LOBSINGER - Cybernetic Theory and the Architecture of Performance - Cedric Price's Fun Palace
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MARY LOUISE LOBSINGER Cybernetic Theory and the Architecture of Performance: Cedric Price's Fun Palace We just haven't learned how to enjoy our new freedom: how to turn machinery, robots, computers, and buildings themselves into instruments of pleasure and enjoyment.1 CEDRIC PRICE To pry the subject free from the stifling repetitions of everyday convention and to nurture an emergent individuality - these were the aspirations that galvanized the Fun Palace Project. As architecture, it would be purelv utilitarian and purposeful: a mechanical slab served as a provisional stage to be continuously set and reset, sited and resited. What was expected to happen in the Palace was as diagrammatically diffused as the contraption itself. It wouldn't be the polite space of municipal geranium beds or fixed teak benches; rather, it was conceived as a social experiment that would fuel both conflict and cooperation." Sometime in i960 Joan Littlewood met and became friends with Cedric Price. Littlewood, a veteran of the English radical theater scene, was on the brink of resignation after a nearly thirty-year fight against establishment and commercial entertainments. Prior to the Second World War she had been a member of the Theatre of Action, a left-leaning theatrical company working out of Manchester that favored Brechtian aesthetics and agit-prop street theater.' In 1945 she co-founded the Theatre Workshop and during the 1950s had some success in advancing the cause of experimental theater. At the time of their meeting, Price was still a young architect on the London scene. He was teaching at the Architectural Association, socializing within a circle of young aspiring architects with a penchant for technology, and was acquainted with architectural critic Reyner
architectural imagination. In turn, their project for a Fun Palace became the vehicle through which the architect developed his idea for an anticipatory architecture capable of responding to users' needs and desires. The Fun Palace was a proposal for an infinitely flexible, multiprogrammed, twenty-four-hour entertainment center that marries communications technologies and industrial building components to produce a machine capable of adapting to the needs of users. A grid of servicing towers supports open trusses to which a system of gantries are appended for maneuvering interchangeable parts (from information monitors to pre-fab units) into position (fig. 5.1). Circulation elements comprise moving catwalks, escalators, or travela-tors (suspended, stair-like, and ground-level systems). The conventional determination of built form as an enclosure or legible envelope for functional requirements is supplanted by an idea of environmental control in which, for example, adjustable sky-blinds perform the role of roofing and the task of spatial division is assigned to mutable barriers described as movable screens, warm air screens, optical barriers, and static vapor zones. Programmatic elements with specific functional requirements such as kitchens or workshops are housed in standardized enclosed units sited on temporary,
mechanically fitted deck-panels.5 The structure is serviced by a threedimensional grid and an "ariable net of packaged conditioning equipment" distributed across a gigantic plinth housing a sewage purification plant and other support systems. The ever-pragmatic Price proudly declared it a "self-washing giant" capable of continually cleansing itself with recycled river water, and suggested that the site not be less than 20 acres.' This description patently challenges the idea of architecture as shelter, as enclosure, or as a permanent signifier of social values. Here the concept of architecture as conveyor of symbolic expression has been forfeited for a fully 4 Banham. The meeting would prove auspicious. Littlewood's desire for automated and, above all, transient machine. Reyner Banham a new kind of theatrical venue where her performances could flourish approvingly compared it to a "gigantic erector set."8 unconstrained by built form became the inspiration for Price's
Price's ideas for a technologically innovative, 'non-deterministic' architecture of planned obsolescence couched in terms of Littlewood's conceptions for alternative theatrical practice produced the quintessential anti-architectural project, the Fun Palace. Littlewood's aesthetic was characterized by an emphasis on direct communication between audience and performer and, importantly, on a communication that stressed physical form over speech as the means of expressing content.9 The idea that the form of theatrical experience should be dynamic ran counter to the well-oiled proscenium-framed productions of bourgeois theater. Littlewood's work thrived on conflict, employed interactive techniques, drew on a variety of popular genres and media from pantomime to music hall to film and television, and adapted environmental forms such as festivals with the aim of engaging the sensory and physical participation of the audience in the action.10 In keeping with her early communist roots, theater had a pedagogical function. By the end of the 1950s, however, given rapidly changing social and political imperatives, a burgeoning of mass media and consumer culture, and the turn of the Left to an ideal of participatory democracy, the tactics of radical theater required reassessment. Theater as a forum for instruction was no longer an effective instrument where the pressing concern was to awaken the compliant subjects of an affluent consumer society. Welfare State passivity had to be countered through motivated, self-willed learning. Littlewood's theatrical expertise and social mission were well met by Price's wit and architectural objective: to produce an architecture that could accommodate change. According to Littlewood, Price produced the first sketch for the Fun Palace in response to her complaints about the British taste for quaint old theaters. This first drawing minimally articulates Price's architectural intentions (fig. 5.2). The representation of the program is limited to a few hand-scrawled notations: a long-distance observation deck, large viewing screens, an inflatable conference hall, and an area designated for eating and
drinking that is identical to a space labeled "open exhibition." A floating volume labeled "circular theater-part enclosed" is the most substantial clue to programmatic content. By Littlewood's account the drawing was inexplicable, more diagram than suggestion for builtform, the only identifiable objects being gantries, escalators, and various level markings within a thin-lined filigree-like structure of towers and trusses.12 Of the more than four hundred drawings consisting of time schedules, movement diagrams, mechanical drawings, details, and some perspectives (figs. 5.3 to 5.7), this initial conceptual sketch still accurately captures the essence of the scheme. The perspective is more locational than expressive of spatial qualities or formal characteristics - but then there really isn't much, in the way of architectonic qualities or materiality, to describe in the Fun Palace. As Price himself laconically noted, "It's a kit of parts, not a building" - one that he doubted would ever look the same twice.1' If the initiation of the project seems rather fortuitous, the ensuing campaign of fund-raising and promotion, negotiations with jurisdictional bodies such as the London County Council, meetings with residential associations, and the struggle to find a site constituted a colossal undertaking that could only have been impelled by a passionate belief in the social necessity of realizing the project.'1 Littlewood spearheaded the effort with Price managing the architectural aspects. In 1963 she enlisted the help of Dr. Gordon Pask, an expert on teaching machines who Littlewood characterized as the "romantic doyen of cybemeticians."1' That same year Pask formed the Committee for the Fun Palace Cybernetic Theatre, which added a new twist to Littlewood's idea of direct communication.16 With the expertise of an unusual interdisciplinary committee now in place, the goals of the project were refocused: no longer merely the provision of a barrier-free venue for experimental theater, the technological mandate moved beyond the realm of mechanical mobility into the more ephemeral mobility offered by new information media and mass communications. The discrete disciplinary interests of the three protagonists - cybernetics, transient
