Polyair: Up Above My head

RIBA Framework

…design is concerned with the conscious distortion of time, distance, and size…the ‘city’ of the future requires the fourth dimension, time, as an integral part of its formation, operation, and capacity to change…
Cedric Price


…it is strange that those with the least money inhabit the most expensive commodity, earth – those who pay, what is free – air…
Rem Koolhaas: from S M L XL


…it is the contemporary city, like the contemporary airport, all the same? …the in-transit condition is becoming universal…
Rem Koolhaas: from S M L XL


flight | time | place

An invisible infrastructure for navigating the lower atmosphere has already been decided for us by the protocols of international air traffic control. In one very narrow sense, this answers the question of what we do with- and in- the air immediately over our heads, but that shouldn’t stop us considering the enhancement of architecture and spatial conditions supporting flight.

So this project – the fifth in the Polyark series – is about two thinghs:

  • the architecture of the air (and athmospherically related activities)
  • architectural interventions in and reflections of the concept of flight

1. architecture of the air dealing with the following:

  • airship/landing place
  • spaceship/launchpad
  • airliner/airport
  • facilities for:
    • drones (military and civilian)
    • rescue and relief
    • meteorology
    • surveillance
    • repair
    • etc.

2. flight: architecture dealing with the phenomenon of the largest mass migrations in human history…

With space tourism becoming a chic alternative to a fortnight on a sun bleached Aegean Island (for example), flight might increasingly reflect other phenomena.

  • trajectory/approach/track/orbit/path
  • abscond/escape/migrate/retreat/flee
  • dissapear/decamp/vanish/depart/exit

These words also relate to aspects of the contemporary human condition, particulary the idea of national, regional, and continental movement. In 2015, the number of international migrants worldwide – i.e. people residing in a country other than their country of birth – was the highest recorded, having reached 244 million (from 232 million in 2013). Close to 1 in 5 migrants in the world live in the top 20 largest cities, with extraordinary effects on urban morphologies.

  • threshold
  • territory
  • border
  • refuge
  • place

The architecture responding to either theme 1 or 2 should reflect Cedric Price’s view that the modern city must involve an element of distortion via manipulation of time, distance, and size. Strategies 1 and 2 both involve dislocation of:

  • time
  • place
  • nation
  • identity
  • security
  • …and also build on Koolhaas’s assertion that the most contemporary human condition is transit.

The first successful hot air balloon flight took place 234 years ago. This defined a new paradigm for flight and an architecture of transition from land to air. The morphology of an airbound architecture began to form at this point, but how can this be redefined and extended for the 22nd century?

…thinking the unimaginable, doing what hasn’t been done before. That was what the cathedral builders did 700 or more years ago – why can’t we do it now…?
Cedric Price

So, if we dare to think the unimaginable, what will an architecture of flight – of the air – be like?

…doubt, delight and change [are the] design criteria…
Cedric Price






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