A small back-page article for the Western Australian The Architect Autumn edition. It concerns the latest Star Wars installment and a sample of the architecture, or rather the space architecture, found within its fictional universe and the ubiquitousness that has been bestowed upon it, that has seen it aligned to other filmic devices. Pick up a copy at all good outlets…? There are also some excellent pieces of writing to be found within its pages.
A NOSTALGIA PRODUCING INSTRUMENT. A LANDMARK FOR SPACE.
Outer space begins a few hundred kilometres perpendicular to the Earth’s surface. There have been various gateways to this infinity, the most celebrated of which is Cape Canaveral, located near the centre of Florida’s Atlantic coastline. Nestled here within the Kennedy Space Centre (KSC) are two launch pads that have been responsible for supporting countless launches.
In the excursus of Collage City entitled Nostalgia-producing instruments, Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter include two photographs of the KSC launch complex structures. The authors pose the question, ‘Why should we be obliged to prefer a nostalgia for the future to that for the past?’ The launch-centered buildings invite the nostalgia of a golden age of space travel when these structures represented a gateway to space and the future.
Launch pads 39A and 39B stand out on the low Florida coastline, piercing the blue horizon as they sit atop a futuristic hill-fort. From a distance they could be mistaken as the skeletal remains of Hans Hollein’s aircraft carrier’s run aground inland, perhaps in the process of being broken down as often happens to ships amongst the low-tides of Chittagong’s ship-breaking yards in Bangladesh. The structure is so impenetrably dense that any human scaled element is lost amongst it; analogous to the insignificance of man set against the inky black infinity of space. But these dense expressions of structure are not being dismantled nor are they lying dormant. After more than fifty years of service they continue to operate as a fundamental component to the launch facility, being modified and repurposed to accept continually advancing launch systems technology.
The two launch pads are linked to the cavernous VAB via pathways topped with a layer of spark-resistant river stone. This gauntlet is run at a deliberately unhurried pace by the crawler transporter; a moveable element of the launch pads that as well as providing a plinth with which to stand the launch system atop, is responsible for the delivery of the rocket to the launch pad proper. Decades of use has seen rockets scorch the fire trench that is used to control and direct the blast over water. Bricks lining the fire trench walls are often shot kilometres away from the launch pad due to the incredible forces at play. These bricks bear an indelible patina, the mark of a sublime event whose forces you can conjure as your hands run over them.
Man no longer frequents the Moon, though has left some evidence; Skylab has since burnt up on re-entry; the International Space Station will certainly suffer a similar fate. Space it seems is no suitable place for a landmark to celebrate mankind’s ultimate endeavour (although Lebbeus Woods’ Einstein’s Tomb would tend to make a case for its viability). All that remains and will remain in the wake of such historically significant events are two hulking launch pads that continue to endure a solemn, dutiful service here on Earth.
List of Illustrations
image a – Launch pad 39A (2012), the author’s image.
image b – Launch pad 39A (2012), the author’s image.
 Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter, Collage City (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978), 173.
This unit provides a grounding in the primary treatises on architecture and a familiarity with a number of significant buildings which emanate from those polemics. It focuses intently on, and investigates in depth, the treatises and buildings being studied. The principals of this study include Vitruvius, Alberti, Laugier, Le Corbusier, Loos and Venturi. The unit also visualises through physical model making the unbuilt works of architectural history. Virtual modelling, rendering and animation are also art of the methods of representation used to visualise these works.
Students are able to (1) gain a thorough appreciation of the six principal treatises on architecture; (2) acquire advanced model-making skills and skills in virtual modelling, rendering and animation; (3) subject a building to sustained critical analysis; and (4) acquire the necessary skills for the development of an individual critical base for contemporary architecture.
Rather than a movement, period, or polemic this edition of the Key Texts unit has chosen to focus on a specific individual; Italian architect, painter, and designer Massimo Scolari (b. 1943). Largely through the medium of painting Scolari has radically questioned some of architecture’s most deeply rooted assumptions, including those that link the representation of architecture to the physicality of its construction.
