Reconsidering Infrastructure: The 'God Project'
For the purpose of taxonomy and classification, I will employ the use of an umbrella term, ‘god project’ to describe architectural projects of a certain scale, scope and intent. It is important, at the outset to recognize that the genesis of seminal infrastructural projects of the 70s and 80s was latent with the intention to comment and critique prevailing political, social and economic structures. There are some notable exceptions like Buckminster Fuller, whose unwavering utopianism was idealistic and largely devoid of cynicism. However, contemporary ‘god projects’ of a similar nature, do not germinate as utopian constructs or the criticism of utopian constructs. Rather, they are characterized in most cases as being sincere, even earnest in their intent to re-organize or shape certain contingencies. In this way, they are closer to the ideas of Benton Mackaye, Lewis Mumford and later, Ian McHarg and this perhaps, is the single most distinguishing feature of projects that mark the resurgence of infrastructural architecture and its distinctly large scale of operation.
For reasons of illustration and analysis, I will discuss research projects by two young practitioners – Lateral Office and OPSYS; as well as speculative projects by two mainstream architectural offices, Foster + Partners and OMA in the following section.
Graduates of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Lola Sheppard and Mason White founded Lateral Office in 2003. Lateral Office, according to their website “is committed to an architecture that responds directly to the demands of the 21st century- and the subsequent new typologies made possible by an architecture that brazenly confronts today”1. It is this “brazen confrontation” that perhaps best typifies the nature of their projects and manner in which they are conducted.