Science Fiction Architecture

Science Fiction Architecture

By Jaime Gillin
For this week's "Three Buildings" column I turned to industrial designer Gustavo Fricke. We featured him and his Oaxaca shop Blackbox in our July/August issue's Design Finder ("Hecho in Oaxaca," online here). He currently lives in San Francisco and has traveled a fair bit, so I was curious to hear which three buildings inspire him most. Sure enough, his picks span the globe, from Mexico City to San Francisco to Paris. When asked what unites the three buildings he selected, Fricke replies: "Since I was a kid I've been fascinated by science fiction. Science fiction explores future scenarios that push the boundaries of our imagination. These three buildings, too, allow for the projection of the imaginary—for the representation in our present time of a future world to come. They are props of a future possibility, frozen in time."

The Satélite Towers, Mexico City, Mexico

"This landmark stands in the middle of Periferico, Mexico City's main Freeway. Built by Mathias Goeritz and Luis Barragán and inspired by the painter Jesus Reyes Ferreyra's ideas, the Satélite Towers are truly a great piece of architecture. Due to the unusual fact that nobody really owns the land over which they were built, they were not maintained by any government and had fallen into disrepair until they were finally repainted in their original colors, which had been chosen by Barragán, and recovered their landmark status in the late 90's."

A moodier view of the towers.


Chinese Culture Center in the Hilton, San Francisco, United States

Looking upwards at the Chinese Culture Center in the Hilton.

"The Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco, California, USA, is a major community-based, non-profit organization established in 1965 to 'foster the understanding and appreciation of Chinese and Chinese American art, history, and culture in the United States.' The facilities of the Center, totaling 20,000 square feet, include a 299-seat auditorium, a 2,935-square-foot gallery, book shop, classroom, and offices. Centrally located between Chinatown and the Financial District, the Center attracts a broad spectrum of audiences from the Chinese community, the city at large, and the greater Bay Area, as well as visitors from all over the country."

A bird passes by the iconic building.


Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

The Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

A wider look at the building's siting.

"The Centre was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, the British architect couple Richard Rogers and Su Rogers, Gianfranco Franchini, the British structural engineer Edmund Happold (who would later found Buro Happold), and the Irish structural engineer Peter Rice. The project was awarded to this team in an architectural design competition, whose results were announced in 1971."

Reporting on Rogers' winning the Pritzker Prize in 2007, The New York Times noted that the design of the Centre 'turned the architecture world upside down' and that 'Mr. Rogers earned a reputation as a high-tech iconoclast with the completion of the 1977 Pompidou Centre, with its exposed skeleton of brightly colored tubes for mechanical systems.' The Pritzker jury said the Pompidou 'revolutionized museums, transforming what had once been elite monuments into popular places of social and cultural exchange, woven into the heart of the city.'

Initially, all of the functional structural elements of the building were color-coded: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are encased in yellow, and circulation elements and devices for safety (e.g., fire extinguishers) are red. However, recent visits suggests that this color coding has been partially removed, and many of the elements are simply painted white."

exterior of the centre georges pompidou paris


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