the marching in forms, while listening to the State Anthem.
However, the novel is a criticism of an organized dystopia, tackling the theme of the rebellion of the human primitive spirit against a rationalized, machined world. This is apparent from the plot, which is centered around the love story between the two main characters, who play with the idea of a revolution.
In his satire, Zamytian had in mind the Soviet Union, which at that time was a single party dictatorship. Future conditions depicted in the novel might also have been informed by Mussolini`s incipient fascist order. Even thought at that time life in the U.S.S.R. wasn`t exactly as depicted in the novel, Zamytian tackled the inevitable outcome of modern totalitarianism.
A center piece in sci fi literature, We has influenced future works, such as George Orwell`s 1984, which depicts a very similar scenario.
Brave New World
Brave New World is a novel published in 1932 and a milestone in modern Sci Fi. The novel anticipates changes in society through developments in reproductive technology, psychological manipulation, classical conditioning and sleep-learning.
Similar to We, the society depicted in this novel is a manipulated one, but, in this instance, it is so by the use of chemically controlled substances and hypnotic persuasion, rather than brute force.
Huxley used his novels as a means to express widely held opinions of that time., probably the most notable one being the fear of the loss of identity in a fast paced world. He feared that no one would want to read a book and that society would be given so much information that it would be reduced to passivity and egotism.
A trip which Huxley made to New York gave the novel much of its essence. Huxley was outraged by the youth culture, by the sexual promiscuity and by the commercial cheeriness he had witnessed. In his novel, he talks about “feelies”, which seem to be a response to “talkie” motion pictures (talking television was invented by Warner Bros at that time) and the sex-hormone chewing gum, which draws parallels to the ubiquitous chewing gum, which was a symbol of American youth at that time.
In response to the same political and technological context, Corbusier proposed his plans for Ville Radieuse, or the Radiant City.
The Radiant City was Corbusier`s ideal for a utopia which would respond to the world`s rapid development of that time.
Centered around rapid urbanization (specifically present in Russia at that time), advancements in transportation and industry, Corbusier`s ideas depicted high rise housing blocks, free circulation and abundant green spaces. Corbusier also believed that only a dictatorial government would be equipped to inaugurate the “age of harmony”, following the opposing values of benevolent imperialism and community control from European and English perspectives respectively.
Frank Lloyd Wright
Broadacre City is a concept for suburban living presented By Frank Lloyd Wright in his 1932 book The Dissapearing City. Is stood as a planning statement, as well as a socio-political scheme by which each American family would be allocated an Acre of land and a new community would be built based on this. Wright depicts a community were all transport would be done by automobile and the pedestrian can exist safely only within the allocated one acre. This proposal was again a decentralized one, with the homestead considered the conceptual center.
Some sci fi novels you might find inspiring:
John Desmond Bernal – The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1929)
A space habitat intended for permanent residence; radical changes to human bodies and perception and the implications for society;
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World (1931)
Radical social changes due to technological advances. Huxley’s other work is worth checking as well.
Olaf Stapledon – Star Maker (1937)
It is a masterpiece that AC Clarke, F Herbert, OS Card and other great sci fi writers have quoted as a major influence. Virginia Wolf was a fan as well. I would say architectural references in this book are not very direct, but it is nothing but pure inspiration. A conventional guy has a disembodied visionary experience that takes him across time and space and slowly allows him to merge his consciousness with the Universe. There is a mystical beauty about the way the cosmos is described, sci fi and philosophy at the same time. It has some interesting relevant concepts as well, such as the Dyson sphere – an artificial mega structure entirely surrounding a star in 3D to capture the entire power output.
George Orwell – Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)
Relevant for the issue of surveillance and how it reflects on social life and implicitly, architecture. The descriptions of the ministry buildings are memorable.
Isaac Asimov – Foundation series (1951)
A sci fi classic novel in which Asimov anticipates big data and open source encyclopedias and envisages a science which can use information to predict the future on a large scale. It is interesting from an architectural point of view as Trantor, the capital of the Galactic Empire, is a completely built up planet, covered in its entirety by a continuous mass of metal high-rise buildings and subterranean structures.
Stanislaw Lem – Solaris (1961)
Questions alien nature and the issue of communication between alien species. The Russian film by Andrey Tarkovsky is also a masterpiece.
