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The Future of Space.

'Mr Secretary, we have not heard from our Ambassador to France for two years,' President Jefferson said to his foreign minister, 'If he doesn't write by Christmas, we might send him a letter'. 'The telephone is a wonderful invention', exclaimed an American mayor a century later, 'Every city should have one'.

That telecommunications tend to 'annihilate space and time' is as evident as our inability to keep up with the social and psychic implications of their development. To telecommunications, however, have now been added technologies allowing an increasing proportion of our waking attention to be monopolised by synthetic experience (television, virtual reality, and so on) - a circumstance that rings alarm bells in many domains, including that of architecture. For architecture as a cultural activity has always centred itself around material presence and spatial relations - just those aspects of experience for which the electronic sensibility offers seductive substitutes. Poetry, not long ago a central player in individual and national consciousness, has become marginal, the pastime of adolescents and cranks. Could architecture follow?

This question is addressed by several of the 13 papers, collected here, from the 1992 conference of the gloriously-styled Laboratory of Civilization (alias Darmstadt's Werkbund Academy). Martin Pawley, swashbuckling as usual, announces that capital-A Architecture has already gone down the tube, and good riddance. Michael Muller, on the other hand, claims that Hollein's recent work confirms Baudrillard's claim that everything is becoming capital-A Art. Saskia Sassen moves up a scale, noting that while telecommunications permit dispersed placelessness they simultaneously encourage industrial control to concentrate itself densely in the centres of a few 'global cities'; this attracts the alien and disadvantaged who, even in Tokyo, generate a far from placeless local culture.

Joachim Krausse describes a must-have pocket device, the 'excommunicator', which disables all electronic media within 30 metres. Michael Klar foresees telematics fulfilling Buckminster Fuller's vision of a democratically shared, universally comprehensible model of global reconstruction. But Wolf Schafer refuses to prophesy, telling of an academic colleague whose book predicted the demise of capitalism and the worldwide victory of socialism. It had the misfortune to be published in 1989.

PHILIP TABOR
COPYRIGHT 1995 EMAP Architecture
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Author:Tabor, Philip
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1995
Words:352
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