Thursday, 17 May 2012

feature : Visionary Architecture

Future Structures of the Korean Demilitarized Zone by Lebbeus Woods (1988)

image thanks to : bldgblog

In the search for original architecture architects have often begun with the most fantastic of schemes, most of which are either practically impossible to build or impossible to live in. In many cases this is quite deliberate as there is no intent to actually build it. The ideas remain as paper architecture, some depicting visions of the future (good and bad) & some reflecting escapism to an ideal, Utopian world. All of them graphically represent the imaginary buildings and places that exist in the minds of the authors. Theirs is the world of the unbuilt environment.

Over the years, many have dreamed up grands projets. Often credited as being the forefathers of visionary architectural thinking, Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-99) and Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) may have set the ball rolling, but in my opinion were simply imagining the massive up-scaling of traditional building methods.

1919 proved to be a prolific year and the beginning of when more abstract & imaginative ideas came to the fore. German expressionist Hermann Finsterlin (1887-1973) imagined living within organic forms, whilst the Russians Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953) and Iakov Chernikhov (1889-1951) produced  “Monument to the Third International” and “Architectural Fantasies ” respectively, including dynamic structural images of large volumes carried in the air by “impossibly” thin legs.

Whilst dreaming continued through the war years, the next significant unbuilt works were in the midst of 1964 pop culture. Archigram, notably otherwise financed, demonstrated a glamourous future machine age and a direct refusal to be shackled by the past. Hugely influenced by Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983 - not mentioned in detail here because he actually built his designs !) and the concept of survival, they had lit the touch paper for many other architects to think out of the box, namely Italians Superstudio and Archizoom, who famously produced designs that were arguably often more art than architecture. In particular it was Rem Koolhaas (OMA), Jan Kaplicky (Future Systems 1937-2009) and Zaha Hadid, whose graphically powerful drawings would become their signature and eventually lay the path for each to become highly successful.

However, it is Lebbeus Woods (b. 1940) who is possibly the most devoted of experimental architects. Influenced by the real-world threat of earthquakes and war, Woods’ early ground-breaking work depicts a mechanical, apocalyptic age. One of his pieces “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber” (1987), was famously copied (without permission) and used in a sci-fi film scene in Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys”. His anarchic style paints a very gloomy picture of the world ahead of us. Visionary or realist ? Only time will tell.

by Darren Maddison

Cenotaph for Sir Isaac Newton by Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-99)

 image thanks to : rosswolfe

by Antonio Sant’Elia (1888-1916) 

image thanks to : lebbeuswoods

Casa de Vetro II by Hermann Finsterlin (1887-1973)

image thanks to : nickkahler


Monument to the Third International by Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953)

photo thanks to : dieselpunks

Architectural Fantasies by Iakov Chernikhov (1889-1951)

image thanks to : guntherstephan 

Walking City in New York by Ron Herron, Archigram (1964)

image thanks to : lagraphicdesign

Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber by Lebbeus Woods (1987)

image thanks to : curetheblind

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