The predictions that architects make about the future environment are for visual entertainment only. They do not progress the theoretical discourse since they are not proposing any actual solutions or generating any further work. Prophetic constructions are indeed based on personal observations about contemporary society, but are ultimately baseless and cannot be used to draw comparisons. This work is so highly personal that it cannot be built upon to create a discourse. The visionary construction is a dead end.
The soothsayers featured in Nic Clear’s AD issue, Architectures of the Near Future, present futures that are more about the aesthetics of representation, not content. Relating this work to that of novelist J.G. Ballard reduces its credibility to that of a paperback. Kitsch entertainment for the masses, science fiction novels occupy an entirely different realm than theoretical architectural discourse. The two should not be confused or intermingled.
Science fiction writing is able to expand on aspects of the present and mix them with the fantastical. Much like avant-garde architecture, the author has the ability to be selective with their use of historical precedents and mix them with new ideas. Situated at the intersection of political commentary and technological fantasy, these visions are a tangled constructions that meet at one point, but do not continue further to progress the discourse.
The problem that arises in science fiction is that the entertainment factor is generated by the implausible elements that the author adds. This is problematic when architectural theory is fused with science fiction. Architecture is ultimately a built thing, and if it cannot be constructed then it is useless.
Dystopic visions of the future are especially unproductive because they do not suggest any solutions to present problems—they simply exaggerate them. Societal disasters are foregrounded with crumbling advanced infrastructure as the backdrop. Similar to the accelerated decrepitude of Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner, the infrastructural landscape is aging at a faster rate than time has progressed. This exaggeration is solely for visual purposes.
These visions of the future are not actual projections, but rather phantasmagoric commentary on the present. When architects try take on the future they are actually only presenting visual entertainment that does not advance the discourse. Architects should focus on designing, rather than fantasizing.
The University of Michigan TCAUP
Instructor: Amy Kulper