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Architecture and Science Fiction
Architectural design, like Science Fiction, is always about the future; when an architect makes a proposition she is always assuming that it takes place in some imagined future. Architects nearly always assume that this future will be ‘better’ than the present often as a consequence of what is being proposed and in this sense all architecture is to a degree ‘utopian’. Science Fiction can also seen as a ‘utopian’ strand of literature: from Thomas More to Jules Verne and HG Wells, through to Aldous Huxley and George Orwell and more latterly Philip K Dick, J.G. Ballard, Neal Stephenson and William Gibson the future is depicted in a variety of different hues, not all of them as rosy as the futures promised by the architectural profession and as a result the speculations of science fiction writers are often more believable. This relationship between architecture and science fiction was the subject of a recent issue of Architectural Design (AD) that I edited ‘Architectures of the Near Future’. ‘Architectures of the Near Future’ was informed by the prophetic and highly prescient work of English author J.G. Ballard. My work on Ballard focused on his speculations on the built environment, from ecological crisis to technological fetishism and augmentation, and from urban ruination to suburban mob culture, and the fact that he has pursued these topics with a wit and inventiveness that is without comparison within architectural criticism. These ideas have been the subject of a number of conference papers and lectures I have given including papers at the Architectural Association and to CABE and was the subject of a Bartlett International Lecture. I am currently writing the ‘Architecture’ chapter for the Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction.
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