Other Space Odysseys: Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan, Alessandro Poli
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920 rue Baile, Montreal
Through September 6
Antonio Quattrone/Archivio Alessandro Poli
In Other Space Odysseys, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents three responses to an adventurous journey begun after the 1969 moon landing. Featuring the work of architects Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan, and Alessandro Poli, the exhibition comes at a time when space exploration is the subject of renewed debate. Scientific expeditions, satellite launches, and the emergence of space tourism are pushing us to reconsider our relationship with our planet. For the architects in this show, space provides not only a rich context for experimentation, but also an extreme condition in which to test new ideas for life on earth.
Curated by CCA contemporary architecture curator Giovanna Borasi and director Mirko Zardini, the exhibit draws thematically on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science-fiction film notable for its scientific realism, pioneering special effects, and ambiguous imagery so open-ended it approaches surrealism.
This connection is evident in the first gallery dedicated to Alessandro Poli, a former member of the Italian architecture group Superstudio. The gallery presents the film Interplanetary Architecture (1972), which imagined structures such as a highway from the earth to the moon. In addition to the film, preparatory sketches, collages, and storyboards are also on view. Superstudio’s films are hidden gems of 20th-century architecture, and their original collages, made from the first magazine accounts of space travel, are refreshing in a world now saturated with digital architectural renderings.
Maltzan presents his proposed new building for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a NASA operation in Pasadena, California. JPL scientists have been involved in many of the most important chapters in the history of space exploration. Maltzan, currently one of the most prolific LA architects, is interested in what he calls “the radically different scale between the space the scientists inhabit in their minds and their day to day experience.” Various models of the JPL building are displayed throughout the two galleries without much explanation.
Lastly, Lynn exhibits three projects introducing new architectural directions, technologies, and form. These include renderings of a concept model for a virtual world, as well as a series of four planets developed for the science-fiction film Divide. Explaining his goal for the exhibition, Lynn remarked: “I want the things in the show to seem like they’re chunks of something from another place that happened to find their way into the CCA.” In this, Lynn is successful, even if, as in Maltzan’s case, we lack details about his process.
The ambition of the curators was to produce a conversation between the architects’ work. But three is a crowd, and perhaps a single confrontation between Lynn and Poli would have been more effective, or even a selection of radical architects from the ’60s against a selection of the current digital avant-garde. Such a show would have perfectly illustrated Zardini’s aim for Other Space Odysseys to propose “a letting go of architecture understood as the production of material goods in favor of architecture as the production of ideas.”