Monday, 25 October 2010

In Praise of the Space Frame!

Is there any structure that quite shouts '1970s' more than the space frame? Under the influence of Rayner Banham and Buckminster Fuller, radical architects all over the UK suddenly turned away from concrete towards the joys of ball-joints and lattice work. lightweight and efficient, these structures also look dirt-cheap, and are magnets for dust and grime. No other structure manages to look quite so dowdy as the space frame. It's almost as if they were designed to evoke Benjamin's 'dirty and sad' reaction to iron & glass.

Warren Chalk (Archigram)

Cedric Price

Konrad Wachsmann

Essentially what killed the space frame as a vehicle for architectural expression was British High-Tech. Rather than the willful ugliness of Price or some of the Zoom architects, making a virtue of the rudimentary, Rogers & Foster fetishised the detail, and led us up to the current commercial glass aesthetic that we all know and hate. But wait! What's this?

Is that really Zaha Hadid resurrecting the space frame? Is she subverting the patronage of her Azerbaijani clients by delivering them a dusty, dreary, dream-like interpretation of the old iron & glass palaces of melancholy?

Of course not. It's going to be entirely clad in an unspecific shiny white material, as ever.


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