Neo Stocktaking

In the recently domesticated life of the machines in the mid 20th century, the role of the architect seemed to have transformed into that of a machinist- with innovations deriving from the technical dexterity of tenacious and ambitious allies of the profession, led by the structural engineer and followed very closely by other specialized consultants. At the RIBA Discourse in 1959, the ambivalent relationship of the operational lore with the more avant-garde concept of the apparent intelligence was exposed by Charles Eames, further exploited in the following year by Reyner Banham through his contentious argument in Stocktaking. The polemic argument put across in The Architecture Review, drew on the laments of architecture as a lost cause in envisaging the desired utopia, drowned by the high viscous waves of the exact and social sciences, rendering the question of future manifestation compromised. On the pretext of restocking and measuring the distance traversed by architecture since then, one needs to account for the consequence of tradition and technology, which has both evolved and redefined, in content, through each of the decades and more so in the recently emerging  thoughts and progressive experiments. As maverick inventions of today become a part of the conventional lore, the scientific exploitations, get implemented by some far-reaching adroit professionals, and through time, the true potential and aptness of the breakthrough is realized, thus becoming part of a conformist architecture.  A paradigm of such tradition, where ideas were seen as nonsense when created, but later left a stock of knowledge that would become inherent of the customary ‘basics’, can be traced in the works of Buckminster Fuller and his Dymaxion concept.

Bucky, as he is more popularly known was a free thinker who emphasized on exploring an architecture that was detached from any historical Vitruvian or Albertian precedents or orthodox definitions prevalent in the modern world. Ignored and unrecognized initially, for his architecturally revolutionizing concepts in the fields of synergetics, topology and pattern integrities, he was known more as a geometrical poet, stuck amidst architecture and engineering, coming into recognition only when the Dymaxion concept was evolved, which exposed to the fraternity the potential. The three wheeled Dymaxion car, designed by Bucky, has been the model for influence in many designs for its super light structure and principles of aerodynamics involved with maximized fuel efficiency.  A look at most of the designs executed by this non conventional architect later in his vocation, a sensitive guarding to the economics of assembly and production of  prefabricated units is noticed which may have been one of the first pragmatic approach in the same. The Dymaxion house project was a prodigy in the housing development, offering radical solutions to the social and economical constraints, with its innovative concepts of industrial fabrication through standard modular units, which could be used in combinations to produce a sonata in the industry. As opposed to the concepts of Neoliberty  being favoured by Italians in the  Casabella,and soon to be followed by some English towns, Fuller conceived the project in aluminium with an inner lining in fibreglass for insulation, materials hardly known to be used for architectural use in that time provided for a durable, light weight and high strength structure with a natural sensitivity to climate control.  In the planning of the house, the central core housed the services and provided a free space peripherally for the free composition of inhabited spaces to be made as per the requirement of each dwelling. In his entire oeuvre of both rationalist and structurally justifying formalism, Bucky’s aim was to use technology to maximize the benefits of construction through a knowledge base of science and the efficiency of the energies existent in nature for the remuneration of social necessities in the society. In the recent past few decades, similar concepts of using nature and its biological systems as models for inspiration to solve human problems and innovate breakthroughs in technology are being made through the fields of Biomimetics, Biomorphic mineralization and Biomimicry, the implementation of which in architecture is simultaneously being explored. The apparent intelligence of these experiments is exemplified by few architects, like Jean Nouvel’s facade of the Arab World Institute in Paris with the use of photovoltaic panels or a more recent demonstration may be seen in the Ricola Mulhouse Factory by Herzog and Meuron. These computer aided systems and some of the newer systems of fabrication, non-conforming to the traditional principles of the architectural profession, which are continuously being defined by scientists and engineers in collaboration, are still looked upon as an absurdity of the discipline today.

What may be a non realistic danger to the profession does not become instrumental in negating and ignoring innovations which are aimed at the creation of a more holistic character of architecture addressing to the social, economic needs of the society. A deeper delving into the ideologies of the scientific explorations shows the aims are synonymous, with the architect, to provide for architecture of the avant-garde, moving in tandem with technology and the evolving principles for the benefit of mankind in general. The unforeseen and unpredictable, somewhat supernatural characteristic of science, pursued passionately by the connoisseurs of those doctrine seem to pose a threat to the ever blindly following precedents of the architectural lore, thus limiting the ready acceptance of those sublime, mystical, uncanny ideas, fearing the rise of the Other Architecture. There is an illusion created, in the apprehension of losing the ‘basic’ character of architecture, for architecture like any other discipline, inherently moves progressively forward into changing times, resonating the need for introspection, within its set rules transcribed by experience. There are few alternatives suggested for debate to the architect, which may be to accept the sprouting seeds of change, by embracing and sieving the necessary inventions, to be incorporated in the creation of utopia, or, to be submerged in the explorations within the lore, to advocate for a utopia that may exist from predefined beliefs and teleological arguments. The world of ‘what should’ be is the discovery of ‘what is’ from ‘what was’ and ‘what could’ be.

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