As noted here a while ago, the Barbican has an exhibition detailing various visions of future cities and utopian urban architecture. I finally went to see it today, and can report that it's absolutely fantastic. The Barbican's been on a bit of a roll recently, with the excellent Araki exhibition followed by the almost-fantastic Tropicalia exhibition, but this is the best of the lot. It also trounces the V&A's recent Modernism exhibition, good as that was, through the depth of its supporting information, sheer range of material, use of sound and video and imagination of the exhibition design.
The sound was particularly welcome, odd bits of early synth and ring modulator firing off erratically, sometimes commingling with Cedric Price's wonderfully plummy voice lecturing us about Rochdale. Magnificent. The latter, as ever, almost stole the show, but other highlights include a great cartoon strip of Archigram's Instant City descending on Bournemouth, Koolhaas from Exodus to the CCTV building, Parent and Virilio's Oblique City, Will Alsop's superbly bonkers masterplan for Barnsley (please make it happen!), James Wines & SITE's tree-covered high-rise and BEST showroom, Shigeru Ban's elegant and humane Paper Log House, and MVRDV's Pig City. Of particular interest were the Metabolists, the Japanese 1960s movement comprising Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa, Kenzo Tange and others. The late Tange was the only Metabolist I'd heard of previously, for his famous expandable modular Yamanashi Press and Broadcasting Centre in Kofu, so it was fantastic to see more of his work and the hugely imaginative marine and floating cities of the others. Beautiful. Lots of great stuff in general about perennial concerns of sustainable, scalable, modular, adaptive, transient and rooted, high-density development.
Only off note sounded in the whole experience is that the otherwise thorough exhibition catalogue manages to omit Cedric Price altogether, and can be generally said to be not as thorough as the exhibition. I don't think a book should attempt to 'equal' the exhibition - they're different things - but surely it's the place for further depth and exposition? It's still worth the dosh though; chock-full of great photographs and prints.
Credit to Foreign Office Architects for the exhibition design. The poster displays, with great graphic design and perfectly selected typography by Studio Myerscough, were a great way of conveying context, as if wallpaper-pasted manifestos. The Barbican is of course an excellent setting for it too.
Some snaps below. (As ever, shot surreptiously, as taking photos was deemed 'illegal'. Honestly, it's like playing Pacman avoiding those exhibition guards.)
Momus has some good snaps too, and was also taken by The Metabolists: "I liked Metabolist Kiyonori Kikutake's idea that "a Japanese room was determined by information, whereas a Western room relied on objects."
The Barbican: Future City exhibition (until 17 September 2006, London)