The challenge in understanding the surreal, visceral, yet inherently tectonic work of Scolari and manifesting it in three dimensional forms that embody these qualities cannot be understated. The resulting projects are a testament to the student’s commitment to rigourous investigation and critical analysis. This inquiry has culminated in the production of an exceptionally refined final model that has undergone a semester’s worth of material exploration and model-making development.
Unit Coordinator – Craig McCormack
Kristen Di Gregorio
The Venice Architecture Biennale 2014 – Craig McCormack
The idea of an Unbuilt Australia existed prior to the release of the biennale’s theme of Modernity 1914-2014. Such is the nature of the idea; it was a simple enough task to realign it to its new thematic home. We always liked the idea of presenting architecture that never made the cut. It tells a more compelling story in most cases. It’s like someone who dies to soon; they remain that way forever, an unrealistic and uncompromising edition. And so Unbuilt Australia grew the suffix of 1914 – 2014 once the theme had been determined. Our local team of Rene Van Meeuwen, Simon Anderson, Sophie Giles, Matt Delroy-Carr, and I had grown to include Melbournian Philip Goad to dilute the western waters and add his talent to the pool. We journeyed eastward to convince the powers that be of the AR technology we were intent on using. This led to institute members walking around Bradfield Park inside an augmented reality pavilion we had geo-positioned there, from Perth.
Twenty three projects in all were chosen, selected to represent an alternative narrative to Australia’s modernity, including the at-the-time-incomplete Denton Corker Marshall pavilion. Eleven temporary projects were determined by voting through the institute with final choice determined by the creative directors and eleven historic projects were selected by Goad and Anderson. We knew we couldn’t please everybody and I’m pretty certain that we didn’t. Once the projects had been determined work commenced in earnest on digitising all of the selected projects and designing the accompanying catalogue. Including the creative directors, students that toiled on the augmented reality models, and contributors for the accompanying catalogue, numbers totalled roughly 140. This process required a patience I am still yet to manifest. But I can feign it convincingly now.
Situated across the canal from the new Australian pavilion in a sunken courtyard (a site that was fought for) bordered by Greece, Romania, Poland, and Brazil, the pavilion served as an information centre and fixed exhibition site. The ‘Orange Cloud’ was designed as the frontispiece for the exhibition; the tangible element, a physical pavilion. Having worked as a volunteer at the pavilion for a short stint during winter, a roof over my head and a seat to recline on were very welcome, even though the orange, translucent material made all that entered look like an ‘oompa loompa’. Manufactured in Perth, by two different contractors, with completion due three months prior to the opening of the Biennale (due to shipping times), we crossed our collective fingers for its successful construction in Venice as we simply ran out of time to do a test run in Perth prior to it leaving.
The construction was regularly frustrating, involving more often than not, the tracking down of something so common to Bunnings but rarer than rocking horse shit in Venezia. It seems a universally acknowledged fact within the Biennale that all will not go as planned. Making friends with all of your neighbours is a wise course of action that is necessary for the completion of most pavilions, it would seem.
The real achievement of our exhibition was the placement of all of our exhibited projects placed digitally using GPS in select sites across Venice. These projects could then be experienced using the exhibition’s augmented reality app at a 1:1 scale using a smart device as an oculus, revealing Australia’s invasion of Venice as a temporary site. Of course finalising app development and having to check each augmented project across a tourist-infested Venice with inconsistent internet coverage meant for a frustration that equalled its physical counterpart in its completion.
I don’t know if you can completely prepare for exhibiting in the Biennale; at least when you have no permanent space and intend on using technology that remains in its infancy for your exhibit. You have to role with the punches. Luckily there are far worse places to be rolling and you quickly realise that you are not rolling alone. Every now and again you get time to catch your breath, or a sliver of a vista as you hustle through the winding streets on some pavilion related crusade. There are plenty of long evenings after the site curfew to be had with other teams, mulling over the day, spritz in hand, out doing each other with tales of near failure and narrowly averted disaster. Except for Norway. They always seemed to have everything under control.
I have been fortunate to have some images that I created for the Maribor: 100 Year City project, Venice Architecture Biennale 2012, used in a fantastic article written by Rene Van Meeuwen for KERB 22.
KERB is landscape architecture journal produced by the RMIT University School of Architecture and Design. You can find a copy here;