Superstudio, A Journey from A to B, 1972.
Introduction: Bigness | Smallness
Economic and political changes notwithstanding, my hypothesis is that these two fields proposed radically different scales of social intervention -- bigness versus miniaturization -- and ultimately one won out. By means of its inherent flexibility, network adoption, and friendliness to market capitalism, computation won out as the primary means to shape society and culture, in ways that 19th century urban planners and architects can only dream of. In contrast, the implosion of the postwar consensus in the 1970's forced architects to re-package modernist utopias into consumption playgrounds, abandoning social agendas for commercial interests, in a decades-long quest for ever bigger "bigness". In the next 50 years, I foresee that the two disciplines, which once worked side-by-side with shared hardware, will once again come together, to address the spectacular challenges of this century.
Prologue, 1960: "To the Moon and Beyond"
1967: "The Audacity of Hope"
Architecture's vision for the future came in the form of a 200-ft tall geodesic dome. At the '67 World Expo in Montreal, American architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller erects a double-layer, icosahedral acrylic bubble, a monument to American triumph in space. Inside this miniature "Earth sphere", visitors can marvel at Apollo technology and learn about the environment. A monorail even ran straight through the pavilion, to add to its vision of a techno-utopia. In the same year, Texas Instruments unveils the first prototype of an electronic handheld calculator. Though primitive by today's standards, the pocket calculator was groundbreaking technology, at a time when folks were still using slide rules, log charts, and room-sized computers. Within a few years, the electronic calculator would become a widespread item, found in every office, home, and college campus in America.