architecture, participatory theater and communications - merged in the objectives of the Fun Palace project: to facilitate the emergence of an ephemeral subjectivity through the theatricality of communication. Thus began a working relationship spanning more than a decade of activity.1. T he implicit consequence of the project: an institutional critique of Welfare State-administered culture. Representing Architectural Reality: From Image-Based AntiFormalism to Technological Ephemerality Price's proposal for a technologically factual system of assembly - a mobile architecture -that eschewed architectural image easily recommends itself to Banham's ideas about the true vocation of architecture as promulgated in Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (i960). Banham's revisionist history of the modern movement was coupled, in the book's last chapter, with a radical prognostication for the future of architecture. In a polemic chastising architects of the first machine age for their preoccupation
Banham's promotion of an anti-formalist, technological approach to architecture is central to understanding the context of British postwar architecture and the rejection of International Modernism. In brief, the critique may be framed in a threefold way. The perception that International Modernism was elitist and overly pre-occupied with formal issues was met with a response that emphasized a visual approach (the picturesque) couched in terms of nationalism and traditional crafts."1 These responses, which included such movements as British Townscape or the New Romanticism, were in turn countercritiqued by the British avant-garde. One of the strongest reactions to the revaluation of modernism in postwar Britain was launched by the Independent Group, which, in response to the insularity of tradition-oriented aesthetics, advocated complete immersion in the visual excesses of
(mostly American) mass consumer cuture.22 The London-based avant-garde of the mid 1950s cultivated an image-based aesthetic with, in part, the intention of raising (or, as some argue, lowering) with the representation of technology, Banham challenged the visual communication to a threshold in keeping with everyday architects of the second machine age to run with technology. The materiality and the experience of mass media. In contrast to this, heroes of his tract were the Futurists and Buckminster Fuller, between Price in the early 1960s advanced a third position, an alternative to whom Banham identified a shared inclination toward permanence and the dominant counter-critiques. For Price, the new transient social a resolution to exploit science and technology. In somewhat configurations emerging from mass culture were as transient as the apocalyptic terms, he declared architects should emulate the means of mass communication themselves, and thus an architecture Futurists, discard their whole cultural load, and propose the continual that might adequately service and ultimately encourage such social renovation of the built environment, or architecture as a profession formations could not rely on image or an ethos based in materiality. would not survive the technological revolution.18 Fuller's 1927 To say that Price's work lacks strong visual impact is an proposal for the Dymaxion House provided Banham with an object understatement, but Price's idea of architectural communication has lesson in which "a liberated attitude to both mechanical services and little to do with a mimetic function, that is, a natural correspondence materials technology" organized the plan, and where "formal qualities with reality, and is rather as pure and ephemeral as the act of were not remarkable, except in combination with the structural and communicating itself.2' In the mid 1960s Price made the following 14 planning methods involved." The essence of Banham's message observations on the relation of architecture to the visual: was to drop illusionism and the symbolic use of a machine aesthetic The role of architecture as provider of visually recognizable symbols and to accept the unhaltable progression of constant accelerated of identity, place, and activity becomes an increasingly attractive change,
excuse for architects to revel in the immensity of their personal visual Although the Fun Palace was never realized, Price achieved such dexterity, aesthetic sensibility, and spatial awareness, demanding notoriety with this and other projects such as the Potteries Thinkbelt from both clients and observers recognition of the very causations of as to secure for himself a seminal such revelry.24 In his 1963 review of the Team 10 Primer, Price took the opportunity to inspect its rhetoric and dissociated himself from contemporary theories of urbanism and architecture.2' With citations from texts by the Smithsons and others, he challenged 'team Ten's ideas of social collectivism, for example, on the grounds that in promoting forms more valid in the past than the present, they fail to address the needs of an emergent society in which transicnce and fluctuations in population and group appetites will generate new and often unpredictable urban forms. For Price, "The needs of a new mobile society and communication systems which serve it invalidate existing town planning techniques of fixed building hierarchies and anonymous space."26 The Primer, he notes, surely identifies the pertinent issues of the times, but Price was not convinced of Team Ten's commitment, due in part to their faulty logic. The crux of his doubt centered on the ambiguous use of texts and images. For example, the work's authors rightly point to the phenomenon of mobility as a contributing factor in the development of urban-ism and yet, Price asked, is mobility worth investing with architectonic importance simply because it is there?2 Price wondered whether we were not simply being confronted, once again, by the aesthetic of the early modernists, which visualized mechanization (real or imagined) rather than utilizing new technologies?28 Taking existing form as evidence for their critique, Team Ten's reliance on "the found" as reality neglected the complex ways in which cities really worked "in spite of their physical limits."29 For Price, both the group's criticism and its theory of production failed to offer, in his words, "a wellserviced mobility."'0 These last points - mobility and an insistence that reality is not necessarily visibly evident -are issues he has adhered to ever since and continues to develop to this day.
