|Saana’s Serpentine Pavilion, Photo by Michael Campbell, 2009 (source)
In the parkland, there is a space which holds, hovers, shifts, disappears. It is not contained by a line or an edge; it is not a void. It is space set in motion by two undulating planes: ground and roof. The drawings in plan suggest a pavilion, in which we see the architects coercing, rather than inventing, space.
This plan does not rattle through staircases or corridors. Nor does it confine, or lock up space in a collection of boxes. This plan belongs to the space within it, which, enamoured by its reflection above, bleeds, flickers, curls.
It is a plan for ambiguous wandering; it is a plan for smoke.
When I visited the pavilion and crossed into the field of the plan, in parallel I was walking at the bottom of the ocean. The space felt like being submerged in a liquid, which filled every crevice of my skin. I stopped and looked up into the mirrored ceiling, and I saw myself coalesce with the earth and sky.
Hans Ulrich Obrist: “Can you tell us about your idea of the Pavilion as a content machine?”
Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA): “A machine sounds very different from what we imagine. For us it is a cloud…”
|Metro Construction, Dubai 2009 (source)
Perhaps it was the insufficiency of planning, through the period of economic growth, that accounts for architecture’s contribution (or lack thereof) to the current financial downturn.
The modernist period was obsessed with the future of cities and the fate of communities. With the rise of neo-liberalism however, the focus shifted away from communities towards the individual. Architectural agendas no longer seemed to reflect the interests of the many, they were instead overwhelmingly centered on the individual, and the iconic building. During the economic boom, there seemed to be an emphasis on private developments, with little interest in the maintenance and development of infrastructure and other public projects.
Without a budget to explore individual interests many architects are back to considering the group. This shift in focus is demonstrated in the recent movement from private developments to public infrastructure. While many construction projects in Dubai have come to a halt, the governing bodies are investing billions in their metro in addition to roads and airports. Similarly, in China, more than thirty cities have begun construction on, or have submitted proposals for, new rapid transit systems. The five cities with existing systems are expanding them. This is all part of a larger investment frenzy in railways… more
|Amelia McPhee||Erandi de Silva
|Still from Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, 1972 (source)
Exchanging the sidewalk for the road, the flâneur stopped walking some time ago and began driving. As the American city changed, so did the figure of urban modernity. In his travel documentary Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles, the architect takes to the streets of LA in a car: ‘…freeway driving is interesting in itself, from up here, you see the most weird and extraordinary things and places you can hardly see from down below’. His voyeuristic gaze, framed by the rear-view mirror and steering wheel of his car, takes in the urban mess.
The car as the classic symbol of individuality serves to highlight the truly solitary condition of the flâneur. He consumes the city: an array of endless streets and infinite freeways running for miles. He drives alone, but amidst the traffic surrounding him. To Baudelaire, the flâneur was the ‘man of the crowd’. Refusing a possible isolation, for Banham, the flâneur becomes the man of the traffic. While Banham’s 1970’s documentary, reflects on the emerging car-centric culture of Los Angeles, it is clear that as of today, the city hasn’t changed and the flâneur drives on.
|Still from Samson and Delilah, 2009 (source)
Imagery of the road inhabited is, perhaps unwittingly, recurring in the recent Australian film Samson and Delilah. The protagonists, indigenous teenagers Samson and Delilah, live life amongst a scatter of derelict community settlements in central Australia. The inadequate condition of housing (largely due to the government’s continued, incoherent response) means life, with all of its complexities, spills outside. In the film, buildings exist in the background; it is on, and at the periphery of roads—wide, gently convex, empty—where we sense an activation of space.
Absent of solids and voids, how would have Giambattista Nolli mapped the networks of habitation in the Australian desert? This is a land of inversion; a vacuum of openness, in which the built environment is a frail intrusion. From a bird’s eye, the strongest human mark is the swath of roads which carve long, asymmetrical shapes across the terrain.
There have been extensive writings on viewing landscapes from the seat of a car, for example Tom Wolfe’s infamous labeling of the Las Vegas urban strip as… more
|Simon Pennec||Amelia McPhee
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