Big small things

Today, intellectual masturbation about how big things could be seen as small things.


« It is the reflection of profond reality
it masks and destucts a profond reality
it masks the absence of a profond reality
it has no relation to reality whatsoever
it is its own pure simulacre »
J.Baudrillard, Simulacre et simulation

Hans Hollein, Aircraft, 1964
A megastructure is a conceptual proposal, something that is not meant to be built. It is represented as what could remind spaceship, submarine and all that kind of independent machines, floating in the middle of nowhere, waiting under the sea, buried in a desert.
The emptiness of the environment contrasts with the ambition and complexity of each proposal. It is a standalone project whether it does not have any physical links to an external environment, it comes directly from issues providing by externalities (current geopolitical context, real urban issues…). There is no need to put them into a context, the project is focused on the megastructure, and it could be a spoilage if a full context was drawn.


This theory was established according to Manhattan’s retroactive development and proposes the conquest of each block by a single structure, Rem Koolhaas sees the city as a system of different and several solitudes. Megastructures are excluded from urban fabric, but still remain those different and several solitudes, indeed, none are linked to another one, but exists by itself, and is not connected to anything else. This non connection is enabled by envelope.


This envelope can not be physical since megastructures are not dealing with any real context. Moreover, this theorical skin has an equivalent in reality. Manhattan’s megastructures, skyscrapers, obey to a specific rule, the Zoning Law. Established in 1939, this law sets up some high restriction, based on the original dutch gable and meant to avoid shawdowed streets. The city built according to this law is called the Mega village and described as a « fantastic enlargement of the New Amsterdam ». It was a combination of huge mega envelops, potential megastructures.

Hugh Ferris materialised those invisible outlines. He manages to turn the artificiality of Zoning law’s skins into a physical entity. Using charcoal enables him to represent in a pretty relevant way the vagueness of those envelops, and then, those spectral shapes can be seen as megastructures’ ghosts.

An exemple of these spectral shapes can be found in Kreuzberg, a popular neighborhood of Berlin. In the early sixties, a huge urban project was seriously taken into account, the Autobahn. An aerial network of motorways running around the german capital. Kottbusser tor was supposed to be a key point of this network. Indeed, several megastructures were planned to be build directly on the motorways. In order to absord all the nuisances and preserve neighborhoods, over scaled multi used block were built. Finally the project was abandonned, but stil remain those buildings and the aerial structure. Those ruins are drawing the outline of the expected megastructure, here, Ferrissian spectral shapes are materialized by a void, an huge one.
Kreuzberg's monsters


Envelopes embody the Principle of frontiers. There is no skin, envelope, membrane, shell if there is nothing to separate. Envelopes highligh a difference between two spaces, at this scale, an inside and an outside. The nature of those space depends on the inner hiearchy of the item, here the megastructure, and its primary envelop, the one that separates it from its context.
Each envelope is a frontier that enables interactions between two spaces. That could be an interface, a porous envelope, as it could be a boundary, a non permeable one, but in all cases, the envelope is able to regulate and controls what could and what could not going through it. With its ability, more than a simple interface, the envelope becomes a protection, and provides insulation. Inner life is involved in an « hostile relationship » with outer life.


« A mammouth structure towering into the clouds and containing within its walls the cultural, commercial and industrial activities of a great city » Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York, 1994

The city within the city should be one a modernist fantasm, compacting all urban facilities into a rationnal, regular and huge structure. In a way, it could be the ultime city, the perfect one, an utopia.

« Core, in the city as a centrifuge this was, the peaceful core, the eye of hurricane. A great tranquility reigned in the square » Rem Koolhaas, SMLXL, 1993

Megastructures are pulled out from reality, they are illusions, reinterpretations of the World. Mike Mitchell and Dave Boutwell propose in 1969, Comprehensive city project, a continuous monument for one million human beings. Basically it is a one piece building stretching right accross North America. An huge urban ribbon meant to stop the « persistent tendency of the human race to spread ». This will of compactness highlighs the need of controling and understanding the city.

« The man made landscape has to be multi level landscape, a solid of three congruous dimension.[…] Physical freedom that is to say true reaching power is wrapped around a vertical vector » Paulo Soleri, the City in the image of the Man, 1970

Answers can only be found in bigger scale.

Continuous city for one million of human beings, Mike Mitchell and Dave Boutwel, 1969


“Megastructure : an over scaled colossal multi unit architectural mass” Reyner Banham, Megastructure, urban futures of recent past,1971

By definition, a megastructure has to be a massive object. Among megastructuralist proposals, Superstudio’s Continuous Monument could be seen as the largest. The structure they propose is an architectural model for a total urbanization, there is no alternative, this spreading gigantic structure has to be the ultimate architecture.
Then, thinking megastructure is thinking about Bigness that leads naturally to Koolhaas’ theories concerning this concept.

“Beyond a certain critical mass, a building becomes a Big Building. Such a mass can no longer be controlled by a single architectural gesture, or even by any combination of architectural gestures” Rem Koolhaas, SMLXL, 1995

Superstudio’s monument offers an homogeneous apperance, only one entity, spreading allover its environment, meant to provide the stability of an autonomous object. Moreover, refering to Koolhaas, that could be true, this megastructure can not exist as a single entity because of its own scale.
Too big to remain as a whole object, the megastructure starts to be subdivised into smaller scaled inner entities, it is no longer a matter or interaction (or most likely non interaction) between interiror and exterior, but about inner interactions, involving those newly created spaces. This is the Implosion process, and this is how you, newly aware reader, you might be able to understand why Megastructure are some big small things.

Frenchy stops her intellectual BS for the day, and be back soon to parasite this blog with her relatively useless thoughts…soon.

Frenchy Cerise


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s