role within debates about architecture and technology.'1 For cuttingedge technological visionaries such as Archigram, Price was the man to watch, but for those who thought architecture had a visually communicative role inextricably bound to optical appropriation, his work was anathema to everything architecture might stand for.'2 But for Price, to ask what meaning might look like was to pursue the wrong line of inquiry; when confronted with new technologies (both mechanical and cybernetic) and new modes of scientific analysis (such as systems design theory), conventional notions of architecture were rendered moot.'3 Price believed no premium could be placed on what might be considered meaningful experience, or how it might be achieved or represented in advance of use. In fact, architects were not in the business of providing meaning at all; according to Price, their task was to solve problems and extend the possibilities of choice and delight.'4 Collective meaning, if the word can be used in this context, was to be deciphered from within a dynamically interactive field of communication. To this end, Price aimed to provide an environment that would both anticipate and accommodate change." It was envisioned as a giant learning machine with the capacity to enable humans to physically and mentally adapt to the intangible experiences and accelerated pace of technological culture.'6 In one of his earliest musings on the project Price stated: Is it not possible that with a little imagination we can ourselves find a new way of learning, new things to learn, and enjoy our life, the space, the light, the knowledge, and the inventiveness we have in ourselves in a new way?3' Critique of the Welfare State: Architecture and Technologically Enhanced Performativity
In a statement typifying Pricean ambiguity, Price claimed that a structure should stand only as long as it was socially useful. To ensure the temporality of the Fun Palace, Price assigned a ten-year life to its structural frame. But temporality was not simply a matter of planned obsolescence, or the interehangeability and disposability of various building components; rather, time was intended to play a dynamic role in human perception - dynamic in the cybernetic sense of realtime.? The production of the social and the individual - both physically and virtually - in real-time is the theoretical crux of the Fun Palace. Reiterated in the Fun Palace briefs is a soft leftist critique arguing that the disciplinary regime of time is dictated by a market-place that artificially divides a worker's life into work-time and leisure-time, a regimentation of time that is materially enforced through the zoning of work and leisure in urban space.40 For Price, this archaic sense of time ran counter to the emerging realtime of cybernetics and its network of invisible services. The conflict between the simultaneous time of information and the disciplinary time of work (of schedules, timetables, industrial production) had to be amended for humans, to allow them to adapt to the flux and flow of the future technological world. In the article "Non-Plan: An Experiment in Freedom" of 1969, Banham, Barker, Price, and Hall almost paraphrase an earlier statement by one of the founders of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener, when they claim that the cybernetic revolution must be accompanied by a revolution in human thought and required a new mental and physical mobility.41 Fun Palace as a diagrammatic architecture of probability in present time would act as a temporary measure to ease the transition into the real-time of the information age. In a conventional sense, the Fun Palace as architecture had no intrinsic meaning as a machine; it was merely an abstract machine that when activated by the users was capable of producing and processing information.42 In this way it may be considered performative, for only at the moment of transaction between user
and machine would meaning or content be expressed, and at that moment would expression be identical with the act of performing. Furthermore, in the act of performing, the visuality and spatiality of the architecture would be annulled for the ephemerality of pure, unrepeatable communication. For at the most literal level, activities such as the maneuvering of building components or the group determination of a program involves a basic form of social interaction. It was also imagined that the Fun Palace would be equipped with the latest in communications technology: reading machines, televisions, and computers.4. These scientific gadgets held the promise of thrusting the participant beyond mundane reality and into a virtual realm of communication. The earliest stated objectives for the Fun Palace were "to arrange as many forms of fun as possible in one spot, to make moving in all directions, on feet or wheel, a delight, to provide conditions which make everyone part of the total activity and to exploit drinking, necking, looking, listening, shouting, and resting ... in the hopes of an eruption or explosion of unimagined sociality through pleasure."44 At first glance this agenda seems typical of calls during the 1960s for theatrical self-expression as a route to personal liberation. But Price was quick to say that what he had in mind was not "a mecca for conventional free-will activity."41 In the early documents, presumably written to convince legislative boards, the rhetoric of pleasure is accompanied by arguments for amendments to land-use policies and for the elimination of redundant programming brought about by borough-to-borough competition for new leisure and cultural facilities.46 In later briefs the cultural mission becomes more pointed: the Fun Palace was a learning machine that enabled self-participatory education through the interface between man and machine, between human beings, and, in keeping with the cybernetic theory it suggests, between smart machines.4' According to Price, the Fun Palace would be "a short term life toy of dimensions and organization not limited by or to a particular site, which is one good way of trying, in physical terms, to catch up with the mental dexterity and mobility exercised
by all today."48 As a short-term exploratory toy, it would require the "coordination and cooperation in its day to day operations of local authorities, the State, industry, private organizations and individuals."49 And in its various designations as toy, university of the streets, or laboratory of pleasure it was not merely another container of amenities for Welfare State entertainment.'0 As Littlewood and Price stated in 1962: The present socio-political talk of increased leisure makes both a slovenly and dangerous assumption that people on one hand are sufficiently numb and servile to accept that the period during which they earn money can be little more than made mentally hygienically bearable and that a mentality is awaken [sic] during self-willed activity.'1 This reiterated a commonly voiced criticism of British social conditions. In i960 Malcolm Muggeridge described the routinized and self-satisfied Welfare State in vivid language: The new towns rise, as do the television aerials, dreaming spires; the streams flow, pellucid, through comprehensive school; the BBC lifts up our hearts in the morning, and bids us good night in the evening. We
