The concept of “work swarms” and other forms of time-based or project-based collaboration evoked a recall recently of the concepts of the 1960’s architectural collaborative known as Archigram.
More appropriately said, the concept for the Walking City devised by Ron Herron, offered a view of the potentials for technology that are only now, 50 years later, being realized.
Herron’s concept imagined large ships of collectives of people and technology walking the landscape and applying knowledge, experience, expertise wherever it was needed and then moving off to other problems in other places. Peter Blake, writing in Architectural Forum in 1968, said,
Walking City imagines a future in which borders and boundaries are abandoned in favour of a nomadic lifestyle among groups of people worldwide. …Walking City anticipated the fast-paced urban lifestyle of a technologically advanced society in which one need not be tied down to a permanent location. The structures are conceived to plug into utilities and information networks at different locations to support the needs and desires of people who work and play, travel and stay put, simultaneously. By means of this nomadic existence, different cultures and information is shared, creating a global information market …
(From the Archigram Archive)
Others have commented on certain similarities of the commercial structures of our more recent times, and the instant cities that enable the globalization of war. In seeking formal or operational similarities to the sketches and descriptions of Archigram, however, many are missing what seems to be the key, yet unrealized vision of the group. The concept of spaces that engage a full spectrum of experience for people who, freed from the bonds of place, are then able to contribute and share knowledge across the world is a concept that is still restrained by the behaviors and practices of management, by the “best practices” of the real estate industry, by the zoning of most cities, by the rise of the culture of security, and by a failure of imagination in the design profession.
I think the vision is not “architectural” in conventional terms, but that it is very much about the experiences that architecture supports and can provide. Archigram’s Walking Cities are not battleships for the countryside, but are representations of a full and free set of sustaining experiences that enable people, dedicated to doing good things, to move to a place together that is not their home and and do work together untethered and unfettered by traditional or conventional policies and practices in the provision of place, space and technology. We know how to do this now without the heavy weight of Herron’s land cruisers, but even they are much lighter than the physical infrastructure we now have to work with and in.
I am, in other words, still looking for a developer.