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WAF 2010: Sean Griffiths and Bjarke Ingals on 'Putting the meaning back into cities'

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Sean Griffiths of FAT and Bjarke Ingals of BIG launched into a heated debate on the transformation of modern life in their seminar today on the first day of the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona

Sean Griffiths (pictured) and Bjarke Ingals, under the watchful eye of chair Bill Menking, transformed the subject of their seminar from transforming image and meaning, to transforming scale, technology, cities and the way we live.

Griffiths argued that modernism’s removal of meaning from form into social programme left architecture vulnerable to viral reoccupation by the forces of global capitalism – an irony since modernism is meant to be free from capitalism. Concentrating on ‘taste’ rather than ‘space’ could help to reconnect architecture to the possibility of meaning – both in playing out fantasies within individual homes in New Islington, a poor district of inner Manchester, or in ‘telling the story’ of the new town of Hoogvliet outside Rotterdam ‘though an iconography of architecture’: a wittily imaginative manipulative of the local industrial vernacular for a community centre.

Technology, argued Ingals, has the potential to transform cities and transform their possibilities and what they might mean to us. In a study Audi commissioned to think about the relationship between cars and cities, he showed how driverless technology could make more efficient use of roadspace and hence expand what is available for other activities, while transforming the road surface into a photovoltaic field could not just provide energy, but also information to warn pedestrians and control driverless vehicles. Mies came in for a lot of stick for his dictum less is more, but Ingals left the audience thinking the driverless really would be more.


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