targeted the pulp-print culture of tabloids, dailies, and romances as the cause of both the trivializa-tion of life and the individual's distancing from concrete social reality. He argued that despite the rise in literacy, the profusion of junk culture had become debilitating, especially for the most vulnerable group, the working class, which easily succumbed to its appeals to conformity. Distinctive class characteristics - communal bonds, local wisdom and ethics, and, importantly, traditions in speech, "the guying of authority by putting a finger to the nose" - disappeared in the programming of homogenous appetites.'4 Hoggart's problem with mass publications was not that they debased taste but that they over-excited it, eventually dulled it, and would finally kill it - "they enervate rather than corrupt" - leaving numb and passive subjects. The problem was political: who controlled the proliferation of mass media; who formed and whetted the appetite for it? In his analysis of mass-communications technology in British culture, Raymond Williams did not worry about the loss of cultural distinctions but feared for the evolution of an educated and participating
democracy.'6 Williams claimed that Britain had been quick off the mark to employ new media technologies for cultural and educational purposes in the belief that via the airwaves, a classless and wait for Godot, we shall have strip-tease wherever we go....52 egalitarian society composed of literate and rational subjects would Muggeridge captures the sense of social complacency that attended emerge. However, by the late 1950s it was clear that the ideal of the the success of Welfare State cultural and educational policies and the airwaves as a space of freedom outside the market was no longer economic prosperity of the 1950s. The leveling of social experience — tenable. Between the paternalistic educational policies adopted not to be mistaken for a leveling of the class structure - and the by bbc culture guardians and the imperatives of the commercial anaesthetization of society was perceived by some intellectuals as a market there seemed to be little room for the kind of communication situation nearing crisis. Two responses to this cultural uncertainty, that Williams thought essential for the growth of a truly democratic Richard Hoggart's The Uses of Literacy (1957) and Raymond society." Williams argued that democracy depended on free, Williams's Britain in the Sixties: Communications (1962) attempted to spontaneous communication and, significantly, that it had no analyze the crisis in view of the proliferation of mass-media predetermined form, for only "when put into practice could it be felt communications. Written in a nostalgic vein, The Uses of to be real."'8 He called for a rethinking of British cultural institutions Literacy reads as a lament for the loss of an identifiable working class and proposed the formation of new kinds of bodies, such as and for the erosion of indigenous forms of popular culture." Hoggart Communications Centers for research and analysis. However, more
urgent was the need for a facility where ordinary people could exercise choice and effectively exert control within an uncensored network of communications.59 Control and Communication: From Participatory Architecture to a Cybernetic Learning Machine If programmatic components such as an automated information library, a news room, auditoria, rallying spaces, and committee, therapy, and research rooms seem rather unusual for an entertainment center, and if some of the assertions about the Fun Palace seem naively optimistic ("the Fun Palace is both a pleasure arcade and an instrument which motivates the typically passive participant into thinking more abstractly," or "scientific gadgets, new systems, knowledge locked away in research stations can be brought to the street corner"), what is one to make of Littlewood's statement that "the 'fun arcade' will be full of games and tests that psychologists and electronic engineers now devise for the service of war - knowledge will be piped through juke-boxes"?60 To understand this we must examine the contribution of the Fun Palace Cybernetics Committee, specifically that of Dr. Gordon Pask. Pask's "Theatre Workshop and Systems Research: Proposals for a Cybernetic Theatre" offers some insight into the degree of his commitment to the project. After a few introductory remarks - such as, "the crux of a Cybernetics Theatre is that an audience should genuinely participate in a play" and that it should overcome "the restrictions in entertainment media such as cinema and television" Pask proceeds to outline, in rather opaque technical jargon, a
current developments in electronic communication, the terms both Pask and Littlewood use remind us of where communication technology was developed and the kinds of assumptions cybernetieians made about human interaction.6" In this context a brief description of cybernetics is in order. Cybernetics arose during the Second World War in connection with the effort to develop radar-tracking systems capable of calculating input and producing feedback in order to accurately predict the responses of pilots engaged in combat. A control system that accurately analyzed messages between two combatants was of interest as a means of controlling the outcome of battles. Postwar research on information-feedback systems focused on a less antagonistic but equally competitive model of human interaction. In keeping with the classic definition of cybernetics as the study of "control and communication in animals and machines," research concentrated on how systems organize themselves - that is, how they reduce uncertainty and achieve stability by adapting, cooperating, and competing or basically how systems learn to survive.64 One of the basic axioms of cybernetics has it that messages contain information accessible to the communicator but not to the recipient65 - humans are like black boxes, receiving input and generating output but having no access to our own or anyone else's
inner life.66 In cybernetics, it was irrelevant whether a signal or message had gone through a machine or a person; the priority was to facilitate pure communication wherever and however it occurred. Systems analysis and computational machines were imagined to be socially beneficial, for they facilitated the transmission of information. cybernetic analysis of the problem (fig. 5.8).61 He then provides some According to Norbert Wiener, "information is the content of what is of the most initially baffling but fascinating diagrams of the entire exchanged with the outer world as we adjust to it and make our project. It seems that in Pask's theater the seats would be equipped adjustment felt upon it."6 To adapt, to live more effectively within the with controls allowing the audience to intervene in the action of the complexity of modern life, it was necessary to have adequate play.62 A computing machine located backstage would calculate information feedback.68 audience input and relay the results to actors on stage. If the hardware proposed seems awkward and amusing by comparison with
To facilitate learning and help people live in a scientific culture, the Fun Palace would be equipped with cutting-edge calculating apparatuses (such as cooperative machines operated by two or three people or individual teaching machines) with the idea that these would assist people to learn cooperative behavior and develop speed
an automaton."74 She had wandered into strange territory indeed. Littlewood was concocting a project about which she could innocently say that,
This escalation of the goals of the Fun Palace did not pass unnoticed through Committee meetings. At the meeting on 27 January 1965 a meandering exchange about the character of fun is followed by reaffirmation of the ambition to "merge education with the field of entertainment," only to provoke a challenge from one member who objected to the overemphasis on simple-minded mechanization: "People are too intelligent to be duped by an automaton for long," and such thinking had made the Fun Palace "redolent of a Scientist's toy and not necessarily something intelligent human beings would
The suggestion here of behavior-modification techniques gives way further on to descriptions of the program in the cozying terms of festival days, pranks, children's nurseries, and the experience of pleasure.
