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Architecture in Motion, Again

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You mean like this?

haha no. I meant how architecture keeps re-presenting the same stuff as new again, to make us think it’s still relevant.

So what’s new? Richard Rogers inc. suddenly want to design more [more?!] social housing? Zaha Hadid inc. found a new boundary to push? Norman Foster inc. flogging a new airport?

No, that’s just business as usual. I mean a supposedly new kind of space – those don’t come along every day!

Tell me more. But make it quick – your posts have been getting a bit long lately.  

Agreed. Do you remember this Japanese house from the early 1980s?



I’m not that old! Are those things computers? Where’s the house – inside that white box? Can I go now?

Yes, the housey bits are inside the white box and yes and no, the rest of the house is both inside that white box yet also exists in one of these new fangled interstitial spaces I’m going to tell you about.

What’s so new? 

Exactly! An interstitial space is the gap when one building is inside another building. It’s just the same as a dome. Like this one, the US pavilion at Expo er… ’67 in Montreal. It’s obvious that the building inside can be anything. 


I was thinking more the Millennium Dome London, 2000 – if you build it, they will fill it. 


There’s also Foster + Partners’ decidedly yurty tent thing in Khazakstan –


And the Esplanade Theatres in Singapore … 


I guess you’ll be telling me a theory’ll come along soon and announce this gap as the next big thing.

It already has, my friend! In his book, “Living in the End Times“, currently in-your-face philosopher Slavoj Žižek namechecks Alejandro Zaera Polo’s essay “The Politics of the Envelope”, (in “Volume”, Issue 17) Specifically …

“While most other aspects of the architectural project are now in control of other agents (e.g. project managers, specialist contractors) that ensure the efficiency of the project delivery, the increasing facelessness of the client gives architects license to invent the building’s interface. The envelope has become the last realm of architectural power …”

Even if this isn’t true, it will become truth. What we are witnessing here, is the birth of theory. Theories like this don’t predict the future, they merely lend an air of inevitability to embryo trends. Many many posts ago I mentioned the “Chicago School architects” and suggested that they might not necessarily have wanted to “express” any structure at all, and that perhaps they were just following the money in order to get something built. I see something similar happening again.

What can one say?

Hmmm, depending on who’s present and how you feel, you can say

  • I like what I see.
  • Looks good, on the surface.
  • There’s more to this than meets the eye.
  • Market needs dressed up and trotted out as theory.
  • Total bollocks.
  • An example of what even Žižek calls a “filler chapter”