near miss…


Ballardian: Architectural Design

The fiction of JG Ballard was centred almost wholly on the built environment. JG Ballard took architectural design to its logical extreme and then contorted it further.

Simon Sellars looks at how architects can learn from Ballard and, specifically, his use of urban sound as a metaphor.

Lesson / Koan : Cities also have life spans.

Simon Sellers is a research fellow at RMIT University’s Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory(SIAL) and a research associate at the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (CLCS), Monash University. In 2009, Sellers graduated with a PhD from Monash University. Simon Sellers’s thesis analysed the ‘affirmative dystopias’ of the novelist J.G. Ballard.


Originally published in Architectures of the Near Future: Architectural Design (ed. Nic Clear), September-October 2009, pp. 82-7.



Ballardian: Architectural Design

Image by Michelle Lord, from Future Ruins (inspired by JG Ballard’s ‘The Ultimate City’), 2008.

BTW,

In the novella ‘The Ultimate City’, JG Ballard builds a full-scale cognitive remapping of cities everyone recognizes. A future ecotopia, Garden City, has developed wind power and alternative technologies after New York has fallen into ruins from the exhaustion of fossil fuels. The central character, Halloway, dissatisfied with what he sees as the dulling of the imagination in Garden City, with its organic conformity, makes his way back to the abandoned New York, where he attempts to restart the metropolis and its power supplies. Significantly, it is the noise of the city that he misses and that he is inescapably drawn to. With the help of Olds (another character), Halloway manages to restart the generators and power supplies of a small sector of the city, bringing to life neon and traffic lights, while broadcasting sound- effects records of automobile and aircraft noise:

Halloway moved from one apartment to the next, flicking lights on and off, working the appliances in the kitchens. Mixers chattered, toasters and refrigerators hummed, warning lights glowed in control panels … Television sets came on, radios emitted a ghostly tonelessness interrupted now and then by static from the remote-controlled switching units of the tidal pumps twenty miles away.

It was only now, in this raucous light and noise, that the city was being its true self, only in this flood of cheap neon that it was really alive …” – from JG Ballard’s short story ‘The Ultimate City

Ballardian: Architectural Design

Image by Michelle Lord, from Future Ruins (inspired by JG Ballard’s ‘The Ultimate City’), 2008.

NOTE :

Architects: read, study and learn from Ballard’s writing.

Because it should not be the job of the architect to build worlds and indulge the luxury of allowing them to fail at our expense, but that of the writer, the constructor of virtual worlds that live, breathe and die in virtuality so that we, in the actual, do not have to expire to prove a point. Only then should we overlay the virtual with the actual to create a stereoscopic representation, a truly interstitial process that places the user at the centre with the power to inform, direct, stage and manage the terms of his or her movement through time and space, perhaps nudging us one step closer to a read/write city in which we are free to ‘tune’ the built environment, free to contribute to the conditions of our cohabitation.” from Stereoscopic Urbanism: JG Ballard and the Built Environment by Simon Sellers


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