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Space. Can it really be defined into just two categories? Can we confine such a colossal thing into public and private? Is there a distinct difference between public space and private space; or is there room for several in-betweens. How are spaces classified? Do we categorize spaces by the activities that occur within them and who is allowed to see those activities, or by who owns these spaces? A road is a public space because the government owns it; the people pay taxes to use it, while on the other hand someone’s bedroom is a space allocated for privacy. However, where does the divide lie between public & private; e.g. public restrooms? A public space that allows users to commit a private activity; so how public is it really?
If a space is classified based on the activities that go on within it then private spaces would be for our private lives and public spaces for our public activities. However, in today’s society, our lives are never truly private; similarly to the spaces we inhabit, there is a blurred line between public & private. Due to technological advancements and the metamorphosis of values in the society, devices such as CCTV, Facebook and Twitter have lessened our chances of ever achieving 100% privacy. This leads us to question ourselves; do we live in a plug in-city like Archigram predicted?
Public spaces can be seen as negative forces, intruding into our private spaces. But surely, public and private spaces work hand in hand to create a balanced community. If we had no roads, no parks, no museums, our social system would crash. Schools, churches and even car parks allow us to co-exist with each other amidst all of our differences, if we have a few familiar principles. Even when there are two separate rates of developments co-existing, public space gives those private spaces a common ground.
“Man is a knot, a web, a mesh into which relationships are tied. Only these relationships matter…I have never known a man to think of himself when dying.”
(Antoine De Saint-Exupery (tr. Lewis Galantiere)
As Doreen Massey notes, we have to think about the dynamics and social relations of space because the people who use space are the ones that create it as opposed to the ones who design it. Culture is the behaviors, beliefs and characteristics of an individual or community. As geographical locations differ, we see how people think about design, creativity and space differently; and although a cultural group is heterogeneous by disposition; visions and classifications of space and utopias remain similar but not the
same. According to Stanley R. Barrett in his book The rise and fall of an African Utopia, we see the village Olowo has reached its peak in relation to all villages surrounding it, but this village was still very rural. The occupants were hunter-gatherers, most places were communal as opposed to private, but according to them, this made their community flourish. In the West, this would not be considered a Utopia, would it?
Situations, culture and environment influence how people ‘remember’ and ‘imagine’. The way in which public/ private space is divided and valued is also influenced by these factors. In West African countries, public spaces aren’t a crucial part of society. Do many even exist? Out of the worlds Best ‘Projects for public space’, only one is in Africa. (Greenmarket Square in Capetown). The remaining 162 are located in Europe and America. Is public space a Western concept? I believe public space exists in countries like Nigeria and Ghana in two forms. The more formal such as the Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana which serves as a memorial to 3 Ghanaians shot and killed by Colonial authorities; and the informal. The informal public spaces are all around. According to Ken Worple (2000) in Here comes the sun, little value has been accorded to public space that planners refer to it as SLOAP ( Space Left Over After Planning). This seems to be a trend in West African countries. Buildings and private spaces are mostly built by individuals, thus giving each person that can afford it, the power to create their personal Utopia. Is public space disregarded? The street is a public space, and in West Africa, this carries the same function as a park in Europe. A space for commerce and community. Street life is similar to life in a museum, a workspace; it is the ultimate public space. Roads , empty allotments, even under trees give the environment the public space it needs. Public space needn’t even have a definition or be designed because wherever the community congregates can be a public space.
So we question ourselves why is a city the way it is? Because of its inhabitants of course. Their influence and opinions affect the environment around them. What is public space and private space? Whatever the inhabitants want it to be. Different cultures look at spaces differently, and their cultures are defined by their religious beliefs, their societal developments, and by how they perceive themselves. Although architects and planners have designed spaces for the public it is how we as individuals interpret these spaces that gives them the classification of public or private spaces.
Antoine De Saint-Exupery (1942). Flight to Arras, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, United States, 1942, p. 129
Torerra Cardoso (email@example.com)
Michael Webb was part of the influential avant-garde group Archigram. The group was formed in the ‘swinging 60’s’ and were committed to a mobile, high tech, futuristic, light weight infrastructural approach. Archigram never realised most of their projects, because their drawings of the hypothetical projects were based around a modern day nomad who gained comfort wherever and whenever desired. The Cushicle/ Suitaloon was built on this principle of man constantly being on the move, but having a living environment nearby.
In today’s society, the ideological house is based on the principles of the ‘perfect’ family achieving their dream of a beautiful house, shaped like a house. The house remains the basic building block of society, and that is society is made up of nuclear families. The Cushicle/ Suitaloon wasn’t based around a model family, similarly to the Solo house by Lebbeus woods, the house was modeled to be inhabited only by one person. Although this was the case, the house was designed to be as inexhaustible as possible, so one house could be plugged in to another, groups of people (ie families) could live together if they pleased. This organised chaos meant that the ability to plug in and plug out gave the inhabitant as limited or as limitless space as they wanted. The Cushicle carried food, water supply, radio, miniature projection TV and heating apparatus all within the same structure. Unlike in a ‘normal’ house where every room has a particular function, this, like a modern day New York loft, the inhabitant has the ability to change and adapt the space to individual needs and personal preferences. A single room could hold unlimited possibilities. It wasn’t about regime and structure, but about the freedom to change, develop and simply live Are these principles not ideal? The Cushicle/Suitaloon seems to oppose ideology because Archigram did not conform or adhere to rules of living, but who dictates what is right or wrong?