The operators in the social system are like mirth and sensuality. Its operators are actions or intentions or changes in the shade of joy or in observation and deduction.69 There would be closed-circuit TVs and grief. We can to some extent control these transformations, though, in surveillance systems by which participants could "experience the this case, we and our machinery act as catalysts and most of the emotional thrill and power" of watching themselves participate.'0 It computation is done as a result of the interaction taking place seems clear that the initial ambitions for the Fun Palace have shifted between members of the population, either by verbal discourses, or focus, from an alternative theater venue to a cybernetic learning by competitive utilization of facilities, or by cooperation to achieve a machine. common objective."
enjoy.'"1 The Committee struggled to define the project: was it a fun fair or a night school? Were they trying to turn out obedient participant citizens or provide an unusual amenities facility?
Within this discussion, it is not far-fetched to mention the work of Gilles Deleuze on emergent forms of social control. In Postscript on Control Societies, Deleuze argues that "control societies are taking over from disciplinary societies," and here "control becomes a floating control replacing the disciplinary time scales of closed
systems.'"6 The archaic space and time of work and leisure is dissolving into a continuous aggravated pressure-control where seminars at work, continuing education, and upgrading exams in In a letter to Gordon Pask in 1964, Littlewood grappled with the use of business or even the most "ludicrous game shows" are presented as "sensory apparatus to receive information about participants.'"2 She healthy means for motivating humans to learn and to produce.' This, argues that "it is right in a project of this kind to advance beyond the for Deleuze, is a more nefarious kind of control - invisible, apparently bounds of respectability and to move into the hinterland of things... freeing and constraining at the same time. I11 this context, the words for we then will know a great deal about how to control people and that accompany the promotion of the Fun Palace -healthy competition how to make them happy."" Man, she claims, is most at home in to motivate self-willed learning through the stimulation of appetites, surroundings that, like the processes going on in his mind, are self-regulation to achieve group consensus -override the light-hearted continually developing and evolving. Evidently surprised at the pleasure-seeking sense of the project, which in itself might be territory she has entered, Littlewood submits that "oddly enough, the thought of as a form of control.'8 whole bases of this enterprise is [sic] the recognition that man is not Contribution and Conclusion
At this juncture it is clear that the Fun Palace project was a freewheeling exploration arising from a cross-disciplinary committee that entertained extreme notions of what a building might be and how or why it was necessary to 'educate' the masses for a new technological culture. The cross-disciplinary process - tacitly based, as was the Fun Palace itself, on ideas borrowed from systems-design theory, especially that of self-organizing systems - may be its most significant contribution to recent architectural history and theory.'9 In the early stage of Price's career, the architect was not explicit about his use of systems-design theory but it is clear that this first adventure offered him a willing client and the right circumstances for putting an
techniques which were to sponsor human liberation, to facilitate the emergence of a participatory democracy, to de-institutional-ize education and put scientific knowledge in the hands of the masses were viewed as instruments of social control. The hoped-for transformation to new social configurations within mass communication and the cybernetic dream of an evolved human perceptual awareness through human-machine interface had succumbed to disillusionment. Toffler himself cites Price's Fun Palace as an instance of technocratic thought and the impoverishment of the most significant part of
human experience, the built environment.8' A year earlier Price's experimental design and method into This interdisciplinary Potteries Thinkbelt project had faced criticism from within process, where Price's contribution is limited to architectural architecture when George Baird argued that the apparently neutral, expertise, can be understood as a means of circumventing the finality hands-off design strategy was nothing less than a thinly veiled of architectural form as a representation of permanent social values attempt to restructure the codes of architectural language. Baird and also as a non-authoritarian gesture wherein unique authorship is stated that Price's refusal to provide "visually recognizable symbols of overruled by the organizational system. The project, conceived as a identity, place, and activity" and his reduction of architecture to a diagram of possibilities, seemingly allayed the problem of machine for "life-conditioning" displayed a gross misconception of overdctermination in planning, since as a dynamic system ready at all architecture's place in human experience.84 For Baird, Price's times to be put into action, it refused traditional notions of the architecture-as-servicing mechanism was equivalent to architecture architectural disciplining of space and time. as "a coffee-vending machine."8' At the mention of control systems and the lax behaviorist Beyond these humanist critiques there are aspects of the Fun Palace psychologizing to produce happiness, one is inclined to recoil in that are prescient of issues surrounding the use of information amused disdain. But this would misinterpret and misrepresent the technologies and analytical processes associated with computational contribution of the project. Certainly, by the end of the 1960s an antithought that have been taken up in some current critical architectural technology backlash was felt in both popular culture and architecture. practices. Despite the fact that systems-design theory, as a nonFor example, Alvin