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Exhibition and project content

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“Visualisations of the 21st Century City” is a project materialised under the auspices of the RIBA and its Building Future Programme in close collaboration with different schools of Architecture from the UK. It has been proposed as a space for the discussion and experimentation around the future necessities of our cities and towns in a 20-year timeframe. This year, the second in an ongoing series, involved the participation of students from The Bartlett (UCL), Sheffield University and The Mackintosh School of Architecture. It was run as a semester long project as part of the autumn term programme of work and culminated in an exhibition at the RIBA from the 8th of March, 2007. It was mainly a 2D presentation, full of high impact, expressive images outstandingly avoiding any typical overload of texts. The contents where original and appealing and some of the boards where peculiarly floating along the central atrium of the RIBA’s building.

This second part of the Visualisation’s adventure, brought together the reflection around serious contemporary issues and the unrestrained and exciting possibilities of performance that the academia allows. The group of students developed optimistic, humoristic, mindful, fashionable ingenious and deliberately frivolous proposals that shaped the latent intention of using creativity and utopian to create debate and discussion, while nourishing the young students and Building Future’s laboratory of ideas.

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Cities and places in London, Hull, Glasgow and Conisbrough with different levels of degradation, dullness, environmental threats, buildings and emerging pressures, were utopically transformed in both a small and large scales 20 years into the future. All the scenario scanning first went through the acknowledgment and understanding of social, technological and environmental factors such as: social growth, economics, global warming, implementation of intelligent infrastructures. A series of interrogates: Would it be an increase of the current global warming rate? London submerged? More carbon dioxide stored in the soil? Coastal communities first displaced? Lost of water supplies? Are the Flood defenses a solution? Renegotiating relations with deprived communities or with the sea? How can we bring intelligence to our physical networks (transport, telecommunication, water, energy)? How the interface between existing buildings and emerging pressures may develop in the next two decades?

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The recognition and assumption of all of these issues and uncertain scenarios were differently tackled by each group, reflecting the different focus and philosophy of the schools, always compromised with the education and dissemination of Architecture and its attempt to define forms of inhabit this changeable world.

The Sheffield University through two different urban scale proposals, developed a series of innovative
and controversial projects within two troubled contexts, aiming to promote them as unique futuristic urban-aquatic and urban-self-sufficient models. Hull will deal with tidal flooding not with bricks or concrete, but by renegotiating the ground level and developing adaptable programmes and transient architectures enhancing Hull’s revolutionary and educative appeal. Conisbrough on the other hand, will be an example of large scale strategic planning from both a social and spatial perspective, empowering interdisciplinary thinking and promoting the use of new technologies for recycling, production of renewable energy, eco-housing, among others. Conisbrough will constitute a visionary example of multilayered strategic thinking. Both Studios revealed a compromised research methodology with an forceful preliminary approach at a city and societal scale, and finally reaching site specific proposals always characterized by their cutting edge programmes and ideas.

The Mackintosh School of Architecture with a series of inventive fake adverts and magazines front pages, addressed future possible scenarios within a world with a global water crisis, that needs to re-orient urban world destinations possibly considering the disappearing of coastal famous cities, and instead encouraging places as Glasgow as new urban oasis, where paradisiacal and technological promises could take place offering centres of sonic arts and intermedia, promising Las Vegas stylish excesses or cities like Belfast promoted as a talking shop of the world. All the scenarios presented by this group revealed an intention to develop a sense of personal creative direction from a critical position of today’s consumerist society living in an increasingly environmental warming state.

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Finally, The Bartlett worked on how an existing building stock can be adapted to meet possible future demands, using the Thames Side Warehouse Building at the Metropolitan Wharf in Wapping as the case of study . By developing unconventional and provocative hypothesis, the students envisaged new ways of reappropiation of the building trying to deal with economical and environmental issues and conciliating with light-busy cultural tendencies. Remarkable ideas were conceived around topics of mass consumerism demanding more storage facilities whilst considering a posterior good’s discard; or how to implement small crops as Bananas, in floating structures that rotate according to each season sun’s orientation; or the possibility to design a battery building that assumes its responsibility for its energy’s consumption while providing energy to the surrounding wharf; or much more hedonist, sensorial proposals preoccupied with fashion, as it might keep obsessing people even with the flooding occurring, in that case why not think in adaptable, non-static architectures? Or the possibility of constructing a Sanctuary pathway of experiences “echoing the sounds and the fluttering movements of the Thames, reactivating the dulled senses of the busy lifestyle”. Outstandingly, students were encouraged to think in very diverse and witty ways about the potential of an existing building located in an increasingly troubled wharf, and achieving a gently sophisticated and aesthetically enticing visual representation of the projects.

One more time the Visualisations project in its second series, fulfilled its intention to build upon knowledge and future oriented thinking by engaging promising students that will help shaping new ways to occupy challenging future virtual and real scenarios. The Buildings Future programme has no intention to reach a state of static or definitive conclusions, but to support a laboratory of ideas in permanent construction where new images of thought could be applied for the built environment professions over the next 20 years. Within this framework, we would be able to successfully utilize this very much cheerful and resourceful young thinking when dealing with the future complex issues.

2007 Exhibition curated by Luz Helena Hincapie.
buildingfutures@inst.riba.org

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