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Architectural Fiction and a Variety of Imagined Futures

This essay from Places looks at the history of "architectural fiction", and how imagined spaces and uses of land enrich understanding of the built environment.

"Definitions of the term seem to vary, but the coinage belongs to Bruce Sterling. He introduced it in 2006, after reading an imaginative and insightful essay by J.G. Ballard, published in The Guardian, about modernist architecture. "Now there's some top-end sci-fi architecture criticism," Sterling observed, adding this thought: "It's entirely possible to write 'architecture fiction' instead of 'science fiction.' Like, say, Archigram did in the 60s."

Archigram came to life as an "architecture telegram" (a publication, basically) put together by a group of young architects in London in 1961. Its contributors specialized in hypothetical projects. In their publications, the architects involved, including Peter Cook and Ron Herron among others, would propose fantastic schemes for completely re-imagining buildings and urban spaces, which they would illustrate in equally fantastic styles. Cook's Plug-In City was not made up of buildings, but was a single structure with standardized cells that could be fitted in or removed, here and there - the structure, the city, was meant to be in charge of the people, rather than the other way around. Herron's Walking City, a cluster of urban-ness mounted on four legs, was said to be an extension of Le Corbusier's dictum that a house is a "machine for living in." In 1963 there was a big Archigram show called "Living Cities" at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and since then the group's work has remained highly influential in certain quarters of the architecture world."

Through other installations, projects and proposals, this essay makes the case that architectural fiction has an important impact in the actually built world.

Full Story: Implausible Futures for Unpopular Places

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