May 102013
 

Augmented Luminous Starship Model

This image shows the starship that I designed for the Luminous exhibition as a triggered augmented reality (AR) 3D model. The model appears to hover above the Reid Library on the grounds of The University of Western Australia, triggered by the view of the library.

The Luminous application, created by felix laboratories, can be downloaded for Apple and Android smart-devices. The entire exhibition of augmented reality (AR) artworks, including animation and audio components,  is accessible through the catalogue, available at the University of Western Australia. It is recommended that you take a stroll through the university grounds and experience the AR for yourself.

Augmented Luminous Starship b

luminous catalogue photo

Above is the Luminous catalogue with cover drawing by the talented Beth George.

 

 May 10, 2013
May 102013
 

Luminous Starship Model

This image is a 3D Studio Max render of a starship I designed for the recently held Luminous exhibition on the grounds of the University of Western Australia. The exhibition, which is currently running, consists of augmented reality artworks triggered within the university grounds.

 May 10, 2013
May 102013
 

The Architecture of a Monstrous Space

Craig William McCormack

The practice of involving architects in the space program grew out of the Space Race (that mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States of America for supremacy in space exploration), although its origins can be seen much earlier. The need for their involvement stemmed from the push to extend space mission durations and address the needs of astronauts including, but beyond minimum survival needs. A now valid discipline in its own right, space architecture owes its origin (at least in an earth-born sense) to any human that has looked towards the stars in fascination. The earnest notion of inhabiting outer space awaited the rapid advancement of industrial technologies around the dawn of the 20th century.

Space architecture is now a professional discipline in its own right, with NASA employing many space architects within its facilities. The University of Houston in Texas now offers a Master of Science in space architecture, which provides training with a strongly technical emphasis, clearly removed from the theoretical and historiographical context of on-world architectural research. With the recent success of private company, SpaceX, and its Dragon spacecraft, the first commercial vessel to visit the International Space Station (ISS), architects are now being groomed to work for space tourism companies. Milan’s Domus Academy hosted a two week design intensive during the European summer of 2012 suitably entitled ‘Zero-Gravity Design: Products & Microenvironments for Orbiting Hotels.’ Participants were challenged to,

…come up with creative antidotes for isolation, confinement, boredom, sensory deprivation, bone-muscle atrophy, as well as social-psychological-and-cultural stressors characteristic of living in cramped spaces where privacy is limited and so are resources.[1]

During October, 2002, within a space architecture workshop organised by The AIAA (The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) held at the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, the first manifesto for the emergent discipline was drawn up.[2] This manifesto was to establish and outline the scope and philosophical guidelines in regards to space architecture as a discipline. Space architect Constance Adams, an attendee to the Team 11 Charter Summit, describes the determined attempt to align space architecture with the ideals of CIAM (International Congress of Modern Architecture),

The central goal…was to engage the strongest history of our profession in the previous century in forging a milestone of the same standard for the century that was to come. To do that, we hoped to combine a clear sense of direction in a millennial statement of significance parallel to the CIAM Congresses of the 1920s-50s… Added to that was the importance of ensuring a continuity with the CIAM tradition so that historically we could demonstrate a genuine connection to the International Congresses of Modern Architecture, a body that essentially spurred our profession for the first time into a real global engagement with politics, social issues and ideology as well as tectonics and craft.[3]

From the charter was produced the quickly adopted, and now widely recognised definition of space architecture; space architecture is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space.[4] Examples of space architecture that meet this description can be found in the ISS and its vanguard. Unfortunately for space architecture this definition, as concise as it may be, falls short not through what is included, but what is excluded. Considering the optimistic scope of the Team 11 Charter Summit and its wish to align space architecture to the ideals of Modernism, a more inclusive definition would surely have reflected the lofty goals of the cause.

In 1936, Nikolaus Pevsner published his well known book, Pioneers of Modern Design, a positivist survey of architects and their work that contributed to the advancement of the Modern Movement. Pevsner is widely remembered and often quoted for his explanation of architecture from his 1943 publication, An Outline of European Architecture,

A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture. Nearly everything that encloses space on a scale sufficient for a human being to move in is a building; the term architecture applies only to buildings designed with a view to aesthetic appeal.[5]

Despite this also limiting definition, within Pioneers… Pevsner saw fit to include a chapter describing the influence of iron on the evolution of architecture, where a great deal of writing surrounds the development of bridges and the impact that this new technology created. Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge of 1836 is used as a superb example of engineering then adopted by the architecture fraternity, regardless of the intent conscious or otherwise, of its author.

