A project for a nomadic city, Instant City is the result of an approach to a philosophical quandary concerning architecture which Archigram had begun to experiment with in Plug-in-City With their concept, architecture disappears, giving way to the image, the event and audiovisual presentations, to gadgets and other environmental simulators. This city superimposes, for a time, new spaces for communication onto an existing city. This audiovisual environment of words and images projected onto suspended screens , associated with mobile objects airships and hot air balloons with tents, pods and mobile homes hanging from them, and with technological objects gantry cranes, refineries and robots creates a city that consumes information, one intended for a population in movement. The first step towards network of information, education, leisure and facilities, Instant City is brought to the towns on the edge of a metropolis by a fleet of all-terrain vehicles and helicopters. In this way, the local community is integrated into the metropolitan community.
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Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world. A giant city crawls across the land like an insect. Airships drop cultural attractions onto unsuspecting villages. A hovercraft expands into an inflatable settlement. These visions, sparked by sci-fi novels and comic books, belonged to the collective Archigram, which existed from to Derided for their futuristic frivolity as much as they were admired at the time, half a century later , Archigram prophesied the future in ways they may not have even fully foreseen.
Archigram can be seen as part of several trends that influence metropolitan life to this day. One was the Pop Art movement, where color, dynamism, fashion, and disposability were presented in graphics as understated as a passing billboard. Pop Art was bold and blatant. Yet there was always a hint of ambiguity whether the artists were celebrating consumer culture or satirizing it, allowing them to appear as outsiders even while ensconced on the inside. Archigram followed in the wake of British art pioneers like Eduardo Paolozzi , who were fascinated by mass production while still trying to meaningfully merge the personal with the technological.
They emerged in an age of provocative and performative avant-garde architecture groups like Superstudio and Ant Farm. They shared several traits with their contemporaries such as a vaguely countercultural sensibility, an interest in nomadism, and debts to visionary predecessors like Buckminster Fuller and Bruno Taut. They acted against what they saw as a tediously conservative environment, not because of radical political sentiments, but because of the inability of art and architecture to keep pace with the products, lifestyles, and machinery that were already part of daily life.
The age of Dan Dare , Revolver , and Carnaby Street required more than many of their dogmatic traditionalist and Brutalist contemporaries were offering. Sometimes, however, a Walking City is just a Walking City. A sense of fun and dystopian provocation certainly permeates the visuals but the texts are full of erudite references to predecessors like Antonio Sant'Elia and Tony Garnier, contemporaries like the Japanese Metabolists, and boundary-pushing architecture like the movable rocket support structures at Cape Kennedy.
Their desire to provoke was ultimately successful. If their spray housing and anti-gravity pads failed to arouse indignation, then their statements would. At the same time, Cook denied their work lacked a social conscience. This contained many well-worn science-fiction ideas; some of which have been adopted universally escalators or survive as retrofuturistic relics monorails.
While the design appears like a vast Meccano set of cranes and scaffolding, it was built on a sound consideration of urban obsolescence. Changes over time render different aspects of cities bathrooms, workplaces, shops redundant at different rates. The Plug-In City could adapt by removing and replacing components. For all its anarchic appeal, those who operate the infrastructure of the Plug-In City would be the new masters, whether officially or illegally. They were influenced by many forms of temporary architecture from big-top tents to the space program.
They had learned this from their compatriot Cedric Price, who was both an architect and a member of the National Federation of Demolition Contractors, as well as the much earlier Futurists but rejected the destructive philistinism associated with the Italian group.
Change was simply an inevitability that too many ignored. They would uncover what the population wanted and would give it to them, however glitzy and garish. The move from citizen to consumer would be a costly one. It was also predicated on a culture of expendability that not only potentially diminished the idea of home but would produce boundless waste. If the Walking City was a symbol of the future, it might be the city as a parasite draining the earth dry.
It would be unfair, however, to claim the group were ignorant of environmental issues. A certain degree of recycling is implied throughout.
They pursued a synthesis of urban and rural that would be sympathetic to both, and to the inhabitants. With its focus on transformation and utility, Archigram can be seen as pioneers of modular architecture. Commonplace structures of housing were simply too rigid to enrich modern life. Walls moved.
Floors became hard or soft depending on the required function. This democratic imperative was a step towards the liberating technology that might allow everyone to one day be an architect or at least an interior designer.
Their wearable architecture from the suitaloon to the cushicle , their living-pods and air-habs seem designed for areas with extreme conditions: fire shelters, Antarctic bases, Alpine huts, and emergency sanctuaries after natural disasters. In less dramatic situations, the uses still focused on seasonal refuges. When we encounter a city that is moved in real-life, it tends to be a collapsing mining settlement like the Swedish Arctic town of Kiruna. The mutual fascination between Archigram and the Metabolists encouraged both in pod schemes, which are now often regarded as an intriguing dead-end.
