M+ Matters: Archigram Cities Online Symposium
Organised with the Department of Architecture, University of Hong Kong
Zoom 2: Figurations
Date: 6 November 2020 (Friday)
Time: 7:30–9:30pm (Hong Kong)
Peter Cook, Archigram. Plug-In City, overhead view, 1964. M+, Hong Kong. © ARCHIGRAM ARCHIVES
For Drawing Architecture Studio (DAS), Archigram’s greatest influence lies in their demonstration that architectural drawing has enormous potential not only as a design tool but also as a medium. Through forms of communication like magazines and graphic novels, drawing enables architecture to cross professional boundaries and enter mass culture. Inspired by the radical 1960s architects’ exploration of imagined futures and possibilities in the built environment, DAS makes architectural drawing a pivot point in their practice, transforming phenomena from the real world into digital images for narrative or criticism and communicating these images online. The drawing series DAS created for Archigram Cities is a reinterpretation of Archigram’s avant-garde concepts in a contemporary urban context, juxtaposing the group’s projects with designs for cities by other architects as well as everyday structures in urban spaces in Asia. The drawings are conceived as a series of visual dialogues between the past and the present, and dream and reality, and within the profession and beyond.
Li Han is a Founding Partner of Drawing Architecture Studio, through which he explores and presents a critical view of dwellings, cities, and the urban environment in the medium of narrative-based digital drawing. His work integrates influences from Pop Art, postmodernism, and contemporary popular culture into depictions of urban landscapes. Li was the overall winner of the Architecture Drawing Prize curated by the World Architecture Festival, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and Make Architects in 2018. His publications include A Little Bit of Beijing (Tongji University Press, 2013), A Little Bit of Beijing · Dashilar (Tongji University Press, 2015), and Hutong Mushroom (China Architecture Publishing & Media Company, 2018). He was trained at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and RMIT University in Melbourne.
Ron Herron, Archigram. Instant Malaysia, Malaysia Simulator collage, 1973. M+, Hong Kong. © ARCHIGRAM ARCHIVES
Take the Weather with You: The Malaysian Exhibit at the Commonwealth Institute
Lai Chee Kien
From May 1969 to February 1971, there was no functioning government in Malaysia. The country had witnessed its worst race riots, resulting in thousands of deaths, and parliament was suspended. Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak took control of running the country, and eventually took the premiership. Reparations would take decades and, until today, no official explanation has been formulated for a new generation, and no commemorative monument has been constructed. In the meantime, the Commonwealth Institute in London was also in transition. Just as the Commonwealth was a surrogate for empire after the fact, the institute had been reformulated from the Imperial Institute—founded in 1887 to assess and manage colonial extractions—into a subtler ‘former members’ clubhouse’ under a new board. Its new building continued to stratify spatial readings of empire with showcase pavilions on three levels. Since Malaysia was neither in Africa nor was it one of the former British Dominions, its exhibit was on the uppermost level. While the previous 1964 Malaysia exhibit was designed using information panels and models, these were felt to be inadequate by the Razak cabinet. There was an urgency to reinvent the nation’s image for larger global communities after the riots, and to remain economically competitive at the onset of the oil crisis. In 1972, the Malaysian government approached Archigram, who accepted the job. It fit with Archigram’s repertoire of Instant Country projects, spatial ‘network[s] of information–entertainment–“play-and-know yourself” facilities’ grafted onto a site. This presentation traces the trajectories of Instant Malaysia, discussing how the use of supergraphics, text, dioramas, and—especially—a weather simulator met the desires of both the architects and their clients, as well as how the exhibition finally put to bed the overt use of invented or representational cultural forms that defined past British exhibitions of Malaya/Malaysia.
Lai Chee Kien is an architectural and urban historian and a registered architect in Singapore. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with an MArch by Research degree (1996) and earned a PhD in the History of Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley (2005). His books include Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957—1966 (Galeri Petronas, 2007), Building Memories: People, Architecture, Independence (Achates 360, 2016, named Book of the Year by the Singapore Book Awards), and, with Ang Chee Cheong, The Merdeka Interviews: Architects, Engineers and Artists of Malaysia’s Independence (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia, 2018). His research focuses on the histories of art, architecture, settlements, urbanism, and landscapes in Southeast Asia.
Peter Cook, Archigram. Hedgerow Village, 1971. M+, Hong Kong. © ARCHIGRAM ARCHIVES
Learning from Archigram
Beyond Archigram’s appropriation of methods of graphic visualisation as tools to expand the boundaries of architectural representation, lies their other major contribution: propagating a shift in our perception of time and scale in spatial production, from the level of the planetary to that of the individual. Triggered by the wave of satellite broadcasting and increasing globalisation of the 1960s and 1970s, Archigram’s view of the relationship between the one-earth, society, and the human led to explorations of moving, interchangeable, and ephemeral architecture and urban phenomena. These were proposed in the form of projects such as Walking City, Capsule Homes, and Instant City, that sought to shift the centre of gravity from the community to the individual. While these elements are reflected in the work of architects in the Japanese Metabolism movement, Metabolism’s focus on individuality was conceived for urban efficiency and pragmatism rather than as a reframing of the perception of time and scale. This presentation seeks to position the practice of Atelier Bow-Wow—particularly its architectural design methodology embedded in social reality and the behaviours of human and nature—as part of the global history of modern architecture, which has been shaped by the work of Archigram and the Metabolists.
Tsukamoto Yoshiharu is an architect and the co-founder, in 1992, of Atelier Bow-Wow, a Tokyo-based firm working in fields including architectural design and urban research and the creation of public spaces based on the theory of behaviourology. The atelier has worked on diverse projects both in Japan and internationally. Tsukamato has participated in a number of exhibitions, including The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 (MAXXI – the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome; the Barbican Centre, London; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 2017); the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennale (2016); the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia (2016); Wohnungsfrage (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2015); and the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2015). Among his publications are Graphic Anatomy and Graphic Anatomy 2 (TOTO Publishing, 2007 and 2014), Commonalities (LIXIL Publishing, 2014), and Behaviorology (Rizzoli, 2010). Since 2015, Tsukamoto has been a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and, since 2017, a visiting professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.