Surely, a man like Brunel must have been susceptible to the unprecedented aesthetic qualities of his design – an architecture without weight…only once before had such daring spirit ruled European architecture, at the time when Amiens, Beauvais, and Cologne were built.[6]

Clearly Pevsner is including not just habitable structures under the banner of architecture, but the wider built environment also; that which not inhabited, plays no less an important part in our lives, as long as it meets his aesthetic requirements. After the inclusion of bridges in his architectural treatise, Pevsner mentions the Eiffel Tower as the last show of iron’s strength before steel’s dominance, with, ‘…the elegance of its curved outline, and the powerful yet controlled energy of its élan.’[7] The aesthetic of emergent technology, for Pevsner, was the cost of admission.

Although not all bridges may be considered architectural and not all towers while architectural may be of merit, it is with certainty that architecture welcomes more canidates for admission into the canon than those which are capable of inhabitation; for example monuments. The inclusion of feats of engineering and technology within the architectural fraternity was not solely limited to Pevsner’s Age of Modernity. Publications incorporating bridges and other monuments as architecture, also mentioned by Pevsner, included Kircher’s China monumentis, qua sacris qua profanis, nec non variis naturae and artis spectaculis, aliarumque rerum memorabilium argumentis illustrate (1667) and Fischer von Erlach’s Historical Architecture (1726).[8]

In Technological Utopianism in American Culture (2005), Howard P. Segal, by way of providing a definition for technology refers to a sensible explanation by civil engineer, David Billington. Billington explains that technology can be divided into machines and structures, with the latter encapsulating the built environment, using examples such as bridges, dams, harbours, power plants, and skyscrapers.[9] These examples of the built environment, with their inherent technological bent, only seek to broaden architecture’s scope and demand a tolerant definition.

Following in the tradition of the ‘paper architects’, such as Étienne-Louis Boullée (whose Cenotaph for Newton provided inspiration) and Claude Nicolas Ledoux, Lebbeus Wood’s Einstein Tomb (1980) is not only a tomb, forever locked in an infinite, cyclic trajectory within the depths of outer space, but one that along with the majority of Woods’ architectural work, was never realised. Here is a clear example of space architecture (or architecture that occurs in outer space) that defies the discipline’s internally devised definition. Woods’ tomb is no place for the propagation of human life yet it is convincingly architecture.

Earth bound architecture too has had its share of examples that defy traditional notions of the discipline, far beyond the acceptance of aesthetically pleasing and culturally significant examples of civil engineering. The list is long and celebrated including, as well as the aforementioned Woods, Boullée, and Ledoux, such architects as Massimo Scolari, Peter Eisenman, El Lissitzky, Louis Sullivan, and Hector Guimard, all producing what are considered to be architectural masterpieces that do not lend themselves to inhabitation. Scolari still invites debate as to whether his work is more art than architecture. Like its parent, that refuses to be confined to a simple definition, space architecture is no less easily defined. This is especially so if we are to include examples from the space program’s early financier, science fiction (sf).

The brick moon from Edward Everett Hale’s story of the same name could replace the well worn Utopia by Thomas More as the commonly referred to example of the perfect community, and unlike the island in More’s story, the moon was not happened upon, but designed and built. The Borg cube from Star Trek could be examined as the ultimate expression of the Modernist social condenser, where the inhabitants have assimilated with technology in order to attain perfection. The stargate from the similarly named sf television series, located in orbit around the fictional planet Proculus is no less an aesthetically novel bridge than Brunel’s. Even if the discipline of space architecture grew to recognise such a stargate, it may have difficulty admitting the monolithic form in Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001; A Space Odyssey.

