Tuesday, 5 September 2006
Marine City – Kuyonori Kikutake
Currently on show at the Barbican art gallery in London is ‘Future City – Experiment and Utopia in Architecture 1956-2006′. This unmissable show features the full spectrum of leading architectural experimentalists including Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Lebbus Woods. The exhibition, layed out in chronological order, begins with ‘New Babylon’ – a rendezvous with Constant Nieuwenhuys, Guy Debord, psychogeography and surrealist mappings of the city. Continuing on our journey we come face to face with organic, oblique and inflatable cities, we encounter the mega-structures of the Metabolist’s and deconstructed spaces (Hadid and Woods). The work of Archigram, Archizoom and Superstudio, done in the 60’s, appears as an intermission from the serious stuff with its exuberance, fun and sci-fi appeal. The machine architecture of Neil Denari in the 80’s paved the way for computational methods that are in proliferation today – processes such as genetic modelling, morphogenetic studies, exotic computer algorithms to define new kinds of undulating, folded and wrapped space.
One key impression I got from the exhibition was how much recent graphic art has been informed by the work of these architects and their futurist propositions. Compare the output of Designer’s Republic for early Warp and Schematic records disc cover art and the isometric paintings of Rem Koolhaas. I’m thinking of the continuity between Zaha Hadid’s paintings and the deconstructed implosions of 3d graffiti and computational wyldestyle now in prevalence. Then there’s the obvious overlap between the morphing meshes and wireframes of recent computational architecture and the landscape of VJ and Generative Art.
Although many of the projects deal specifically with radical solutions to the social problems and limitations of the city unfortunately very few of the projects have actually ever been realised, remaining to some extent as futurist and idealistic as the science fiction that so much influenced many of them in the first place. The exhibition catalogue aligns itself from the outset maintaining that this is primarily an architecture of speculation and conjecture.
To reach the Barbican you must negotiate the Brutalist maze of concrete ramps, alleyways, stairways and pathways that form the centre and pass its spectacularly tall angular towers – a perfect backdrop and entrÃ©e to the show itself.