Toffler's Future Shock (1970) saw technology as hierarchial, more democratic process of problem-solving and "spinning out of control" and argued that the accelerated rate of producing architecture, has been shown to be patently false, the change manifest in all facets of life was pushing social processes to updating of its theoretical premises and the recent interest in its the brink of socio-psycho-logical shock.81Future Shock is not the most graphic means of analysis (particularly diagramming) has made a sober assessment available of the state of society and technology, positive contribution to architectural theory. Many of these practices but its hyperbolic gloss is significant in that it captured popular share with Price a concern about the design process - that is, the sentiment and signaled a retreat from the optimism that had desire for a generative aesthetic process as a means of usurping welcomed the "dawn of the second machine age."8" By 1970 the very play.80
formalist predilections, as a means to fully engage the potential of new technologies (such as computer software), and as a kind of radical utilitarianism. In the 1960s, as today, the Fun Palace offers architects a challenging conception of architecture that privileges organization and idea over architecture as built form. Briefly returning to the ideas that galvanized the Fun Palace, of the conceptual contrarieties that pose problems for the claims underlying the project, the most obvious is the idea that an architecture that accommodates change, the very mode of consumption itself, might possibly be effective in awakening the compliant subjects of the paternalistic Welfare State. This counterintuitive idea suggests that Price held out for a value-free notion of capitalist entrepre-neurialism against the bureaucracy of the state. Within this ideological frame, spontaneity and consumption are not obverse sides of the coin. Despite the fact that this optimistic vision of individual, active participation within free enterprise implies that enabled participants might somehow take hold of the market, one is compelled to ask at what point spontaneity and choice passes over into pure
to choose from or it's all compulsion. That's why I want the Fun Palace." Goorney, 11. Manifesto of the Theatre of Action: "The commercial Theatre of Action is limited by its dependence upon a small section of society which neither desires, nor dares to face the urgent and vital problems of today. The theatre, if it is to live, must of necessity reflect the spirit of the age. This spirit is founded on social conflicts which dominate world history today -the ranks of 3,000,000 unemployed, starving for bread while wheat is burned for fuel.... This theatre v\ ill perform, mainly in working-class districts, plays which express life and struggles of the workers. Politics in its fullest sense, means the affairs of the people...." 4 In conversation with Cedric Price, November 1996. Conversation with Roy Landau, 2 March 1999. 5 Price Archive, box 1/5. 6 "Fun Palace Project Report," March 1965, Price Archive, box 5. 7 Cedric Price, "Fun Palace for Camden Town," Architectural Design 37:11 (November 1967), 522. On the scale of the development, see "Fun Palace Project Report," 5, 9, where he refers to the first Mill Meads site along the River Lea. Later estimations for siting pilot projects limit the area to 2.5 acres. It is quite astonishing to imagine a 20-acre mechanical plinth. At the time ecology was not the issue it would become by the early 1970s. 8 Reyner Banham, "A Clip on Architecture," Design Quarterly 63 (Minneapolis: Walker
consumption?86 As perceptive critics have already pointed out, within Art Center, 1965), 13. late capitalism the distance between choice and control on the one 9 Goorney, 8. hand and market determination on the other is uncomfortably narrow.
10 Baz Kershaw, The Politics of Performance: Radical Theatre as Cultural Intervention (New York: Routledge, 1992), 103.
ι Cedric Price, "A Message to Londoners," draft for a promotional brochure for the Fun Palace, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, Cedric Price Archive [hereinafter Price Archive]. 2 Document dated 18.2.64, Price Archive, 0111995:0188:526. 3 On Littlewood's contribution to British radical theater, see Howard Goorney, The Theatre Workshop Story (London: Kyre Methuen, 1981) or Joan Littlewood, joan Littlewood's Peculiar History as She Tells It (London: Methuen, 1994). Ο11 her near retirement in 1961, see Goorney, "Goodbye note from Joan," 185. News clipping from The Observer (10 July 1966), 9, Price Archive, box 5/5, March 1965-September 1966. "I've spent thirty years in the theatre, and I never want to see it again. It's dead, all that is over; people have got to be able to come and go, look at this or at that, have three rings
11 Littlewood, 701. 12 Littlewood, 701. 13 Littlewood, 702. 14 On 16 May 1963 Price applied to the London County Council (LCC) to use land along the River Lea. Mayor Lou Sherman approached the Civic Trust with a request for a feasibility study. They found support with Leslie Lane, director of the Civic Trust, and located a site in Mill Meads. However, when the LCC became the Greater London Council in April 1964 and the authority changed hands, both the site and the political support were lost. The site was designated for sewage disposal. "I roamed far and wide, a land-hungry settler; tried Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, while the designs went round the world. I lectured in Helsinki, Aarlws, the Universities
of London. There and at the London School of Economics we found our most helpful supporters." Littlewood, 713. 15 Littlewood, 637. Past worked for Research Systems Ltd., frequented the Architectural Association in the 1960s, and published in Archigram, Architectural Design, New Scientist, and other journals. Pask was also an acquaintance of Price.
23 Peter Murray, "Introduction," Cedric Price Supplement, Architectural Design 40 (1970), 507. On Price as a conceptual architect, see Colin Rowe, "On Conceptual Architecture," Artnet 1 (October 1975), 6-9. 24 Cedric Price, "Life-Conditioning," Architectural Design 36:10 (October 1966), 483.
