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Book review: Other Space Odysseys

Other Space Odysseys interprets the 1969 Moon landing as a trigger of self-contemplation for people living on planet Earth, through the investigative projects of Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan and Alessandro Poli

Showing at the Canadian Centre for Architecture until 19th September 2010 is an exhibition of the same name, displaying photographs, hand-drawn sketches, futuristic CAD drawings and renderings by the trio, formerly colleagues at Superstudio. A selection of these exhibits, together with precedents for their respective projects is presented in this book.

Each project attempts to use space travel, outer space, and the romanticism of each of these to challenge how our own Earth is conceived, reminding us regularly of the importance of powerful imagery in shaping how we think. Michael Maltzan tells of how the first images of the Earth as a beautiful object from space helped inspire a wave of environmentalists; magazines such as Collier’s in the 1950s with illustrations depicting space travel helped build enthusiasm for the space program to come.

Greg Lynn takes into context the planets, stars and outer space as part of our built environment. His New City project explores how colonies in space would work through 3-D prints and computer renderings, although the believability of these is hampered by the exclusion of images showing inhabitation.

Allessandro Poli’s fictional character from Superstudio’s 1971 film Architectura Planetaria, a completely self-sufficient peasant, is compared to astronaut Buzz Aldrin during his drift through space in an interesting attempt to make connections between what seem at face-value very different lifestyles.

The projects are presented in turn, each accompanied by an interview with Editor Giovanna Borasi outlining the architect’s views and memories of the moon landing as an historic achievement and, perhaps more importantly, as a spectacle on a small black and white television. They also explain how their architecture-of-ideas can take inspiration from such iconic events.

While at first each of the designers looks to space for inspiration, their aim is to comprehend our own planet better through understanding the wider context in which we are situated. Exploring the possibilities of a space without gravity, an up or a down, or a breathable atmosphere all contribute towards rethinking how to approach design on Earth.

Title: Other Space Odysseys
Projects by: Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan and Alessandro Poli
Editors: Giovanna Borasi and Mirko Zardini
Publishing: Lars Müller Publishers

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