Imagine stepping onto the morning transport that delivers you to work. You reach inside a bag at your feet, take out a suit, and assemble it. Around you, other commuters are in various stages of inflating their portable housing units, and... [more]
Imagine stepping onto the morning transport that delivers you to work. You reach inside a bag at your feet, take out a suit, and assemble it. Around you, other commuters are in various stages of inflating their portable housing units, and so you inflate yours. Once inside, you enjoy a cup of coffee, tune in the morning news, and toast yourself a bagel. After breakfast, you arrive at the foot of your desk. It sounds like a dream, but it isn't -- it's a concept called the 'cushicle.' This is one of many ideas to spring from Archigram, a group of six British architects who rebelled against the idea of 'art for art's sake.'
Formed in 1961 by Peter Cook, Archigram was an iconoclastic reaction to working life in the conservative British architectural firms of the day. An aesthetic alliance of childhood friends, this latter version of "Les Six" formulated their ideas in a magazine called Architectural Telegram, from which their name has been adopted. Along with Cook, Michael Webb, Dennis Crompton, David Green, Warren Chalk, and Ron Herron all believed architecture should be an instrument of social progress that incorporated everything from technology to Pop art to personal freedom. One might say Roy Lichtenstein occupied their minds more than the Bauhaus, as one of their tenets asserts, "The prepacked frozen lunch is more important than Palladio."
Yet with all of the Pop vocabulary they employed, their overall move was towards an architecture of personal convenience and functionality. The operative phrase, of course, is "a move towards" -- these projects remain in the conceptual stage.
Ron Herron's conception entitled "Walking City, NY," is perhaps the most recognizable of Archigram's many formulations. He conceived of a 40-story building with an external crane that would daily replace apartment pods, while interior cranes maneuver markets and businesses like pharmacies and laundries. It would be a city of ultimate convenience and change -- a grand collage constantly in flux. Horrified? Wait, there's more! This futuristic monstrosity would have legs, enabling it to travel in search of water and sunlight.
As the 1960s progressed, the democratic ideals of Archigram became a cornerstone of architectural philosophy. Undaunted by the reality that none of their ideas could actually be built, the group's designs continued to become more ethereal, gradually incorporating the communal notions espoused by the counter-culture and losing their emphasis on individuality. As the atrocities of the Vietnam War increased, however, the world witnessed once again how technology can be harnessed for the sake of destruction. Just as the horrors of World War I had ended the movement of their ideological forebears, the Futurists, Vietnam made Archigram's utopian notions seem anachronistic, and they disbanded by 1974. Their influence can be seen today in such architects as Lebbeus Woods and Takasaki Masaharu. [show less]