This Was Tomorrow
Reinventing Architecture 1953–1978

Poster - This Was Tomorrow, DM ? IN SET – Drawing Matter

Exhibition poster, This Was Tomorrow: Reinventing Architecture 1953–1978, 13 March – 8 May 2016, Swiss Architecture Museum, Basel

This Was Tomorrow: Reinventing Architecture 1953–1978 is an exhibition about architectural imagination and the power, processes and poetics of creation and invention. It presents a series of twelve episodes – beginning in the 1950s – that look at the ferment of new ideas as architects began to reconceive space in response to the conditions of a newly affluent society and the emergence of the electronic age. They are Le Corbusier, John Hejduk, Stirling and Gowan, Buckminster Fuller, Michael Webb, Walter Pichler and Hans Hollein, Constant, Ugo La Pietra, Superstudio, Álvaro Siza, Louis Kahn and Aldo Rossi.

Selected from the Drawing Matter collection, each of these investigations looks into the basic elements, open futures and varied possibilities of architectural thinking, proposing fundamental new ideas and examining the potentials of the built environment in reforming the relations of human beings to each other and to their environments.

Le Corbusier, Model for Le Main Ouverte, Chandigarh, 1956, DM 1049 – Drawing Matter

Le Corbusier (1887–1965), Model for Le Main Ouverte, 1956. Plaster, 178 × 254 mm. © FLC-ADAGP.

As the pragmatic demands of post-war reconstruction dissolved, a new generation of designers, coming of age in the post-war years and often drawing on nascent movements in art and social thinking, suggested radical departures from the prevailing functional consensus. Looking at the architectural sketch and drawing as the essential vehicle for conceiving, evolving and communicating such new ideas, the exhibition focuses on examples of the great variety of reinvention and experimentation born of that creative context, ranging from the audacious and satirical to the monumental and rational.

John Hejduk, Bye House study, c. 1973, DM 1801 IN SET – Drawing Matter

John Hejduk (1929–2000), Study for the 'Bye House', Ridgefield, Connecticut, c. 1973. Black, green, blue and red ink on letterhead, 210 × 270 mm. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, House Study, 1957, DM 2355.14 IN SET – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), House Study, 1957. Pencil on paper, 138 × 335 mm. © Estate of the architect.

James Gowan, House Study, 1957, DM 2355.4 IN SET – Drawing Matter

James Gowan (1923–2015), House Study, 1957. Pencil on paper, 138 × 335 mm. © Estate of the architect.

The architects, artists and practices in the exhibition are members of the last generation to draw on paper, working without digital aids. Their ambition as innovators in a changing culture brought them face to face with the limitations and opportunities of the rapidly expanding modes and techniques of representation that were available to them.

Buckminster Fuller, Geodesic Sphere study, 1975, DM 1022 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Richard Buckminster Fuller (1985–1983), Study Drawing for a Geodesic Sphere, 1975. Pen on paper, 610 × 480 mm.

Michael Webb, Spiral ramp, Sin Centre, 1961, DM 1101.2 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Michael Webb (*1937), Sin Centre, Leicester Square, London, wire frame axonometric, c. 1961. Black pen on mylar, 300 × 963 mm. © The architect.

The investigations in the exhibition range from Modern masters, compelled to reconsider their own practices, to protagonists of the following generation, who question inherited orthodoxies. From attempts to redefine architecture within its limits as the art of building, to those that question and expand these very limits, executed in a variety of media and aiming at an even greater variety of manifestations. Many stretch the boundaries of the discipline into new terrain, engaging architecture in the wider debates and inquiries of their day and reminding us of the fundamental place the architectural imagination and its expressions hold in the culture as a whole. All of the investigations share a concern to aim beyond the machine and past the functional, towards the emotional, towards experience, and towards the poetics, rather than the necessities of the everyday.

Hans Hollein, City Communication Interchange, 1962, DM 2490.018 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Hans Hollein (1934–2014), Study for the City, Communication Interchange, 1962. Pencil and ink on paper, 329 × 418 mm. © Estate of the architect.

Walter Pichler, Study for flying city, 1963, DM 2327.6 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Walter Pichler (1936–2012), Study for a flying city, c. 1963. Ink on trace, 222 × 256 mm. © Estate of the architect.

Constant, New Babylon, 1963, DM 1472.6 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Constant (Anton Nieuwenhuys) (1920–2005), New Babylon, 1963. Lithograph, 400 × 760 mm. © Estate of the artist.

Ugo La Pietra, La Cellula Abitativa, 1972, DM 2238.1 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Ugo La Pietra (*1938), La Cellula Abitativa, 1972. Pen, ink, pencil and photograph on paper, 310 × 480 mm. © The architect.

Superstudio, Istogrammi d'Architettura, 1969, DM 2075 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Superstudio (1966–1978), Istogrammi d'Architettura, 1969. India ink on tracing paper, 620 × 860 mm. © The architects.

They also mark a departure from the dream of the pre-war Modernists, in which architects and architecture were the somewhat paternalistic instruments of change in society. The new paradigm instead proposes architecture that provokes critical discussion, which can create its own worlds within, and which, by acting as a backdrop and landscape for change whether material or philosophical could embrace or challenge it.

Alvaro Siza, Bouça patio, Porto, 1972 DM ? IN SET – Drawing Matter

Álvaro Siza (*1933), Perspective sketch of the patio of the Bouça housing estate in Porto, c. 1972. Pencil and ink on paper, 503 × 752 mm. © The architect.

Louis Kahn, Model Photograph, Kansas City Office Building, 1973, DM 2339 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Louis Kahn (1901–1974), Model photograph, Kansas City Office Building, 1973. Photograph, 405 × 320 mm.

Aldo Rossi, Composition with Modena Cemetery, copy by Jesse Reiser, 1979, DM 2287 IN SET – Drawing Matter

Aldo Rossi (1931–1997), Composition with Modena Cemetery, 1979. Sepia ink and gouache on paper, 712 × 1003 mm. © Estate of the architect.