Prosthetic Aesthetics

"Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs, he is truly magnificent; but those organs have not grown on him and they still give him much trouble at times." Sigmund Freud

Public Assembly: Part Two – Metabolic Bridge, 2008

Metabolic Bridge maquette, 210cm x 45cm x 75cm

England’s Dreaming: London’s growth from a collection of villages to its modern-day sprawl was dependent on a network of transport infrastructure – trains, roads, canals, and the river. With the rise of networked communications technology, we need a new form of urban installation that promotes public engagement with the life-force of the city.

This is the first project mentioned in my recent essay on Urban Installations; all of the maquettes were made in a late-night rush – Meccano on steroids.  As a site-specific intervention in London, the project is like an XL version of questions that would later lead to Prosthetic Aesthetics: How does the city grow and decay? Can this process be appropriated by an urban intervention?

In their recent book ‘Project Japan: Metabolism Talks‘, Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist declared that the work of the Metabolists during the 1960s was ‘the last moment when architecture was a public rather than a private affair‘.

In contrast to speculative and idealized city planning schemes, this group of Japanese architects proposed a theory of urban growth based on energy circulation networks to unify the infrastructure of the entire country at an unprecedented scale.

The focus on the public allocation of urban space and public access to works of art within the city is of critical importance to the future of London.  The Metabolic Bridge transforms the original Metabolist plan for Tokyo into an urban installation, while keeping the complexity of its movement and energy networks intact.  If highways tapered to footbridges and factories shrunk to public gathering points, a network of small-scale installations could be a viable method for London to grow, given the lack of tabula rasa conditions in mature cities.

Material flows on the Thames at Battersea

In Battersea, a former industrial area of London, a leftover gap space bounded by the Thames, railway arches and offices lies disused and inaccessible.  Meanwhile, timber and wood waste material from local residents, riverboats and parks is gathered at a local facility, then brought downstream to Tilbury to become landfill.  The project proposes inserting a new type of hybrid infrastructure into the leftover space, combining a public footbridge with a series of places to gather and store local timber.

The bridge consists of a double skin system, with a lightweight arch walking surface and an external shell enclosure built from local materials. The structural skins can accommodate redundancy and growth, allowing the bridge to be extended as demand for public access and energy increase.  As the inhabitable bridge grows, it creates new routes for people to move from the inner city to the riverside, allowing them to experience the link between Battersea with its industrial past.


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