Thrilling Wonder Stories

This Friday at the Architectural Association here in London, Liam Young and I will be hosting Thrilling Wonder Stories: Speculative Futures for an Alternate Present: a 6-hour event with an unbelievable line-up, discussing the thematic, imaginative, technical, and even structural connections between science fiction and architectural design.

[Image: Thrilling Wonder Stories: Speculative Futures for an Alternate Present at the Architectural Association. Poster design by Wayne Daly, with art direction by Zak Kyes; view larger for more info].

I’ve repeatedly asked here on the blog what architects might learn from science fiction – whether this latter term is understood to mean Star Trek, Dune, ancient myth, or The Book of Revelation – but, of course, this also works the other way around. What can producers and fans of sci-fi take away from the offshore utopias, Walking Cities, artificial reefs, vertical farms, genetically-modified living megastructures, intelligent machinery, and reengineered urban rivers of contemporary architectural design?
This symposium, hosted from 11am to 5pm in the Lecture Hall of the Architectural Association (here’s a map), will be an incredible way to explore these questions in depth.
From the event description:

We have always regaled ourselves with speculative tales of a day yet to come. In these polemic visions we furnish the fictional spaces of the near future with objects and ideas that, at the same time, chronicle the contradictions, inconsistencies, flaws and frailties of the everyday. Slipping suggestively between the real and the imagined, they offer a distanced view from which to survey the consequences of various social, environmental and technological scenarios.

In this symposium we will hear stories from such foreign fields as gaming, film, comics, animation, literature and art. These speculative practitioners present alternative models as test sites for the deployment of the wondrous possibilities, or dark cautionary tales, of our own architectural imaginings. And so we wander off the map to embark on a future safari into the brave new worlds that may evolve from our own.

Following an introduction from Brett Steel, Director of the Architectural Association, and short welcomes from both myself and Liam Young, you’ll hear a genuinely fantastic line-up:

—Sir Peter Cook, cofounder of Archigram and CRABstudio, and designer (with HOK) of the 2012 London Olympic Stadium

Warren Ellis, comic book author and graphic novelist – with a portfolio ranging from X-Men, Wolverine, and Iron Man to Ellis’s legendary Transmetropolitan, FreakAngels, and Fell – and author of Crooked Little Vein

—Architects Francois Roche and Stephanie Lavaux of R&Sie, designers of, among other things, the awesome Spidernethewood house

—Novelist Ian MacLeod, winner of the 2009 Arthur C. Clarke Award and author of The Light Ages and The House of Storms

—Journalist and games critic Jim Rossignol, author of This Gaming Life: Travels in Three Cities and subject of a long interview here on BLDGBLOG last week

Viktor Antonov, art director for Half-Life 2 and production designer for Christian Volckman’s film Renaissance

Squint/Opera, independent media studio and producers of last year’s widely publicized Flooded London

—Nic Clear, interviewed last year by Ballardian, editor of “Architectures of the Near Future,” a forthcoming issue of Architectural Design, and director of Unit 15 at the Bartlett School of Architecture

The event is free, open to the public, takes place at 36 Bedford Square, and will last all day, from 11am to 5pm; definitely feel free to stop in and check it out. The AA will also be opening up their Wifi network for event attendees, so you’ll be able to live-blog the proceedings, if you wish – and, even better, the whole thing will be livestreamed, which means that, even if you’re not in London, you can still tune-in.
So expect some amazing presentations, live interviews, and open discussions – as well as an ongoing flurry of mind-bending ideas, visuals, and architectural designs. It’s not often that Archigram, Half-Life 2, and Transmetropolitan get together in the same room.
Hope to see you there!

15 thoughts on “Thrilling Wonder Stories”

  1. Sure would be nice to have video coverage or transcripts of the panel for those who can’t be there. Not to mention posterity.

  2. Paul, that’s too bad! But hopefully you’ll hear good things about the event from others…

    The event will, in fact, be livestreamed – I’ve updated the post. Thanks for reminding me, anonymous! I will have specific details about how to tune-in coming up within the next 24 hours.

    So if you can’t make it, you can still be there.

  3. Can’t wait for Friday,the line up is amazing. Hope I’ll be able to keep up with my note taking as I’m sure the ideas and inspiration will be coming at some ridiculous rate of knots.

  4. So good to hear you returning to lovely London! After a long week at the Bartlett this is a most delightful way to start the weekend. See you there!

  5. At this time of flux it is essential for some of us to truly imagine the future, but I am not sure how fantastic the form must be. Imagine what’s produced when organic and authentic creative forces combine with technology and information. Our communities are not doing so well with designers playing to the top, and in effect relying on the status quo that isn’t treating people so well. My hope is the winner take all mentality with an emphasis on star-chitecture has reached an end. There’s something else to create drawing from within.

  6. 6 years study at the AA, and finally a lecture comes along which i am dying to attend, I love the topic! Make sure to talk about the starTEC phone!!!… though unfortunately because of rubbish meetings i cant make it…. anyway of repeating the topic next year?

  7. Hi Geoff

    Thanks for organising this yesterday… was an excellent symposium with a great set of guests. Coming from the sf side the interdisciplinary nature of the event worked well. Will write something about it but I need to process it first, but I do have some pictures from the event here.

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