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MetalWorks

MetalWorks

If there was any doubt about the problem we have with technology, you need only visit The Ideal Home Show and The Motor Show.

The first is a celebration of traditional designs, bolstered by the sponsorship of that cutting-edge newspaper the Daily Mail. It is a desperate place to visit. A desert with one oasis (the LivingQuarters stand).

The centrepiece was a medieval tower, which seemed to have been labouring under the misapprehension that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb while on the quest for the Holy Grail. This hideosity was flanked by a thatched house and a cottage, both of which reflect the national obsession with an entirely invented rural past.

What a contrast at the Motor Show.Here the emphasis is on technology expressed, not hiding behind pastiche. Technology oozes from the polished nacelles of equally polished concept vehicles. That a desirable car should express anything other than the cutting edge of materials science and information technology - that it hasn't been developed, somewhere down the line, from formula one racing or rallying - is anathema to the motor industry.

And yet we see no dichotomy in parking a brand-new car on the driveway of an equally new building but, in exiting the former and entering the latter, leaving the 21st century to enjoy a facsimile of the 18th.

Perhaps it is transport itself which fires our cultural tastebuds into adventurous mode. The argument might go something like this: horses are better than walking - cars are better than horses - aeroplanes are better than cars. The word 'better' is, naturally, interchangeable with 'faster'. So our transport buildings are in fact celebrations of speed, and reflect the ethic of the artefacts which perform the transportation.

In architecture, the Futurists understood this relationship, replicating in their architecture the nascent potentiality of a static aeroplane or ship. Perhaps the last word should be from their manifesto:

That, just as the ancients drew inspiration for their art from the elements of nature, we must find that inspiration in the elements of the utterly new mechanical world we have created, and of which architecture must be the most beautiful expression, the most complete synthesis, the most efficacious integration.

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