“Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.”
Le Corbusier understood the importance of our everyday relationship with architecture as few others have. Architecture, not only as shelter from the elements, but also as an integral part of health and wellbeing through the application of “space, light and order”. However, whilst his particular brand of monolithic modernism may not appeal to everyone, the genius of his brutalist masterpieces lies not so much in the clean lines and seemingly impossible angles, but in the way in which raw, unforgiving concrete frames the world in which we live.
There can be no denying that his legacy is as controversial today as his unprecedented architectural vision was at its time – an Anthropocene futurism that challenged the very core of the everyday, a functional Unité d’Habitation for modernist man. However, that futurism is now dated, unrealised and left to the likes of the equally controversial Zaha Hadid to re-imagine as a neo-futurist solution to the all-important architectural question.
Re-imagining the Everyday
Half a century after the Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation concept, and a far-cry from the modernist movement’s uncompromising singular vision, Hadid’s body of work is nothing if not remarkable. Clean lines and order are again prominent, however, as planning documents submitted to the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have outlined, Hadid’s vision is altogether more organic and unapologetically neo-futuristic.
Commissioned by advertising company JCDecaux, Hadid has designed a “unique double ribbon structure” for a narrow plot of land on one of the main routes into central London from Heathrow. Featuring illuminated strip lighting across twisted bands of steel, the structure will serve as a futuristic billboard to replace the more omnipresent forms of posters and placards such as those found at posterlounge.co.uk.
To complement the structure, a brick planter and street lighting will be integrated behind the interactive display – creating a well-lit walkway for pedestrians. Alongside this, the “billboard” will also be used for London Transport messages and to showcase work from local artists, designers and architects – providing a significant improvement on the current 12-metre, static installation.
The Kensington and Chelsea planning committee will make a decision regarding the structure on January 20th, 2015; and many residents will be excited to see this little slice of “space and light and order” replace the traditional billboard that is currently standing. However, its radical design may also create an equal number of architectural detractors. For now, the jury is most certainly out on Hadid’s contribution to the borough’s streets.