Philip K Dick – all his work
Man in the High Castle (1963); Ubik; A Scanner Darkly (1978); Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968); The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) – all have subtle architectural references and address contemporary issues like immigration, mass-media, politics, drugs. Dark paranoid atmosphere throughout.
Frank Herbert – Dune (1965)
Not so much about architecture, but it is a realistic depiction of the layered complexities of a planet: politics, religion, sociology, economy, ecology, technology, etc.
Larry Niven – Ringworld (1970)
Larry Niven, in 1970 theorized the Niven Ring – a continuous ring-shaped mega structure that rotates around a star to create artificial gravity force; Architecture at a star-system scale.
Arthur C. Clarke – Rendezvous with Rama (1972)
One of Arthur C. Clarke’s most well-known works, the main architectural interest is on th 50 Km cylindrical alien star ship which has its own geography and cities. Clarke comes from a scientific background and this is reflected in the rigor of his novels. Also check 2001:A Space Odyssey and his work on fractals.
Gheorghe Sasarman – Squaring the Circle – A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony (1975)
Written in the style of Calvino’s Invisible Cities. it is a collection of short stories full of mythical and symbolic references about utopias, politics, geometry and of course, urban design. <Spoiler> Babylon is an egalitarian society where everyone is allowed access to the top of the ziggurat but the steep ramps are greased every day. Rome is a fractal city made by recursively placing forums at the intersection of the cardo and decumanum; tunnel cities, underground, or moving, or towering ones, Atlantis, all linked to a poetic idea about their creation.
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
This is a comic series, but it has some unique ideas. My favourite is that Earth and some other planets are artificial mega structures manufactured on Magrathea for some wealthy clients. A planet-building factory! <Spoiler> Earth was originally commissioned as a mega human driven computer to compute the ultimate question about life, the universe and everything. One of the characters, Slartibartfast is a coastal designer and won a prestigious award for the design of the Norwegian fjords.
Serge Brussolo – Territoire de Fievre (1983)
Brussolo has an intimidating imagination. Short novels, easy to read, you can also check Les mangeurs de murailles (about a cube-shaped dystopian city), Portrait du diable en chapeau melon (about a labyrinthine prison city), <Spoiler> In Territoire de Fievre people live on a breathing planet and their planet gets ill.
Stephen Baxter – Ring (1994)
A mega structure formed of cosmic strings;
Stephen Baxter – The Time Ships (1995)
A sequel to HG Wells’ The Time Machine; It has a few architectural references, but the main one is the Dyson Sphere at the centre of the Solar System built by an advanced civilization;
Vernor Vinge – Rainbows End (2006)
It is a critical insight into plausible extensions of technologies available today, seen through the eyes of a man who just recovered from Alzheimers.
Eric Brown – Helix (2007)
Galactic-scale mega structure; Depending on the complex relationship between the geometry of the Helix and the stars, various ecosystems form;
Our WeWantToLearn.net students have submitted their final portfolios! After an inspiring day going through the projects, we gave them a final mark with the help of the other tutors from the University of Westminster. Below is a selection of the inspiring work that was submitted.
The projects range from a temple at the Burning Man Festival made of an unprecedented reciprocal structure (Joe Leach) to a 3D printed city based on a fractal algorithm and built using potato starch-based plastic grown by the inhabitants of Solanopolis (Andrei Jipa) all the way to a Pop-Up plywood mosque for Trafalgar Square (Josh Haywood) and a lace tent for the London Burlesque Festival (Georgia Collard-Watson) as well as a Kabbalah Centre in the City made from large spiralohedron (Jessica Beagleman), our students have explored a new kind of joyful and spiritual Architecture using the latest digital design and fabrication technique.
After researching into our third brief, I became interested in the spaces that can be created by digital media, the internet and social networking.
The internet connects people from all over the world, with many people already experiencing online spaces, such as World of Warcraft, Second Life and even Facebook (to name a few). Although they are experiencing other environments, they are not actually there, it just a screen in front of their face. Will technology advance to the point where you can experience Virtual Reality? And instead of merely clicking on your facebook page and looking at it on a screen, you hardwire yourself to the internet and experience your facebook space in a real, 3D environment. It all sounds a little far fetched, but with every increasing developments in technology it might just become reality.
The video below by Paul Nicholls is very interesting and highlights my thoughts above ‘where the boundaries between what is real and what is simulated are blurred’.