Modernism was the movement that provoked Archigram, for they developed and even critiqued modernist precepts as a response to change in the society. Modernists loved mechanics whereas Archigram idolised electronic gadgetry, showing the evolution from one era of design to another. The traditional laws of fixed form and structure had become useless as time went on, and Archigram continued to experiment with this breaking up structures and making more cell-like houses. Archigramming was also appearing in Japan with the Metabolists visions for cities of the future to be occupied by a society based on large scale flexible and expandable structures that prompted the process of a sort of organic growth. The Metabolist designs relied majorly on advanced technology and what they envisioned for the world; adaptable plug –in mega structures. This was similar to Peter Cook’s Plug in city and Ron Herron’s Walking City. The Walking city was based around the thought of a new city built after a nuclear war, so it was mostly an insect like machine, with several components attached to it for humans to live in, that glided across the land until its inhabitants found a place to settle. The Plug in city was crane mounted living cells that could be plugged into wherever their inhabitants wanted.
The theme of plugging-in was entwined in all of Archigrams projects; plugging into more structures becoming mega-structures (expandability), as well as plugging into technology due to the rise of information-age electronics. One of David Greene’s projects, Bottery of 1969 was a less metaphorical way of portraying the whole plug-in theory, with the ‘device’ built around the theory that he could plug his TV into a log (logplug) to be able to watch television. A sort of cybernetic forest was imagined. Archigram envisioned that technology would take over the world, but hasn’t it? Don’t we plug into technology on a daily basis? Traditional buildings have been replaced by all the invisible networks of communication and information. Libraries are in less usage since technology advanced, and the internet grew more popular. We as individuals as well as a society are constantly plugging into technology, by buying the latest phone or laptop. We plug into social networks to communicate with our friends and find out information. What impact does the advent of new technologies- specifically digital information systems and media-have on architecture? Is this techno culture destructive? Nowadays every teenager has a television, mini fridge, laptop etc in their room, and that’s why they spend hours on end in there. Why would you leave a place that has all you need? A bedroom has become a modern day cushicle/ suitaloon, with the exception of mobility. It could be said that my house is just a collection of suitaloons. Like the suitaloon was a second skin grafted onto our body, a smart phone has become like our second brain, never leaving us. Our relationship has evolved into a reliance on technology, and it indicates the concern of Archigram- the infiltration of technology into the environment at a much less obvious level- is becoming true. Technology has become a crucial part of our world, assisting us with globalisation. Now, the world has become a global village, and we hold similar traits to the Archigram client, the nomad. We can wander and discover new parts of the world. I’ve lived in more than one country, and travelled around quite a bit, but I’ve found it quite easy to settle into the new cultures due to translators, and of course, social media, helping me keep in contact with my loved ones in various parts of the world. Every time I up and leave, I have to make the decision of what to take or leave. The suitaloon would eliminate this problem because not only would I have all my personal belongings on my back, I’d have my shelter too. I would inevitably be a human snail.
The suitaloon was called many things; architecture without architecture, architectural clothing, etc. but hardly ever a house. A house should focus on a person and their individual requirements. Just because it doesn’t have a roof or isn’t made out of traditional materials, doesn’t mean it doesn’t fulfil its duties as a house. This makes us question its functionality. If we agree that the dominant architectural values are solidity, security, happiness, progressiveness and quality of life then the Cushicle/ Suitaloon serves its purpose as a house without a question of a doubt.
Archigram was a breath of fresh air into the architectural scene as they revealed architecture as a cultural and consumerist idea instead of being stuck in the mono cultural rule of architecture. They were branded the last new movements in urbanism, as all their ideas were based on technology, urbanism and architecture through a lens of popular (pop) culture. Archigram lives on through High Tech architecture. Archigram are celebrated for developing an instant, pop up, plug-in architecture. Perhaps more importantly, they showed that technology was taking over architecture, in more ways than one. Due to technology, people are starting to question whether the architect is still necessary in society. Will technology ruin the profession of architecture or enhance it? This is something we’ll just have to wait and see.
Archigram envision a sort of machine age Utopia for the future generations, but with projects like the Cushicle/ Suitaloon, is it really a Utopia? A place that depends on technology? If yes, then we are already part of an Archigram Utopia, just in a less science fiction way.
After researching into Utopias, iIve come to the conclusion that Utopias aren’t real.Man always wants what they can’t have; this is the idea of Utopia, being in a place that you imagine is better than where you are now; but that’s it… it’s just a figment of our imaginations. People say the grass is greener on the other side. That other side seems to be Utopia, and once we think we’ve reached this Utopia, it becomes a dystopia. Utopia is nothing but a figment of our imaginations. It can never become a reality.