From a historical perspective, visiting a significant work of architecture only amounts to a fractional part of what it takes to understand its importance. Context is crucial; every project responds to the society around it as much as it does the site that it inhabits, and it represents a synthesis of precedents and a point of inspiration for works that follow. As recently featured in Metropolis Magazine, these dynamics take center stage in a new exhibition staged in Norman Foster’s seminal Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, a contemporary landmark built in 1978 on the campus of the University in East Anglia in Norwich, England. Entitled Superstructures: The New Architecture: 1960–1990, the exhibit explores the central trends in post-war 20th-century building design, highlighting the historical context of the Sainsbury Center itself on the occasion of the museum building’s 40th anniversary.
For architects, if I may generalize an entire professional community, there are few novelists as cultishly beloved as J.G. Ballard. Borges or Calvino have their fair share of admirers, but to borrow an adjective more frequently applied to buildings, Ballard is the most iconic of literary figures—especially for readers of a concrete-expansion-joint persuasion. Witnessing war as a child, training in medicine, and thereafter writing from a rather bloodless middle-class patch of suburbia, Ballard spun tales of urban life that continue to be uncomfortably visceral.
Temporary architecture is often misrepresented as a flimsy trend or photo-ready quick fix: easy, entertaining and often, mistakenly, cheap. This is Temporary concerns itself with a group of young, emerging, socially minded group of architects and designers who are taking the city back into their own hands and creating experimental sites for interaction and engagement. These architects, collectives, students and artists are designing transient structures, situations and events that invest and embed themselves in a community, public space or set of ideas.
Read an excerpt from the book This is Temporary after the break.