25 The social ideals, notions of critical urban practices, and non-permanent architecture of Price have some affinities with Constant's New Babylon. The British Situationist AlexTrocchi was in contact with Price and there are affinities also between Price and the Situationists. The Sin City Project (1962-63) by Michael Webb R. Chesterman, Goldsmith's College; R. Goodman, Bristol University; R. Gregory, of Archigram also shares some programmatic and architectural concerns with the Fun Cambridge University; M. Young, Institute of Community Studies. See Littlewood, 706Palace. However, Price's use of a systems approach and his dedication to technology 07. distinguish his work from all three. 17 The years between 1961 and 1966 were the most active. On 16 June 1965 the Fun 26 Cedric Price, "Reflections 011 the Team X Primer," Architectural Design 32:5 (May Palace Charitable Trust was established to deal with organizational matters. Among 1963), 208. the trustees were Buckminster Fuller and Yehudi Menuhin. Documents show-that the Trust continued to meet well into the 1980s. The most recent engineering memo is 27 Price, "Reflections on the Team X Primer," 208. "If in the mid-60's it matters little dated 1985 and supplies information for a high platform pivot mechanism. Frank to a man whether he lives and works in Manchester or Southampton, the Newby, a constant collaborator with Price, was the structural engineer in the early architectural problem is not to re-establish urban identities, but to enrich this newyears. Price Archive. scale locational freedom. It is essential that architects, in determining and providing the scale of perceptual living, match or extend the multi-directional activities and 18 Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (i960; Cambridge, appetites of present-day man." Mass.: The MIT Press, 1989), 329-30. 28 Note that Alan Colquhoun published "Symbolic and Literal Aspects of Technology" 19 Banham, Theory and Design, 326. Note that Price was also a great admirer of in Architectural Design 32:11 (November 1962), 508-09. Both Colquhoun's criticism Fuller and had been introduced to him by Banham in the late 1950s. Price wrote of the symbolic use of technology and Banham's critique of the symbolic use of Fuller's obituary for The Architectural Review, in the course of which he identified machine imagery were probably influential. some of the concepts that align his thought with Fuller's, such as the idea of reforming the environment and not men and the notion of anticipatory design as the 29 Price, "Reflections on the Team X Primer," 208. only design. See "Buckminster Fuller: 1895-1983," The Architectural Review 1038 30 In a later article on the Potteries Thinkbelt, a project premised on ideas developed (August 1983), 4. In this context it is worth mentioning that Fuller was interested in in the Fun Palace, Price stated: "I doubt the relevance of the concepts of Town Centre, alternative education and educational reform. See Fuller, Education Automation: Town and Balanced Community. Calculated suburban sprawl sounds good to me." Freeing See Cedric Price, "The Potteries Thinkbelt," Architectural Design 36:10 (October the Scholar to Return to His Studies (London: Feffer and Simons, 1962). 1966), 483. 20 Banham, Theory and Design, 327-30. 31 See Peter Buchanan, "High-Tech: Another British Thoroughbred," The Architectural 2r The fiftieth-anniversary issue of The Architectural Review provides some Review 1037 (July 1983), 15-19. Buchanan cites the Plateau Beau-bourg as the direct interesting insights into the visual approach. The editorial claimed that one of its descendent of the Fun Palace. Also see H. Muschamp, who views the Fun Palace as aims over the previous fifty years had been visual re-education. See "The Second the descendant of the 1851 Crystal Palace; "Fun," Ottogano 99 (June 1991), 5-14. Half Century," The Architectural Review (January 1947), 28. 32 Archigram, "Cedric Price: Activity and Change," Archigram 2 (1962), n.p. When 22 Sec Anne Massey, The Independent Group: Modernism and Mass Culture in interviewed in November 1996, Price did not reciprocate the admiration expressed by Britain, 1945-1959 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995) and David Archigram. He considered their work overly preoccupied with style and graphics and Robbins, ed., The Independent Group: Postwar Britain and the Aesthetics of a slightly disappointing contribution. Price considered the Smithson's House of the Plenty (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1990). Future, indebted to Fuller's Dymaxion Bathroom of 1937, 16 The Cybernetics Committee consisted of R. Ascott, Ipswich School of Art; C. Beatty, Research Institute; S. Beer, Sigma; A. Briggs, Sussex University;
a noteworthy contribution to the genre of adaptable architecture and to an antiaesthetic, but he was critical of their rhetoric.
span of such uses, replace Utopia with non-plan." Cedric Price, "Approaching an Architecture of Approximation," Architectural Design 42:10 (1972), 646.
33 For a commentary on Price's method, see Cedric Price, "Price's Process: Cedric Price and Visual Literacy," Royal Institute of British Architects 83:1 (January 1976), 16-17; Steve Mullin, "Cedric Price," Architectural Design 46:5 (May 1976), 281-87; and Reyner Banham, "Cycles of the Price-Mechanism," AA Files 8 (January 1985), 103-06.
42 This interpretation is indebted to the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massu-mi (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1987), 88-92,140-44.
34 Price, "Price's Process," 17. Price maintains that the architect's role is to solve problems and develop ideas and possibilities rather than specific design solutions. 35 See The Architectural Review 1038 (August 1983), 4. 36 Roy Landau, "An Architecture of Enabling: The Work of Cedric Price," AA Files 8 (January 1985), 3-7. Landau convincingly argues that Price's position is devoted to enabling the individual and is essentially a deeply ethical and rational point of view. 37 Price Archive, box 1/5. 38 Cedric Price, "Fun Palace Project," The Architectural Review 815 (January 1965), 74. He estimated that it would take 18 months to 2 years to build. Note Price was and is staunchly anti-preservationist. This is ironic, as today the preservationists are attempting to have his Inter-Action Centre (1971-77) designated as historically valuable. 39 In articles from the later 1960s Price refers to cybernetics and information theory but never so as to directly substantiate his work; he also does not use the term 'realtime.' See Cedric Price, "The Industrial Designer," Architectural Design 39:2 (February 1969), 61-62. Here he refers to time as the fourth dimension in the design aesthetic. This is a vital and continuing point of departure for Price, as evidenced by his recent exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Cedric Price: Mean Time. 40 For a concise description of the shift from disciplinary regimes to control societies, see Gilles Deleuze, "Postcript on Control Societies," Negotiations: 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995), 177-82. 41 Reyner Banham, Paul Barker, Peter Hall, and Cedric Price, "Non-Plan: An Experiment in Freedom," New Society 338 (20 March 1969), 442. See Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1948), 39. Later, Price reiterates his idea of non-plan: "Non-plan and the advantages of unevcnness, proposes to reduce the permanence of the assumed worth of the past uses of space through avoiding their reinforcement, society might be given not only the opportunity to re-assess such worth but also be able to establish a new order of priorities of land, sea, and air which would be related more directly to the valid social and economic life
43 Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (New York: Avon Books, 1950), 133. Robert Bruegman, "The Pencil and the Electronic Sketchboard: Architecture and Representation and the Computer," in Architecture and Its Image, ed. Eve Blau and Edward Kaufman (Cambridge, Mass., and Montreal: The MIT Press and Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1989), 140. 44 Unpaginated document (Anti-architect document), Price Archive. 45 "The Approach to Planning," Price Archive. 46 Price Archive. The main problem faced by the Committee was to find a site. This is somewhat paradoxical given that the project is premised 011 a lack of site specificity. 47 Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price, "A Laboratory of Fun," New Scientist 38 (14 May 1964), 433. In the late 1960s Price guest-edited an issue of Architectural Design on Learning. He claimed that "Learning will soon become the major industry of every developing country, and those countries with established educational systems will have to restructure most drastically their existing facilities." "Learning," Architectural Design 38 (May 1968), 208. See Cedric Price, "National School Plan," Architectural Design 39 (March 1969), 154-55. 48 "Fun Palace: Being an account of the necessity of the Fun Palace as a temporary valve' in a late 20th-century metropolis" (source unidentifiable), Price Archive. 49 "The Approach to Planning," Pricc Archive. 50 Littlewood and Price, 432. 51 Joan Littlewood and Cedric Price, "Fun Palace," Price Archive, box 1/5. See also Littlewood and Price, 432. 52 Guy Arnold, Britain Since 1945: Choice, Conflict, and Change (London: Blandford, 1989), 167. 53 Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working-life with Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments (1957; London: Penguin Books, 1990), 324. 54 Hoggart, 77, 339.