Archigram was genuinely ahead of its time was in the virtual realm and its interactions with the physical world. Tired of supermarket shopping? It has on board logic, optical range finder, TV camera, and magic eye bump detectors. All the sensory equipment information retrieval, and for performing tasks. Direct your business operations, do the shopping, hunt or fish, or just enjoy electronic instamatic voyeurism, from the comfort of your own home. At times, it appears as if they wanted to build a physical internet.
Plugs will increase the services to these communities and they will be workplaces, schools, universities, libraries, theatres, unencumbered by buildings, they build themselves conveniently when they are wished for. The thinking was not just to create spaces to escape to but to use them to improve reality. They have a necessary place in the evolution of intelligence. One of the lasting criticisms leveled at Archigram is itself prophetic; they raised the immediate eye-catching image above everything else and helped usher in the visual age that followed.
The practice has long been there in architecture and often has an important role, clearing conceptual space for what technology might eventually enable. It raises public engagement and encourages collaborations and development.
I would like to assure everyone that we are not monsters. We are not trying to make houses look like cars, cities like oil refineries [ The saving grace of Archigram is not that they fueled a thousand hare-brained pavilions or impossible renderings, but that—when looking at how cities might evolve—they thought firstly of the wants of the citizens and did so without a snobbish disdain for entertainment, gadgetry, comfort, escapism, or style.
The human aspect was never forgotten. No one said prophets have to be entirely accurate or virtuous; just as no one said architecture needs to be boring. Darran Anderson is the author of Imaginary Cities and the forthcoming Inventory.
Architects and planners have an obligation to protect health, safety and welfare through the spaces we design. Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.
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The best way to follow issues you care about. Bryan Lee Jr. June 3, Brentin Mock August 6, Equity What Happened to Crime in Camden? Sarah Holder January 10,
The Prophetic Side of Archigram
Panel created by Archigram, about , Museum no. They include Walking City, a peripatetic giant reptilian structure, Living Pod a minature capsule home and Instant City, an airship containing all the cultural and education resources of a metropolis which could land in remote areas giving inhabitants a taste of city life. They all shared the aim of challenging an architectural establishment they felt had become reactionary and self-serving. The collective launched its critique and its proposals for a better future with an eponymous publication in Archigram created this panel in London during the early s. Sixteen panels were produced as part of its submission to a competition for a new summer casino and club in Monte Carlo. Collage had rarely been used as a device in architectural design until Archigram made it a characteristic part of its work.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world. A giant city crawls across the land like an insect. Airships drop cultural attractions onto unsuspecting villages. A hovercraft expands into an inflatable settlement. These visions, sparked by sci-fi novels and comic books, belonged to the collective Archigram, which existed from to Derided for their futuristic frivolity as much as they were admired at the time, half a century later , Archigram prophesied the future in ways they may not have even fully foreseen. Archigram can be seen as part of several trends that influence metropolitan life to this day.
Archigram: Plug-in-City, The Walking City & Instant City
Architect Peter Cook explains Archigram 's concept for a temporary city that can be set up overnight in the third instalment of our exclusive video series with the radical architecture group for VDF. Developed in the late s and early s, Archigram 's Instant City concept is a transportable kit of parts that can be quickly assembled to provide the inhabitants of small towns with access to the resources and cultural attractions of a large metropolis. According to Cook, the concept developed from Archigram's own experience of giving lectures with a packable set of presentation materials and props. Like Plug-In City, another of Archigram's metropolitan concepts, which Cook and fellow Archgram member Dennis Crompton discussed in the previous video in the series , there were a number of different versions of Instant City. Initially, the concept comprised a packable kit of parts that could be transported by road, but later versions introduced lighter elements that could be delivered by air. It's kind of analogous to the contemporary thought that everybody could be famous for five minutes, the Marshall McLuhan thing.
Instant City, 1968-1970
Designer Theo Crosby was the "hidden hand" behind the group. Committed to a 'high tech', light weight, infra-structural approach that was focused towards survival technology, the group experimented with modular technology, mobility through the environment, space capsules and mass-consumer imagery. Their works offered a seductive vision of a glamorous future machine age; however, social and environmental issues were left unaddressed. Archigram agitated to prevent modernism from becoming a sterile and safe orthodoxy by its adherents. Unlike ephemeralisation from Buckminster Fuller which assumes more must be done with less material because material is finite , Archigram relies on a future of interminable resources.