Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
21 December 2004-13 March 2005
Eckhard Schulze-Fielitz, Raumstadt, 1959. 700 x 700 x 1350 mm. Collection FRAC Centre, Orléans, France. Photo by Philippe Magnon
Organised by the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and the Fonds Régional d'Art Contemporain du Centre, (FRAC Centre), Orléans, 'Archilab: New Experiments in Architecture, Art and the City, 1950-2005' examines those radical and visionary approaches to architectural design and urban planning that have altered the way we think about and use the city since World War II. The exhibition features 220 projects by 90 architects and artists, borrowed from the collections of the FRAC Centre and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. The models and drawings shown are organised into four sections: 'The Pulsating City', 'The Endless City', 'The Deconstructed City', and 'The Contextualised City', each section loosely corresponding to different decades and concerns. Like a historical text, the exhibition brings us to the urban utopias from the 1950s, analyses Deconstructionist works from the 1980s, addresses the influence of new technology in the 1990s and reflects on the future direction of the current avant-garde.
The first section, 'The Pulsating City - The Body as Laboratory' explores the early renaissance of experimental architecture in the 1950s and 1960s. This era of revolution saw the birth of many thought provoking and, at times, absurd ideas on how the architecture profession should react to the city. Among these are the luminary works by English group Archigram, who applied the idea of 'mobile architecture' to the reorganisation of the city itself. The group conjured up fantastical images of structures such as the 'Walking City' and the 'Instant City' - concepts which were to capture the imaginations of many generations of architecture students to come. Inverting the preconceived notion that cities must be literally rooted to the ground, these visionary projects embodied the character of mass-media networks or events, with the idea of perpetually moving architecture becoming a metaphor for the liberation of the body from the social and political ambitions connected to it.
'The Endless City - An Expanding Environment' features projects exploring the ideology of architecture, transforming it from a physical object into a system for total control over the entire environment. 'Megastructures', by the Japanese Metabolist group, explores the possibility for immeasurable extension and duplication using industrial components. In so doing, architecture becomes no longer a single object or building but rather a systemised environment or an expansive spatial field without beginning or end. 'Spatial cities', by the Hungarian architect Yona Friedman, further visualises an imaginary metropolis, floating above existing cities and giving its inhabitants the option to freely relocate their abode. One inhabitant could bring their individual section of the city with them and live in Shanghai, Tokyo or New York, all at the same time. These 'spatial cities' create an open labyrinth with the possibility for relentless experimentation.
'The Deconstructed City – Creating a New Syntax' brings us from the late 1960s to the 1980s, during which time the proliferation of cross-disciplinary collaborations between architecture and other art forms flourished. Challenging the existing language of architecture, particularly its forms of expression and ways of working, is the underlying theme that connects the various experimentations. Groups such as Superstudio and Archizoom combined architecture with other artistic forms, producing work based on a confrontation with other traditions, rather than the actual physical construction of buildings. In the late 1980s, this reconsideration of the fundamental definitions and conditions of architecture was further challenged by the appearance of Deconstructivist architecture that revolved around the literary works of French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Architects such as Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry (just to name a few) dismantled traditional forms, reinterpreting them in the pursuit of a new architectural language. At times, their works seemingly defied the laws of gravity with their striking visual forms and were particularly inspiring for students of architecture.
Every aspect of modern society is affected by advances in technology and architecture is no exception. 'The Contextualised City – A Computerised Symbiosis' examines how the evolution in material engineering and computing technology has affected the way architecture is designed in this new era. It features the work of some of the most exciting architects today, including Diller + Scofidio, Asymptote (Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture), R & Sie (François Roche & Stéphanie Lavaux), Shigeru Ban and NOX (Lars Spuybroek). The 'non-standard' architecture of the digital era has replaced the 'standard' architecture of the industrial era. This exemplifies the ability of architecture to engage in a dialogue with its environs, absorbing and embracing new influences and thereby creating new relationships and contexts.
This exhibition demonstrates the rich creative possibilities of architecture, signifying that it is not only about what is built, but that it is also a conceptual trajectory. By relating to concepts from heterogeneous disciplinary fields, one would be able to relieve architecture from all formal association and open it up to its future development amid the greater social and political environs. Here perhaps lies the true meaning of avant-garde architecture - to relentlessly conjure up new possibilities of living. To the brave new world.
Meng Ching Kwah
The First Architectural Biennale Beijing 2004
It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the 21st century belongs to Asia - if not to China alone. Deng's reopening of doors and the economic reform of the 1980s and 1990s paved the way for a resurgence of the Chinese economy.
The authentic and the twitch: architecture, tourism and simulacrum
The authentic and the twitch: architecture, tourism and simulacrum – Increasingly, we now seek to verify what is presented as 'real': we are wary of 'simulacrum' having perhaps enjoyed 'something having the form or appearance of a certain thing' or having experienced 'mere image, a specious imitation or likeness of something' (Oxford English Dictionary).
Sculptural Architecture in Austria
This masterly exhibition has been organised with the support of, and in co-operation with, the Federal Chancellery of Austria and the Ministry of Culture of the People's Republic of China. It is the brainchild of the architect, Professor Hans Hollein, who curated it from Vienna in liaison with the Director of the National Art Museum of China, Beijing. It represents a long affair between Austria and China on cultural matters, and the Chinese authorities are to be complimented on their perspicacity and understanding for seeing it through. It follows an initial exhibition in Shanghai in 2001, covered by Studio International.
Architecture Not Now
As we approach the second decade of the turbulent 21st century, the level playing field sought by both practising architects and by teachers and theorists appears to be more than ever transitory
Awesome the group has been, for they have become a 20th century phenomenon. The total revision of architecture since the 1970s could not have happened so readily without this exuberant, intellectually fizzing, irreverent band of six. It was a long haul, and could not have happened without a remarkable, ingenious and dogged persistence to hold the course. The group, or at least those still alive in 2002, received the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal for Architecture, indissolubly as a group.