BACK TO THE FUTURE. Last month the Taubman School of Architecture hosted the ambitiously titled Future of Design Conference, bringing together a prestigious group of design professionals to present their thoughts and work on the conference topic. Based on the Pecha Kucha format, each individual was given fifteen minutes to present a rapid-fire succession of projects, speculations, and research, and diatribe. While certain thematic similarities surfaced throughout the course of the presentations, by and large the variety of presented topics reflected the current diversity of the design field. One consistent topic, however, centered on the ways technology is changing the means and methods of architectural production. To contextualize this theme, it is interesting to trace the evolution of technology as it relates to avant-garde architecture and design practices.
Historically, “visionary architecture” has existed as work which is often highly polemic and rarely built. In his book Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination, Neil Spiller writes that “this history is linked to the metaphorphosis of the ‘machine’ and the technologies that embody it. Whether ‘machines’ are the conceptual ones of Marchel Duchamp, the mechanized armatures of cranes on a building site, the virtual machines within computers or the cabbalistic machines of Daniel Liebskind, they have all influenced the course of architectural vision.” Works such as, Constant’s New Babylon (1950), Archigram’s Walking City (1964), Superstudio’s Continuous Monument (1971), or even Buckminster Fuller’s proposed Dome for Manhattan (1960), functioned not as serious proposals for built work, but as devices for questioning certain social, political, and technological issues. Continue reading