city as media

Archigram, Instant City (1969)

The concept of city-as-media is not new. Since at least the 1960s and 70s, with the explosion of cheap consumer electronics and the accessibility of telecommunication systems in urban centers around the world, artists and architects have been at the vanguard of creating images and theories that elaborate this reality of contemporary urban life. In the 1960’s, London-based architectural collective Archigram represented a new generation of students plugged in to popular culture and mass mediated urban living. Departing from the architect’s directive to produce plans for buildings, they began to create images (drawings, cartoons, collages) that mirrored the emerging spatial organization of the city, and reflected the realities of young urban dwellers.

In later projects, such as Instant City (1969), Archigram created plans and images for a mobile city, based upon the use of existing technologies and the imagination of future ones. As the project statement elaborates:

In the most civilized countries, localities and their local cultures remain slow moving, often undernourished and sometimes resentful of the more favoured metropolitan regions (such as New York, the West Coast of the United States, London and Paris). Whilst much is spoken of cultural links and about the effect of television as a window on the world (and the inevitable global village) people still feel frustrated. Younger people even have a suspicion that they are missing out on the things that could widen their horizons. They would like to be involved in aspects of life where their own experiences can be seen as part of what is happening. Against this is the reaction to the physical nature of the metropolis: and somehow there is this paradox—if only we could enjoy it but stay where we are.

The Instant City reacts to this with the idea of a ‘traveling metropolis’, a package that comes to a community, giving it a taste of the metropolitan dynamic—which is temporarily grafted on to the local centre—and whilst the community is still recovering from the shock, uses this catalyst as the first stage of a national hook-up. A network of information—education—entertainment—‘play-and-know-yourself’ facilities.

For more images of Archigram’s work, click here.

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