Note — Sep 19, 2021

The Form and Function of Science-Fiction

From Fred Scharmen a couple of years ago, a consideration of Frank Lloyd Wright and architecture more broadly, as a form of science-fiction. “If architecture is always Utopian, and Utopianism is always science fictional, then architecture is science fiction.” Scharmen presents some references of why he proposes this connection and then how it applies to the use of some of Wright’s designs in sci-fi.

The blurry overlap of design, architecture, fiction, science-fiction, and design fiction is always one I find interesting and this piece is a good addition to the definition of that space. (I’ll also encourage you to have a look at Alex’s comments on FLW here and the book she mentions.)

If worlds are disrupted by technology or social change, architecture, and science fiction both try to make sense of that disruption and mediate its impact by getting out ahead of it, anticipating and telling stories about how life might, at best, benefit from change, or, at worst, go on in spite of it. […]

In contrast to the way that Wright uses his own individual works to compose a coherent whole world in Broadacre, these films place Wright’s pieces as fragments beside still other fragments. These are worlds that lack the totalizing integrated singular design ambitions that define Wright’s Utopia. […]

Effective architecture acts in at least two registers: spatially and culturally. Attending to the way in which cultural regimes like science fiction repurpose architecture shows us that if architectural Utopianism is a kind of social critique, then there is still the possibility for further criticism of the way in which that critique proceeds.