Dublin 1916: theatre of revolt

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    In his essay, Anti-Object, Kengo Kuma proposes that architecture cannot and should not be understood as object alone but instead always as series of networks and connections, relationships within space and through form. Some of these relationships are tangible, others are invisible. Stan Allen and James Corner have also called for an architecture that is more performative and operative – ‘less concerned with what buildings look like and more concerned with what they do’ – as means of effecting a more intimate and promiscuous relationship between infrastructure, urbanism and buildings. According to Allen this expanding filed offers a reclamation of some of the areas ceded by architecture following disciplinary specialization:

    ‘Territory, communication and speed are properly infrastructural problems and architecture as a discipline has developed specific technical means to deal with these variables. Mapping, projection, calculation, notation and visualization are among architecture’s traditional tools for operating at the very large scale’.

    The motorway may not look like it – partly because we are no longer accustomed to think about it as such – but it is a site for and of architecture, a territory where architecture can be critical and active. If the limits of the discipline have narrowed, then one of the functions of a school of architecture must be an attempt occupy those areas of the built environment where architecture is no longer, or has yet to reach. If this is a project about reclamation of a landscape, it is also a challenge to some of the boundaries that surround architecture and often confine it, as Kuma suggests, to the appreciation of isolated objects.

    M:NI 2014-15
    We tend to think of the motorway as a thing or an object, something that has a singular function. Historically this is how it has been seen, with engineers designing bridges and embankments and suchlike with zeal … These objects like the M3 Urban Motorway, Belfast’s own Westway, are beautiful of course, but they have caused considerable damage to the city they were inflicted upon.

    Actually, it’s the fact that we have seen the motorway as a solid object that has caused this problem. The motorway actually is a fluid and dynamic thing, and it should be seen as such: in fact it’s not an organ at all but actually tissue – something that connects rather than is. Once we start to see the motorway as tissue, it opens up new propositions about what the motorway is, is used for and does. This new dynamic and connective view unlocks the stasis of the motorway as edifice, and allows adaptation to happen: adaptation to old contexts that were ignored by the planners, and adaptation to new contexts that have arisen because of or in spite of our best efforts.

    Motorways as tissue are more than just infrastructures: they are landscapes. These landscapes can be seen as surfaces on which flows take place, not only of cars, buses and lorries, but also of the globalized goods carried and the lifestyles and mobilities enabled. Here the infinite speed of urban change of thought transcends the declared speed limit [70 mph] of the motorway, in that a consignment of bananas can cause soil erosion in Equador, or the delivery of a new iphone can unlock connections and ideas the world over.

    So what is this new landscape to be like? It may be a parallax-shifting, cognitive looking glass; a drone scape of energy transformation; a collective farm, or maybe part of a hospital. But what’s for sure, is that it is never fixed nor static: it pulses like a heartbeat through that most bland of landscapes, the countryside. It transmits forces like a Caribbean hurricane creating surf on an Atlantic Storm Beach: alien forces that mutate and re-form these places screaming into new, unclear and unintended futures.

    And this future is clear: the future is urban. In this small rural country, motorways as tissue have made the whole of it: countryside, mountain, sea and town, into one singular, homogenous and hyper-connected, generic city.

    Goodbye, place. Hello, surface!
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages10
    Publication statusPublished - 2002

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