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Architectural Design's Cosmorama - Back Issues

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Architectural Design’s Cosmorama documented architecture’s fascination with sci-fi, writes Steve Parnell

Cosmorama first appeared in the July 1965 edition of Architectural Design (AD). The brainchild of then technical editor Robin Middleton, it replaced the news section with ‘commentary on buildings or on events throughout the world that impinge upon architecture’. In fact, there was initially very little difference in format from the old news section, and Cosmorama continued to provide a home for AD’s news coverage.

Until January 1970, that is, when it burst into the new decade with an explosion of colour and dreams. AD was looking towards the future – to inflatable architecture, space architecture, floating architecture, foam architecture, submarine architecture, mobile architecture, paper architecture, flexible architecture, drugs, cybernetics, communication technologies, domes and transport.

In 1970 it burst into the new decade with an explosion of colour and dreams

They took Hans Hollein’s 1968 ‘Alles ist arkitektur’ manifesto literally. March’s ‘Pollution Protection’ predicted that 1990s’ buildings would be based on vacuum tubes that would ‘protect their inhabitants from the noxious biosphere and the new forms of life that will evolve to inhabit Earth’.

April’s Cosmorama discussed inflatables in some detail: a balloon connected to a car exhaust could jack things up, technology that would be developed to replace cranes. Inflatable masts for aerials could be ‘dismantled, transported and re-erected on a new site’. The energy required to inflate an erect mast for long periods was not divulged. There was also an inflatable hoist consisting of ‘a suitable length of hose, clamped… by a pair of rollers. When the hose is inflated by air or water the rollers are forced along its length’. A man is shown clearly in some discomfort, hoisted high above his colleagues’ heads as though the victim of a stag-night prank.

Before long, Cosmorama fever took the whole magazine, and by the end of 1973, when it was discontinued, AD had moved away from buildings towards a conceptual definition of architecture’s role in society.

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