55 Hoggart, 197.
68 Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, 27.
56 Raymond Williams, Britain in the Sixties: Communications (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962), 99.
57 See Michael D. Stephens, ed.. Culture, Education and the State (New York: Routledge, 1988). 58 Williams, 133. 59 Williams, 109,129. 60 Littlewood and Price, 432. Price, "Fun Palace for Camden Town," 522. Brian Lewis, "Fun Palace: Counterblast to Boredom," New Society 133 (15 April 1965), 9. 61 Gordon Pask, "Theatre Workshop and System Research: Proposal for a Cybernetic Theatre," 1-2, Price Archive. Documentation indicating the joint responsibilities of the Theatre Workshop and Research Systems for the Cybernetic Theatre, with a systems analysis for adapting the plot and script of a play to the cybernetic theater. The theater might hold 500 to 750 people. 62 Lewis, 10. 63 In An Approach to Cybernetics, Pask wrote: "Cybernetics is an interdisciplinary study of a physical assembly - it takes characteristics common to each discipline and abstracts them into a system to yield effective control procedures, efficient predictions, and acceptable unifying theories" (New York: Harper, i960), 17. In 1961 Pask published "Machines That Teach," New Scientist 234 (11 May 1961), 308-11. 64 Pask, An Approach to Cybernetics, 9,15. A system has interdisciplinary characteristics - economic, behavioral, etc. The definition of cybernetics follows Wiener's Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948). For a brief description see "Norbert Wiener on Cybernetics," in Cybernetic Serendipity: The Computer and the Arts, ed. Jasia Reichardt (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1968), a catalogue published in conjunction with an exhibition at the ICA, London, 1968. 65 Pask, An Approach to Cybernetics, 21; Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings; 24. 66 Peter Galison, "The Ontology of the Enemy: Norbert Wiener and the Cybernetic Vision," Critical Inquiry 21:1 (autumn 1994), 256. See also Pask, An Approach to Cybernetics, 21. Pask claims incomplete access. 67 "The process of receiving and of using information is the process of our adjusting to the contingencies of the outer environment, and our living effective!) within that environment." Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, 27.
Booklet, 1st draft, 2, Price Archive, box 1/5.
70 "Fun Palace Cybernetics Committee: Minutes of the Meeting Held at the Architectural Association, 34 Bedford Square, w.c.i. 17/3/65," Price Archive. 71 "Fun Palace Cybernetics Committee: Minutes of the Meeting Held at the Building Centre, Store Street, London w.c.i., 27th January, 1965," 10, Price Archive. 72 Price Archive, box 1/5. 73 Price Archive, box 1/5. 74 Price Archive, box 1/5. 75 Price Archive, box 1/5. Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange comes to mind. 76 Deleuze, 178. 77 Deleuze, 179. 78 Michel Foucault, The Histor)· of Sexuality (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), vol. 1, 83. Here Foucault, using psychoanalytic terms, takes the idea that we are sexually repressed and turns it around, claiming that we are everywhere surrounded by sex. 79 To substantiate 'in-the-air' theorizing and exposure to cybernetics, Price stated that the ICA was an important source of information and influence. Interview, November 1996. See also Massey, 91, whose research shows that during 1955, for example, theICA held a series of lectures on communications; apparently Wiener's book The Human Use of Human Beings was well known by members of the Independent Group. In his office library, Price has a copy of The Age of Automation: The BBC Reith Lecture Series 1964 (New York: Mentor Books, 1965) by Sir Leon Bagrit. Daniel Bell's preface to this published version of the lectures offers a clear if somewhat simplified explication of automation, cybernation, and systems theory. For later accounts 011 the understanding and use of cybernetics, systems design, and operational research theories into architectural practice, see Sean Wellesley-Miller, "Self-Organizing Environments," Architectural Design 42:5 (May 1972), 315-16. 80 The use of systems design and especially Price as an exponent of such a method is explicit later in the 1960s and 1970s. For example, see Roy Landau's guest-edited issue of Architectural Design 39:9 (September 1969), and "Whatever Happened to the Systems Approach?" Architectural Design 46:5 (May 1976), guest-edited by Andrew Rabeneck. "The systems approach, once held to be the technological
panacea for all humanity's ailments, has recently been discarded in the latest quest to improve the quality of life - this time by less overtly technical means" (267). 81 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (New York: Random House, 1970), 139, 446. 82 Banham, Theory and Design, 330; Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings, 185; Ludwigvon Bertalanffy, General Systems Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications (New York: George Braziller, 1968), 15. 83 Toffler, 59-63. Here Toffler discusses both the Potteries Thinkbelt project and the Fun Palace. 84 George Baird, "La Dimension 'Amoureuse' in Architecture," in Meaning in Architecture, ed. Charles Jencks and George Baird (New York: Ceorge Braziller, 1969), 79. 85 Baird, 85. 86 Buchanan, 15-19.