The events of Independent Group (David Robbins, The Independent Group: postwar Britain and aesthetics of plenty, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. 1990) and the experience of New Brutalism (Reyner Banham, The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic , Reinhold, 1966)  are the background for the attempt to put architecture in direct contact with scenarios drawn from the scientific and technical development. In this context Reyner Banham finds in science fiction, in its prophetic mission and desiring, the paradigm of an uninhibited adherence to the spirit of the time. Unpredictable and avant-garde, Banham blueprint prepares and accompanies the adventures of the radicals of the sixties and is a memorable attempt to overcome the constraints imposed by material substance and historical architecture.

On the pages of “The Listener” (No. 54, 1955, p. 332, Where Man Meets Machine), outlining determination and freedom, or practice and vision, as the twin factors that define the whole history, Banham emphasizes “the humanistic practice of technology”, in which ideal and real are really balanced. In “Daidalos” (No. 27, 1988, p. 57, Edison, Missing Pioneer) he acclaims Paul Scheerbart, for his Glasarchitektur book “has permeated the culture and practice of visionary optimism” and for his ability to “predict the reality the future”. And yet, in the 1958 Space, Fiction and Architecture, promotes science fiction as a means to train balanced architects: science fiction should be “a fundamental part of education of the imagination of any technology, imaging technology: can it think of a better definition of architectural thought? “(Architects’ Journal, No. 127, p. 559). Synthesizing material and vision, “the imaginative technologist” gives shape to history.

In Banham historical system, human desire mediates future and present through a retroactive basis. Looking at the same correspondence, Verne says that “Tout ce qu’un homme est capable d’imaginer, d’autres hommes seront capables de le réaliser” (Willy Ley, No Longer Imaginary, “Galaxy Science Fiction”, 13, 1956 , p. 48).

Referring to Verne, Campbell, Astounding editor, calls the beginning of every technological development the “leap of desire” and states: “That science fiction is able to prophesy the achievements of the technique is obvious for anyone dealing with science fiction; but there is a way to make predictions based on the understanding that if enough people want something with enough passion, sooner or later, those people will force it to become a reality” (No. 44, 1949, p. 4, Science- Fiction Prophesy).

Banham also cites Moholy-Nagy: “We need talented Utopians, new Jules Verne” (The New Vision, 1947, p. 18). Dreams draw the future and shape history. For the exhibition “Man, Machine and Motion” in 1955 Banham lists his most complete expression of history as progressive attempt of the desire: reviewing the history of technological tools, he denies determinism up to conclude that “machines do not autoproduct, nor they are generated by the laws of Nature, but only by the realization of dreams and desires of man” (Nawcaste-upon-Tyne , 1955, pp. 20-30). Stigmatizing Suzanne Langer, Banham argues that “the real revolution of architecture is not the utility, but the ideal that becomes reality” (History, Theory and Criticism, “AIA Journal, 1964, p. 38). The architecture acquires historical meaning when proposes the immediate future as an image towards its realization. Image brings future to present.

The term image which Banham defines as the “most intractable and most useful contemporary aesthetics” term, contains his theory of history in a single word (The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic, Reinhold, p. 357). According to John McHale of the Independent Group, “what people choose in a product is always the image rather than reality (The Expendable Ikon I,” Architectural Design “, No. 29, 1959, p. 82).

But though the image is a drawing for the future, it should never be a static design. The fuel scientific progress needs to be continually renewed. According to Banham this need is satisfied by science fiction. “The consumption of science fiction,” he explains, “is as high as the consumption of pop music” (The Atavism of the Short-Distance Mini-Cyclist, “Living Art”, 3, 1964, reprinted in Penny Sparke, Design by Choice, 1971 , pp. 86-87). And we “people of today” love pop music!


Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, Popeye, 2003, Oil on canvas 274.3 x 213.4 cm

TateShots NYC: Jeff Koons

“When I’m working with an object I always have to give the greatest consideration not to alter the object physically or even psychologically. I try to reveal a certain aspect of the object’s personality. To give you an example: if you place a shy person in a large crowd, his shyness will be revealed and enhanced. I work with the object in a very similar manner. I’m placing the object in a context or material that will enhance a specific personality trait within the object. The soul of the object must be maintained to have confidence in the arena” Jeff Koons

Jean Nouvel architect photo by Matthew Pillsbury at Bonni Benrubi

Matthew Pillsbury, La Salle du Haut Conseil, Institut du Monde Arabe, Jean Nouvel, Architect, Paris (2008)

Charlie Rose – Jean Nouvel

“I try to be a contextual architect. And I think that one of the disasters in the urban situation today is what I call the generic architecture. It’s all these buildings in every cities in the world now. And now with the computer you have a lot of facilities to do that. (…) And every building was in relationship with the geography where the building was sticking to the other one, all the castles linking to the landscape. So if you arrive with an idea of a readymade building like readymade, like this in the landscape, and it is a disaster.” Jean Nouvel