Colin Fournier: Sympathy for the future (November 2, 1997)



Neil Denari introduces Colin Fournier, a graduate of the Architectural Association who worked for Archigram on their Monte Carlo proposal, and taught at the AA in the 1970s. He worked with Bernard Tschumi on Park de La Vilette, and later taught at the Bartlett in London, and collaborated with Peter Cook on the Kunsthaus in Graz.

Fournier is interested in city design, and wished places like SCI-Arc, the AA and the Bartlett School would extend their avant garde visions beyond the confines of architecture. Fournier observes that city building tends to happen in cycles. The 100-year cycle revolves around a redefinition of the way we live and who we are. The 30-year cycle involves changes in technology, and there are randomly occurring significant events that also have an impact in the pace of city growth. These three cycles largely explain city growth during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Fournier discusses some of the city planning ideas prior to modernism, including the Linear city and Garden Cities de-urbanist proposals, and the radical urbanist proposals of the Italian Futurists. More conservative proposals followed the Beaux Arts geometries of cities such as Paris. There are also many instances of transplanted designs, and most of the designs incorporate some city beautiful elements, which began to proliferate in that period both conceptually and in terms of built designs.

Fournier examines modernist city design proposals. While some of the more radical proposals suggest vertical cities and floating cities, which are sometimes portrayed as utopias and sometimes as dystopias, what was actually built in this time period was more middle of the road, and tended towards de-urbanizing city beautiful and Beaux Arts designs. Firms like Archigram, Archizoom, and Superstudio were interested in criticizing what was happening and being discussed more than presenting resolved solutions.

Fournier outlines contemporary city design proposals, which a good number have been implemented. Most of the designs acknowledge the criticisms of the modernist proposals, and no longer seek to de-urbanize, or alter the urban condition, but instead they seek to enhance the urban condition. For the first time the design proposals strongly diverge from the City Beautiful, Beaux Arts traditions, and bring in new organizational methodologies such as fractals. Due to advancement in technology, design can also be executed in a bottom up manner, as opposed to the top down methods of modernism.

Fournier answers questions from the audience. He elaborates that in the history that he has presented, cities either grow through the establishment of outposts, or there are significant implant elements that drive internal growth. Fourier also acknowledges that in order to come up with something new, all that shown in his lecture must be forgotten, or at least not followed.

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