The application of architectural theory to this new found wealth may prove to be just as stimulating. SF has already become well established as a genre for critical theory over recent decades, with significant writers in this field including Darko Suvin, Carl Freedman, and Istvan Csicery-Ronay Jr. In the recent Architecture and Science-Fiction Film, author David T. Fortin has applied architectural theories to films based on Philip K. Dick’s writings, providing additional understandings surrounding the subjects of home and habitation.[10]

Works by these authors while offering insights and critical discourse within the realm of sf, may also provide opportunities for rich dialogue between architecture also, where due to a lack of earthly restraints and inventive imaginations, the built environment has had opportunity to develop in unexpected ways. Not that this has not been happening already. Jeffrey Kipnis, in his essay Forms of Irrationality, discusses the plot of an sf film, Forbidden Planet, in which architecture ultimately represents the idealized human body against the backdrop of structures created by the alien Krell race, from the sf film, Forbidden Planet.[11] That is to say, architecture takes on the role of a meaningful cipher connected to an essence of human identity, far beyond its utilitarian base.

If space architecture is to carry on the tradition of its earth-bound parent into the cosmos and perhaps beyond, it would do well to wear an equally vague definition. Perhaps the simple adjustment of the current definition would suffice, to now read; space architecture is the theory and practice of designing and constructing the built environment in outer space. In this guise it neither confirms nor denies fiction or non-fiction.

 

Notes


[1] Domus Academy, 2012. http://www.studiesandcareers.com/domus_academy.html (accessed March 2, 2013).

[2] David Wong, 2012. The Orbit: Special. http://theorbitspecial.webr.ly/ (accessed March 2, 2013).

[3] Wong, The Orbit: Special.

[4] A. Scott Howe and Brent Sherwood, Out of This World: The New Field of Space Architecture. {Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2009}, ix.

[5] Nikolaus Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture{ Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1942}, p23.

[6] Nikolaus Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design; From William Morris to Walter Gropius {Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975}, 128.

[7] Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design, 140.

[8] Pevsner, Pioneers of Modern Design, 126.

[9] Howard P. Segal, Technological Utopianism in American Culture {Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005}, 12.

[10] David T. Fortin, Architecture and Science-Fiction Film: Philip K. Dick and the Spectacle of Home. {Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2011}, 11.

11 Jeffrey Kipnis, “Forms of Irrationality,” in Strategies in Architectural Thinking, eds. John Whiteman, Jeffrey Kipnis, and Richard Burdett {Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992}, 151-153.

 

Bibliography

Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Istvan, The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. Connecticut, Wesleyan University Press, 2008.­­

Domus Academy S.p.A. ‘Domus Academy studies and careers website’ <http://www.studiesandcareers.com/domus_academy.html>.

Fortin, David T., Architecture and Science-Fiction Film: Philip K. Dick and the Spectacle of Home. Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2011.

Frampton, Kenneth, Modern Architecture; a critical history, fourth edition. London, Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2007.

Freedman, Carl, Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2000.

Howe, A. S., Sherwood, Brent, eds., Out of This World: The New Field of Space Architecture. Virginia: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2009.

More, Thomas, Utopia. The Project Gutenberg eBook, Henry Morley ed. Released: April 22, 2005.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, Pioneers of Modern Design: From William Morris to Walter Gropius. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975.

Pevsner, Nikolaus, An Outline of European Architecture. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1942.

Scolari, Massimo, Between Memory and Hope. Massachusetts: The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, 1980.

Segal, Howard P. Technological Utopianism in American Culture. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

Suvin, Darko, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction; On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. New Haven and London; Yale University Press, 1979.

The Orbit. ‘The Orbit: Special website’ <http://theorbitspecial.webr.ly/>.

University of Chicago Press. ‘Chicago Style Citation Quick Guide.’ Last modified 22 August 2006. <http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html>.

Woods, Lebbeus, Pamphlet Architecture 6: Einstien Tomb. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1980.

Westfahl, Gary, Island in the Sky: The Space Station Theme in Literature. Lexington: Borgo Press, 2009.

Whiteman, John, Kipnis, Jeffrey, Burdett Richard, eds., Strategies in Architectural Thinking, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992.

Craig William McCormack is a current PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia. While currently his research and writing is devoted to the history and theory of space architecture, he manages to find time to maintain and enjoy a ’96 Kawasaki ZX7R, a motorcycle that according to McCormack, punches well above its weight.

 May 10, 2013