The City of the Future was the Baikonur Cosmodrome

Some of the bigger structures ever made was those related with spatial programmes. Some of them in the US, some others as part of the Soviet Space Program. We had published some post relating these kind of facilities with the avant-garde dreams of a floating cities or even walking cities. This morning, while reading the book Radical Games: Popping the Bubble of 1960s Architecture we found some interesting points that can be related with this topic. Lara Schrijver pointed that “architecture set itself a difficult task regarding the 1960s’ city: it was forming a critique of the modern city, which was still being realized.” Revisiting the relationship between architecture and technology and also technology and its relationship to society, we have to look back to the Archigram #5 Metropolis issue, where Archigram was primarily interested in completely re-envisioning the ideal city with little regard for ideal forms. Schrijver pointed:

Their technology was instrumental [much as it was in New Babylon], enabling people to control and transform their environment or live in the environment they choice. At the same time it was also thematic: they took the possibilities of technology to extremes. A project such as the 1963 Interchange, took the the technological potential of new forms of mobility and designed a complex interchange between monorails and self-guided transport system.

Archigram’s high technological designs. Photo dpr-barcelona

But we can’t talk only about Archigram. As seen below, Cedric Price also worked in various designs whose strong point was the technology or Jerome Sirling‘s project Progressive Architecture, clearly related with hangars and launch facilities.

Cedic Price [1966]. Source rndrd

Buran launching facility at Baikonur. Source English Russia

The idea of the radical utilization of technology in order to reconfigure all our conceptions of architecture was deeply developed in the 1960s and 1970s, at the same time that a radical evolution in the technologycal world was a primary fact for many nations, looking forward to be the first ones to conquer space. Altough the relationship between technology and architecture it’s not new, is interesting to make a fast-forward look in to the past and try to imagine what was in architects’s mind at those years. Peter Blake was really clear on this issue, when he wrote:

It is unlikely that the engineers who designed the various movable structures at Cape Kennedy ever heard of the Archigram Group. Indeed, the idea of a walking city would probably horrify them. Yet these engineers have designed a constructed a couple of dozen structures, some the height of 40 storey office buildings, that move serenely across the flat landscape […] The proud achivements of Cape Kennedy are proof of our ability to tackle the most ataggering problems; and, by implication, they are indictment of those who would not expend the same kind of effort on our urban ills.

Jerome Sirlin. Progressive Architecture 56 [Feb 1975: 87]. Source rndrd

Antonov launch facility. Source English Russia

Neil Spiller pointed in his book Visionary Architecture that the history of the twentieth-century architecture is linked to the metamorphosis of the ‘machine‘ and the technologies that embody it. According to Spiller, the definitive megastructural model of its generation was Gunther Domenig and Eilfried Huth‘s Graz-Ragnitz project. Structurally the project consisted in a complex layered anatomy, using Reyner Banham‘s words. But now, as proposed by the curators of Megastructure Reloaded, the megastructuralists are to be tested for their currency and relevance to the problems of contemporary urban design.

Günther Domenig and Eilfried Huth, Überbauung Ragnitz [1965-69]. Source: Megastructure Reloaded

Some of the concerns of these proposals were about human control over nature due to technology or technology’s dominance over man, through the full technologization prevalent in these projects. Schrijver pointed with insightful words:

This inmediately begs the question of what happens to the work of the architect: it has now been transformed (or reduced?) to the design of an [urban] infrastructure, and its infill. The notion of spaciality as an architectural intervention, as Alison and Peter Smithson proposed, has thus been reduced to a simple question of efficiency: how much space does one need?

What we want to point here is a question about the city of the future dreamed in the 60s. What would have happened if any of these future-cities had been built? How would they looked like? Reading all these texts and books about architecture in the 60s and 70s, it seems that if these cities had been built, now we would be living in a place very similar to the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Should we call it a ‘city of the future‘?

The differences between oil-rigs and rocket launch structures with projects such the Walking City are smaller than we think. On this premise, can you imagine how would our current proposals been seen from the future? Whit which kind of current facility or project would be related the CV08?

Strip City [1970] by Hodgetts and Walker. Source: Arqueología del Futuro

Buran launching facility at Baikonur. Source English Russia

Related post at La Periferia Doméstica and Arkinet’s Baikonur Cosmodrome And The Energia-Buran Facilities.


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